He's the Prince of Darkness. He's a pioneer of both heavy metal and reality television. And now, finally, he's a best-selling author.
Ozzy Osbourne's book I Am Ozzy, was recently released in the U.S. and has been extremely well received. He's making appearances across the country in support of the new book, and he'll be at Tempe's Changing Hands on Saturday. Ozzy talked with New Times
about the new book, old memories, regrets, sobriety, how old-school marijuana is different from strains, the best full-time job one could possibly want, and goofing around in a slaughterhouse.
NT: So congratulations on the book, first of all.
OO: Yeah, it's great, isn't it? I mean I was . . . my life's full of surprises. I think people gave me a number two on the New York best sellers. That's a real double-whammy for me, I mean.
NT: Well, congratulations . . . So you had mentioned toward the beginning of the book that when you were younger, you weren't very good in school and you didn't enjoy reading or writing, and that you found out later you were dyslexic.
OO: Oh, yeah.
NT: And you had said that you were, "...able to get through an entire book only a few times in [your] life." So did you find it challenging to write such a lengthy memoir?
OO: I didn't actually put pen to paper. I had a guy, Chris Ayres do a ghost writer. We may actually [have ended up] doing the most extensive interview that I've ever done, you know. He'd come around my house, have a good time and shit, and he would interview me. He would go, like for instance - and I had a problem remembering a lot of things, as well. So what he would do, he was very good, he'd go, "Ozzy - what was your childhood like?" And so I'd start sharing. "My mom worked in a factory, my dad worked in a factory, la la la la." And he'd find something interesting and he'd go, "That's real good. Can you elaborate on that story?" And I'd go, "Okay." And that would trigger up all the memories, you know.
NT: Was it difficult to remember everything in such detail?
OO: Um - my long term memory is not as bad as my short term. I mean, I can't remember what I did yesterday, half the time.
NT: I was really impressed at how much detail you had. And especially some of those things that happened so long ago.
OO: I mean, when you're a kid, a day seems like a year, you know - and I can remember when I used to cut - having school holidays, you know from school in the summer. I used to go [unintelligible] August six weeks off school. I went, "Great." [unintelligible] "How long before we go back to school?" you know...terrible being at home, you know.
NT: Yeah. I had read too that you said for you privacy wasn't much of an issue, and that Sharon had said if people wanted a story that you should give it to them. But did you ever feel like you had said too much, or have you ever become resentful of your life being so public?
OO: If you're in the showbiz game, like we are, you get used to it, because people, if they wanna find out something, they'll make it out of the [unintelligible] zone, and you have to [unintelligible.]
NT: So many of the things you said were quite personal, and like I said before - so much detail.
OO: Yeah. I mean, it's truth, you know. I mean, I don't have any skeletons. I might have one or two in there which I haven't thought about, but mostly it's in that book, I think...I was amazed at how quickly it came together. I mean, I said to Chris [Ayres], "Have you got enough?" He says, "Man - I've got enough for another book," you know. [Later I said to him,] "I mean, were you joking when you said you had enough for another book?" He said, "Oh - I could do it no problem tomorrow," you know. There's a lot more, a lot of stuff that didn't get in the book, you know.
NT: Yeah. I know you mentioned that once it came out you realized that there were a lot of things you forgot to put in. Are you planning on writing a sequel?
OO: It depends if somebody wants to pitch it...[unintelligible] the interest for "I am Ozzy 2," or "I Am Still Ozzy" or "Am I Ozzy?" you know...
NT: That's great.
OO: [Unintelligible]...there's some serious stuff, but there's also a lot of humor with the book, you know.
NT: Yeah. Actually I wanted to talk to you about that. I feel like so much of your life was colored by your sense of humor. You talked a lot about the practical jokes that you played with your band mates, and even back in your early days working in the slaughterhouse - that it was a coping mechanism for you dealing with bullies growing up. Do you think that your sense of humor affected the way you see your own life?
OO: It took me - for instance, when I was in school, I wasn't very good at fighting, but I wasn't really a good runner. So what I would try and do was befriend the school bully, and if the bully was on my side - I mean, it didn't always work out but...my humor got me through life, you know. My crazy - you know, when I say crazy I don't mean "insane" crazy - just "zany" crazy. The stuff - I mean, it got worse as the drinking got more prevalent in my life, and the drugs.
NT: Right. I know that was a huge part of it for you. You talked a lot too about your beginnings in Aston, and how it was really important to you not to divorce yourself from your roots in a working class home.
OO: You know - so many people in this business - number one I think we're all so fucking blessed to be doing what we're doing. I don't think there's another job in the world that I would like to do, you know. I mean, it's not a job. It's a paid hobby. I don't know. It's - I mean most days I wake up with my eyes open. I don't have to get up at six in the morning. I remember having dinner a while ago with the band Chicago, one of the horn players. And he says to me..."I've got an apartment overlooking the 405...every morning...I look [over] and there's this traffic bumper to bumper going to work." And he goes, "I'm so lucky not to be in that traffic jam. I'm so lucky not going to a job I positively hate for a person I don't really like, and I go home and have the same thing every day. I don't have a routine like that, you know?" It's so true as well, you know.
NT: Do you think that if you had grown up in slightly different circumstances - maybe if you were of a different social class, that you would've still ended up where you did? Or for you, did you see...
OO: You know what - it's like, I was watching a program on the TV about a week ago. It was a story about Eric Clapton. And he was saying, it's very true - you get to the crossroads, and whatever one of those crossroads you take, you got the good, the bad, and the ugly with it. You know - you gotta accept what comes along. So if I hadn't been a singer, I don't know what I'd be. I mean, people say, "Do you think it would've easier?" There's a good chance, but I don't know. I do know...it wasn't just...wonderful. I mean, we got ripped off by the manager. There was drugs involved in my life. There was a lot of good, and there was a lot of bad, and a lot of ugly things that happened in my life, but that's part of - that was the road I chose...For instance, this morning I went to the doctor for my annual physical. And if he gets...the results and it's bad, then...I can't go, "Oh no - I'll come in and have another physical tomorrow. It might be better." You have to [live] with [the] fact that is, you know. So I mean, you know - if I hadn't come from Aston, Birmingham, and I hadn't picked up a microphone, and I hadn't fell in love with the Beatles, and I hadn't got my trip going - sometimes we have to pinch ourselves and go, "Did it really happen that way?" you know.
NT: Yeah - it makes you wonder.
NT: You said in your younger days that getting into trouble was sort of a way that you tried to be accepted by other people - by the older, cooler kids at school. Do you think that this was part of the reason you later became so heavily addicted to so many things?
OO: No. I mean, it was - it was fun. I mean, for instance, when we used to smoke pot, it was a good giggly, munchies - you know, you'd go to your room with a few people you'd take back to the hotel. You'd have a case of beer. You'd have a few beers, smoke some pot, eat loads of pizza, and try and get laid, you know. I mean then - but now, the pot you smoke now, you say, oh. The last time I smoked it...[unintelligible]...a hole into your ass, you know... You're gonna fly...into it. And it wasn't good - I didn't like it anyway. It's too strong, you know. But that's what the kids want, you know. I don't - I mean it was all innocent fun. But then cocaine and all this other shit came along. I would just say it was a part of success, you know. I mean - it's what rock and rollers do, you know. The main thing was alcohol, really with me. [Unintelligible] For instance, right now if I was to go..."I'm gonna go to a bar and I'm gonna have a drink," I know - I know, without any shadow of a doubt, if I was to do that, it wouldn't be too long after that that I would be asking strangers for cocaine. And then [if it weren't] cocaine I'd be off on a fucking 'nother binge for a month. I know that's part of me and I know very well, and every now and again my addictive personality goes, "You know, you've never tried Ecstasy - wonder what that would be like." Or, "You haven't tried methamphetamine - I wonder what that would be." You know - I know my head tries to trick me all the time, but, I just don't act on my mind, you know - on what I think, you know...
NT: Yeah. Do you have many regrets? If you could go back and do it again how would you do it differently?
OO: ...Life's full of regrets, but that's what makes you who you are. I mean, I don't exactly regret - I mean, I don't exactly feel happy about the fact I used to [beat] both wives at one time. I used to hit them, and - at least Sharon, she'd buck right back. She wouldn't take it lying down. She phoned the police and all that, you know...That's a big regret, and I regret the children from my first marriage, the way I treated them, and my children from this marriage. But I was a young guy, who got successful very young - and I thought, you know - get married, get a wife, get a house, have a car, you know, and have kids. But I was 21 - before I knew it I was a father, you know. It's too young, you know. As you get old - by the time you get old, if you make it that far, you get sensible, but it's too late to do anything about it, you know.
NT: Right. Youth is wasted on the young.
NT: You've been criticized so much over the years for so much of the imagery that you use, and the way you approach your music, and, you know, "The Prince of Darkness." Have you gotten any response from your critics in response to the book? Do they see this as a way to see you, perhaps in a more human way?
OO: No, no, no, no, no...nobody's said anything about it...
NT: You've gone through quite a lot personally, which you talked about quite extensively in your book. You died twice. How do you see life differently after coming out the other end, still alive and still sane? How do you think about the way you live your life?
OO: I don't think about it, I just move on, you know. It's no use - you know, you don't go every morning..."That was a good year," and whatever. You know, I lived a Hell ways for a long, long time, you know. To be honest with you, it wasn't fun anymore at the end of the day. I wasn't having any fun with it. Now I look back and go, "I used to think that was fun?", you know? Killing yourself to live, as they say. But you know, that's not what I want people to get out of the book. Just - it's a humor, so I'm not trying to educate people about the dangers of these things, because - it's just my story. It's just a very truthful, human story...
NT: It really is. It's quite honest. How long do you see yourself continuing to create music, and to write?
OO: I mean, the way I look at it is, as long as people wanna buy my music, as long as people wanna hear my music, I'll carry on. If the audience started to dwindle to like, a handful of people - I think that's a good indication to say, "Well, he might hang it up forever, now." But you know, I just - I've been very lucky, you know. Incredibly lucky.
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NT: I think that that's everything, unless there's anything you want to add.
OO: God bless. Nice talking to you.
NT: Thank you so much, Ozzy.
For more information on Ozzy's Feb. 20 appearance, including all you need to know to get your copy of the book signed, visit Changing Hands' website.