OZZY OSBOURNE ponders who he would most like to make music with, much like fantasy football but for rock stars.
“John Lennon if he were alive”, slices the “giant fucking Beatles fan”.
“And I should have Jimi Hendrix, right?” he continues, so I tell him, “I can’t argue with either of them.”
Then he has a thought for Randy Rhoads, the gifted American guitarist who played on his first two solo albums, Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman.
When they toured together in 1982, Rhoads, just 25, died in a bizarre light plane crash that has affected Ozzy deeply ever since.
“Randy was so good, so smart,” he says. “He’s up there, man.”
Check out Rhoads’ searing metal riff on Crazy Train to prove why he deserves to be part of Osbourne’s fantastic team.
But now let’s talk about the artists who appear on Ozzy’s upcoming 13th solo album, Patient Number 9.
He acquired the services of three British guitar legends – Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and his former Black Sabbath pal Tony Iommi.
America is represented by a who’s who of hard rock – longtime collaborator Zakk Wylde, Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Robert Trujillo (Metallica), Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses ) and Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction).
“PLAYING THEIR SOULS”
The stellar line-up is a departure for Ozzy, as he explains: “I’ve never been someone who has guests on albums.
“You can’t duplicate what they do when you play live, but I’m blown away by these people on my record.”
I ask Ozzy how he managed to get all the guests for patient number 9 together and he attributes it to the free time created by the Covid pandemic.
He says, “So they weren’t going on a tour bus and, for about three months, they weren’t even going out at all.
“As usual, America went overboard when the pandemic started. People were buying a thousand goddamn rolls!”
He’s particularly proud to have Clapton’s instantly recognizable licks on One Of These Days and Beck on both the macabre title track and laid-back orchestral A Thousand Shades.
“When you have this caliber of people working with you, it’s completely different because they play with so much taste and they play with their soul,” enthuses Ozzy.
“When the Jeff Beck song came up, his solo wouldn’t come out of my head.
“And you should watch the video for the Eric Clapton song. Everyone on set said, “That’s super awesome.” His style and sound shines through.
For decades, Ozzy was in awe of the man nicknamed Slowhand, looking at him in an “I’m not worthy” way.
“He’s fucking Eric Clapton!” he exclaims. “It’s like when I met Paul McCartney, I was just kidding myself.
“When I see someone I admire, I go gaga over them.
As usual, America went overboard when the pandemic began. People were buying a thousand fucking kitchen rolls!
“Today there are thousands of bands but in the 60s and early 70s there weren’t many in the business. And Eric Clapton was THE guitarist.
Ozzy travels through the mists of time to say, “I’m going to tell you a story about Eric. Years ago, me and my wife Sharon went to an awards show in New York. . . ”
I better set the scene. It’s 1989 and a less than sober Ozzy is joined by the fierce and fantastical Grace Jones to present the gong guitarist MVP (Most Valuable Player) at the International Rock Awards.
The nominees are Clapton, The Edge, Mark Knopfler and Joe Satriani. . . and EC is announced as the winner.
Ozzy continues: “Afterwards, I was having my picture taken with Grace Jones and all of a sudden Eric was there. I was like, ‘Oh my God, he’s going to think I’m a total jerk.
“I didn’t realize he was also just out of rehab and was freaking out as much as I was.”
At this point, much to his embarrassment and to make matters much worse, the photographer asks, “Make your face Ozzy!”
It means the classic psycho killer look – eyes bulging, mouth wide open, hands raised like claws in preparation for an imaginary attack.
“Reluctantly, I did the look,” says Ozzy. “And I immediately became possessed by the thought that Eric Clapton must hate me.
“Then ten years later, I was at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in the (San Fernando) Valley in Los Angeles. I look over my shoulder and there’s Eric.
“I had just spent ten years thinking to myself, ‘He must think I’m the biggest asshole on the planet.
“At the end of the meeting, I decided to get the fuck out of there big time just to avoid it. So I got in the car and zapped home.
“Three weeks later he’s back and as I walk across the room he’s like, ‘Ozzy! It’s good to see you.'” Of course, the two Brits bonded over their predicament, with Ozzy quickly realizing that Eric “agreed with me”.
Afterwards, I was having my picture taken with Grace Jones and suddenly Eric was there. I was like, ‘Oh my God, he’s going to think I’m a total jerk.
“We had a chat and I was like, ‘Wow, what a nice guy.’ It was because of my paranoia,” says the man whose most famous song is Paranoid.
The story comes with an unlikely reward: “A few days later, I go to a bandstand, open a magazine and there’s this old photo!”
Now, all these years later, Ozzy is thrilled that his former AA pal is doing his thing on One Of These Days, a hell of a move because Clapton said heavy metal bands “just make a lot of noise.”
CHILD IN A SUGAR SHOP
Ozzy reveals that the track didn’t go smoothly. He says, “The song is about a bad day and one of the lyrics is, ‘I don’t believe in Jesus.’
“When Clapton hears that line, he comes back with, ‘I’m not really into it.
“So we changed it to ‘I don’t believe in Christmas’, but that sounded stupid.
“I discussed it with my producer Andrew (Watt) and we decided to go back to what it was, and then Eric said, ‘OK, I’ll do it anyway’.
As for Jeff Beck, another leader of the British blues phenomenon of the 60s, Ozzy declares: “I met him a few times and now we share the same company manager. I said to this manager, ‘It would be great to have Jeff on my record,’ and he said, ‘OK, I’ll ask him,’ and I was like, ‘What!’
Hearing Ozzy, we feel that he is always like a kid in a confectionery when he records a disc.
The process is like a lifeblood in helping him overcome his well-documented physical challenges.
For the first time on his solo records, there is an appearance by Black Sabbath co-conspirator Tony Iommi.
They are together on two wild tracks, No Escape From Now and Degradation Rules. Of the latter, a ferocious highlight of the album, Ozzy says, “That would have made a great Sabbath track.”
The couple continued their love this week when they performed Paranoid to close out the Commonwealth Games in their hometown of Birmingham.
We chatted and I was like, ‘Wow, what a nice guy. It was because of my paranoia.
“Tony and I are the sound of Black Sabbath and we still have it,” says the singer.
Although he had never met him before, Ozzy was also thrilled to have the late drummer Taylor Hawkins contributing to his album.
“We were with him the week before he died,” he says. “He was a nice, kind man.
“My producer knew him so Taylor walked into the studio. He just said, ‘I play for the Foo Fighters and Dave Grohl is my boss.’
The mention of Hawkins makes Ozzy reflect on rock musician friends who are no longer with us, including Motörhead with Lemmy and “Fast” Eddie Clarke.
“They all died in Motörhead and there, but for the grace of God I’m going,” he said. “They would live off amphetamines like you had no idea.
“When I did my first US solo tour, they were with me (on the poster).
“They hit the powder, drank vodka and stayed up all night.
“Lemmy once said to me, ‘You know what? I know I’m going to die early, but I’m going to live my life the way I want.”
One of Ozzy’s still-living acquaintances is Paul McCartney, who turned 80 in June. Although he hasn’t seen Macca’s set at Glastonbury, he says: “I’ve seen him play and you’re like, ‘How many fucking hit songs has this guy written?’.
“He sings one after another and most of them are number one. He is incredible.”
Keeping in mind his infatuation with the Beatles, I ask Ozzy if he would like to one day spread his wings away from the arena of heavy metal.
“You know what, I wish it had been a little more varied,” he replies.
“Black Sabbath’s music is very aggressive even though some of it is foot tapping.
“But we fought the fuckin’ world to make it big,” he says proudly, before adding, “but beware, it’s a good thing we didn’t get our royalties when we were 23 because that I would have f*** I ended up on another planet.
As our conversation draws to a close, Ozzy tells me why he named his new album after the opener, Patient Number 9.
“It’s about being in an insane asylum and I probably should have been in a few of those,” he says.
“Why not patient number 8 or 7?” ” I ask him. For some reason, Ozzy finds this question incredibly funny and we both start laughing until tears roll down our faces.
I never find out the answer, but it’s great to point out that the Prince of Darkness is still a shining light.