No. 17: Ozzy Osbourne, ‘Crazy Train’ – Top 100 Classic Rock Songs
It’s terrifyingly easy to think of a rock music landscape without Ozzy Osbourne‘s towering presence. Instead, and seemingly against his own efforts, we have the mighty ‘Crazy Train’ blasting out of every football stadium in the nation on Sunday afternoons.
The substance abuse problems which got Osbourne fired as lead singer of the legendary Black Sabbath in 1979 also left him adrift and searching for a lifeline when it came to forming his own solo band.
When that savior arrived in the form of guitarist Randy Rhoads, Ozzy was reportedly almost too messed up to see the light. Luckily, the determination of a friend and the sheer talent of Rhoads were able to cut through the haze and launch one of hard rock’s brightest (and sadly, briefest) collaborations.
In a Guitar World excerpt from the book ‘Randy Rhoads,’ bassist Dana Strum, originally intended to be a member of Osbourne’s solo band, tells of the struggles he had getting Rhoads and Ozzy together so they could write this future Top 100 Classic Rock Song.
After convincing a reluctant Rhoads — apparently somehow NOT a Sabbath fan, and content with his role in a pre-fame Quiet Riot — to come to the audition by promising him $10 for gas, Strum had to literally wake the passed-out singer up and force him to listen:
“He said, ‘Take me home.’ I said, ‘No, we made a deal…’ Finally, he agreed to come in and listen. Ozzy was so drunk that he fell on the controls and nodded off. I was so frustrated that I cranked the volume of Randy’s amp really loud… he started playing power chords to warm up, and suddenly Ozzy’s face looked up.”
Even though he couldn’t even see the guitarist through the reflection of the studio glass, Ozzy declared, “Tell the kid he’s got the job,” and then, “Now take me home.” Strum wound up out of the picture, but Rhoads and Osbourne soon headed to the studio with bassist and songwriter Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake to write and record the masterful ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ record.
No song on that fantastic album shines brighter than ‘Crazy Train,’ which features Rhoads’ anthemic main guitar riff and soloing that merged his heavy metal and classical music influences to wonderful effect. Suddenly, Eddie Van Halen had a serious rival for the title of world’s favorite guitar hero.
Osbourne, seemingly re-invigorated by his new songwriting partner, delivered an impassioned plea for peace that once again proves how silly all that talk of him worshipping at the temple of evil really is:
“Crazy, but that’s how it goes / Millions of people living as foes / Maybe it’s not too late / To learn how to love /And forget how to hate”
The record soon helped establish Osbourne as a solo star perhaps even more popular than Sabbath itself, and though Rhoads’ life was cut short in 1982, ‘Crazy Train’ and other songs from the two albums he recorded with Ozzy remain the foundation of Osbourne’s concert setlists to this day.
Watch Ozzy Osbourne Perform ‘Crazy Train’