Ranking the top 20 Ozzy Osbourne solo songs ever? This list probably shouldn’t have happened.
Rewind back to April 1979 for a minute. No one would have bet on this — not even Ozzy himself. He’d just been kicked to the curb by Black Sabbath for being, as he put it in his 2010 autobiography, a “pissed, coked-up loser and a waste of time for everyone concerned.” His final album with the band, Never Say Die!, was a joke compared to their earlier work and an upstart Van Halen had just played Black Sabbath off the stage on their last tour. With the ‘80s on the horizon, Ozzy appeared done. Washed up. Finished.
“I just resigned myself to the fact that it was over,” Ozzy said in his aforementioned book about how he felt following his exile from the band — “it” being his run as a famous rock frontman. There was only one thing left to do at that point: get drunk and high for months on end at Le Parc hotel in West Hollywood — and that’s exactly what Ozzy did. The fact that it didn’t end with a bloated Ozzy being carried out of some dingy hotel room remains a miracle.
Instead, he went on to have a remarkable second act, punctuated by the good: 12 studio albums, including Ordinary Man, which is out on Feb. 21, a grip of iconic metal songs, and a mega-festival with his name on it. The bad: the pissing on the Alamo, ripping a bat’s head off with his teeth, and drunkenly trying to kill his own wife. And the ugly: licking piss off the ground while on tour with Motley Crue, and, depending on who you ask, The Osbournes
Somehow, Ozzy is still here — and relevant. He’s had a lot of help along the way, including from Sharon, his zealous manager-turned-spouse, and two guitar Gods in Randy Rhoads and Zakk Wylde.
On the eve of his latest release, it’s only right we unveil the ultimate ranking of Ozzy’s 20 best songs.
20. “Straight to Hell”
Recency bias, you say? No, it’s actually just a good, straightforward Ozzy song that would’ve worked during his ‘80s-’90s heyday. It hits the trademark symbols fans have come to expect — death, darkness and hell — and finds a way to mix in the line: “I’ll make you scream/I’ll make you defecate” without sounding completely ridiculous. The song’s MVP is Slash, whose frantic guitar playing in the final minute makes it feel like you’re being jetted to an unwanted meeting with Satan.
A product of the Lemmy Kilmister-Ozzy songwriting duo that boasted a 1.000 batting average on No More Tears. Ozzy howling, “Don’t you ever take my name in vain,” ties together an on-point vocal performance and puts those who assumed he didn’t have another all-time record in him officially on notice. Wylde’s chugging guitar, echoing a motorboat idling into the harbor, puts the song over the top.
The title remains a mystery nearly 40 years later. “Sailing Across the Ocean”? Or “Sharon Arden, Thelma Osbourne,” a combo of Ozzy’s former and current wife? Who really knows and who cares; it’s just a great fucking song. Ozzy wails for two minutes, sounding like a man trying to catch his breath, before ceding the spotlight to Rhoads, who does the rest.
17. “Shot in the Dark”
Yes, this was Ozzy during his mid-’80s nadir, complete with the terrible teased hair and the bizarre satanic Liberace costumes. Most fans would like to forget this era ever happened… but this is a catchy tune, especially when judging by cheesy hair metal standards. And the video remains an enduring reminder that an excessive amount of coke and alcohol isn’t good for you
16. “Bark at the Moon”
The title track that saves an otherwise forgettable album. The letdown wasn’t necessarily surprising: After Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman — the Kobe and Shaq of debut solo records — it’s understandable that a third classic album in a row was tough to pull off. And that’s before factoring in the tragic death of Rhoads a year earlier, a loss that shook Ozzy for years and left his band at a crossroads. Jake E. Lee fills in admirably here, delivering an instantly-recognizable riff that makes it feel like a werewolf — or whatever it was Ozzy was dressed up as on the cover — really was coming to hunt you down under a full moon.
15. “Goodbye to Romance”
The kind of song Ozzy’s detractors either conveniently or ignorantly fail to mention whenever they’re talking about his body of work. “Goodbye to Romance” is a vintage breakup song — one that shows Ozzy is more than his Prince of Darkness alter ego. Props to bassist Bob Daisley, who helped Ozzy capture the pain of breaking up with Black Sabbath here and still found a way to make it work for listeners going through their own fraying relationships.
The bridge — “I have to take this chance goodbye/to friends and to romance/and to all of you, and to all of you” — is what takes this song to another level; Ozzy’s vocals make it easy to picture him shedding a tear while in the recording booth. A masterful Rhoads solo that immediately follows doesn’t hurt, either.
14. “Diary of a Madman”
An authoritative capper to an album that was anything but a sophomore slump. Daisley’s paranoid lyrics, combined with Ozzy’s eerie delivery, give this a demented Howard Hughes-not-leaving-his-room-for-months-on-end vibe. Rhoads’ guitar in the final minute gives you the impression you’re suddenly dodging lightning bolts, while the creepy background vocals sound straight out of The Omen. Both are good things.
13. “Perry Mason”
A bright spot on what many fans believe is an underwhelming and overly-produced album. Thanks, Michael Beinhorn. But Ozzmosis did churn out this gem, at least.
12. “Gets Me Through”
“I’m not the Anti-Christ or the Iron Man,” Ozzy howls on this 2001 track. He’d drive this home even more six months later when The Osbournes debuted on MTV, showing that Ozzy was a regular dad — albeit one that’s rich, famous, talented, and wears tassels under his arms when he goes to work.
11. “Suicide Solution”
A blunt rocker whose grim lyrics shouldn’t be as catchy as they are. The “wine is fine but whiskey’s quicker/suicide is slow with liquor” opener leaves little room for misinterpretation. Or you’d think so, at least, with Ozzy and CBS Records getting sued in 1985 for the song allegedly influencing a young man to commit suicide; the suit was later thrown out. “Suicide Solution” remains an unexpected warning about the perils of alcoholism — and a damn good rock song.
10. “Flying High Again”
It’s more fun to think this song is about Ozzy gloating after the success of Blizzard of Ozz, reveling in the fact he was suddenly bigger than the band that had just fired him; imaging Ozzy smirking as he sings the chorus isn’t hard. But reading the lyrics, it’s hard to escape that it’s probably just about drugs — something Ozzy was ingesting like vitamins on the “Diary” tour. No matter, the song holds up either way.
9. “Mr. Crowley”
Ozzy, Daisley and Rhoads paid ode to famed occult leader Aleister Crowley. (The song doesn’t exactly elevate Crowley to sainthood, with the lyrics questioning his “tragic” life and how he “fooled” his followers.) It opens with an ominous synthesizer fit for a gothic cathedral and leads into Ozzy yelling “I want to know what you meant!” — an answer he knows he won’t be getting any time soon. The song culminates with perhaps the Rhoads’ best solo, which sounds a bit like “Eruption” if it had been written and performed inside an abandoned English monastery.
8. “I Don’t Want to Change the World”
Another headbanger courtesy of the Ozzy-Lemmy pairing. You get the sense here that Ozzy, after a decade of mostly nonsensical controversies, is telling his critics: “Fuck off, I’m a rock star. What do you really expect from me?” Wylde shreds, even by his own standards, on this track while Ozzy belts out defiantly, serving notice he was — at least for the moment — sober and fully capable of keeping up with rockers two decades his junior.
7. “Mama, I’m Coming Home”
A definitive rock anthem that’s remarkably poignant. Ozzy, Wylde and Lemmy must’ve spent a week studying everything good and bad about ‘80s power ballads before hammering this out. The result delivers. A moving strings arrangement and intro? Check. Tear-jerking lyrics? Check. A monster chorus, complete with thundering background vocals? Check. A memorable guitar solo? Check. It all works. Watch the sepia-toned music video — which includes Ozzy being surrounded by doves, proving birds do not hold grudges for long — if you want to give the experience even more weight.
6. “Miracle Man”
A song where Ozzy calls out hypocritical bible thumpers probably isn’t going to suck. Without mentioning his last name, this is a blistering attack on ‘80s televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, a prominent critic of Ozzy and generally anything else that was fun at the time. Inevitably, Swaggart was soon caught with his pants down, literally, cheating on his wife with an escort. That opened the door for Ozzy to go in on Swaggart and give us the simple, indelible “Miracle man got busted” chorus. The live version on 1993’s Live & Loud is even better than the original, with Wylde’s guitar sounding dirtier and sludgier, making it a perfect fit for a song about a fallen preacher.
5. “No More Tears”
The title track from Ozzy’s best solo album is built on a rock-solid foundation: Daisley’s hypnotic bassline and Wylde’s crunching guitar riff, which sounds like it’s responding to each line from Ozzy with its own guttural yelps. Things get a bit dicey during the bridge — is that the sound of a dolphin crying around the four-minute mark? — but Ozzy’s longest solo song remains one of his best.
4. “Over The Mountain”
A vintage metal banger from the moment Lee Kerslake’s opening drum barrage and Rhoads’ charging riff hit your ears. This is 272 seconds of flawless heavy metal. “Over the Mountain” acted as a warning shot Diary of a Madman wasn’t going to lose any of the momentum stemming from Blizzard of Ozz. Instead, Ozzy and the band pick up where they left off a year earlier, with the singer letting everyone know the party was just getting started: “You don’t need a ticket to fly with me, I’m free.”
3. “I Don’t Know”
Making this the intro to Blizzard of Ozz when fans bought the album in late 1980 — or 1981, depending on where you lived — was a mild stroke of genius. It took all of 16 seconds to squash any doubt Ozzy could thrive post-Sabbath, with Rhoads’ iconic guitar riff descending from God knows where and blitzing the listener’s ears. Ozzy jumps in soon after, but even with his voice humming on all cylinders, he still sounds like he’s vacillating between conviction and uncertainty this whole solo thing is going to work out. “What’s the future of mankind? / How do I know, I got left behind,” Ozzy cries early on.
Buoyed by Ozzy and Rhoads, “I Don’t Know” moves at a breakneck clip for the first two-and-a-half minutes before suddenly taking a U-turn. The unexpected bridge features a wistful Prince of Darkness, who implores his fans “you gotta believe in foolish miracles.” Then again, he could just as easily be singing to himself in his moment of uncertainty. Either way, by the time Ozzy’s pep talk sinks in, you’re back to full speed ahead for the final two minutes.
2. “Crazy Train”
“Crazy Train” has been played to death by this point. It’s ubiquitous. You go to a football game, you’re going to hear it. You turn on the local classic rock station, you’re going to hear it. You see a crappy Honda ad on TV, yes, you’re going to hear it.
But there’s a reason you can’t escape “Crazy Train” four decades later: it’s unequivocally one of the best hard rock songs of all time. The buzz-saw riff, Ozzy’s distinct high-pitched vocals and “All aboard!” opening salvo, and the timeless chorus — all flawless. Another four decades down the line, when Ozzy isn’t around anymore — well, probably — “Crazy Train” will still be rolling on.
1. “Mr. Tinkertrain”
A song with “train” in the title that isn’t “Crazy Train” in the top spot? It sure is. “Mr. Tinkertrain” is the culmination of everything fans love about Ozzy and the best six-minute stretch of his solo career.
The lyrics, admittedly, are stomach-churning: “I’ve got the kind of toys you’ve never seen/manmade and a bit obscene/little angel come and sit upon my knee.” If it was released in 2020, a song about a child predator would, at minimum, lead to Ozzy’s cancellation on several corners of the internet.
But the story is fiction, of course. And the song itself is undeniable. It’s all here: the unsettling intro; hard-thumping drums; a sinister bass line; a blistering guitar solo from Wylde; the booming final minute that sounds like a frenzied high school chant; and Ozzy’s trademark vocals carrying the day. If you’re trying to convince some newbie of Ozzy’s standalone greatness, “Mr. Tinkertrain” is the song to put on.