One of the greatest losses of metal talent came when the world lost the powerful guitarist Randy Rhoads. A favourite of Ozzy Osbourne and the man to accompany the Prince of Darkness on his debut solo album following his departure from Black Sabbath, the two artists shared a tender relationship away from music and they worked together on some of the most influential tunes in rock music within the industry. While one wouldn’t quite be as good without the other, with Ozzy stripped away from his landmark single ‘Crazy Train’ and a focus on the isolated guitar of Rhoads, one can hear the searing talent of the man.
Rhoads sadly died in a plane crash while on tour with Ozzy and their stories will be forever entwined. Not only because of their relationship but the definitive sound that Rhoads lent Osbourne’s earliest recordings as a solo performer. One of those first stomping steps towards the status of musical legend was ‘Crazy Train’, a song which has gone on to typify the Osbourne brand. But without Rhoads, the song would be nowhere near the top of the canon.
The number has become famous, not only for Osbourne’s first iconic images as a singer, but Rhoads’ sensational guitar solo and a riff which will ring out for the ages. It’s a defining moment on the metal road map and, in 1981, when it was released as part of Blizzard of Ozz, the song gained notoriety most certainly for Rhoads’ buzzsaw guitar.
Guitarist Greg Leon, who also initially took Randy Rhoads’ place in Quiet Riot, the guitarist’s former band, has claimed that he helped Rhoads write what would become the iconic ‘Crazy Train’ riff. “We were hanging out, and I showed him the riff to Steve Miller’s ‘Swingtown’. I said: ‘Look what happens when you speed this riff up’. We messed around, and the next thing I know he took it to a whole other level and end up writing the ‘Crazy Train’ riff.”
The song’s co-writer Bob Daisley, however, is very firm in insisting that “that signature riff in F-sharp-minor from Crazy Train was Randy’s, then I wrote the part for him to solo over, and Ozzy had the vocal melody. The title came because Randy had an effect that was making a psychedelic chugging sound through his amp. Randy and I were train buffs, and I said: ‘That sounds like a crazy train.’ Ozzy had this saying ‘You’re off the rails!’ so I used that in the lyrics.”
Rhoads was able to lay down three near-identical tracks for the song, “If you listen to ‘Crazy Train’ real close,” engineer Max Norman told Jas Obrecht, “You’ll hear there’s one main guitar around the centre, and two others playing exactly the same thing, panned to the left and right. What happens is you don’t hear them, you just hear it as one guitar. Randy was the best guy at overdubbing solos and tracking them that I’ve ever seen. I mean, he used to blow me away.”
It’s one of the greatest guitar solos of all time form one of the genre’s saddest stories. Rhoads’ incredible performance will, however, outlive us all and go down in history as one of metal’s foundational stones. Listen below to Randy Rhoads’ isolated guitar track from Ozzy Osbourne song ‘Crazy Train’.