On October 20th of this year, a big death-rattling scream is set to ring out in celebration from the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne, as his friend and collaborator, the genius guitarist, Randy Rhoads, is posthumously awarded the Musical Excellence Award courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Way back in 2000, The RRHF created a ‘Sidemen’ category to recognise largely uncredited artists whose work behind the scenes was worthy of recognition even if their names were not in the realm of celestial stardom. Randy Rhoads, is a perfect paradigm of this, as his talents never got the chance to get their fair share of the limelight owing to his untimely death.
When Randy Rhoads tragically passed away in a light aircraft crash back in 1982 aged only 25, he left behind a plethora of iconic riffs from his work with both Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot. Perhaps the most notable of all these riffs is the cloud-shifting blitz of ‘Crazy Train’.
Appearing on Ozzy and Jack’s World Detour on the History Channel, the famed rocker and his son visited the A-bomb proof vault where his first record pressings are held. When he is given the chance to listen to the pressing, he is tentative, telling Jack: “It’s sad because it’s Randy Rhoads.”
“Randy was a great guitar player,” Ozzy says of his old pal, “And he co-wrote ‘Crazy Train’ with me. I think about him a lot still… he was just a great guy.” The track was put out as the highly anticipated first single from Ozzy’s debut solo album, Blizzard of Oz, following his departure from Black Sabbath.
While ostensibly a carefree guitar player, the technical proficiency on the track is through the roof. Ozzy wanted the guitar part “doubled” which meant in those days that Rhoads would have to try and play the solo note for note the same twice so that it could be layered to bring out a unique ringing sound.
Despite this technical class, the reason he collaborated so well with Ozzy is that they worked in partnership, as Ozzy explains: “He was the first guy to go, ‘Maybe you should do it in this key. He was the first guy to ever consider my opinion and give me a break.”
The track initially flopped in the heavy metal capital of America, reaching a meagre 106 in the charts. However, enough of his old Sabbath following warmed to it, to ensure that it slowly began circulating. Following its slow start, it became Ozzy’s signature solo tune and Blizzard of Oz sold two million copies in the next two years. While the success has many components, the Cold War depth to the lyrics, a scintillating vocal and a catchy hook, the guitar playing of the late great Rhoads is certainly a central factor.