Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Words from “the Other Side:” Bob Daisley Opens Up About Ozzy

The photos above (courtesy of Bob Daisley) are of the "Mr. Crowley" single by the band Blizzard of Ozz, released by Jet Records in 1980. These images contradict the common misconception that Blizzard of Ozz was just the name of Ozzy Osbourne's first "solo" album.  The lineup of Blizzard of Ozz - the band - was Osbourne, Bob Daisley, Randy Rhoads and Lee Kerslake. 

On August 23, Ozzy Osbourne announced the November 29 release of See You on the Other Side, a vinyl box set comprised of his 16 post-Black Sabbath albums, B-sides and more. This was news to veteran Rock/Metal bassist and songwriter Bob Daisley, who performed on – and wrote/co-wrote the lyrics/music for – a good portion of the material contained in the upcoming release. Daisley’s tumultuous history with Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne has made headlines for years (and has been featured extensively on this website). With the impending release of another collection featuring Daisley’s work, I reached out to him at his home in Sydney, Australia for his thoughts on See You on the Other Side, some of the other key players from his time with Ozzy and if he believes his differences with his former collaborator could ever be resolved. (Authors Note: The day after the below interview was posted, a press representative for Ozzy Osbourne confirmed in an email to me that the original recordings of Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman will be included in the upcoming box set.)

So, there’s a new Ozzy box set coming out. Are you generally made aware when these sorts of things come out?

No. Why would anyone bother telling me? (laughs) I’m only one of the writers and performers. (laughs)

You’ve seen the press release about it, and the box set has already received some press. Based on what you’ve seen, what are your thoughts on what’s about to come out?

The first thing that came to mind for me was what versions of the first two albums will be in it. We know that the drums and bass were re-recorded, and that was all that was available for a while. Hopefully, for the fans and the posterity of the music, it will be the original real versions.

Absolutely. I can tell you there has been no information sent to me that indicates which versions they will be.  

I wouldn’t know. I think most people know about what I’ve termed ‘The Holy Grail,’ which are my recordings from those writing sessions and rehearsals and pre-production sessions before those albums were even recorded. It would have been great stuff to go on a box set as bonus material. We tried once before; my manager contacted the necessary people, but they just wanted me to hand it over for a flat fee, which would mean total control for them and an opportunity to rewrite history yet again, so I said, ‘No way!’

It’s reasonable enough for you to ask for something.

Sure. They’re my recordings, and it’s me on them. It’s my writing, and it’s my performances – as well as Lee Kerslake’s, Randy Rhoads’ and Ozzy’s.

Photo courtesy of www.bobdaisley.com 

When theyve pertained to Ozzy, a lot of our past conversations have been about the first two albums. With this new box set coming out that features all the Ozzy albums, I thought this would be a nice opportunity to talk about the music you were involved in with him after Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. Specifically, Bark at the Moon was an important record for all of you –

Bark at the Moon was a real milestone, because nobody knew what was going to happen. Don’t forget, by 1983, Randy was gone, Lee Kerslake was no longer in the band and there were only two original members of The Blizzard of Ozz. Nobody – the record company, management – knew how that third album was going to be received. It could have flopped; people may have thought, ‘Well, Randy’s not on it. It’s not the original band.’ It was almost kind of experimental. Fortunately, it turned out really well. I love that album; it’s a great album. I’m proud of it, because we put a lot into it.

I know Jake E. Lee said that he wrote songs for that. He brought riffs to the table. I remember when we were in New York writing for Bark at the Moon; on the last night in the hotel, I said to Jake that he fitted Randy’s shoes admirably. He did a great job. He played all of Randy’s guitar parts very well, but he also put his own stamp on them as well. I was really pleased with how it was all shaping up. I said, ‘Jake, you’ve brought in some great ideas.’ He said, ‘Yeah, but you turn them into songs.’ I know Jake may have forgotten that (laughs), but I remember that very well.

I liked working with Jake; we got on well. He was a first-class musician. I thought he was brilliant.

The good thing about working with Jake after Randy was that he wasn’t trying to be Randy. He had his own thing. He was Jake E. Lee. He had the Jake E. Lee style and the Jake E. Lee presentation and stamp on everything. It wasn’t about re-creating what we had done in the past, and that was great.

How did working with Zakk Wylde a few years later compare to working with Jake or even Randy?

I got on great with Zakk as well. He was a good guy. We’d go out for meals together and have a good laugh. He was quite young; I think he was like 21 or something when he first joined the band. I think that was in ’87. He still had to follow Jake E. Lee, who was not an easy act to follow. But Zakk did well personality-wise, and he had great riffs and song ideas, too.

Ozzy has put out several albums since you walked away for good. Have you listened to his albums since that time?

Yeah, there’s still some good stuff. I read and listen to a lot of the comments from fans regarding that. There are certain songs that people like, but there seems to be a common denominator that things aren’t what they used to be. It’s hard to see the forest for the trees or look out from the eye of the hurricane, if you know what I mean, so I haven’t really formed an opinion. If you’re part of it yourself, it’s not always easy to judge that sort of stuff. But just by going on what other people think and what I’ve seen written on forums and websites, people tend to think that some of the later albums aren’t as good. I haven’t listened to all of it, but I have heard some stuff.

Earlier this year, Ozzy finally presented Lee Kerslake with his platinum album awards for the first two albums.

That’s because Lee’s dying of cancer. Lee wrote to Ozzy and Sharon and said, ‘Look, I’m dying. I’ve got limited time. Would it be alright if I could at least get my albums?’ He never had one – not one! Not a silver, not a gold or platinum – for any of them! I thought that was just a travesty. Mind you, I’ve never received the ‘four platinum’ award for Diary and the ‘five platinum’ award for Blizzard either, but I got the single platinum and golds when I went back to do Bark at the Moon.  

Here’s a question that I’ve seen a lot fans post online: With all the things you went through with the Osbournes, why did you keep going back to work with them?

There’s a complicated answer to that simple question. To get the full picture of the full story, you would have to read my book, For Facts Sake, because it’s in there. The answer is quite involved; it’s not a simple sentence or simple paragraph. It was quite complicated, and you need to read the progression of what happened and how it happened and why I went back several times. I could sit here for probably three quarters of an hour and tell you the whole story of how it unfolded, but it would be a lot easier – and in detail – to read it in my book.

This image from the October 4, 1980 edition of Melody Maker shows the Blizzard of Ozz album - from the BAND Blizzard of Ozz - in at #6 on the Albums chart. (Courtesy of Bob Daisley)

Sharon’s name has come up a lot in our conversations over the years, but you were in the band with Ozzy – not her. With that said, what would the chances be of some or all of your issues being sorted out if you and Ozzy sat in a room – without Sharon, the lawyers, the managers – and just talked? Do you think that would ever be a possibility?

I would never say it is not a possibility, because anything can happen. Ozzy and I always got on well together. We had a similar sense of humor, and we had similar tastes in music. We got on like a house on fire. I still remember his very words the first time I went to his house in Stafford. We had a play together, and he had a couple of other people there – this was before the Randy days. This is when he had another guitarist and drummer there. I can’t remember their names or where they came from, but Ozzy knew them well and was talking about putting this band together with them. Ozzy had left Black Sabbath for a brief time in 1977, and he was going to have another band then, but it didn’t last and he went back to Black Sabbath. These guys could have been from that band, which was also going to be called The Blizzard of Ozz. He even had t-shirts made; I’ve seen photos of them.

I was sitting in the kitchen with Ozzy, and I said, ‘Look, these guys are okay. But to be honest with you, they’re not great. They’re not world-class.’ He said, ‘Hang on a minute.’ He opened the rehearsal room – which was an integral part of the house – and said, ‘Alright, fellas. You can pack up and go home. It’s not working out.’ It was just like that, just because I said that. When he came back, he said, ‘I know this other guitarist in LA. He’s good; he might work out. His name’s Randy Rhoads.’ I just said to Ozzy, ‘Well, let’s get him over.’ So, The Blizzard of Ozz really started with just Ozzy and me. Then, we got Randy over and started auditioning drummers.

I remember when Ozzy phoned the office at Jet Records and spoke to a guy there called Arthur Sharp. Ozzy said, ‘Me and Bob get on like a house on fire. The fire brigade’s just left.’ It was true; we got on great. Personally, there was never a problem between Ozzy and me. We always had a good laugh, we were productive and came up with good ideas. It was just the business side of things and all the logistics that got in the way.

If a reconciliation was ever a possibility, it could have happened before now. If it happened tomorrow, it would be great, but it’s a shame it couldn’t have happened somewhere along the way without all the other bollocks that went on.

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

Sunday, September 8, 2019

"I'm Not Done:" A Chat with the Incomparable Suzi Quatro

As this writer learned firsthand while gigging there at the time, the summer of 2018 was an unusually beautiful time in England. While some hit the pubs, the legendary Suzi Quatro and her son Richard Tuckey went outside with an acoustic guitar and bass, an iPad recording app and lots of paper and let the nice weather fuel new musical ideas.

The result is Quatro’s 17th studio album, No Control (Steamhammer/SPV). Released this past spring, the record easily stands alongside her incendiary and influential early work and shows that she still has plenty to say – and plenty of power left in her sonic arsenal – at 69. Contrary to what the title suggests, No Control finds Quatro producing herself for the very first time.  

I had a complete ball. I never felt so feel and so able to create in my entire career. It’s just the most wonderful, wonderful feeling. I actually sent all the tracks to Mike Chapman, who was my producer for many, many years. I didn’t tell him that I produced it, because I wanted his real opinion. The first thing he wrote back was, ‘Great production.’ I was never so happy in my life! What a compliment from him.”

No Control also marks Quatro’s first-ever collaboration with Richard, one of her two children with ex-husband (and former Quatro band guitarist) Len Tuckey.

He’s always wanted to be in the business since he was a young boy. He studied at his dad’s feet for a long time. He tried saxophone, and that really didn’t work. He tried singing in a band, and that really didn’t work. He tried doing DJ scratching, and that really didn’t work. He got a guitar for Christmas quite young. We didn’t see it happening, but he quietly got excellent. All of a sudden, he was sitting here playing at Christmastime and I went, ‘What? When did that happen?’ I didn’t know he was so good. I think he was a little bit shy to show how good he got; he wanted to make sure he was good enough. He has wanted to write with me for maybe 15 years now. I always kind of felt like the time wasn’t right. This time, he came to me and said, ‘Mom, I need to write with you now.’ That meant he was ready – and I guess I was ready. He said something very strange to me; he said, ‘I want to remind you of who you are!’ I said, ‘Pardon me?!’ I think he had this vision in his head for a long time of the album I should make, and I let that be my guide. He pushed my buttons… I said to my son, ‘If we’re going to do this, I don’t want to push anything. I don’t want to force a song; I don’t want to force a direction. I don’t want to force anything. Everything that’s happening on this has got to be natural and organic. If a song is going in a direction, then that’s the direction it’s going in.’”

One of the album’s many highlights, “I Can Teach You to Fly,” sees the mother-and-son team delivering a pristine slice of British Invasion-flavored Rock that stays in your head long after the first listen.

It’s got a chomp on it that doesn’t quit! I was sitting outside with Richard. I had my acoustic bass; he had his acoustic guitar. The ideas were going back and forth. He said to me, ‘I’ve got to tell you something; I’ve got to be honest… I’ve never been so buzzed in my life. I’m enjoying this creative process; I didn’t know it could feel like this.’ I said, ‘I can teach you to fly.’ We both looked at each other, and we knew… When you’ve got that title, it just writes itself.”

Another track, “Easy Pickin’s,” offers a sardonic view on what passes for quality television these days.

I wanted it to be my take on reality shows, which I don’t think have been healthy for the industry. I put my neck out on the line quite a long time ago before it was fashionable to say this and said, ‘People are now getting into the business to become famous, and that’s not right. You don’t get in the business to be famous. You get in the business because you have to do it.’ I’m not going to be a hypocrite; I do watch those shows. Who doesn’t? Sometimes, they’re damn good entertainment – especially the bad ones. They’re funny. But the reality is that they’re not reality shows; they’re unreality shows. You get some kid who’s been working at a department store, and he decides he wants to be famous. He comes on – and you give him a production that even the biggest stars don’t get – in front of millions of people on TV? You call that reality? That’s not reality. That’s not how I made it.”

Quatro’s formula for making it was kicking ass during an era when a female Rock singer with a bass around her neck was still very much an anomaly. Nearly five decades and a slew of fellow groundbreaking artists later, she views the current scene of women musicians/performers with equal parts admiration and unease.  

There are a lot of good women out there, but I wish they’d put some clothes back on. I really do. That’s not what I fought for. The excuse is that they think they are in charge of their own sexuality so they can do what they like. But that’s not really what’s happening – not in reality. There are some talented people out there, and they don’t need to do that. Look at somebody like Adele. She comes out and just stands there and sings. That’s talent. You don’t need to be half-naked; you just need to be real. Sure, there’s a bit of sexuality in Rock ‘n’ Roll; of course, that’s always been there. But you’ve got to keep a little bit of decorum, leave a little a bit to the imagination and don’t let anybody force you into anything that you don’t want to do.”

This inner strength has kept Quatro active for more than 50 years in an industry known to chew people up and spit them out in 50 weeks. With one of the best albums of her career in the here and now, she remains the real deal – fearless, outspoken and forever ready to show the rest of us how it’s done.   

The number-one thing is I really love what I do. I never coast a show; I never go out there and just go through the motions. That’s just not in my character. I always say to everybody that I was put on this earth to entertain. That keeps me going, because I love the job. Also, I’ve got a lot to say still. I’m not done talkin.’ I’m not done getting ideas out there. I’m not done. I’ve spent a lifetime learning my craft, so why should I stop?”

Photo courtesy of Freeman Promotions

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com