Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ at 40: A Track-by-Track Guide
Blizzard of Ozz established Ozzy Osbourne as a solo artist after a decade fronting Black Sabbath. We're taking you inside all 12 tracks from the 1980 album below.
Osbourne first conceived the project in 1978 while still in Black Sabbath. But he didn't fully explore the idea until after he was fired from the lineup on April 27, 1979, following a period of group tension fueled by drugs and alcohol.
In a rut, Osbourne was signed to Jet Records by manager Don Arden, hoping for some new material. Wasting little time in putting a band together, he hired Quiet Riot guitarist Randy Rhoads (who later died in a tragic airplane crash at age 25) and Rainbow bassist Bob Daisley in November 1979. Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake joined the lineup in March 1980, completing the core group. Osbourne and the band spent the first half of 1980 writing, recording and putting the final touches on his Blizzard of Ozz LP.
Thus, Osbourne's solo career had begun. We're taking a look at the stories behind the album's tracks below.
1. "I Don't Know"
Osbourne's recent Black Sabbath exit wasn't far from his mind as he sat down with the new group to write. The opening track's lyrics seemingly direct a message to his past and question where it all went wrong: "People look to me and say / Is the end near? When is the final day? / What's the future of mankind? / How do I know? I got left behind, I got lost." The song would be featured in heavy rotation on both the North American and European tours.
2. "Crazy Train"
It's the song everyone knows. As Daisley laid down a backing chord pattern, Rhoads began messing with his effects pedals. The resulting psychedelic sound coming from his amp chugged along. "Randy was into trains — he used to collect model trains and so did I," Daisley told Songfacts. "I've always been a train buff and so was Randy. So I said 'Randy, that sounds like a train. But it sounds nuts.' And I said 'A crazy train.'"
"Crazy Train" would reach No. 9 on the Billboard Top Tracks Chart and remains one of Osbourne's most popular songs.
3. "Goodbye to Romance"
Another homage to Osbourne's former Black Sabbath days, "Goodbye to Romance" was the first song he wrote with his new band. According to Daisley, Osbourne's chief talent was not lyricism and he benefited greatly from the support of his bandmates.
"I've written a lot of lyrics in my time," Daisley said. "Sometimes the ideas just come to me, so I'll jot them down in a book and then I've got different lines that might not even be related, but I have lots of little jottings in my book that come in handy when I start writing. But I always try to have a message in a song or have something a little philosophical."
While Daisley handled the message, Osbourne offered the title, "Goodbye to Romance," which came from a line in the 1957 Everly Brothers song "Bye Bye Love."
Clocking in at 49 seconds, "Dee" is a delightful interlude in an album chock full of pulsating rock. Rhoads, a lifelong classical guitarist, produced the track as a tribute to his mother, Deloris, who went often went simply by her nickname, "Dee."
The tune, beautiful as it was, didn't sit well with the record label's managers, who pointed out the juxtaposition of the song alongside the rest on the album, but it was Osbourne who insisted the song not be cut.
"And then they — the record company — said, 'We don't really think that that belongs on this album,'" Rhoads' brother Kelle told Ultimate Guitar. "And Ozzy went to bat for Randy and said, 'If Randy wants this on here, it stays."
5. "Suicide Solution"
The details behind the controversial "Suicide Solution" have shifted over the years. Osbourne initially said the song was about the alcohol-related death of AC/DC's Bon Scott in 1980, while Daisley later stated that he actually considered Osbourne's own substance abuse issues while writing the words.
"We were at a party for a band called Wild Horses at John Henry's, a rehearsal studio in London," Osbourne recalled in his book I Am Ozzy. "Everyone else was fucked up on one thing or another, but Randy was sitting in a corner experimenting with riffs on his Flying V, and all of a sudden he just went Dah, Dah, D'La-Dah, DAH, D'La-Dah. I shouted over 'Woah, Randy! What was that?' He just shrugged. I told him to play what he'd just played, then I started to sing this lyric that I'd had in my head for a while: 'Wine is fine, but whiskey's quicker / Suicide is slow with liquor.' And that was it, most of the song was written, right there. The night ended with everyone on stage, jamming."
But the most shocking turn of events happened in 1986 when the parents of 19-year-old John McCollum, a California teenager, opened a lawsuit, alleging that their son had killed himself in 1984 as a result of listening to the song. The lyrics, indeed, were stark and morbid: "Where to hide, suicide is the only way out / Don't you know what it's really about?"
Shocked and appalled, Osbourne maintained the song was being taken out of context. (The case was dismissed in 1988.) “Well, that was all taken out of perspective,” he said in an interview with SiriusXM radio. "We were all doing some serious pounding of the booze back then. I’d been drinking heavily for a long, long time. And it’s, like, ‘Suicide Solution’ means solution being liquid — not a way out. People get the fucking thing wrong.”
6. "Mr. Crowley"
Osbourne's ode to English black magician and occultist Aleister Crowley is as haunting as the man himself. In the liner notes for 1997 compilation album The Ozzman Cometh, the singer wrote about his fascination with the infamous man.
"I'd read several books about Aleister Crowley," he noted. "He was a very weird guy and I always wanted to write a song about him. While we were recording the Blizzard of Ozz album there was a pack of tarot cards he had designed lying around the studio. Well, one thing lead to another and the song 'Mr. Crowley' was born."
Adding that philosophical touch he tried to incorporate in all his work, Daisley made sure the lyrics dug deeper.
"Ozzy had that title, 'Mr. Crowley.' And obviously what he meant was it was supposed to be about Aleister Crowley, the black magician," Daisley explained to Songfacts. "But I wanted to look at the darkness and question Aleister Crowley. 'Aleister, what were you thinking?' You know. All this darkness and negativity. So that was a snag that I put on it."
7. "No Bone Movies"
After seeing a pornographic movie, the band collectively decided they were not fans of the film genre and promptly wrote a song about their dislike, or perhaps about their guilt, led by another catchy Rhoads riff: "A blue addiction, I live in disgust / Degradation, I'm being eaten by lust."
It is the only track on the album co-written by Kerslake. "He acted as a catalyst," Daisley told Brave Words in 2011. "He helped complete the four piece puzzle. It's a bit like when the Beatles were forming; they didn't become the Beatles until they had Ringo Starr ... But when I say catalyst, I don't necessarily mean by their playing ability but maybe through their energy, personality and chemistry. And Lee was just as important as us three."
8. "Revelation (Mother Earth)"
Underneath his hardened exterior, Osbourne's peaceful side emerged from time to time on different songs. With "Revelation (Mother Earth)," he and Daisley made an impassioned call to cease violence in the world, writing that perhaps appealed to the environmentalists in particular: "Children of the future, watching empires fall / Madness, the cup they drink from / Self destruction the toll."
9. "Steal Away (The Night)"
As Blizzard of Ozz headed into the latter half of the album, the energy continued full steam ahead. Rhoads' riffs and blistering solo in "Steal Away (The Night)" showcase the thrill of a brand new band doing what they do best.
"On the first album none of us had played together, so it was everything at once," Rhoads told Guitar World in 1982, the same year he died. "We were putting the band together, writing the songs and being in the studio all at the same time. There was an exciting energy on Blizzard of Ozz. We turned everything up to ten and if it felt good we'd play it. We also had time to choose the best parts and record when it felt right."
10. "You Lookin' at Me Lookin' at You"
Alongside “Crazy Train," "I Don’t Know” and “Goodbye to Romance,” “You Looking at Me Looking at You” was demoed in early 1980 with former Lone Star drummer Dixie Lee, who didn't wind up in the lineup long term. It served as the B-side to "Crazy Train."
11. "You Said It All"
"There was a mobile studio at the gig to record the show as Jet Records wanted a song that was not on the album, to release on an EP that had not already been used as a B-Side. They wanted a live 'Mr. Crowley' and a new song. So we wrote 'You Said It All'," Daisley told Brave Words of the writing process. "Randy had a basic riff, Randy and I put together a chord structure that afternoon in soundcheck. Lee got a mic, as he could sing, and Lee came up with the vocal melody while Ozzy was asleep under the drum riser. That was his contribution to that song. Ozzy did absolutely fuck all with that song. Nothing. Yet he still gets a credit on it."
"You Said It All" would appear on 1980's Ozzy Osbourne Live E.P.
In an outtake eventually included on the album's 2011 reissue, a scorching solo by Rhoads proves his undeniable talent once again. When the tape was played for Osbourne, some 30 years after the fact, the singer was floored.