Newest Review: ... not enough detail on the last 10-15 years. Also many times full conversations are transcribed and given some are 30 years ago and Ozzy was... more
The man who defies medical science and is still alive
I am Ozzy - Ozzy Osbourne
Member Name: JOHNDMR
I am Ozzy - Ozzy Osbourne
Advantages: Extremely funny, and in places quite moving
Disadvantages: The man's a complete nutter, and certainly not your most dependable best mate
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO OZZY OSBOURNE
The artist formerly known as John Osbourne was born in 1948. In spite of everything he has subjected his body to, he is still here.
In one of the last chapters in this book, he describes the day he went to the doctor for a check-up in an effort to 'get clean'. In the course of a few minutes' questioning by the medic, he admits to the odd little bit of self-indulgence - you know, occasional substance abuse (occasional? More like every substance you can think of), alcohol (how many units per day? Oh, about four bottles of Hennessy, depending on how long he passes out between them), as well as getting hit by an aeroplane, breaking his neck on a quad bike, AIDS for twenty-four hours, a Parkinsonian tremor, etc. etc. Nothing much.
'One last question,' says the doctor. 'Why are you still alive?'
Quite. Is this man Keith Richards with a transplant or what?
I'm not the world's biggest fan of Ozzy. Alongside the other hard rock vocalists who dominated the singles and album charts in 1970 (cf. Robert Plant, Ian Gillan, Paul Rodgers), he struck me as a bit of an also-ran, as did Black Sabbath as a group. In recent years he seems to have become rather a cartoon-like figure, just another celebrity. I never watched the TV series about him and his family and was never tempted to (reality television is not my thing). So I didn't pick this book out of the library shelves with very high hopes.
But I enjoyed it more than I expected to. It made me laugh out loud several times. In view of his confessions that he was unable to read a complete sentence when he left school at fifteen, or remember much, he doubtless owes a good deal to his ghost-writer Chris Ayres. So perhaps we should give equal credit to both of them. It would certainly be remarkable if he could remember all the incidents in this book. I think he also owes his cuttings library quite a lot.
Anyway, both gentlemen take us back at the beginning of chapter one to the day when his father, having had a few beers (like father like son, I suppose) told him he would either do something very special, or go to prison. As Ozzy says later, none of the kids in his street that he used to hang around with would have put money on him making it to the age of sixty with five kids, five grandchildren, and mansions in Buckinghamshire and California. But long before that, he did spend three months in the slammer. He was caught stealing clothes, and had the foresight to wear gloves. Unfortunately one of them was missing a thumb, so he left fingerprints all over the place. D'oh, d'oh, and thrice d'oh. His Dad refused to lend him the money for the £40 fine, saying that porridge would teach him a lesson.
He never did it again. No, he didn't become a reformed character, and was still capable of misbehaving. At school he used to enjoy heavy metalwork (nothing to do with the music he played later, before you ask), especially because of the hot penny trick. Make a coin really hot for three or four minutes with a blowtorch, leave it on the desk for the master to pick up, and look innocent when he starts screaming.
But school wasn't all bad. At least they gave him reasonable dinners, which was more than could be said for his mum who would make him boiled egg sandwiches for packed lunches. He would open up the bread and see bits of cigarette ash and shell inside. Call the Health and Safety Executive. Call Childline.
If you want to know what it's like working in a slaughterhouse, Ozzy did that too. He spares you no detail in these pages - you have been warned. Music saved him, when he and a few like-minded mates formed a group called Earth, who later changed their name to Black Sabbath. It was the right group at the right time, and in 1970 their second album 'Paranoid' not only gave them a top five single but also topped the album charts.
Enter a life of booze, drugs, rock'n'roll and pure debauchery. For me, the most priceless story comes with his description of a groupie he shared with guitarist Tony Iommi. The latter had a very nasty surprise when it was his turn. Ozzy later explained that a banana had been, involved. Spoilers are not welcome here, so just go and read it yourself, OK? Page 161. Oh, and there's also the one where he thought he had killed the vicar, who dropped in to see him and his then wife Thelma one day. She offered His Reverence a slice of cake, and he was not seen again - for several days. Ozzy was horrified when he heard what Mrs Ozzy had done. He had baked the cake - 20% mix and 80% dodgy hash, and hidden it in a cupboard. The vicar was not seen again for a few days, during which our hero feared the worst. Thankfully the Rev turned up again some days later, explaining that he had had terrible flu' (or so he believed). Aware that his famous parishioner was a pop singer, as a man of the cloth he was lost for words when told the name of the group.
But the book is not all pure farce. There are some sad and quite moving stories to be told, such as the occasion on which his (post-Black Sabbath) guitarist Randy Rhoads was killed in a plane crash, and when he feared he was going to lose his second wife Sharon to cancer. Sharon has always been one to give as good (or bad) as she gets, as befitting the daughter of Don Arden, one of the most feared music managers in the business. In fact, when Ozzy and Sharon got together, he tells us that Don tried to break them up by telling him all sorts of vile, disgusting, inhuman stuff about her (his own daughter, yes) - and presumably quite untrue. Out of deference to his wife, he has the grace not to include any of it in the book. Bearing in mind that he doesn't hesitate to include a good deal of stomach-churning matter elsewhere here, that's really saying something.
And if I might digress, I had (well, still have, he says reluctantly) a brother-in-law who sounds like he took lessons from Don when I myself was engaged. In which case, Ozzy has my sympathy. (To save you asking, long story but I have had zero contact with brother-in-law and sister for some years and I intend to keep it that way).
Which is more than Ozzy got from Sharon when they threw a birthday party for the kids and he got totally hammered, scaring the life out of them. To prove her case, she captured the whole squalid episode on video and showed it to him afterwards.
These days, he is on the wagon. He says doesn't drink any more - otherwise he probably would have cashed in his chips by now. Never a man to shy from taking things to extremes, like that other well known rockin' hellraiser Lemmy of Motorhead, he collects Nazi memorabilia - even though his missus is half Jewish.
To go back to where we came in, the man has survived a lot. The original Iron Man that Black Sabbath once sang about, I guess. It may not surprise you to learn that the book is peppered liberally with expletives, so you may not want to leave it lying around in the wrong company.
Some of the book is, well, a bit gross. But a good deal is extremely funny, and despite the lack of a discography or index - yet again - at nearly 400 pages long, it is good value. (OK, yes, the copy I read is a library book). It certainly exceeded my expectations. My wife took one look at it, and muttered, 'I can't stand him!' It probably looked a rather surprising choice of reading matter alongside the historical stuff I had as well. Maybe I should select some of the more priceless stories and see if I can tempt her with it.
[This is a revised version of the review I originally posted on dooyoo]
Summary: Gross, totally over the top, but will certainly make you laugh