Ozzy Osbourne: The Doctor Is In

The Doctor Is In
By: Jeb Wright - Classic Rock Revisited

Ozzy Osbourne continues to entertain people around the world as one of the top vocalists in Heavy Metal history. Now, Ozzy is back with two new projects, neither of which features him on center stage. The first, a book titled Trust me, I’m Dr. Ozzy, is an advice column where the Prince of Darkness listens to questions about kids, relationships, sex, drugs and anything else on his reader’s mind before giving them advice on what to do in their current situation. It is a hilarious book; however, Ozzy does the unexpected and comes across as actually caring what these people are going through. You get his over the top sense of humor but Ozzy also reveals he is much more in touch with humanity then one might expect.

The other project is a documentary by his son, Jack Osbourne, titled God Bless Ozzy Osbourne. Jack went behind the lens and delivered big with a behind the scenes look at who Ozzy really was, and is, and what it was like to grow up his son. At times this is humorous, but other times it is soul searchingly honest and emotional. Ozzy discusses the project in-depth in the interview that follows.

At the end of our time together, I took the opportunity to ask Dr. Ozzy for some advice with a personal problem I am currently facing. His answer was spot on, so much so that I’m hoisting a piece of pepperoni pizza in his honor as I type these words.

Jeb: Your new book is a collection of question and answers from your advice column that was in the Times in London and in Rolling Stone Magazine. What was your reaction when you were asked to do the column?

Ozzy: What happened was that I was asked to get this test on my DNA because of everything that I had done with drugs and alcohol, and the lifestyle I had led the last forty years. I did this thing called Genomics, which is where they take some of your blood and they go clear back in your bloodline and figure out where you came from, and what diseases and things you could be facing in your lifetime.

The Times in London said, “Why don’t you do a column since you’ve survived everything and give advice to people.” The column is really just common sense. I suddenly found myself relating to a lot of the people writing in. They wrote in about kids and marriage and all of this stuff. If I didn’t know what to say, or if it was serious, then I would tell them to go and see a doctor.

Jeb: When they did the DNA test, I heard they found you were part Neanderthal.

Ozzy: Yeah, yeah, that explains the thick part of my skull [laughter].

Jeb: Did you expect the results to be that in-depth?

Ozzy: I didn’t know what to expect. I did find out one thing that I didn’t like. Every morning, I like to get up and have a strong cup of coffee and I found out I’m allergic to coffee because of this test. I go, “Oh fuck.” I have one cup of good strong coffee a day but that’s it.

I can only decipher about a third of it [the test] because two thirds of it is a lot of technical jargon. It’s not a cheap test; it costs quite a lot of money. It is beyond my fucking brain, what they talk about. It is hard for me to digest information because it may as well all be in Latin.

Jeb: Did you have a lot of fun doing the column?

Ozzy: If it wasn’t fun then I wouldn’t have done it. I suppose people were expecting me to tell them to take a ton of acid, and an aspirin, and go to bed.

Jeb: I think the book has more charm because you’re so open about substance abuse.

Ozzy: I was talking to my wife just the other day about this; most of my old associates, people that I used to get stoned and drunk with, are dead and gone. There are a few stragglers but most are dead. The word moderation has never applied to Ozzy Osbourne. I never went out for a fucking drink; I went out to get fucking crippled. I would say, “I am going down to the local pup, darling. I’ll be back in a little while.” I would show back up three days later in a pair of fucking handcuffs.

Jeb: Now, at age 62, is moderation something you can achieve?

Ozzy: I can‘t drink and I can’t do drugs. I mean, I live in California and I could get a bag of mild marijuana from the doctor but who I am fucking kidding? I’d start out with a mild bag of marijuana and I’d end up with a fucking bag of crack. My mind runs away with the fantasy because one drink, or one joint, or one whatever doesn’t apply to me but my head still thinks it does. I will think about it and my head runs away with the thought.

Jeb: You have tried to quit for as long as I can remember. Why is it different now?

Ozzy: I got fed up with quitting. The first thing I stopped was tobacco, and don’t ask me how I did that. I have been in nearly every rehab around. I have been in rehab with heroin users and they say, “I can put the smack down but I can’t give up tobacco.” I put it down first. My voice would crack in concert and I felt like a soccer player kicking the fucking wall when he was not in the game.

To be honest with you, I was not having a good time. I would make all of these grandiose statements about how I was Mr. Sober, now. In the National Enquirer, the following day, you would see me on the floor in a bog covered in piss.

There is a lot more help these days than there used to be. It is a lot more openly spoken about then when I was a kid. My folks didn’t say, “He’s got a drinking problem.” You just didn’t talk about it. My drinking problem was that I couldn’t get e-fucking-nough. If I knew, and I honestly thought to myself, that I could drink moderately, then I would, but I know I can’t. I never ever did, I never ever will and I don’t want to.

Jeb: I think when someone like you tells people to stop doing drugs it comes across loud and clear. What was one of your favorite questions on drugs?

Ozzy: The one that I remember was this guy who had just come back from a doctor who had prescribed this medication that said on the bottle, “While taking this medication, do not drink alcohol.” This guy asks, “What should I do?” I said, “Well, if you’re a dummy, and you’re fucking nuts, then you will drink alcohol with the medication. If I were you, then I would do what it says on the bottle and not drink any alcohol.” Some people are fucking insane.

Jeb: Oh, come on, I imagine back in the day you would’ve drank with the medication.

Ozzy: I did. If they would have asked me that question ten years ago, then I would have been on drugs and drunk and I would’ve gone, “Dude, this is Ozzy, I’ve just taken this medication and I’m about to down a quart of vodka. Where is the nearest fucking hospital from where I am?”

Jeb: Were there any sex questions that were uncomfortable for you to answer?

Ozzy: The newspaper would get them all in and then just send through the funny things. One guy wrote in telling me that he was worried about his relationship because he used to have sex with his wife three to four times a week. He said, “Now, we are only doing it once a week. I’m 80 years old and I’m worried we are growing apart.” I said, “Stop complaining, man!” I mean fucking hell, he’s doing good.

Jeb: I want to talk about a project your son Jack did called God Bless Ozzy Osbourne. Tell me about how that came about.

Ozzy: He decided to go behind the camera, rather than in front of the camera. He wanted to start a production company and he said, “Would you mind if I did a documentary on you?” I said, “Just don’t make me look like something that I’m not. If I’m bad then say that I’m bad.” I didn’t want him to do one of these documentaries that say, “Look at me, I’m the wonderful one.” I’ve had my wonderful moments but I’ve also had my fucked up moments as well. I said, “Jack, you’ve got the freedom of the camera. Do the best job that you can.”

I must confess, when I was watching it in a theater in New York, part of me said, “Fuck, be careful what you ask for.” I’m not afraid to talk about the bad things I’ve done in my life. So many of us are the great and glorious and never talk about the things that we don’t want to talk about.

Jeb: Was it emotional for you to see you through your son’s eyes?

Ozzy: No, because when I was watching it, I was just watching a film. We’re a very close family. There were parts of it that kind of got me. There was a question that asked if I was a very good father and the answer was no. I thought about it and I suppose it was true because I was always fucked up, you know.

Jeb: I think that would be hard to take now that you’re not all fucked up.

Ozzy: But it’s the truth. I remember one time I was arguing with my son Jack and I said, “What the fuck is wrong with you? You’re always complaining about what I’m doing. You’ve never wanted for a damn fucking thing.” He said, “Oh yeah?” I said, “Name one fucking thing in your life that you’ve wanted that you haven’t got? If your bicycle broke, you got a new one. If you wanted to go somewhere you got to do it.” He said, “You want to know what I’ve never had? A father.” He stopped me dead in my fucking tracks. Alcoholics and drug addicts are self-centered people. We only care about ourselves.

Jeb: You can’t go back and do it again.

Ozzy: If you could buy love then people would be selling it in gold boxes.

Jeb: Are you at a place in your life where you can finally say that you’re happy and that you’re satisfied?

Ozzy: No.

Jeb: How can that be?

Ozzy: I’m a worrier. I will worry if I don’t have anything to worry about.

Jeb: From the outside looking in, it appears you’re doing great. You can tell that you are really in love with your family.

Ozzy: We do stupid things and we have rows but it’s a family. When we started filming The Osbournes T.V. series people would come into my house and go, “Is it always like this?” I was like, “What?” They would go, “Your son just put a fucking spike in his shoe and your daughter just bought a new party dress. Your wife is coming in with all these shopping bags and the fucking cat is on fire.” It was just how our life is. When we did the show, a lot of people ended up relating to us. We didn’t go Hollywood bullshit.

Jeb: My daughter, Cassidy, watched the show and said, “We are like The Osbournes but without the money and drugs.”

Ozzy: [Laughter] I love it.

Jeb: My last one is asking Dr. Ozzy for some advice. I need some help with an issue that I know you have struggled with. I have discovered a new authentic Mexican restaurant in town and I’m hooked on burritos. What do I do to get off the burritos?

Ozzy: Switch to pizza [laugher]!

Jeb: That’s perfect. I’m getting a pizza today.

Ozzy: I will do that with burritos. I will eat nothing but burritos for about a month and then I will go, “This is fucking boring.” A normal person wouldn’t eat burritos every day for six weeks. If they did then they would never eat one again for the rest of their life.

When I was doing that TV show people were noticing that I was eating these energy bars, and then they got them for me for free. Then, I was eating burritos all the time and I was given a lifetime supply and I never had to buy one when I went to the place to get one. Once they started giving them to me for free, I’ve never had one since. When it was free, I didn’t want it. I have no idea why I’m like that.

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Deep Purple "Phoenix Rising"

Deep Purple "Phoenix Rising" 
Eagle Vision
All Access Review: A - 

All was not well with Deep Purple when version Mark IV accepted a lucrative offer to jet off to Jakarta, Thailand, to play before a people hungry for just a little taste of big-time, arena-sized, hard rock. For starters, Mark IV had in its stable not one, but two, drug-crazed toxic twins in bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes and guitar wunderkind Tommy Bolin, both of whom were being dragged to their own personal hells by severe addictions and free-for-all excess. That factor alone should have spelled doom for Mark IV, but there were other divisive issues, like the fact that keyboardist Jon Lord wasn’t completely onboard with the soulful, more groove-oriented direction of the newly constituted lineup, now down to two original members, Lord and drummer Ian Paice. The old guard was, somewhat reluctantly, ceding authority to the new one, and into the void of leadership stepped Hughes, Bolin and hairy vocal god David Coverdale, who had replaced Ian Gillan.

Their styles inevitably clashed. And Lord will tell anybody who cares to listen that 1975’s Come Taste the Band was really not a Deep Purple album. It was a Hughes-Coverdale-Bolin project, backed by two longtime Deep Purple veterans, as Lord explains in “Getting Tighter,” a frank and revealing 90-minute documentary packaged with the new DVD, “Phoenix Rising,” that delves, often uncomfortably, into Deep Purple’s troubled transition from the Ritchie Blackmore years into its short-lived, turmoil-filled Mark IV phase. It is accompanied by a true treasure, the lost, but incredibly well-filmed 30-minute “Rises Over Japan” concert footage that is now finally seeing the light of day. An electric performance sees Coverdale and company roaring through “Burn,” giving a smoldering rendition of “You Keep on Moving,” slinking around the funky “Love Child” and blazing through “Smoke on the Water” and the scorching closer “Highway Star,” which drives the audience nuts – after all Japan always has been, historically, a Deep Purple stronghold. It’s one of the very rare pieces of film that shows Bolin playing with Deep Purple, and for that, it is absolutely essential. The playing is muscular, Coverdale’s vocals are masculine and sexy, and the band seems invigorated, even if they know the end is near. But, then there’s that documentary, as strangely gripping as a car wreck.

Through gritted teeth, and trying to be as diplomatic as possible, Lord recounts those days of ruin in his own words in “Getting Tighter,” just as Hughes presents another perspective, one of a repentant wild man who has come to grips with the fact that his lurid appetites probably contributed to the fall of one of rock’s greatest groups. It’s a fascinating account of a period in Deep Purple’s existence that has, in some ways, been sort of brushed under the rug … with good reason. For all involved, it’s not a particularly pleasant episode – Coverdale would not even consent to take part in the film. These were, after all, the last days of Deep Purple – yes, different versions of the band would later reunite, but for all intents and purposes, this was it. And for Hughes, especially, that brief time he was with Deep Purple, as artistically gratifying as it may have been, was when his addiction took hold. 

Then, there was Jakarta, a tragic piece of history that would rank right up there with Altamont had it not happened in a place ignored by most of the world, like Thailand. Not pulling any punches, Lord and Hughes, the only Deep Purple members interviewed here, explain in detail what happened to Purple. From the notorious California Jam gig, where Blackmore memorably destroyed a TV camera in a complete onstage meltdown, on through Hughes’ recruitment, Mark III’s Stormbringer and Blackmore’s subsequent departure, and then trumpeting Bolin’s flamboyant arrival, the drugs and the Jakarta incident, followed by the almost anticlimactic breakup.

For those unfamiliar with the Jakarta story, it’s a murky tale to be sure. Invited to play Jakarta as the first rock band from the U.K. or America to play Thailand, Deep Purple gladly accepted a big cash offer to do it. Met with incredible fanfare – oddly way-over-the-top as Hughes recalls riding with tanks and soldiers on a convoy through town, as the people lavished the band with an outpouring of affection – Deep Purple experienced corrupt promoters who tried to stiff them on their payment and stuff over 100,000 people into a 50,000-seat stadium. Then, there was the murder of one of the minders hired to care for Hughes and Bolin. Hughes was arrested for the crime, and the band was forced to play a second show while grieving terribly for its loss. Hughes openly describes the duress he was under and recounts how thuggish security guards turned the dogs loose on the crowd, as all hell broke loose and fans were mauled by the animals.

Not a pretty picture, is it? Well, neither is the guitar case of cocaine Lord says he saw. This is as ugly a story of rock ‘n’ roll excess as has ever been told, though there are bright spots. The amount of rare vintage concert footage, from various phases of Deep Purple’s life, is astounding, as are the interview pieces from yesterday with Bolin and Paice and the film of Deep Purple, and its entourage, actually in Jakarta, getting off the plane and setting up for those doomed shows. And for all of Lord’s reservations about Come Taste the Band, he does extol the virtues of Bolin’s thrilling musicianship and the album’s strengths as a rock record. For his part, through the self-flagellation, Hughes also seems to sincerely view the work on that record as one of the most artistically rewarding times of his life.

And so, what’s here is an amazing tale, one that’s far more than just a tawdry, sensationalized “Behind the Music” stumble into the gutter. But, questions remain, such as why no Coverdale? Why is he not a part of this? And why are Hughes and Lord the only ones talking? Couldn’t the filmmakers bring a broader perspective to the documentary? If “Phoenix Rising” – and its centerpiece “Getting Tighter” – comes up a bit a short, this is the reason. Ultimately, however, there is so much to love about this collection. The electronic press kit for Come Taste the Band in “Phoenix Rising” is a wonderfully detailed look at the record, complete with a track-by-track assessment by Hughes and Lord. And that’s not all. There is also a great reproduction of an old Record World magazine section devoted to Deep Purple that includes a wide array of interviews with band members and their associates, advertisements, photos … if the documentary wasn’t enough for you, this should seal the deal. Furthermore, there is a special two-disc DVD/CD package that will include an audio version of “Rises Over Japan.” Run, don’t walk, to get this.

-          Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Rainbow "Live in Germany 1976"

CD  Review: Rainbow "Live in Germany 1976"
Eagle Records
All Access Review: A-

Never one to be careful with his words – it’s been said, after all, that he infamously referred to the elements of funk and soul that Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale injected into the Mark IV version of Deep Purple as “shoeshine music,” not exactly the most politically correct of descriptions – guitar sorcerer Ritchie Blackmore had “creative differences” with just about everybody who was ever in Rainbow. Notorious for being difficult to work with, Blackmore burned bridges over and over with a series of firings that led to massive personnel overhauls in Rainbow – this after already having swum away from what he surely perceived as a sinking ship of dysfunction in the last incarnation of Deep Purple, born out by the cold public shoulder given to Purple’s last hurrah, at least before later reunions, Come Taste the Band.

Go all the way back to the messy birth of Rainbow, those sessions in Tampa Bay, Florida that yielded what was originally going to be Blackmore’s first solo salvo across Purple’s bow, a single with a version of the Steve Hammond-penned “Black Sheep of the Family” and “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves” on the B-side. Though still technically in Deep Purple at the time, Blackmore, his aspirations leaning toward a more classical interpretation of hard rock and heavy metal, had holed up with Dio in a hot, muggy place where retirees go to die with ace musicians like keyboardist Matthew Fischer of Procol Harum, ELO cellist Hugh McDowell, and Dio’s band mate in Elf, drummer Gary Driscoll . The results pleased Blackmore so much that he decided to make a solo album – just with a whole new cast of characters. Keeping Driscoll, Blackmore and Dio gathered up the remnants of Elf, aside from guitarist David Feinstein, and with bassist Craig Gruber and keyboardist Mickey Lee Soule, they crafted Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, a medieval fantasy world of an album marred by bad sound and occasional lapses in musical judgment and taste.

Which brings us to 1976’s Rainbow Rising, a metal classic by any standard of measurement. Every bit the killing machine that Deep Purple was in its finest hour, the lineup that recorded Rising – none of whom were around for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, except, of course, Dio – barely harnessed its considerable horsepower on that great record. There was Tony Carey on keyboards, Jimmy Bain on bass and the all-powerful Cozy Powell on drums, and the combination was magical. But the thing about Blackmore, aside from his ability to mold and sculpt some of the most unforgettable riffs in rock history and reel off solos that fly closer to the sun than Icarus ever dreamed possible, is that he simply cannot compromise his artistic vision. It isn’t in his nature. And so, again, Blackmore issued pink slips to everybody, Dio being the only survivor in this purge. This time, however, Blackmore went a bit too far. Rainbow never again was this good.

But before the inglorious end of this version of Rainbow, a 1977 live album, Rainbow on Stage, was issued, and it was a lead balloon. It culled a patchwork of muted concert performances of the Rising crew, mostly from shows in Japan, with a couple tracks from shows in Germany. Lacking the fire and brimstone normally generated by the Rising gang when confronting an audience, it’s a lukewarm representation at best and it was missing one of the band’s greatest achievements, “Stargazer.” Thirty-four years later, the ghosts of Bain, Powell, Carey, Dio and Blackmore are avenged by Rainbow: Live in Germany 1976, a two-disc collection of long-lost performances of that revered lineup from their scorched-earth tour of German hamlets like Cologne, Munich, Dusseldorf and Mannheim.

Gathered from reels of tape found in vaults in London, as the brief liner notes here indicate, the eight songs – all except two eclipsing the 13:00 mark – that comprise this release all burn with intensity. Free to explore his every whim on the guitar, Blackmore gives a performance for the ages. Opening Disc 1 with a relatively compact 5:25 “Kill the King,” the band, propulsive and feeling its oats, comes out with guns blazing as Blackmore fires a hail of notes as arrows into the crowd and drives the band’s unstoppable momentum with motoring riffs. The bluesy, Zeppelin-esque stomper “Mistreated,” which Blackmore wrote with Coverdale, follows and is drenched in exotica. It’s a vision quest for Blackmore, where he emits quiet, meditative guitar codes for ancient astronauts before painting the sky with echoing, hallucinatory chords and epic runs across the expanse of the universe. Even more disarming is how Blackmore’s insistent, pulverizing riffs pound away in “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves,” while still managing to shoulder the melody like a muscle-bound steelworker carrying an I-beam as Carey, Powell and Bain construct the song’s sturdy framework with workmanlike attention to detail.

Dio sings the transcendent Disc One closer “Catch a Rainbow” beautifully, letting Blackmore reveal intimate little eddies of sonic mystery and wonderment before the epic build-up comes on a like a sudden storm and whips up gale force winds of sound, with his aerial guitar acrobatics diving and rising like some sort of flying dragon. It’s magnificent to behold, as are the furious, demonic grooves Blackmore and company push and prod in an absolutely gripping “Man on a Silver Mountain” tour de force. Carey channels his inner Keith Emerson in the dancing keyboards that introduce “Stargazer,” another massive, powerful undertaking that clocks in at 17:10 and takes all kinds of strange, but utterly beguiling, twists and turns, while never losing the plot. All of which sets the stage for the rhythmically dynamic, thundering canon of “Still I’m Sad” and “Do You Close Your Eyes,” played at top speed and full of balled-up energy that simply explodes at Blackmore’s command. His soloing has never been as wild or as carefree, while still retaining the precision, care and blinding speed that has made him a legend.

An exhausting listen that leaves one breathless and satisfied, like the best concerts do, Rainbow Live in Germany 1976 provides an ironclad argument for Blackmore to not mess with a good thing. The chemistry between these musicians is obvious, and Dio wails as if he’s chained and held aloft above a hot bonfire of guitars, bass, keyboards and drums that never turn to ash. Simply put, this the live album Rainbow should have put out in 1977, but … well, better late than never I suppose.

-          Peter Lindblad