When I first saw it, I thought the Fred Phelps clan had been reviewing albums on Amazon. Ozzy Osbourne’s “Blizzard of Ozz,” one of the greatest rock and roll records of all time, has received 139 one-star reviews. What was going on? Panning “Blizzard of Ozz” is like panning the Mona Lisa.
I read a few of the reviews, and what has happened to “Blizzard of Ozz” is a crime not of the current moment but for the centuries, for history. At some point Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne had a fracas with Bob Daisley, and Lee Kerslake, the bassist and drummer, respectively, on “Blizzard of Ozz.” The result? The Osbournes rerecorded “Blizzard” using a different bassist and drummer and released the new record in 2002. Imagine doing the same thing to a Beatles record.
Let me repeat that. The creator — or rather one of the creators — of one of the greatest pieces of popular music in history rerecorded the music in question using inferior musicians because he — or more likely his wife — threw a hissy fit. And now he is passing it off as the real thing.
I know I’m late to this — the reissue was eight years ago after all — and for a while I thought I should just let it go. I had gone to Amazon to find “Blizzard of Ozz” because my high school homecoming game was coming up, and in looking forward to seeing some of my old buddies, my mind had connected to Ozzy. I was 16 when “Blizzard of Ozz” came out in 1981; it became a record that immersed itself deeply into my soul. The record is at once funny, philosophical, dynamic and, yes, deeply moral. The great Catholic psychiatrist Rudolph Allers once noted that it is a mistake to think that most teenagers are trying to separate themselves from things when they rebel. In fact, Allers said, at that stage in life they are trying desperately to attach themselves to something — to truth, to beauty, to sex, to God. I attached myself to Ozzy.
Another thing that brought “Blizzard” to mind was when Ozzy appeared recently at the Rally to Restore Sanity. I was at the rally, and I felt a bolt of pure joy charge through my body when I heard the first timeless chords of “Crazy Train” blast off from the stage. I felt that ineffable lifting of the soul when one hears a great piece of music; you feel both electrified and calm, like seeing a lover on the street that you’ve been with for ten years. Then Jon Stewart stopped the music so that he could introduce Yusuf Islam, an ignorant jihadist who once went by the name Cat Stevens. Only in the topsy-turvy world of liberalism could a genuinely peaceful man like Ozzy Osborne be considered a herald of fear while a tool like Yusuf Islam is given deference as a peacemaker. At that point I left the rally, vowing to punch Jon Stewart in the face if I ever met him.
Even at 16, I knew that “Blizzard” was the work of a group of very talented, and deeply moral, artists. The playing of guitarist Randy Rhoades, who died in a plane crash in 1982, was — is — genius, but it never overwhelms the support from bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake — the two men who were replaced on the new, crap version. Daisley’s bass work was especially impressive — spry, melodic, beautiful. The fundamentalists who wailed about a song like “Suicide Solution” never bothered to read the lyrics, which are starkly anti-suicide, lamenting how alcoholism “floods away tomorrows.” I always took “I Don’t Know,” the album’s opener, as an expression of humility in the face of fan adoration rather than an expression of nihilism. I always loved the great melodic bridge in the middle where Ozzy sings:
Nobody ever told me
I found out for myself
You have to believe in foolish miracles
It’s not how you play the game it’s if you win or lose
You can choose
Win or lose
It’s up to you
It works as both an expression of faith and as an Ayn Randian will-to-individualistic power — and all leavened with Ozzy’s goofy humanity.
After the rally, and with my high school homecoming a few days away, I went to Amazon to get “Blizzard of Ozz.” And that’s when the switch was revealed. Most reviewers blame the reissue on Sharon Osbourne, which makes sense. On TV she seems very petty, avaricious, controlling and vindictive. One angry head banger on Amazon sends her to hell, to be sodomized by a member of the band Iron Maiden. Another said Sharon was Yoko Ono times a hundred — but Ono would never desecrate the Beatles’ catalogue. I would only hope that Sharon could be appealed to on the grounds of restoring a work of art to its original state, which transcends feuds. In the meantime I ordered a copy of the original classic version from eBay. It was worth the $72,000.
Mark Gauvreau Judge is the author of several books, including Damn Senators and God and Man at Georgetown Prep. His articles and essays have appeared in various publications.