When MTV came along in 1981 it proved to be a major game-changer for the music world. In the early 1960s, after a brief stint working in advertising, Frank Zappa understood that modern music was half about image — and with that revelation, the full artistic gestalt that became his act was formed. By the time that MTV graced television sets nightly, the notion of a musician also needing to have an identifiable persona went up a few notches. For some this was a blessing, for others it was a curse.
Following the rise of the music video, the next logical step for MTV was to push the M of music even further into the backseat and delve into the emerging realms of reality TV. Ozzy Osbourne was not merely a passenger of this trend, but, just as he had been with Black Sabbath, he was a progenitor of things to come. His amiable, stumbling ways might sometimes cloud over the creativity inside his slowly whirring brain for some people, but beneath the bumbling surface is a master of pushing boundaries like an irascible avant-garde artist of old.
When the gaudy eighties began to give way to a rather grungier era, leather-clad stars like Ozzy were in danger of irrelevancy. As ever, Ozzy played to his strengths and decided to use his madness as a muse, and it turned out he would be an oracle for the skittish turn that MTV was set to take. Like the weird amalgamation of an adult Beavis and Butthead incarnate, he turned his hand at producing some sort of funny musical version of SNL and had a generation of youngsters going along on his weird dildo-yielding ride.
Now, much like the rest of MTV, these homemade seeming sketches are like a nostalgic generational watermark. Personally, they take me right back to the days of dial-up broadband, hoping a phone call didn’t knock you offline, aka the true golden age of MTV. Ozzy Osbourne was scarcely an entity on my radar then, certainly ‘War Pigs’ would’ve been lost on me, but suddenly this bumbling Brummy who for some reason seemed to be self-producing clips of himself cropping up inexplicably in the back of Alanis Morrissette’s car introduced me to one of the wildest men in music history.
Weirdly these videos and the origin stories behind them have been lost to the world. Like some internet age Stonehenge, it can’t be clear who assisted Ozzy in making them, why they were made (and to an extent why they have faded from memory, until now). Clearly, these videos could not have been produced by the man alone, but they also seem devoid of MTV production assistance too.
Aside from the oddity of their obfuscated origin, these videos made Ozzy a new curious hero for many youngsters. Alongside The Osbournes, Ozzy slowly became an emblem for the new comedic era of MTV and a token of not taking art too seriously that bled into culture in all sorts of guises, some of good, some very bad. However, Ozzy was always sincere about his light-hearted approach and that meant he always upheld the positive side of things, sadly he seems to be fighting a losing battle these days.
Thus, whether you remember these hilarious sketches or not, I invite you to turn back the clock to a simpler time when an emanant rock star could casually edit an interview with Princess Di waggling a mammoth rubber spam javelin about like some sort of musical Chris Morris. Enjoy…