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Randy Rhodes: Ozzy

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Randy got the call for the Ozzy audition just before the last Quiet Riot gig. Ozzy Osbourne, formerly of Black Sabbath, had recently left the group and was looking for a guitarist. Although Randy had not been much of a fan of Ozzy, he accepted the invitation and went for the audition. Mrs. Rhoads had talked to Randy about the possibility of playing with an already established band and whether he would accept an offer like this one. Randy's answer was "of course." Now was Randy's opportunity.

Ozzy had gone through scores of guitarists in Los Angeles and New York beforing hearing Rhoads. The night before he was scheduled to leave for England, Randy showed up at his motel room in Malibu at 2 o'clock in the morning for the audition. Most of the guitarists before Rhoads had showed up with Marshall stacks, and big attitudes. One even had black plastic fingertips imitating Ozzy's former black Sabbath guitarist Toni Iommi. But Randy stood out from the rest with his calm and unimposing demeanor. He brought in a little amp, plugged in, and began to play. Randy recalled later, "I just tuned up and did some riffs, and he said, 'You've got the gig.' I had the weirdest feeling, because I thought, 'You didn't even hear me yet.'" Randy elaborated later in another interview, "Possibly he knew a certain sound he was looking for, and all these other players tried to show off too much. I didn't get a chance to show off. I just started making a few harmonics, and maybe perhaps it was my personality, because I was really quiet and everybody was too outgoing. I still don't know."

It took two months to arrange the details, and then Randy was off to London as the lead guitarist of the newly formed Blizzard of Ozz. They arrived in England in September of 1980 and began working on the first album. They were in the studio for six weeks writing and recording the first of what would be two studio albums featuring Randy. By Christmas the album was complete.

Ozzy and Randy had a great bond together from the start. The differences in their respective musical approaches filled in the gaps in each other's abilities and they became an extremely complimentary writing team. Ozzy had the studio experience and song writing technique, and Randy's had a creative, fresh approach that added to the unique quality of their first album "Blizzard of Ozz,". Randy's patience and solid musicianship motivated Ozzy to new creative heights. "They [Black Sabbath] never had the patience to try and listen to where I was coming from. Randy Rhoads was the first guy who ever sat down with me and listened to my humming and worked with it," Ozzy said.

Randy was a patient creator, much the opposite of Ozzy. "Randy I'm stumped on this section and we're gonna need a track for the album and it's driving me nuts." Ozzy once said. Randy would comfort Ozzy with the reply, "Don't worry we'll get one." Ozzy would later attribute the success of his solo career and of the first two albums to Randy. He later said of Randy, "I fell in love with Randy as a player and a person the instant I saw him. He had the best smile in the world. Randy was the best guy in the world to work with. There is no comparison between him and Tony Iommi, and I can only compare the two because they were the only guitar players I had ever worked with. I was attracted to Randy's angelic attitude towards the whole business. I didn't have to teach him anything; all that he was lacking was guidance. He listened to every word I spoke to him, and we had a great rapport together."

When the first tour began the crowds would cheer for Ozzy, but soon a large percentage of the audience was coming to see the newest sensation in rock: Randy Rhoads. "Together we were magic," Ozzy said, "...we had a very special rapport. We were total opposites off stage -- he didn't drink and was
quiet, while I've always been [crazy] ...yet on stage we just clicked."

Ozzy's insane stage presence helped Randy open up more and give even greater performances than in the past. "Before I met Ozzy I was very insecure on stage," Randy said. "If my amps acted up, or the sound system wasn't good, it really affected my playing. Being with Ozzy has given me a great deal of self confidence. He pushed me into trying things and doing things I never would have done on my own."

Randy never considered himself a rock star. He always felt strange wearing that label. "I've always viewed myself as a musician. I never thought of myself as a star. Ozzy's a star -- I'm just part of the band," Randy would say. The opinions of critics didn't matter much to the new guitar icon. He was quoted as saying "As long as I'm satisfied with my work, I'm not too concerned with what any critics think. Our type of music will never be a critical favorite, but when I can stand on a stage and see a lot of smiling faces in the crowd, it makes it all worthwhile." The audience was the most important critic, and as long as they were happy, Randy was too.

Their next album, Diary of a Madman was recorded immediately after Blizzard of Oz. "We recorded Diary quickly," Ozzy said, "I hate being in a recording studio to begin with, but working with Randy and Bob Daisley was a new and refreshing experience for me. I was working with guys that didn't have to do it, they wanted to do it. I got that old spark again. Diary was the better of the two albums as songs go. The mix wasn't too clever but we weren't there for the mix, we were back out on the road."

On the road Randy was known for his stellar live performances. "Some nights Randy would give me a spine chill. His playing was so unpredictable live. He wouldn't think about it, he would just go for it. He wouldn't wonder if it would fit the song structure, he would just play his ideas as if they were there anyway," Ozzy later said.

Several weeks before his death Randy expressed interest in leaving Ozzy to pursue a degree in classical guitar in a university setting. During the Diary of a Madman tour he told Ozzy, "'I want to learn to play classical guitar.'". Osborne said, "You're crazy, just play rock and roll and make some bucks.' He said, 'I want to do it.' So he started going to these seminars. Every town we'd go into, he'd look in the phone book for classical instructors. Seven weeks later, the classical stuff he was playing was unbelievable. Seven weeks. He worked around the clock to get where he wanted."

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