header image: my ticket stub from Ozzy Osborne tour with opening act Metallica circa 1986
by O Society Jan 20, 2020
Back in the day, one the first shows I ever saw live was Ozzy from the third row. In those days, the colesium floor was covered in steel folding chairs, which we stood upon for the duration. I remember putting my screaming blonde girlfriend up on my shoulders, the sort of feat that’s easy to pull off when you are a teenage metalhead. Prolly win us both a trip the ER if we tried it now.
I remember during the opening act – Metallica on their Master of Puppets tour – this fellow standing on the chair next to us stuck out his tongue. There was a little bit of paper on the very end of it, which looked somehow both round and square at the same time. The guy only said two words to us, “Blue Dolphin” as he grinned from ear to ear. I’m guessing he had ears anyway, as hair covered most of his face, except for his eyes and the aforementioned tongue.
At the very end of the show, as the crowd looked for the doors, the aforementioned Blue Dolphin fellow smashed this other guy over the noggin with one of the steel folding chairs. Just like NWA wrasslin’ only up close and personal! The other guy seemed to deserve it as he was wildly slinging this empty fifth of Jack Black around at the time, trying to brain the first guy with the square black-labeled whiskey bottle.
We did not have cell phones back in those days to document everything, which is probably a good thing considering the wilderness wildlife mayhem and madness on display both on stage and in the audience. No evidence without video or pics posted on social media this way.
I remember Cliff Burton’s bass lines best of all, thrashing around on For Whom the Bell Tolls/ Orion/ Anesthesia Pulling Teeth. He was a god! Cliff was to die in an ice meets tour bus accident somewhere in Sweden just a couple of weeks later, making us all the more reverent of the events witnessed that evening prior to his early departure, ascention to Mount Olympus.
You see, I was a bass player in a garage/ mental institution/ death metal band in those days. “Player” is probably a bit of an overstatement, as what I really did is more like pummel a bass into submission. I went by the stage name “Arioch Lord of Chaos.” Hair down to my arse Bruce Dickinson inspired.
None of us were very good musicians, except our drummer named Jason, who called himself “Car Crash Cancer Biscuits” for fun. He could keep up with Dave Lombardo, so we played as loud as the Marshall amps would go and as fast as our drummist could pound.
Our guitarist called himself “Ein Horra,” which I believe is German for “The Horror” a la Col Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. He was left handed and played a red Gibson SG just like Tony Iommi’s Monkey. He didn’t sound much like Tony Iommi, just the monkey with the downward tuning bit.
Verily, the very sound of us would kill your neighbors’ houseplants if we played on your lawn. None of us could what you’d call “sing,” so on any given song, one/all of us would sing/mumble-growl. We banged out our sets of Motorhead, Venom, and Celtic Frost covers, with a couple originals mixed in, much like the Neanderthals discovering bone clubs in 2001: A Space Odyssey. No one really came to our gigs except for our rabid horny girlfriends, and that’s how we liked it, baby. Sincere and anti-authoritarian.
Anyway, I’d come to this show mainly to be thrown over the Cliff, and so it was. RIP to Cliff, Martin Ain, and Lemmy as well. Playing bassist is a hard life. My girlfriend was more into Ozzy’s lead guitarist, Jake E Lee. Thought he was so-o-o cute. Go figure!
Afterwards, I told anyone who would listen Ozzy has Parkinson disease. I could see it in the way he shuffled his feet on stage, stopped dead in his tracks for a moment, then turned ’round and went the other way like one of those floating duck targets in the rifle shooting game at the state fair. BING! You win a prize!
You see, my grandfather died of Parkinson. He knew the frozen face, cogwheel motion, and stooped L-Dopa shuffle well. I know what it looks like from experience and Ozzy had symptoms back in ’86. I was certain of it even then.
Nobody much would listen to my diagnosis though. They’d just shrug it off and reply the ubiquitous “No, it’s the insane amount of drugs” Ozzy is famous for.
Except it turns out I was right. Iron Man was rusting before our eyes thirty some years ago. I saw Ozzy again a decade later as Black Sabbath reunited at Ozzfest around ’97 and he’d grown worse. His gait was mechanical. Tin Man mannerisms in search of an oil can.
It was a dream come true nonetheless, for we’d all figured Sabbath’s days were done and we’d never see them all alive on the same stage again.
Overjoyed to be wrong, I celebrated by drinking most of a fifth of Jose Cuervo I snagged from one of the closed bars in the ampitheater. In those days the place sold liquor, in this case margaritas. But it closed an hour or two before the end of the show.
These dram shop laws recently inacted made it so the bars closed in time for the crowd to ostensibly sober up before heading home in our cars. I’d been pissed to find the bar closed and the bartender gone, but spyed the barely used bottle in the mirror behind the counter. A quick hop over the counter and back, problem solved!
Soon I was too drunk to find my way to the proper toilets, so pissed right there in the aisle, the angle of the concrete floor carrying the tequila-colored urine merrily, merrily down the stream downhill as Sabbath cranked out Children of the Grave.
A couple of years later, Ozzy and his family would make a great spectacle of it all – Parkinson, drug recovery, family disfunction – on their reality TV show, and Ozzy would become beloved rather than feared by a nation which had been obsessed with Satanic cults back in the ’80s but was over it by the turn of the century.
Now he even talks about his diagnosis publicly.
He’s sometimes called “the Prince of Darkness” for his crazy train of antics on stage and off. Now the singer and entertainment personality opens up about something more serious.
In an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts for “Good Morning America,” the legendary rocker, his children, and his wife/manager, Sharon Osbourne, shed light on the private health battle he experienced after a fall, and his Parkinson diagnosis last February.
“It’s been terribly challenging for us all,” Osbourne tells Roberts. “I did my last show New Year’s Eve at The Forum. Then I had a bad fall. I had to have surgery on my neck, which screwed all my nerves.”
To complicate the matters further, Osbourne reveals he is diagnosed with Parkinson disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that progresses slowly in most people, and has no cure.
“It’s PRKN 2,” says his wife, Sharon. “There’s so many different types of Parkinson; it’s not a death sentence by any stretch of the imagination, but it does affect certain nerves in your body. And it’s — it’s like you have a good day, a good day, and then a really bad day.”
This isn’t the first time Osbourne battles rumors about his health. Before his diagnosis, Osbourne, who spent 50 years on the road and lived a very public life while on his family’s popular reality TV show “The Osbournes,” battled rumors about his physical state, at one point even denying he has Parkinson.
Now, the rock star is coming clean and letting his fans know about what’s been going on.
“I’m no good with secrets. I cannot walk around with it anymore ’cause it’s like I’m running out of excuses, you know?”
In his family, his son, Jack, and his daughter, Kelly, first realized something isn’t right with their dad.
“The hardest thing is watching somebody you love suffer,” Kelly tells Good Morning America.
Kelly opens up about what life has been like for their family in the past year, even if as it is difficult to face their new reality head on.
In a way, Osbourne’s diagnosis brings his family together and helps them find strength in each other.
“We’ve all learned so much about each other again, and it’s reaffirmed how strong we are,” says Kelly, who admits her father’s diagnosis helped her and her brother become closer over the past year.
Osbourne’s son, Jack, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2012, says he can relate to his father.
“I understand when you have something you don’t want to have — but if he wants to talk, and if not — I try to slip in information,” said Jack.
Although his family helped him tremendously over the past year and is there for him to lean on, Osbourne admits it’s been an adjustment at home.
“Coming from a working class background, I hate to let people down. I hate to not do my job,” says Osbourne. “And so when I see my wife goin’ to work, my kids goin’ to work, everybody’s doing — tryin’ to be helpful to me, it gets me down because I can’t contribute to my family, you know.”
“But you know, put it this way — I’m a lot better now than I was last February. I was in a shocking state.”
As a family, the Osbournes are able to help get their father back on his feet and into the studio.
“We all play a role,” says Kelly. “But the only thing I know is what can I do to make him smile? I know going to the studio makes him happy. That’s what I did. Everything else was him.”
With the support of his family, Osbourne is on the road to recovery and is even turning to doctors outside the U.S. for other forms of treatment.
“We’ve kind of reached a point here in this country where we can’t go any further because we’ve got all the answers we can get here,” said Sharon. “So in April — we’re going to a professional in Switzerland. And he deals with — getting your immune system at its peak.”
While it is difficult for the rock star to address what he’s gone through in the past year, his fans also are a source of support.
“They’re my air, you know,” says Osbourne of his fans. “I feel better. I’ve owned up to the fact I have — a case of Parkinson. And I just hope they hang on and they’re there for me because I need them.”
“I wanna see my people, you know. I’m — I miss them so much,” he adds.
Since his health ordeal, Osbourne is regaining his strength to do what he loves the most: perform for his fans. He’s even released his first new music in a decade, his recent single, “Ordinary Man.”
“He’s gonna get back out there,” said Sharon. “And he’s gonna do what he loves to do; I know it.”