When you see a line of black T-shirts snaking out of Border’s on Broad Street later this afternoon, it’s because the Prince of Darkness is coming to town to sign copies of I Am Ozzy--which is one of the best memoirs this memoir junkie has ever read, no joke.
Thick as a bible, I Am Ozzy is a lightning-read account of one man’s journey into and out of the sludgy bowels of the rock and roll beast. Pensive now at 61, I Am Ozzy is a (mostly) sober account of a very drunk and deluded time fueled by the time-honored collision course of inflatable egos and endless cocaine (back in the day, Black Sabbath didn’t even know who was paying for or sending the unmarked vans stacked with tidy boxes of wax-capped vials of medical grade powder).
All the expected hijinks and rumors are there, from biting bats to snorting ants to the kerfuffles caused by a controversial stage show that included stringing up a small person, as they’re called nowadays, by the neck in a noose and catapulting bloody raw meat and entrails onto the crowd.
But, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, like Tom Robbins books, the joy here, even for Sabbath fans, is less about the plot and all about the delivery. What I mean is, the book is hilarious. The Ozzy narrating the book isn’t the lunatic in a cape vacuuming drugs with his face or shooting chickens in a fit of paranoia, but more of a chilled out grandpa peering over those trademark dark Lennon-glasses, reading fairy tales aloud by the hearth. After all, Black Sabbath is a blokes’ Cinderella story of course, starring a motley group of misfits who escaped the factory grind by trying to make their 12-bar blues band “sound scary” after observing that people paid good money to see horror movies.
Despite being dyslexic, the Ozzy we meet in the book has got an Englishman’s way with words. Stage fright is “a bad case of the brown trousers.” Number two is “a cliffhanger of a Richard the Third down the pipe.” You get the idea. He has a little fun with it and stuffs the language with English-isms, he does.
As much as Ozzy's epic journey from a poor Beatles-loving troublemaker to Prince of Darkness to Master of Reality (TV) is owed to rock and roll, he says he can’t get behind perpetuating the myth that such a decadent lifestyle is all Bel Air and blow jobs. Professionally cultivating addiction comes at a heavy price, and Ozzy’s on the lifetime payment plan. He talks candidly about his medical issues and painful personal regrets—especially the guilt hitting over his first wife and, early on, Sharon. It’s the issue he addresses right away in the interview, too, which was unexpected and super cool considering how many young dudes worship the guy.
Hey Ozzy. I loved the book!
The book is a lighthearted look at my life. I mean for every rock and roller, there’s a book about the sex, the groupies, the rock and roll the drugs, the debauchery--which everybody knows about. But there’s a downside to it as well, there’s a tragic side. But most of all there’s a humorous side. I always think, if you can laugh at your pain then you can get through anything really.
How’d you do most of the research?
Chris [coauthor Chris Ayres] came out, I didn’t have to actually do research, just had to jog my memory. So he’d come around and say, OK, what was it like from 15 to 25 and I’d talk and talk and talk, you know, I was married to my first wife, and so on. I was very mean to her. When I was a drunk I was very … coming along with success in rock and roll comes a thing called ego, and ego and alcohol don’t really mix because it boosts up your ego to be out of control and you think everything you do is right and everybody agrees with you because you’re a celebrity.
So nobody goes, I think you’re full of shit because everybody wants to be around a celebrity. I used to mistreat my first wife and mistreated by Sharon for a long while. But then you know, I tell my story and I’m not proud of having been a bully and having been egotistical or whatever but it’s what happens … I felt a little important for a while.
You were so forthcoming about admitting your personal faults. You didn’t hesitate?
You know what, I said to Sharon, I can’t write about this. And she’d say, if it’s the truth, then write about it! If you don’t want to write about it, then don’t write about it.
But on reflection, the overriding thing I tried to put in the book is the humor, but I wanted to tell the truth as well. So if you and I and a bunch of other people saw an accident, there’s a good chance we’d all have a slightly different take on what we saw. Now people who were there are going to read my book and go, It never happened like that, he’s just doing that because that’s what he wants to say, he wants to be a big shot, this is what I remember happening… But that’s only my angle on it. I
All I did was write the book how I remember it. If I’m wrong I’m wrong, if I’m right I’m right. I went in with an honest mind, with a open mind, because I didn’t want to be all, I’m so fucking great, because the I-am-great attitude got me into a lot of shit, you know.
What made you choose now to finally write it?
I kept putting it off and putting it off, and Sharon said, this is the only year you’re going to have any downtime to do something like that and I said OK then, I’ll have a go.
So you’re releasing an album this summer.
I was going to call it “Soul Sucka,” but on my website, my fans said it reminded them of a rap song or whatever.
That would be the sucka part.
PW's Music Issue 2014