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.
Drunken debauchery in the heart of Texas
Ozzy has played Texas numerous times over the decades, but was forced to go an entire 10 years without performing in the state following a public urination arrest. In 1982, while wearing a dress and stumbling around in San Antonio in a drunken stupor, Ozzy answered nature’s call and took a leak on a memorial for those who died at the Alamo, thus landing himself in jail. As part of his punishment, the judge ordered that Ozzy be banned from the Lone Star State for an entire decade, depriving Texans of hearing a live version of “Crazy Train.” Ozzy landed himself in the slammer again two years later in Memphis, though he did manage not to pee on anything.
“See, I can’t have a casual line of coke — that doesn’t equate in my head,” Osbourne later admitted. “I never went to the bar for a drink, I never smoked a joint. I used to go into a bar to get absolutely s–faced. It didn’t really occur to me that other people were going there for a drink.”
It was during this 1984 tour with Mötley Crüe as the supporting act that Ozzy solidified his reputation as the hardest partying rockstar on the planet. (There’s stuff that even Keith Richards won’t do.) As it’s described in Mötley Crüe’s autobiography, The Dirt, the band would have gross-out contests and Ozzy wasn’t about to be beat by some young punks from L.A. After watching the singer snort a line of ants at the hotel pool, Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx urinated on the ground and without hesitation, Ozzy bent down and lapped up the urine. What followed was simply too much for even Tommy Lee to partake in…
Ozzy tries to kill his wife
After years of booze, drugs, and scandal, it’s amazing that Ozzy Osbourne was even alive by the time the 1980s drew to a close. It was during one of his alcoholic benders in 1989 that the singer came to terms with just how much control alcohol had over him. He had become Mr. Hyde and, as described by his wife, was almost possessed by the drug.
“He came down in his underpants, sat on the sofa right opposite me and said, ‘We’ve come to a decision.’ I was like, ‘Yeah’ — sort of sarcastic — ‘What’s the decision?’ and he said, ‘We’re very sorry but you’re going to have to die. There’s no other option.’ I said, ‘Yeah, shut up, f— off,’ and he jumped on me and his whole body weight was on top of me. He had his hands around my neck, he landed on top of me, I just kept thinking, ‘The kids, the kids, you cannot do this, I’m not ready.’”
Ozzy awoke to find himself in a jail cell, wondering what the hell had happened.
“I thought, what the f*ck have I done now? Has one of my practical jokes backfired? So I asked a police officer. I said: ‘What am I here for?’ I hadn’t got a f***ing clue. It’s the most horrific feeling. He read me a piece of paper, and said, ‘You’re charged with attempting to murder Mrs Sharon Osbourne.’ I can’t tell you how I felt. I just went numb.”
In the end, husband and wife of course reconciled and Ozzy entered rehab numerous times in the 1990s to try kick his addictions. He had made it through his 1980s haze of madness, probably not much wiser, and certainly not sober, but he was alive.