Graham Reid | | 3 min read
Bat-biting, dove-decapitating, parent-baiting, C-of-E, heavy metal man . . . and a thoroughly nice bloke with a personal best of four unpublishable obscenities in a mere 10 seconds.
Then again, he was talking about the royal family and, although he concedes he’s “not a royalty person,” saying that Princess Diana “Wasn't a Royal person. She was like a regular person as far as I was concerned.”
“But now the [Expletive Deleted] royals are trying to be the [ED] people’s people and it’s like trying to teach a [ED] pit bull not to [ED] bite, you know?"
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the free-ranging world of conversation with Ozzy Osbourne, former slaughter-house worker, alleged Satanist (that's Cardinal John O’Connor talking), former front man for Black Sabbath, now out there on his ownsome as a working-out, non-drinking, mostly vegetarian, rock’n’roll singer, who brings his particular brand of proto-metal.
An interview with Ozzy isn't so much a question-and-answer scenario as trying to steer a conversation into what you might want to talk about. Difficult, because – between his favoured exclamation (sometimes adjective, sometimes noun) -- he just fires on all cylinders.
First up after hello, he’s into a reminiscence about New Zealand, a country he came to as Sabbath's shouter some 25 years ago and which, despite his best efforts with alcohol and drugs, he seems to have remembered very well.
All those old English cars, the helicopter to the gig at the Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival . . . yes, he remembers “most [pause] of what went on there."
But now, of course, there’s the New Ozzy, the “workout-aholic" who keeps fit, flexes pecs about two hours a day, tries to eat the right foods “and can’t remember the last time I picked up a drink. I just don’t do that any more.”
Oh yeah, Christmas isn’t very merry, he laughs. “And people in England are so thick they say, ‘Go on, just have one,’ and I have to say, ‘Lissen, sweetheart, if I had just the one you wouldn’t like me again'.”
And away he goes into a hilarious anecdote about being on a flight and a stewardess insisting on bringing him drinks and him politely refusing until he lost it and said, “Please, ma’am, do me a favour,” or words to that effect and the captain came back and accused him of being stoned and they’d toss him off the flight.
Just try stopping the Ozzman when he’s telling these expletive-heavy yarns. He’s funny, honest ("I'm a recovering alcoholic”), famously managed by the missus (Sharon, whom he frequently refers to as if we are all old buddies) and that Birmingham pragmatism comes through. Repeatedly.
No 12-step programme for him. Or at least quite a few but, “What I dislike about them is if I had one leg amputated I wouldn’t want to sit in a room with one-legged men for the rest of my life talking about how I lost my leg.”
And fair enough, because he’s too busy anyway.
Last year was just another big one for him, with the travelling Ozz-Fest tour, the second highest grossing of all the American rock festivals, and that’s bigger than Lollapalooza, folks). He also played a couple of gigs in Birmingham with Sabbath (recorded for release), jokes about how he retired a few years back, then hung around the fridge opening and closing it before Sharon pointed out he was simply bored.
“When you’ve got all the yachts and all those things or whatever, you’ve still got to have a passion. You’ve got to retire TO something.”
So he quit being a gentleman of leisure and embarked on the Retirement Sucks tour. But these days he likes to have just a bit of time out, presumably to enjoy some of the fruits of all those difficult years – fruits which, when stacked up, Sharon tells him, make him the 39th wealthiest rock’n’roller in the business, “Whatever the [oh, you fill in the expletive] that means.”
Couldn’t care less about business, of course. This is how much time he gives it, he says.
Yep, got accountants he’s never seen, leaves it to Sharon, likes sitting in his hotel room with the room service, going to luxurious places, playing music and entertaining people.
Sounds simple, really.
But as the conversation rattles off the rails on another tangent, it’s time to ask about the recently released The Ozzman Cometh collection, a couple of discs which contain unreleased demos and first recordings of Sabbath stuff, snatches from his illustrious and noisy past, and goes out with a typically amusing interview from a decade ago.
Must have been tempting, when he discovered that big stack of old Sabbath tapes at home, to unleash a box set, huh?
"Nah, I just keep moving on and it's the record company that makes all the decisions. If I get struck by lightning tomorrow though, you'd probably get a box set by Friday night," he hoots before making his apologies, gotta go.
"Take care. God bless."
And he's gone. But you suspect the Ozzman is going to be round for quite some time to come.
God bless him.