Blizzard of Ozz Turns 40: Musicians Pay Tribute to Ozzy Osbourne’s First Solo Album
Members of Judas Priest, Fear Factory, the Cardigans and look back at Ozzy’s landmark debut LP
Twenty-three years before he’d achieve cult icon status as the affable patriarch of one of reality television’s most profane families, things were looking fairly bleak for Ozzy Osbourne. Freshly booted from Black Sabbath — the groundbreaking band he co-founded — Ozzy was in the throes of heavy addiction, drowning himself in booze with his musical aspirations seemingly on the brink of collapse. Fortunately, Ozzy’s future father-in-law didn’t let that happen. Instead, Don Arden signed the zoophagic rocker to his label, Jet Records, and Ozzy assembled a majestic band of his own.
Boasting Quiet Riot guitarist Randy Rhoads and late Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake, along with Rainbow bassist, Bob Daisley, and keyboardist, Don Airey, the band was christened Blizzard of Ozz. However, Jet’s marketing department decided instead to title the album they would go on to record Blizzard of Ozz, releasing it forty years ago today as the first solo set from the self-proclaimed Prince of Darkness.
Featuring classic tracks like “Mr. Crowley,” “I Don’t Know,” “Crazy Train,” and “Suicide Solution,” Blizzard of Ozz would launch the ant-snorting singer’s successful, decades-spanning solo career while also making him a much-maligned target of priggish politicians and the religious right alike, who’d label him a Satanist intent on indoctrinating America’s youth in the ways of the sinfully depraved.
Today, four decades after its initial release, the tunes on Blizzard of Ozz still hold up, and heavy metal fans still consider the album essential listening. To honor the album’s anniversary, SPIN reached out to several musicians — all of them Ozzy devotees — to gain their insights and perspectives on this classic release.
Singer, Down and Superjoint Ritual
Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister said that John Fogerty had “a voice that could make a vampire look over his shoulder,” or something like that. The same applies to Ozzy Osbourne: fucking wicked-sounding, literally — and I love it. Singing for Black Sabbath is fucking iconic on its own merit, but then he went on to be crazily successful, on his own terms, in his own bands. Huge props for putting those solo bands together. Finding Randy Rhodes, and understanding the impact his playing, style and sound had on heavy metal guitar in general is surreal to think about. Zakk Wylde, too. And I won’t list them out, but all the players in his bands were and are great. I heard this record at the exact age I should have heard it; young, growing into metal music, and damned excited about it. Blizzard of Ozz is one of the earliest records that got multiple spins when I was back in junior high. “Mr. Crowley” is easily my favorite track. Without Ozzy Osbourne, I might’ve turned out to be an amateur mini-golf champion … or challenger.
Burton C. Bell
Singer/guitarist, Fear Factory and Ascension of the Watchers
Feb. 19, 1982. I was in eighth grade, living in Houston. That day was also my 13th birthday. On that day, Texas was abuzz about an unspeakable deed that incited outrage, insulting the entire state and all of its history. A Satanic, bat-decapitating man named Ozzy Osbourne had desecrated hallowed ground by urinating on the Alamo. It made statewide headlines, making Ozzy an infamous Lone Star legend overnight.
At that time, I was not familiar with his music. However, after that fateful day, he was on my radar. A few months later, I attended a girl friend’s birthday party. She placed a tape in the boombox and pressed play. The sound that blasted from the speakers and into the garage piqued my ears. A dirty arpeggio from an electric guitar, punching with steady, pounding drums, as if it was a machine revving up to full power. The rhythm, gaining momentum with every beat. Then, that voice … distinct and clear, raunchy and mean and loud. The birthday girl got up to dance alone in the middle of the garage to a dirty and fast groove. She smiled big with her metal braces and exclaimed, “I love Ozzy!” The song was “Crazy Train.”
13-year-old me: “He peed on the Alamo!”
Birthday Girl: “Yeah, I know! How cool is that?”
Ever since then, Ozzy has remained a legend in Texas, and the entire world. (Ozzy never urinated on the actual Alamo; he relieved himself on the cenotaph in the plaza.) Ozzy has always remained relevant, and every time I hear that song, I’m transported back in time, to that girl’s birthday party. He’s always been able to adapt to the ever-changing currents of music style, procuring some of the most talented musicians along the way. His distinct voice singing anthems that defined generations throughout his entire career. Remember the Alamo!
Lead guitarist, Armored Saint
When I heard Blizzard of Ozz, I was in eighth grade, and there was this kid at the front of our shop class, and he had a boombox and he was playing “Mr. Crowley.” I was already playing guitar at that time and had my rock and roll ambitions in my head. I heard that, and, I couldn’t really grasp what was going on, with Randy Rhoads, but I ended up getting the album and … what an impact, what an impact. It definitely one of the records that had an influence on me in a big way. Randy Rhoads was a huge part of that, but it was so magnificent. It really is a classic album. There’s no denying that.
The cover is memorable. I remember when it came out, and when you talk about Blizzard of Ozz, you have to talk about Randy Rhoads. We lost him when he was 25, and it’s such a shame, because of how much he had to offer at that young age, imagine what was going to happen.
Guitarist, Judas Priest
I think people underestimate Ozzy Osbourne’s vocal ability. To me, on Blizzard of Ozz, he has a very powerful and unique voice. What makes him an important artist is he always believed in himself and did what he wanted in his own way. Blizzard of Ozz has a lot of great moments. I always remember Randy Rhoads being such a big part of that album. My favorite track on the record is probably “Crazy Train.” As a guitarist, I can’t say that Ozzy has been a real influence on me, creatively. But he has been such great influence, to so many others.
Guitarist, the Cardigans
Ozzy was definitely one of the posters on my wall growing up. As I got older, I worked in a record store, and the owner was more into indie and melodic guitar pop. But the hard rock genre’s always been there for me, and still influences me. Ozzy, especially in that genre, is pretty unique. He has an incredible sense of melody, and it has been a thread going through his whole career. It’s not only his voice, you kind of recognize his fantastic melodic language, and for me, that part of songwriting or any style of music has maybe been the most important thing — even if I can dig a classical guitar riff too, but it’s even better if there’s a great vocal melody on top of it, and to me, that’s what Ozzy represents, musically.
The brilliance of Ozzy’s work is, it’s so universal. It’s so much more than the genre he’s pioneered. On Blizzard of Ozz, “Revelation (Mother Earth)” is an amazing song, and it proves once again that there’s so much more to Ozzy’s catalog than “Iron Man” and “Crazy Train.”
Some of my first memories of Blizzard of Ozz involve hearing “Crazy Train” on the radio. It’s one of those songs where it’s like, it’s just such an iconic heavy metal song. I remember hearing Randy Rhoads for the first time, and really diving into that album, and being in awe of his playing and obviously Ozzy’s performance on that record is great. It’s his first solo record, and he really comes out guns blazing.
Ozzy is a heavy metal God and “Dee” is just, like, a solo classical guitar piece. It loosely influenced me to do something similar on the first Revocation record called “Stillness.” There’s just such a myth around Ozzy. He is larger than life, and one of the godfathers of the genre. The fact that he had such a long career and knew how to pick musicians that could bring out different styles of himself as a performer and songwriter. He was constantly evolving with the times, and just pushing heavy metal into different directions. He’s a giant, and Blizzard is such a quintessential metal record.
I found Sabbath and Ozzy at around the same time. When I heard Randy Rhoads’ guitar playing, I wasn’t really fully into guitar at the time, but I had never before heard anybody take it to that level that Randy did. I’d heard Van Halen and stuff, but Randy was just scorching on that record.
The first time I heard a song from Blizzard, I was at a middle school dance. They used to have these dances where I was going to school in Galliano on the weekends, for the kids to have something to do. Me and my buddies would go out there, we’d sneak a beer and go into the dance, being the young degenerates that we were. I remember they would spin records at the dance, and people would bring in new stuff they’d got, and played it, and someone brought in Blizzard of Ozz, and they played “No Bone Movies.” I went, “Holy crap! What the hell is this?” I remember somebody was like, “Oh, that’s Ozzy Osbourne from Black Sabbath’s new band,” and I was just hooked.
Singer/guitarist, Cattle Decapitation
I got into Ozzy’s solo stuff before I ever really heard Black Sabbath. My brother and sisters had a bunch of cassettes, and so that’s how I got into new wave, Madonna, U2, and KISS. One of them also had Blizzard of Ozz, and I just remember hearing stories about, “Oh, there’s demons and shit on the cover.” So, I had these sets of records, and … I remember looking at KISS Alive and thinking, “Man, they look so scary and gnarly, but why do they sound so weak?” But there was something eerie and weird about Ozzy’s voice, and my favorite track became “Revelation (Mother Earth).” It’s very serious sounding and evil — mysterious — and his voice is so bizarre and unique. I go back so far with this particular record that perhaps it resides in my subconscious.
Randy’s understanding of classical sounds being put into the electric guitar was always something I appreciated. This is the one album I love probably the most out of the entire dude’s career. There is just something about that record.
Bassist, Night Demon and Cirith Ungol
I grew up in a Christian school. At a really early age, I was going to public school and getting into fights, so they sent me to private school. And that’s when I started hearing the name Ozzy Osbourne — just during that Satanic panic of the ‘80s. I was so young, I wasn’t listening to it, but my dad had always talked about Black Sabbath with his friends. When I was 12, I remember going through his LPs one night and finding Paranoid, and I put it on and “War Pigs” came on and I was like, “Wow, this is crazy.” I opened up the gatefold and there was Ozzy. I remember being a little terrified. I mean, I loved it, but it scared me; I closed the blinds and everything.
It was around this time that I sent my penny into Columbia House and got all of Ozzy’s CDs and the first five or six Black Sabbath records. I had arrived. That was everything for me. The chemistry between Randy, Bob Daisley, Lee Kerslake is undeniable and cannot be recreated. It was a magical combination of musicians — a perfect storm. Without those three guys, Blizzard of Ozz would not be the album it is.
I was at the very first Ozzfest; my dad brought me, and I told him at that concert in ’96 that this is what I wanted to do for a living. And he supported me, but said, “It’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of time, and you’ve got to really know this is what you want. It’s not going to be easy.” I’m still doing it, and 21 years after the fact, I got asked to play the Ozzfest. Without Ozzy, none of that would have happened.
Lead guitarist, Armored Saint
When I was a little kid in the ‘70s, I used to watch Randy Rhoads at the Starwood with Quiet Riot, and I used to tape him, doing his live stuff. That was ’77, ’78, and in ’79, he joined Ozzy, and I was like, “Oh wow, there he is, he’s with Ozzy!” They did Blizzard of Ozz, and then I remember a lot of the riffs that Randy played in his solos on that record, he used to do with Quiet Riot. I love “Mr. Crowley” and “Crazy Train.” Ozzy — even his laughing — the guy has an incredibly distinctive voice. For a musician like Ozzy to come out swinging and winning … it’s amazing.
When I was in third grade, around 1983, I found out about Ozzy’s Bark at the Moon album. I was super into the title track and also that song “Rock and Roll Rebel. Where I grew up in New Mexico, those songs were always playing on the radio. I was also mega into the album cover with him on the front as a werewolf. I wanted the record so badly, but I seem to remember my mom wouldn’t let me have it because she saw the cover to Speak of the Devil album, which has him on the front with huge fangs and some sort of blood jelly coming out of his mouth. Exactly what a young kid should be exposed to, right?
Ozzy brought this really special and unique, haunting sound to heavy music with his voice. He also was able to embody these personal demons in his character and transform them into music and iconic imagery, in a way that people can relate to on their own personal level that I think is really powerful. There’s no one else like him and there never will be again.
Coming out of one of the best heavy metal bands of all time with such a strong and amazing first solo album is pretty incredible to me. And what a stroke of luck finding someone as talented as Randy! Blizzard of Ozz could’ve ended up like some watered-down fantasy rock offering, but it was fantastic and undeniably good, right out the gate. Hearing Ozzy Osbourne at such a young age definitely helped me want to become a musician. He has some of my favorite guitar players and has so many great songs in his catalog with all of them. His songs are eternally memorable and that is something that I often strive for creatively.
I think I remember hearing how crazy Ozzy was before I even ever heard his music. I remember the first time I heard “Crazy Train,” I was listening to rock radio in my mom’s car. At the time, I had heard nothing like it before. The music was heavy and aggressive, and the vocals were different than anything I had heard. I was not an instant fan, but I did want to explore his music more after that initial listen. And before I knew it, I was an obsessed Ozzy fan. His Black Sabbath work is the blueprint for hard rock and heavy metal to this date. Without Black Sabbath, the metal world would be a very different place. Also, for me, the early to mid-’80s Ozzy albums were an important part of defining metal as a viable form of music.
Blizzard of Ozz was a monster. Those vocals were amazing; they cut through the mix so well. Randy Rhoads’ guitar had an amazing crunch and tone and of course, the solos were mind-blowing. There was just so much fire on that album, especially for that time. I studied that album forward and backward back in the day. When I listen to Blizzard of Ozz today, it still holds up as an amazing album — one of the best in metal music history.
Ethan Lee McCarthy
Singer/guitarist, Primitive Man
I think it was more about the musicians that Ozzy surrounded himself with that made me a fan of Ozzy. I grew up hearing all that stuff in my dad’s garage while he was working on cars. Ozzy is a visionary — not just in sound, but in aesthetics and presentation. A real rocker turned rock God: started out in a poor, working-class neighborhood and now look at him!
The live video of Ozzy and the band playing “Mr. Crowley” shows an amazing group of musicians firing on all cylinders and I think it really shows the power of this era of Ozzy. He’s an inspiration for me, only for being a maniac and creating and playing music this whole time.
Ozzy was truly a pioneer in creating a persona on and off stage, and it wasn’t like how bands like KISS did it, with costumes and interesting attire. It was more the attitude and the vibe he gave off. On Blizzard, Ozzy’s voice carries a lot of emotion — from the standpoint of a spectator, and not a fan. I think that his voice transcends metal and people can emotionally resonate with his expressions. I also love how his voice harmonizes with the guitar on Blizzard of Ozz. He’s truly a unique performer.
I discovered heavy metal around 1985. If I remember right, the first complete Ozzy album I got was The Ultimate Sin. Funny, but I found Ozzy first and after that, Black Sabbath. Ozzy is a grandpa and the king of heavy metal, who gathers all generations and sub-genres together. His impact on metal music is enormous. Blizzard of Ozz is my favorite Ozzy album: somehow raw, unfinished, and perfect at the same time.
Singer/bassist, The Troops of Doom
I’ve been an enthusiastic Ozzy fan since the Black Sabbath era. At that time, I had never heard anything so heavy and the sound hit me deeply. Ozzy, throughout his career, has always managed to break these barriers, and even those who are not fans of the style like at least one of his songs.
For me, Blizzard of Ozz is the best debut album by any solo artist. It contains one of the greatest classics of heavy metal, “Mr. Crowley,” and boasts Randy Rhoads on guitar as well as the rest of that impeccable lineup. I’m a musician today, and I owe it to Ozzy.