In 1989, Ozzy Osbourne woke up to find himself in a cold jail cell, it wasn’t the first time the rock star had been behind bars, but this time was very different. When asked what he had done the night before to land himself in jail, the police officer replied “You’re charged with attempting to murder Mrs. Sharon Osbourne.” Ozzy went numb. He had begun the 1980s broke and destitute, only to rise from the ashes because of his wife, Sharon, and here he was locked up, with the possibility of losing everything.
In the 1970s Ozzy had found rock success with Black Sabbath, laying out the blueprint for heavy metal and releasing seven albums before being fired from the band in April 1979. The success of Black Sabbath had given Ozzy, who grew up in the poor post-WWII city of Birmingham, England, a life that he never could have imagined. He had dropped out of school at the age of 15 and bounced from one dead-end job to another, doing everything from construction work to working in a slaughterhouse.
“For the first two or three weeks, I did nothing but throw up,” Osbourne says. “The smell was just unbelievable.”
He’d spent six weeks in jail for burglary and upon his release joined three other musicians to form the Polka Tulk Blues Band, latter re-dubbing themselves Black Sabbath. The lifestyle of a rock and roll singer provided Ozzy with money, alcohol, drugs, and every other vice he could indulge in. It also left him broke and strung out in a hotel room when the fame train came to a halt at the end of the 1970s. It wasn’t until Jet Records owner Don Arden dispatched his daughter, Sharon Arden, to look after the singer that Ozzy’s 1980s solo career began, bringing with it a decade of debauchery.
Flying animals beware
During a 1981 meeting with CBS Europe in Germany to discuss his debut solo album Blizzard of Ozz, an intoxicated Ozzy decided to liven up the meeting by performing a striptease, kissing a female executive on the mouth, and then Nazi goose-stepping to the end of the table and urinating in an executive’s wine glass. This wasn’t the only time Ozzy had made a spectacle of himself while meeting with CBS record executives, though. There’s of course the infamous dove incident where Ozzy’s wife had the idea for the singer to release the doves at the end of the meeting and then flash a peace sign. Drunk and wanting to make a scene, the singer had a more carnal idea in mind:
“I’ve done crazy things with Sabbath, but it would never get in the press. So at the signing meeting in Los Angeles, she says ‘go in and throw these two doves in the air.’ And there’s all these record executives with ties on sitting around, so I walk in with the two doves and threw one up in the air and bit the head off the other one and threw it on the table. Within an hour, worldwide everyone knew who I was.”
As shocking as the dove incident was, it was only the first time that Ozzy Osbourne would bite the head off an animal. As Ozzy recounted in an incredibly entertaining 1982 interview with David Letterman, he mistakenly bit the head off a dead bat he believed to be fake when a fan threw it onstage during the Diary of a Madman tour.
Death looms over the Ozzman
With two successful solo albums under his belt, Ozzy Osbourne’s solo career couldn’t have been flying higher until tragedy struck in 1982. While on tour Ozzy lost his friend and bandmate, guitar player Randy Rhoads in a freak plane accident. After finishing a show in Knoxville, Tennessee, the band headed down the road to Florida, stopping in Leesburg to fix the bus’ air conditioning unit. While Ozzy was sleeping off his hangover on the bus, Randy and makeup artist Rachel Youngblood went flying with the bus pilot in a small Beechcraft plane. The bus driver, an ex-commercial pilot, attempted to buzz the tour bus where Ozzy and the other band members were sleeping. On the third attempt, the plane’s wing clipped the bus causing the plane to crash in a blazing inferno and killing all three passengers.
As devastating as the loss of his friend was, Ozzy picked up the pieces of his band and continued on, releasing Bark at the Moon with player Jake E. Lee as Randy’s replacement. But in 1984, death loomed over Ozzy’s career once again, this time when a lawsuit was brought against the singer regarding the suicide of fan John McCollum. The lawyer hired by the family of John McCollum argued that the lyrics of Ozzy’s song “Suicide Solution” influenced the teen to take his own life, and Ozzy should be criminally charged for encouraging the act. The metal madman would escape charges when the case was eventually dropped.