I Am Ozzy: Tripping Through A Madman's Brain

by Paul Hanson

ozzy_iam_302John Michael Osbourne, known to the world as Ozzy Osbourne, takes you deep inside his mind in nearly the 400-page I Am Ozzy.

Those familiar with Osbourne will know what that means: lots of f-bombs and lots of anectdotes that trace his life from his beginnings, through the formation of Black Sabbath, being fired from Black Sabbath, forging his solo career with equally controversial wife Sharon at his side, reuniting with Black Sabbath with Ozzfest, the MTV series The Osbournes, and then ending with his sobriety. Even highlighting those events in life doesn't cover nearly half of the gory details about sex, drugs, and music that Osbourne writes about. (Did you know how many kids he has? He has more that just Jack and Kelly…)

And that's the central appeal to this book. If you dig through the crazy stories and the lunacy and the prose sometimes sounding like you are reading a podcast, there are some statements about the human condition that make you think about your own life and how you interact with people. An early example in this book is when Osbourne has recorded his first Black Sabbath record and brings it home for his father to hear. He describes the scene as follows:

“My old man wasn't too impressed with our first album, either.

I'll always remember the day I took it home and said, ‘Look, Dad! I got my voice on a record’

I can picture him now, fiddling with his reading specs and holding the cover in front of his face. Then he opened the sleeve,went 'Hmm' and said, "Are you sure they didn't make a mistake, son?'

'What d'you mean?'

'This cross is upside down.'

'It's supposed to be like that.'

'Oh. Well, don't just stand there. Put it on. Let's have a bit of a sing-along, eh?'”

Let that soak in a bit. Here's a father about to hear Black Sabbath for the first time. Sing-along? This father has NO idea what he is about to hear. After listening to the first song, Osbourne describes the episode as follows:

“My poor old man turned white. I think he'd been expecting something along the lines of 'Knees up Mother Brown.'. . .

Bless him, he just didn't get it at all.

But it broke my heart y'know? I'd always felt as though I'd let my father down. Not because of anything he'd ever said to me. But because I was a failure at school, because I couldn't read or write properly, because I'd been sent to prison, and because I'd been fired from all those factory jobs. But now, finally, with Black Sabbath, I was doing something I was good at, that I enjoyed, that I was prepared to work hard at. I suppose I just really wanted my old man to be proud of me. But it wasn't his fault – it was the way he was. It was his generation.

And I think deep down he was proud of me, in his own way.”

How heartbreaking to be sharing with a father your accomplishment and seeking reinforcement that you are doing something important to you and to have it dismissed. Pledge to your kids, right now, that you will embrace their crazy ideas as an expression of themselves. You do not need to endorse their project or ideas, but you need to understand that what they are sharing of themselves is important to them. Don’t be like Osbourne's father!

But don't be like Osbourne either, as so many of his stories and anectdotes are illegal, immoral, and insane. He talks about the drugs, the cheating on his wife, and the bat biting incident in Des Moines, Iowa. Did you really think he wanted to bite the head off a bat? Do you really think he wanted to have shots for rabies? Osbourne describes the regimen as:

“Every night for the rest of the tour I had to find a doctor and get more rabies shots: one in each arse cheek, one in each thigh, one in each arm. Every one hurt like a bastard. I had more holes in me than a lump of f*ing Swiss cheese.”

Did you ever really think about the reality behind the mayhem? Who would want that many shots on a daily basis? He then goes on to describe the story behind guitarist Randy Rhoads' tragic death in gut-wrenching detail as well, describing how the bus driver "who's been up all night, out of his mind on cocaine – also happens to be a pilot with an expired medical certificate who's going to borrow some bloke's plane without his permission and then, while you're fast asleep, take your lead guitarist and your make-up artist on a sight-seeing trip about the tour bus, before dive-bombing into it."

For as crazy as Ozzy Osbourne is portrayed in the media, this book is a reminder that he is still a man. He is a man with a heart and a brain who goes through all the emotions that you and I do. When you read passages like this, he is not so different from all of us.

But on tour with Motley Crue, he was not like me. He writes about that tour "People tell me stories about that tour and I have no idea if they're true or not. They ask, 'Ozzy, did you really once snort a line of ants off a Popsicle stick?' and I ain't got a f*ing clue. It's certainly possible. Every night stuff went up my nose that had no business being there. I was out of it the whole time."

There are some downright hilarious moments in this book, descriptions of events that made me laugh out loud while reading. He describes how he wakes up one morning after getting drunk with his former keyboardist. He screams, "I can't feel my legs!" Then I hear this grunt next to me. 'That's because they're my legs,' said Johnny. I had to take three showers after that. It makes me shudder to think about it. There's also the ultimatums from wife Sharon who tells him to not get any more tattoos. What does he do? Goes out and gets the word "Thanks" tattooed on his hand. Sharon is furious and demands to have it removed. They go to the doctor. The doctor says the only way to do what she wants is to have his hand removed. Sharon says "Thanks" and Ozzy raises his hand.

There are also serious moments in this book that take you into the mind of a drug addict and an alcoholic. He describes hiding the bottles he would drink. He writes, "So I started to bury the stuff in the garden. Trouble was, I would always hide the booze when I was pissed, so the next night I could never remember where the f* I'd put it. I'd be out there with a shovel until two o'clock in the morning, digging holes all over the place. Then Sharon would come down for the breakfast and look out of the window, and there'd be all these trenches everywhere. . . . I'd say to here, 'them moles have been busy, haven't they.'

Right after the birth of his daugher Kelly, Ozzy Osbourne went to rehab at the Betty Ford clinic. He describes it like this: “My stay in Camp Betty was the longest I'd been withoug drink or drugs in my adult life, and the comedown was horrendous. . . at first they put me in a room with a guy who owned a bowling alley, but he snored like an asthmatic horse, so I moved and ended up with a depressive mortician . . . the mortician snored even louder than the bowling alley guy – he was like a moose with a tracheotomy. The whole room shook. So I ended up spending every night on the sofa in the lobby, shivering and sweating.”

Osbourne describes Sharon Osbourne with a sort of awe. She has had to endure a lot in her relationship with Ozzy who writes, "I learned that when Sharon's on a mission, when she wants to get something done, she'll f*ing throw herself at it, lock, stock, and barrel, and she'll not stop fighting until well after the bell's rung. When she's got a bee up her arse, you can't stop her. Whereas, with me, if it hadn't been for her pushing all the time, I doubt I would I have had the same success. In fact, I know I wouldn't. She is equally funny as Osbourne. While lying in bed with Ozzy, who is coming down from cocaine and whimpering that he is dying, she quips, "Die quietly then. I need to sleep. I've got a meeting in the morning.'  A few lines later, she is victim to his story about blowback, a word that "had just popped into my head, so now I was desperately trying to think of what it could be."  You have to read the book to learn its definition. I won't tell you the page number either.

There are many little nuggets that are among the other interesting aspects in this book that I do not describe or even mention here in great detail. There's Osbourne's opinion about his vasectomy and having to have it reversed. There's the practical jokes about bananas and female anatomy. There's the episode where he thinks he is setting the air conditioner but trips off the silent alarm that brings the police to the house in which Black Sabbath was doing a massive amount of drugs and alcohol. Each of these anecdotes go far in describing Osbourne's crazy world.

In all, this is an outstanding book about a metal icon. Like Osbourne the man, however, it is not without its faults. Chief among them, Osbourne needed to hire an editor to clean up some of the clutter he throws while describing the situations he has been through. He's telling a story and gets sidetracked for pages of explanatory text before coming back to his main story. It makes the prose hard to follow at times. There's also the way in which the book is divded into chapters. Chapter 7 "Des Moines" goes for 32 pages before describing the aforementioned bat bite in Des Moines. Surely there could have been a break in those 32 pages. That's just not good organization. And finally, the f-bombs. Do we really need to read it as an adjective, as a noun, and as a verb in so many different ways?

I do not know how long it took me to read this book but every time I sat down to read it, I would become engrossed in the stories Osbourne tells. If you are at all curious what could possibly have been going through the mind of John Michael Osbourne all these years, I Am Ozzy is the closest you're going to get.

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