I Am Ozzy
In shiny black and purple letters superimposed over a photo of the 60-something rocker, that’s the title of Ozzy Osbourne's new autobiography, which was released in January. Considering the source material, reading “Ozzy Osbourne” and “autobiography” in the same sentence could understandably cause a shiver down the spine of the literarily inclined. Fear not, bibliophiles. It’s actually a great read.
Born John Osbourne in 1948 in Aston, Birmingham, England the ex-Black Sabbath frontman tells the story of his life from that of a poor petty thief with dreary holes in his shoes, to that of the legendary recording artist who has sold more than 100 million albums. Told in his own lower-class vernacular, Osbourne recounts the infamous moments in his life: biting the head off of a bat; biting the head off of a dove; outrageous sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll exploits; losing guitarist Randy Rhoads to a freak plane/bus accident; agreeing to live on-air as part of MTV’s seminal reality show The Osbournes. But it’s the few snapshots of the everyday in the book that make Osbourne a sympathetic and humorous character actor in his own life, leaving a reader not laughing at Osbourne, the guy who was always the clown, but laughing with him.
The memoir begins with Osbourne recounting his time in jail as a young man. “I nicked a 24-inch telly. But the fucking thing was too heavy for me to carry and when I was climbing over the back wall it fell on my chest and I couldn’t move for about an hour. I was just lying there in this ditch full of nettles, feeling like a twat. I was Mr Magoo on drugs.”
From then on, he recounts the miraculous, the milestones and the mundane: recording sessions with Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi; of meeting Robert Plant; of meeting Eric Clapton; of meeting his wife-to-be Sharon; Ozzfest, sex; births; deaths; overdoses; reality TV fame. It’s all there.
The one thing The Prince of Darkness/King of Reality TV could or should have left out of the book is the excuses. As early as page six he writes, “Other people’s memories of the stuff in this book might not be the same as mine.” He puts his inability to remember correctly, should someone argue with his version of the facts, down to “booze, coke, acid, Quaaludes, glue, cough mixture, heroin, Rohypnol, Klonopin, Vicodin and more.” Osbourne explains it’s not really his fault he grew estranged from his mother before her death; all she wanted to talk about was money. And even on the last couple of pages, he’s still hedging, writing that “things are OK with Black Sabbath,” even though the members are battling over who owns the name. While they may be sincere sentiments by Osbourne, they come off as slightly disingenuous, an inoculation against litigation perhaps.
Nonetheless, if it’s all to be believed, Osbourne’s story is a fascinating one and it’s all there in his autobiography. He offers an interesting, shocking, often funny behind-the-scenes look at his life—even though the view isn’t always pretty.