Recent Interview With Ozzy Osbourne (It's A Big One!)
Los Angeles- Ozzy Osbourne doesn't do anything halfway.
"I died twice," the world's foremost headbanger declares matter-of-factly as he recalls the aftermath of a 2003 quad-bike crash.
"Once on the way to the hospital, then they resuscitated me. When I got in the hospital, my heart stopped. And they did it again."
Did he see the proverbial bright white light?
"I had this incredible, incredible dream. It wasn't a light. It wasn't no Jesus Christ walking around in my head. It was just like I went on this journey all over the world. It was like astral projection, if you like."
Osbourne, 57, is no stranger to life in the fast lane. Even by his standards, however, this was a close call. The wipeout at his estate in Buckinghamshire, England, landed the singer in intensive care with a fractured collarbone, several broken ribs, a smashed neck vertebra and a ruptured artery.
Today, Osbourne is alive and well and, better late than never, headed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his groundbreaking band, Black Sabbath. The quartet's unholy din paved the way for heavy metal.
Suffice it to say it's a bit of a disconnect when you climb the stone steps outside Osbourne's mansion in Beverly Hills and find the flowerbeds in full bloom with . . . yellow pansies? Is this the right address?
Hold on. A sign on the front gate says:
NEVER MIND THE DOG - BEWARE THE OWNER
Yes. This must be the place. After security buzzes you in, you walk across a beautifully manicured yard and into Chez Osbourne, the $11.9 million Mediterranean-style villa where MTV shot the series "The Osbournes."
You're greeted by Osbourne's personal assistant and invited to make yourself comfortable in a parlor just off the foyer. Framed snapshots of Osbourne, his wife-manager Sharon and their children - Aimee, Kelly and Jack - crowd the top of a piano in the corner. A bust of an angel looks down from an antique armoire. Sunlight streams through lacy curtains and casts shadows across a chess table.
Suddenly, the early-afternoon calm is shattered by a sonic boom with a British accent:
Osbourne practically explodes into the room, welcomes you with a firm handshake and thanks you for making the trip. Sporting his trademark rose-colored granny glasses, black leather jacket, black T-shirt, bluejeans and white sneakers, he's vivacious and altogether with it. In other words, nothing like his borderline-catatonic MTV persona.
"I thought the trick to 'The Osbournes' was we had a damn good editing team," he says.
"My son said to me one day, 'They're making you look stupid, Dad.'
"I said, 'So what?'
"He goes, 'Do you like them laughing at you or with you?'
"I said, 'You know what, son? As long as they're laughing, I don't give a [expletive].' "
Over the course of a 45-minute interview, Osbourne casually tosses out the F-word at least once every 45 seconds or so. As a noun. As a verb. As an adverb. As an interjection. It's [expletive] amazing.
Drinks are served - Fiji water for you, Diet Coke for the Prince of Darkness.
There is no sign of the missus, who is out and about, or the menagerie of dogs and cats whose "accidents" were a running joke on "The Osbournes."
Are the pets housebroken yet?
"Nah," Osbourne says with a tone of utter resignation. The poor guy is long past disgust.
Osbourne has made his peace with the Rock Hall, too. Black Sabbath will be inducted Monday during a ceremony at New York City's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, along with Blondie, Miles Davis, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Sex Pistols and the founders of A&M Records, Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss.
Black Sabbath had to be nominated eight times before the group got enough votes to make the cut. Tired of the waiting game, Osbourne asked to have the band withdrawn from consideration, dismissing the honor as meaningless because votes are cast by music-industry insiders, not the public.
"I hate it when people dangle a carrot in front of me," says Osbourne, ensconced on a velvety sofa. "I thought, '[Expletive] - I've blown it for the guys. They'll never get it.'
"Regardless if it's been voted by the [expletive] public or some [expletive] bunch of guys, the very fact that we'd been nominated, I should get my egotistical head outta my [expletive] and go, 'Great!' "
You find yourself staring at his left hand. Osbourne tattooed his nickname on his fingers with shoe polish when he was a teenage prison inmate serving three months for burglary.
His formative years in Birmingham, England, also saw him working in a slaughterhouse and in a factory, where the former John Osbourne tested car horns before he started a band in 1967 with guitarist Tony Iommi, bass player Terry "Geezer" Butler and drummer Bill Ward.
They called themselves the Polka Tulk Blues Company at first, then Earth, then Black Sabbath, a name taken from a Boris Karloff flick. "Son, are you sure you're just drinking the occasional beer?" Osbourne's father said upon hearing the group's self-titled 1970 debut album.
"As Black Sabbath, we were in total control of the recording process," Osbourne says. "We just used to lock ourselves in and [expletive] around, y'know. Smoke dope, get stoned, a bit of this and a bit of that."
Best known for such skull-rattling anthems as "Paranoid," "War Pigs" and "Iron Man," the band has sold 30 million albums worldwide. Never at a loss for monolithic riffs or dark lyrics, Black Sabbath is widely credited with inventing heavy metal, although it's a mantle Osbourne resists.
"I have never acknowledged - I mean, OK, there's Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad and Hawkwind," he says. "And Led Zeppelin - say, the first two Zeppelin albums. It used to be called hard rock or heavy rock. Then, [expletive] halfway through the '70s, it's this heavy-metal thing.
"I'd rather they just say Sabbath music. Or Ozzy music."
A runaway cocaine habit hastened his departure from the group in 1979. While Black Sabbath struggled onward with Ronnie James Dio and other singers, Osbourne went on to enjoy a wildly successful solo career.
Want to drive Mr. "Crazy Train" really crazy? Show him a photo of himself during his 1980s hair-metal phase.
"I look like a [expletive] lunatic," he says. "I look like I've just escaped. Plus [expletive] blond hair!"
He's trying to work up the nerve to pen an autobiography.
"If I write it, I'll probably be divorced the following [expletive] week," Osbourne says. "I mean, the [expletive] that I've done that I would never - if [Sharon] ever found out, she'd kill me.
"All people wanna hear about is the debauchery - the sex and the drugs and the rock 'n' roll and the wild life and the TVs flying out of windows and the groupies. . . ."
His voice trails off. Then, with a giggle, he adds: "Part of it was good!"
Other parts are lost in a haze of alcohol and drugs.
"I don't know what to write because I was [expletive] stoned every day," Osbourne says. "The only thing I really remember was the Motley Crue and Ozzy tour [in 1984], 'cause that was just [expletive] insane. We had so much fun.
"People keep asking me, did I really snort a line of ants? It's very possible. I can't remember.
"My whole life has been mad."
Things got really weird after "The Osbournes" took off. The series premiered in 2002 and ran four seasons, becoming the highest-rated show in MTV history. In the process, Osbourne's fame transcended rock 'n' roll. He became a pop-culture icon, recognized by folks who never set foot near a mosh pit.
A few weeks after he found himself rubbing elbows with President George W. Bush at a White House dinner, it was off to Buckingham Palace, where Osbourne sang "Paranoid" at Queen Elizabeth II's 50th jubilee.
"All these people are chasing us around the [expletive] street," Osbourne says. "It's like Beatlemania. People would freak out.
"I said to Sharon, 'It's all happening too quick. I'm a bit scared.' "
They've gone back and forth about selling their Beverly Hills, Calif., home, where vans crawl past every few minutes, packed with camera-wielding celebrity seekers.
"Every week, it's on, it's off," Osbourne says, exasperated. "Do you know how many houses I've either bought or rented in the last 24 years?
"Twenty-seven. We'd unpack, pack and move on. I said to Sharon, 'I'm done.' If we sell this house, I'm moving back to England."
Osbourne spends half the year there, half the year in California.
"It's very traumatic," he says with regard to his spouse's domestic restlessness. " 'Paint that red. Paint that white. No, no - I want that red, that white.' She [expletive] loves it. I hate it."
A British newspaper recently estimated the couple's net worth at $175 million. They've been married 23 years. Their children are grown, with places of their own now.
"Every now and again," Osbourne says, "I'm lying in bed with my wife and I say, 'You know what? I wish I could have my babies back, just for a week, when they were babies.' "
The Prince of Darkness eyes Broadway
On his latest album, "Under Cover," Osbourne brings his adenoidal yawp to bear on some of his all-time favorite songs by other artists, ranging from Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" to the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil." Osbourne also has a go at two John Lennon tunes - "Woman" and "Working Class Hero" - and "In My Life," the sentimental Beatles oldie.
"The Beatles were my everything," Osbourne says. "When I heard 'She Loves You,' I thought it was the best thing I'd ever heard in my life."
He's noncommittal on the subject of recording or performing again with Black Sabbath.
"I never say never anymore," he says. "But our roads have gone so different."
The band has reunited for the occasional tour or one-off gig, most recently to headline last year's Ozzfest, the annual hard-rocking roadshow launched by Ozzy and Sharon in 1996. Over the past decade, Ozzfest has drawn 5 million fans and grossed $100 million.
"This year, I don't wanna do the main stage," Osbourne says. "I wanna do the second stage, because you're closer to the audience."
To hear him tell it, when he isn't on the road, he's a homebody whose lifelong struggles with sobriety are under control.
"I don't socialize very often," he says. "I come in my house, and I stay in my house. I don't go to nightclubs. I don't drink booze. I don't do dope. I go to AA meetings."
Apparently, the only thing high about Osbourne these days is his cholesterol.
"It's not dangerously high," he says. "But it's high enough to need medication."
Ask him about his next big project, and he springs to his feet.
"I'll show you," Osbourne says as he darts off to another part of the house. Moments later, he returns with a hard-bound book containing the lyrics to "Rasputin," a musical about the Russian mystic who was an adviser in the court of Czar Nicholas II.
Rasputin "lived the lifestyle of a rock 'n' roller," Osbourne says. "He was just a drunken bum, y'know. I tell you - he was great."
He co-wrote the musical with Mark Hudson and Steve Dudas. They're hoping to bring it to Broadway or London's West End.
"It's something I've wanted to do for a long time," Osbourne says. "It turned out far better than I expected."
Lest you think he has gone completely highbrow, Osbourne gleefully points out the gold-embossed title on the cover of the book. The "I" in "RASPUTIN" is actually a silhouette of the main character's penis, rumored to have ended up in a museum after Rasputin's death.
Osbourne plans to start work on a new solo album this month with his longtime guitarist, Zakk Wylde. There also is talk of bringing Osbourne's life story to the big screen.
"Johnny Depp's gonna play me," he says. "He's my favorite actor."
You've covered nearly everything, except for Osbourne's well-documented decapitation issues. You just can't think of any questions along those lines that he hasn't already answered hundreds of times, ad nauseam.
Why did he bite the head off a dove during a 1981 meeting with record-company executives? (He was drunk.) Why did he bite the head off a bat tossed onstage during a concert a few months later? (He thought it was a rubber toy.) How did they taste? (Like a hamburger in the case of the dove; the bat was warm and crunchy.)
As you take your leave of the heavy-metal overlord, you apologize for not bringing up the beheadings.
Osbourne belches. Loudly. He looks relieved.
"Thank you," he says. "That's fine."
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