MINNEAPOLIS—You’ll have to forgive the (parentheses) that appear in this article.
Ozzy Osbourne was funny, enthusiastic and even uncannily polite talking by phone two weeks ago from Seattle, where his first arena tour in six years kicked off. But even now that he’s purportedly stone-cold sober for the first time in his career, metal’s most legendary singer still wasn’t completely coherent or clean of profanity. Hence, the parentheses.
One thing that was easily understood: The Prince of Darkness is excited about his return to Minneapolis’ Target Center on Halloween night with his horror-filmmaking buddy Rob Zombie for an opener. Is there a better Halloween gig ever?
“There’s going to be a lot of (expletive) tricks and treats,” Osbourne promised.
He launched into a memory of one of his first tastes of the holiday, from when he was still fronting Black Sabbath. You know it was a good one if Ozzy, 59, remembers it.
“I never really was into Halloween as a kid, you know, because in England, it’s just starting to catch on now. But one year (indecipherable words), on tour with Black Sabbath in America, and I think it might have been Denver or wherever, it was a Halloween. And everybody just went (expletive) bananas. All the people were dressed up like witches and goblins or whatever, and I remember somebody (indecipherable) dressed as a dildo. We had such a good (expletive) time that night.”
Osbourne’s tourmate, Zombie, was the director behind the recent remake/update of the horror movie “Halloween,” a surprise hit at the box office when it opened over Labor Day weekend.
“I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m sure it’s (expletive) brilliant,” Ozzy said, raving about the job that Zombie did as a director on his `Dreamer’ video. “The guy is very talented, and he’s just really one of the absolute coolest, nicest guys in rock `n’ roll.”
Osbourne himself is also enjoying some comeback-level success with “Black Rain,” his first all-new album since 2001. The CD debuted at No. 3 in Billboard and landed him his first radio hit in years, the fittingly titled anthem “I Don’t Wanna Stop.”
Ozzy said the album’s reception is extra sweet since it’s the first he’s made sober. Suffice it to say, the guy known for biting the head off a bat and snorting a line of ants had drug and alcohol problems for decades.
“I didn’t know if I could (expletive) do it,” he said of making the album. “I thought maybe I needed the drugs and alcohol. I’d never made a record any other way.
“I came to an arrangement with myself. I thought, `Well, if I can’t do it on my own without any alcohol or drugs, I’ll call it a day and carry on just doing live shows or whatever.’ But then I spoke to a friend of mine who’s been in the recovery program, and he’s got a lot more years in it than I. He said to me, `You know, there’s nothing wrong in asking for help.’”
The help came from his band, including longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde, and from producer Kevin Churko, known for working with—of all people—Britney Spears and Celine Dion (presumably, he can deal with difficult personalities). Osbourne also took inspiration from his son, Jack, 21, who successfully completed a rehab program in 2003.
“My son’s got more clean time than I have,” he said with pride.
“I don’t want people to think that I’m anti-drugs, or anti-alcohol. For me, I am (against it). If you have a good time and you’re not harming anybody, it’s all good. But I just don’t choose to do it right now. It’s just amazing the whole transformation that me and my family have had from the (recovery) program.”
Ah, the family. Ozzy’s kin became nearly as famous as he is during the first-of-its-kind reality TV show, “The Osbournes,” a huge hit for MTV from 2002 to 2005.
Asked whether life has returned to normal for his family since the end of the series, Ozzy said, “That was normal. What you saw was the way we lived. We never had any script or direction.”
Ozzy clearly grew tired of having cameras in his face every day, but he said the show became worth it in his eyes in its last season, when his wife/manager Sharon was diagnosed with colon cancer.
“They said to me, `Do you wanna call it a day?’” he recalled. “They asked Sharon, and she said, `Yeah. It’s reality.’ Immediately, she saw what good she could do.
“Me, I would’ve immediately said, `Pack your bags and (expletive) off with your cameras!’ She said, `It’s a terrible thing I’m going to go through, but I’m going to beat it, and people can see that it can be done.”
Ozzy is quick to praise his wife, who did beat the cancer, but didn’t lose her reputation as a whip-cracker when it comes to her husband’s career.
Osbourne joked about Sharon’s go-getter attitude—“I asked her when I was gonna play some arenas again, and the next thing I know, I’ve got this 40-city tour,” he quipped—but he stressed that she has never been his “boss.”
“People who say that, I think they gotta be stoned,” he said “My wife couldn’t (expletive) push me to do anything I don’t want to do if she tried.”
Sharon raised a lot of eyebrows when she converted metal’s biggest annual summer tour, Ozzfest, into a free event with sponsorship money this past summer. Ozzy said the tour was a success in his mind because it “put the brakes on everybody raising ticket prices.”
“Barbra Streisand is getting like $1,500 a ticket. That’s just (expletive) crazy. And a lot of bands (indecipherable) started to ask for more, more, more, so Sharon just said, `(Expletive) it. We’ll do it free.’ It took a lot of guts.”
Ozzy is still a little dismayed that Sharon is getting ready to sell off a couple houses’ worth of the family’s goods, a public auction she put together to raise money for other cancer victims. The sale is a byproduct of the fact that the Osbourne kids have moved out and the family recently sold its house featured on the MTV series.
“It got to be too expensive having the security there—which was OK when MTV was footing the bill, but not us,” he said. “It’s got a lot of memories, that house. When the kids go, you’re just left with photographs and memories and the (expletive) house. We had some fun. A lot of blood, sweat and tears in that house.”
You won’t catch Ozzy sounding that nostalgic when it comes to his career.
“I’m probably fitter now at the age of 59 than I was at 29, because I don’t drink and I don’t smoke,” he said. “I take care of myself better, and I used to not take care of myself at all.”
His rebounding health is just one reason he said he hasn’t seriously considered retirement yet. Another good reason: boredom.
“All I do when I’m at home is sit and watch (expletive) war films all day,” he said. “I just sit in my room. My room is always called the bunker because of that.”
That certainly gives new meaning to that whole Prince of Darkness thing.
// Notes from the Road
"A-WA's debut album Habib Galbi made NPR Music's '30 Favorite Albums of 2016 (So Far)' list.READ the article