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Music

Why Randy Rhoads was the best thing to happen to Ozzy Osbourne

Losing a job is never easy, especially when it’s your friends who are pulling the rug from underneath your feet, but that’s exactly what happened to Ozzy Osbourne when his bandmates in Black Sabbath replaced him with Ronnie James Dio. They cited his unprofessionalism, his bad conduct and disregard for their material. Osbourne contested this opinion – bassist Geezer Butler was writing with less colour than usual – but he had no choice. The band wanted him out, and there was nothing he could do about it.

So, he drank, and he drank, and then he drank some more. It’s to Sharon Arden’s credit that she told him to return to music, where he always belonged. They started auditioning musicians, before coming across a blond-haired hotshot who helped him reignite his passion for hard rock and heavy metal. It only took Randy Rhoads a matter of seconds to bag the prize for himself.

“I had never looked for auditions or gigs outside of what I was doing,” Rhoads recalled.”Besides, I thought I would hurt my band. When I did go down, there were all these guys with Marshall stacks. I brought along a tiny practice amp. I started tuning up and Ozzy said, ‘You’ve got the gig,’ I didn’t even get to play! I had the weirdest feeling because I thought ‘He didn’t even hear me yet.”‘

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But the effect he had on Osbourne was virtually miraculous. The vocalist was singing better, writing better and exhibiting a new lease of life that made Blizzard of Ozz so enjoyable to listen to. Consider the jangly riff on ‘Crazy Train’, soaking Osbourne’s maniacal laughter with a pummeling riff that pivots from straightforward blues to a more intense form of rock music.

Arguably a more accomplished musician than Tony Iommi, Rhoads gave Osbourne a new lease of life and a form of songwriting partnership that gave him a new sense of purpose and vitality. Rhoads focused on the music in question, giving Osbourne the confidence to sing from the bottom of his gut. As a way of saying thank you to the young guitar player, Osbourne gave him an instrumental spot of his very own.

The finished result, ‘Dee’, is a creative endeavour in sound and sonics, showing that the deeply magnetic guitarist had an intellectual mindset that seeped into the music in question. Osbourne was growing more progressive as an artist and a person, and Blizzard of Ozz helped transform the singer in the shape of the progressive metal bands that followed Black Sabbath in their wake, but that’s not to say the album is dumb unto itself.

No, the album is ripe with possibility, featuring a stunning lead vocal from Osbourne on ‘Mr. Crowley’, is a tuneful keyboard-oriented work that features some of Bob Daisley’s more elaborate bass work. The pummelling ‘Suicide Solution’- which got Osbourne into a lot of hot bother in later years – features some of the guitarists’ most shimmering arpeggio work, and the performances are lit with great reverence to the ornamental flourishes that had segued into the world’s tapestry of instrumental music.

The band were growing tighter as an orbit, especially on ‘No Bone Movies’, which boasts some of Lee Kerslake’s most elaborate drum exhibitions and cymbal work. Daisley and Kerslake later felt unfairly treated by the management when the album was released as an Osbourne solo record, instead of ‘The Blizzard of Ozz’ band they had intended it as.

“When the album was released the words ‘Ozzy Osbourne’ were in bigger print than ‘The Blizzard of Ozz’ which made it look like an Ozzy Osbourne album called The Blizzard of Ozz,” Daisley recalled. “Randy was never one to rock the boat.” The bassist was forgiving in what he realised was a procedural move from the guitar player, who worked with Osbourne again on Diary of A Madman.

But it was always bound to focus on Osbourne, particularly due to his legacy as frontman for Black Sabbath, and the songs are all the richer for Rhoads input. He doesn’t play or moves like a session player, but positions himself as the band’s musical director; Infusing every note with personality and persuasion, particularly at the more critical junctures in the instrumental moments.

Bllizzard of Ozz is Ozzy Osbourne’s best album. There’s even a case to be made that it’s Osbourne’s best work both inside and outside Black Sabbath, and in Randy Rhoads, he found a formidable guitar player who was more than happy to punch up the material with a series of blinding guitar licks that showed the vocalist as a formidable singer unto himself. The guitarist was never anything less than professional, creating a tapestry of sound that was fresh with potential and power. Bless him for everything he did.

Stream the Blizzard of Ozz album on Spotify below.