|Ozzy Osbourne (QMI Agency file photo)
Always forgetting birthdays and anniversaries? Be glad you're not Ozzy Osbourne.
The Prince of Darkness has far more to remember than a handful of family and romantic milestones. After four eventful decades in music, his calendar is covered in red circles. Pick a day, any day; chances are it commemorates some memorable occasion in the metal icon's life and career, be it an album release, a landmark gig, a prestigious award or the unfortunate decapitation of a wee flying critter. Keeping it all straight would take a mind like a steel trap -- something no one will ever accuse Ozzy of possessing.
"It's impossible to keep track of everything," admits the 62-year-old metal icon down the line from his home in England (fun fact: When you get put on hold at Ozzy's house, the call-waiting music is Ozzy!).
"But I'm not complaining. I'm very appreciative of it all, you know."
The latest float in Ozzy's continually circling parade of honours: Expanded 30th anniversary releases of 1980's Blizzard of Ozz and 1981's Diary of a Madman, his first albums after parting ways with Black Sabbath in 1979. Even in Osbourne's crowded timeline, these were watershed moments. The two albums -- now augmented with bonus studio cuts, live recordings, vintage video footage and other extras -- established him as a viable solo artist, while songs like Crazy Train and I Don't Know remain staples of his live show to this day. But their triumph was tempered with tragedy: Young guitar hero Randy Rhoads, Osbourne's main creative partner at the time, perished in 1982 when a small plane he was riding in crashed and burned after buzzing Ozzy's tour bus.
During a rare break from his long-running Scream Tour -- "Officially, I'm still touring, but it's winding down now" -- Osbourne shared his thoughts on the good old days, life on the straight and narrow, and the odds of a Black Sabbath reunion in this exclusive Canadian print interview.
What do you think of the fact that it's been 30 years since these albums came out?
You know what comes to mind? How quickly it's gone by. It does not feel like 30 years. The time I had with Randy Rhoads seemed a lot longer than it really was, you know.
Of all the milestones and awards in your career, which ones mean the most and are more memorable?
The early ones. My first platinum disc from Black Sabbath means something to me. The early parts of any band are always the best. In the early days of Black Sabbath, we had a lot of fun, we weren't serious about it. Then we stopped having fun. It was the same with this band. We were having fun, and then there was the tragedy. It all went awry and Randy got killed. But the one thing I'm blessed with is that I'm not lying next to Randy dead. I could have been.
What do you think Randy would be doing today if he were still around?
Do you know what? It doesn't matter. Just the fact that he would be alive would be enough for me. But I can tell you one thing: he wasn't a guy who wanted to play rock 'n' roll only. On that last bus trip, just before he died, he sat up with me and told me wanted to go to university in California and get a degree in classical guitar. I said, 'Are you serious? Stick around. You can go to university later.' And then he died. But he was a true musician. He was writing classical pieces. He was into the art of music, not just the rock 'n' roll. He was a brilliant player. I don't know what he'd be doing now. But I still wish he was here.
What do you remember about making those two albums?
It was just a lot of fun. We had nothing to lose. We were just a bunch of guys having a laugh, doing a lot of drinking and a lot of crazy s---, like guys do.
Is it still fun, or do you miss those carefree days?
It's still a lot of fun, but I'm the old man in the band now. I'm 62. But I can still keep up with these young punks. And I have to say this: If you're not having fun in the band you're in, change it. Move on. I have fun offstage with my band as well as onstage. Because when you're touring, the easy part of the day is the gig. It's what you do the rest of the day that's hard.
When was the last time you listened to Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman?
About a month ago. When I was on the road. What really amazed me is the footage they found of Randy for the DVD. It amazes me what comes out of the woodwork from time to time. All kinds of stuff comes out, you know.
What would you go back and change about the albums if you could?
Nothing! I wouldn't change anything. Why would I want to change them? They were perfectly good the way they were.
But you did replace the original bass and drum tracks in 2002 during a royalty dispute with the musicians. These versions restore the original performances. Do you regret changing them?
My wife's my manager. I don't handle any of the business. I wasn't a fan of replacing the original things, but that was purely a business decision to get people off our backs. I didn't want to do it, but they forced my hand, you know. But really, that's a question you should ask my wife. I'm just happy we could go back and use the original parts.
Are you gratified by the albums' longevity?
Well, I didn't get up this morning and go, '30 years and one day.' I don't think about it, you know. I'm too busy having fun. I can't believe I made it to 62. By the law of averages, I should have died 1,000 times. Now I don't drink anymore. I don't do drugs anymore. I don't smoke anymore.
You've been clean for three years. Do you think you've finally got it licked or do you still miss it?
You never lick it. I know that if I have one cigarette, I'll be smoking a carton by the end of the day. And when I have prescription medications from time to time, I can't have it in my possession. I have to give it to my assistant who doles it out. You never beat it. It's a constant struggle. Because when the s--- hits the fan, the first thing I think is, 'F--- this, I'm going to get out of it.'
It seems every time one member of Black Sabbath mentions a reunion, another one shoots it down. Do you think it will ever happen?
I haven't got a clue. If they want to call me, they can call me. I never say never. If it works, fine. If it don't, I'll move on. It ain't the end of the world. I ain't gonna get a box of Kleenex and cry my eyes out for the rest of my life.
Why is it so hard for you four to agree?
Well, we're not kids anymore. I don't wanna bulls--- them and I don't want them to bulls--- me. Why should I go back to that and be unhappy when I'm happy right now? I mean, I would love to do a great album with Black Sabbath. I would love to get the credit we so roundly deserve. At the same time, the pressure would be really intense. I could go tomorrow and make an album with them, but it wouldn't necessarily be something I would be proud of.
Since Ozzy has so many anniversaries and special occasions to keep track of, we thought we'd give him a little hand. Here are 10 upcoming dates he can circle on his calendar.
July 4 -- 29th wedding anniversary
July 21 -- 40th anniversary of Black Sabbath's Masters of Reality album
Sept. 17 -- 20th anniversary of No More Tears CD
Oct. 9 -- Sharon's 59th birthday
Oct. 16 -- 10th anniversary of Down to Earth CD
Dec. 3 -- 63rd birthday
Jan. 20 -- 30th anniversary of biting off a bat's head onstage
Feb. 19 -- 30th anniversary of peeing on the Alamo
March 19 -- 30th anniversary of Randy Rhoads' death
May 22 -- 5th anniversary of Black Rain CD