Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Blizzard of Doubt: The Mysterious Case of the “Over The Mountain” Drum Intro

The music business is a savage world. When all is said and done and the cash and acclaim go away, what is left for most musicians is a sonic footprint of their efforts and – with a bit of luck – credit for everything they did. With this in mind, more than a few eyebrows were raised last month when famed Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali told Songfacts writer Greg Prato that he was the one who came up with the explosive drum fill that opens Ozzy Osbourne’s 1981 classic “Over The Mountain:”

Songfacts: Is it true that it was you who came up with the opening drum pattern - later performed by Lee Kerslake, but credited to Tommy Aldridge - on the Ozzy Osborne song, "Over the Mountain"? 

Frankie: Yes. How that came about was really interesting. I had an apartment in West Hollywood - this small, one-bedroom apartment - and I was having to hustle as many gigs as I could and as many sessions as I could just to meet my monthly rent while all my other friends were still couch-surfing. I get a call one morning... from Randy Rhoads. 

Randy had a really low voice. Everybody thinks he had a high voice because he was a tiny little guy, but he had a really low voice. He goes, "Frankie, do you want to play with Ozzy?" And I said, ‘The guy from Black Sabbath?’ He says, ‘Yeah.’ I go,’OK! I have my drums, but I don't have a car.’

So he borrowed a car that was big enough. He came and picked me up and we went down to rehearsals. And when I say, ‘Pick me up,’ he picked me up with my 1969 green Ludwig sparkle set with a 26-inch bass drum. I brought a gong - the whole thing. We went to this rehearsal studio called Mars - on Melrose and Western - and we rehearsed for about a week. It was interesting. It was great to play with Randy, and the bass player oddly enough was Dana Strum, who eventually became the bass player in the Vinnie Vincent Invasion and then Slaughter. Essentially, that was the band. 

Ozzy was interesting - he was nothing like what I expected. He was quiet and he sat down on a piano bench with a little ghetto blaster, and he was recording essentially everything we were doing. That ended up becoming ‘Over The Mountain,’ which at that time wasn't really fleshed out. A lot of those parts were guitar parts that Randy brought in from older Quiet Riot songs from the '75-'79 period, and that triplet thing is something that I was doing at every session because I figured, ‘If it ever comes out, I'm finally going to get it on a record,’ because I really enjoyed it. It's derivative of the ‘John Bonham triplet.’ John Bonham is one of my favorite drummers, so that's how that came about.

Now, originally, they were going to record the record in LA, but Jet Records had spent so much money flying Ozzy between London, LA and New York looking for musicians and they were really unsure what Ozzy's future was going to be. Ultimately, they decided to just record it in England, because it would be less expensive, and they would only pay to fly one guy over. And obviously, ‘the guy’ was Randy Rhoads. That was my brush with Ozzy-ness, so to speak.

The interesting thing about that one is, I read - I think it was in Bob Daisley's book [For Facts Sake] - that it's nonsense and that I didn't come up with that drum part, that he was there when Lee Kerslake - who is a friend that I really love, from Uriah Heep - came up with the drum part. It is fascinating that Bob Daisley would say something like this, because this happened a year before he was involved with the band, and he wasn't in Hollywood. So, how could he pass judgement like that? I know what I played. 

Suspecting that there was possibly far more to this story, I recently tracked down Banali, Daisley and Kerslake to dive deeper into their versions of events.

“It’s a bit of a sweeping statement to make such a claim,” offered Daisley from his home in Sydney, Australia. "Unless he’s got something to prove that, like a tape or a recording of the rehearsal with Randy playing that riff and him playing that drum intro, but there's nothing.”

Additionally, Daisley took issue with Banali’s suggestion that the bassist wasn’t involved in the group until a good year after the Osbourne/Rhoads/Banali/Strum rehearsals took place.

“That's not even close to being accurate; I got involved with Ozzy only weeks after the LA sessions, just after he'd come back to England. I met him in London in October 1979; the LA sessions had been in September. Ozzy and Randy met up in LA when Ozzy had been booted out of Black Sabbath. Don Arden and his daughter, Sharon [now Osbourne], were involved with him. Ozzy was out of his mind most of the time anyway, but he wasn’t trying to put a band together – they were trying to do it for him. Sharon actually phoned me and said, ‘We’re looking for guitarists. Do you know any?’ I was in London; I said, ‘I’ll keep my eyes and ears open. If I hear of anything, I’ll let you know.’ It was Dana Strum who told Ozzy about this guitarist he had seen and knew about called Randy Rhoads. Randy came down, and Ozzy was out of his face; I think it was late at night. Randy played, and Ozzy said, ‘You’ve got the job!’ Ozzy, Randy, Dana and Frankie played for a few days, but Ozzy came back to England after that, and he didn't take Randy with him.

A couple of weeks later, I met Ozzy in a club called the Music Machine in Camden in London. He said to me, ‘I’m putting a band together; would you be interested?’ I had just come out of Rainbow; I said, ‘Sure!’ There’s this rumor that Ozzy took Randy back to England with him after he’d met him in LA. He didn’t; he tried to get a band together in England because Jet Records wanted English players and people living in England. So really when you look at it, Ozzy and I were the first two members, because Jet Records – Don Arden and his son, David – were managing Ozzy at the time. Sharon wasn’t with the management of any of that; she was still in LA. Ozzy, Don Arden and David Arden were in England. David phoned me and said, ‘I’ll give you a train ticket. Go up to Ozzy’s.’ They got me a first-class train ticket, I went up to Ozzy’s and he met me at the railway station. He had two other guys there – a guitarist and a drummer. I’m not sure who they were; I can’t even remember their names. We had a break, and I went out to the kitchen with Ozzy. It was just the two of us, and I said, ‘I’d be interested, but to be honest with you, I don’t think these other two guys are world-class. They’re nice guys and decent players, but they’re not star-quality.’ He said, ‘Hang on a minute.’ He walked out, went back into the rehearsal room built onto his house and said, ‘Pack up, fellas. It’s not working out. You can go home.’ That was it, on the spot. I thought, ‘Oh, fucking hell!’ That was when Ozzy said to me, ‘Look, I’ve met this guitar teacher in LA called Randy Rhoads.’ When he said ‘guitar teacher,’ I envisaged some sort of middle-aged bloke in a cardigan, glasses and slippers! So when we had trouble getting a guitarist, we had Randy flown over in November 1979.”

Daisley went on to offer specific details about the writing of “Over The Mountain” – including the drum intro in question.

“When we started to put that first album [1980’s Blizzard Of Ozz] together in 1979, we were all trying to come up with ideas for songs. We were all trying to put that first album together out of ideas that we had, but Randy never ever played that riff for ‘Over The Mountain’ when we were looking for material. I know that a lot of people think that the first two albums were done together, but they weren’t. The writing for Blizzard began in late '79, and the writing for [1981’s] Diary Of A Madman began in late 1980. The recording for Blizzard began in March 1980, and the recording for Diary began in February 1981 – roughly a year apart.

Left to right: Bob Daisley, Lee Kerslake, Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads (Photo courtesy of

The writing started when Ozzy, Randy and I got together at the end of ’79. We had a roadie with us called Spencer, and he was filling in on drums. He played drums when we were writing this stuff, and I was taping it all on my tape machine just for reference so we wouldn’t forget anything. We were all trying to put songs together. If Randy had that riff, we would have heard it, and I would have a recording of it without a drum intro before Lee had joined the band.

When we first started playing ‘Over The Mountain’ during the writing session for Diary in January 1981, Randy had the basic riff. The writing sessions for Diary had begun in late 1980, but we hadn't heard Randy's ‘Over The Mountain’ riff until early 1981. I co-wrote the music with Randy for the rest of it, and Lee came up with some of the vocal melody. Ozzy wasn't even there. Also, Randy was playing the riff in eights, and I said, ‘Do it in 16ths.’ So that was new, and we’d been doing that for a little while before Lee did a drum intro thing to it. We felt, ‘Yeah, that’s great!’ But that drum intro wasn’t anything that any of us had heard before; it was Lee's – no one else's.

How would Randy, without a tape or a recording, relay a drum fill? What would he do, sing it to us? Even if he had, there’s no way that Lee would want to play or copy something that someone else had done, and there’s no way – out of principal – that I would use something that was stolen.

Lee was a name drummer from a big-name band; he would not be interested in using something from an unknown drummer from an unknown band, and even Randy was unknown at that stage. None of us had heard of Quiet Riot or Frankie Banali, and we'd never heard anything that any of them had played until Randy came on the scene in forming The Blizzard of Ozz with me and Ozzy. 

Maybe Frankie did play a drum fill intro thing to something that Randy had been playing at that time in LA when they first met Ozzy and that happened with Dana Strum. It’s possible that Randy had a riff that Frankie did a drum intro to, but it wasn’t the ‘Over The Mountain’ riff, or at least Randy never played it to us when we were looking for material for the first album. He didn't play it to any of us until we began writing for that second album, Diary, a year after the writing sessions for Blizzard.  

If Frankie Banali played a drum intro to a riff that Randy had played, it wasn’t what Lee played on ‘Over the Mountain,’ and I very much doubt that the riff was the ‘Over The Mountain’ one, either. I’m not calling Frankie Banali a liar; he may be mistaken or it could be a coincidence, but Lee came up with the drum intro for our song.” 

Frankie Banali (second from left) with the current incarnation of Quiet Riot (Photo source:

Speaking to me from California, Banali maintained his side of the story – while also slightly opening the door to the possibility that this could all just be a very odd coincidence after all.

“I was and am a huge fan of Uriah Heep, so I always really enjoyed [Lee’s] drumming. As a matter of fact, we had a conversation about the whole triplet intro. When Quiet Riot played in Paris in 1983, he and [late Uriah Heep/Spiders From Mars/Wishbone Ash bassist] Trevor Bolder were our guests for dinner, and we had a conversation and I told him the story about playing with Randy and Ozzy. I told them that Ozzy had a little cassette ghetto blaster thing that he was recording things on. I told him that the triplet thing – which I’m sure he’d admit we both borrowed from John Bonham – [was something] I was putting in literally every song that I was playing with everyone, because I never knew when something was going to end up on a record or not. It’s one of my favorite riffs to play; I still play it.

[With] a lot of the riffs that Randy was coming up with, some of them were new riffs and some of the things were from previous Quiet Riot songs that were recorded or Quiet Riot songs that never were recorded. That triplet thing just happened in the studio. I think Dana Strum, who was the bass player when we did about a week’s worth of rehearsals, will probably verify that. I’ve never claimed that he took the riff that I did, because there are similarities but they’re different…So, [was it a] coincidence? Probably. But did I play it? Absolutely. Did Lee play triplets on the front of that? Absolutely. Did he get it from me? I don’t know that he got it from me; I don’t know that he ever heard any recordings or if it’s just a plain coincidence. But there’s no back-biting here. Whether a person believes it or not, it’s not like I’m going after Ozzy because I came up with a drum fill or I’m trying to make some money or trying to claim some success vis-a-vis Ozzy. I’m not; I’ve had plenty of my own success with Quiet Riot and many of the other artists [I’ve played with]. There is no controversy, but I’m not going to sit here and deny what I know to be the truth. I played the riff; it’s as simple as that. At the end of the day, does it really matter? I’m not more famous for it, and I didn’t make money off of it; Lee Kerslake is not more famous for it, and I’m sure he didn’t make any money for it, either…I’m more well-known for the intro to ‘Bang Your Head,’ ‘The Wild & the Young’ and ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ that I am for anything else, so it’s not like I need any extra pats on the back…It’s a triplet that John Bonham used that he actually got from famous Jazz drummer Max Roach. At the end of the day, it’s so derivative that does it really matter?”

As far as any of the recordings of his time with Osbourne, Rhoads and Strum actually surfacing after nearly four decades, Banali advises fans not to get their hopes up.

“It’s hard to say what happens with any of those things. I don’t know Ozzy’s M.O. – how he does things [and] how he functions. I can tell you from my own personal experience – and I doubt that this is the case with Ozzy – that back then, none of us had any money – certainly not money to go out and buy a cassette. More often that not, we used those cassettes and re-recorded over them over and over and over. Who knows if he still has it? Who knows what happened to it? Who know if he even remembers? I can definitely tell you with no reservation – and I don’t know if Ozzy would remember this or not – that there was a press junket around the time the QR III record was out. Since we were both part of the same label group, we were at the press junket. Ozzy pointed to me and said I was the one who came up with that into, Lee Kerslake recorded it and Tommy Aldridge got all the credit for it. So who knows?”

Speaking over the phone from England, Kerslake was quick to offer his take on things.

“I don’t understand why he wants to take credit for something that he didn’t do; I feel strongly about this. Frankie didn’t know us; he didn’t know the music. We did Blizzard Of Ozz, which I played drums on and co-wrote a couple of tracks, and then I did Diary Of A Madman and co-wrote six tracks. We had all new riffs coming out. Randy started playing the ‘Over The Mountain’ riff, and I said, ‘Yeah, hang on a minute. I have an idea for a great opener to get this to make people listen.’ The first 15 seconds are the most important in any song; that’s what gets a DJ to play it. It’s been that way for years. So I said, ‘I’m going to put this in.’ I played it, and Randy jumped through the roof, like, ‘Wow, man! That’s great!’ Bob said, "Yeah, mate. Fuckin’ great.’ I said, ‘Yeah! Let’s start there.’ That’s how we did it, and I was very proud of myself. In an interview, Tommy Aldridge was asked, ‘Did you do that track?’ He went, ‘No, no, no. I didn’t touch that; all that work was done by Lee.’”

Additionally, Kerslake questioned Banali’s memory of the conversation he claims to have had with him in 1983.

“We were in Paris, and Quiet Riot was playing there. I went to see them, and the singer [the late Kevin DuBrow] came up and said, ‘Randy was always talking about you and what a great drummer you were.’ That is the only thing I remember; I don’t remember having dinner with Frankie.”

Looking towards the future, everyone quoted in this piece is moving ahead with new music. Banali’s latest album with Quiet Riot (Road Rage) came out last Friday, Kerslake is currently working on a new album of his own and Daisley is gearing up to mix Moore Blues For Gary, his long-awaited all-star tribute album to his late friend and bandmate Gary Moore. As far as the “Over The Mountain” drum intro debate is concerned, Daisley and Banali seem willing to approach things in a diplomatic fashion.

“I have no animosity towards Frankie or anything like that,” offered Daisley. "I wish him well with the new Quiet Riot album.”

“I love Bob; there is no ‘clearing the air,’ there’s no animosity,” insisted Banali. “I think that the work that he did with Ozzy is phenomenal. He should have received a lot more credit than he did on those records. He’s just a ridiculously talented individual.”


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