Released: 2010, Hachette Books Group
There are quite a few books about Ozzy and Black Sabbath. After all these years we finally get to hear his own story in his own words. It’s a big, beautiful book, 380+ easy to read pages and approx. 75 photos, the vast majority of which I had never seen before. Like most rock bios it follows a linear progression starting with the ‘good ol’ days’ in England post-war.
I found the first couple of chapters (pre-Sabbath) the most interesting. Many of the stories about his early life had not been told or documented before. Then we get into the Sabbath years and on it goes. Ozzy (and his ‘ghost-writer’ Chris Ayres) have a fluid and readable style, generally writing as Ozzy himself was telling the story. It’s nice to finally have the real-deal on his life story.
As is often (almost always) the case with these big-scale rock bios is the detail of the music gets left behind. His career is almost secondary to his ‘adventures’ his TV career, his publicity stunts, marital problems, health problems and so on. When it comes to describing his career the book is severely lacking in detail. Information about his recording career, working with musicians, who worked on which albums and so on is virtually nonexistent. This book is more about Ozzy the man, not the singer. Of course his career is the background but there is very little detail. He skips entire albums or glosses over them in just a sentence or two. He worked with Zakk Wylde for 20 years and Ozzy barely mentions him! There have been well over 30 people in and out of his band over the years and I really doubt he remembers or cares who they were. I get the impression he got shuffled into the studio, told what to sing and sent on his way, while the machine (Sharon) went to work.
The recent Anvil bio and the Aerosmith bio suffered the same fate. These big high-profile Rock bio’s get rushed out to meet a certain profit-driven window of opportunity or demand and the editors think that the rock and roll stories are more interesting and important than the music. I AM OZZY had virtually no stories about tours, opening acts, touring musicians, making the albums, studios, photo-shoots, inspiration for lyrics, song-writing craft and so on. Some people have commented that he is a misunderstood genius but after reading his bio, I’m not even sure Ozzy really did all that much on his own records. It’s hard to tell if Ozzy doesn’t remember, doesn’t care or didn’t think that the music was all that important.
On a slightly personal note I came away from this book with a sense of distaste. I lost some respect for Ozzy and Sharon after reading this. I’ve never met Ozzy so I can’t really judge the man other than what he has written here. I have admired and respected his career and despite the stories of rock and roll craziness I always assumed the stories were elaborated or exaggerated as these things often are. Where I felt a loss of respect was his overall lifestyle. Cutting to the chase he is/was an illiterate, alcoholic, womanizing, drug-addicted, wife-abuser who neglected his kids, abused animals, and indulges in destructive, violent behavior. It ain’t pretty to read as Ozzy candidly discusses (what seems like the for the tenth time) shitting himself due to chronic alcohol abuse.
The stories of Ozzy punching Sharon in the face and his endless affairs with his first wife just left me cold. Admittedly he was apologetic and from the tone in the writing those are actions and decisions he will probably regret to his grave, but it doesn’t make it easily palatable. Despite the fame and fortune he has had a hard life and at times I felt sorry for him because he doesn’t seem all that bright and has been manipulated by people (those with good intentions and bad) his whole life. I doubt the guy could even tie his shoes on his own anymore, let alone get his drivers license and go grocery shopping. It seems sad. Despite all this, he seems sweet and sincere with not a pretentious bone is his body. He is a complex character to say the least.
In terms of a story of Ozzy the musician and performer, this book is really lame and fails on almost all fronts. As a story of a debauched rock star is succeeds admirably. Give the sheep (ie. The public who only know Ozzy from MTV) what they want (the rock stories) while the rest of us true Ozzy fans will have to just go and re-read Garry Sharpe-Young’s 2002 book, Ozzy Osbourne: The Story of The Ozzy Osbourne Band.
Ultimately this book will dispel some of the rumours and lies about Ozzy and expose a few more ugly truths. I gotta hand it to Ozzy, he was pretty brave to bare his soul and detail some of the pain he has inflicted on himself and others. It is an uncensored look at the life of a pop-culture icon who plays both a comic and tragic character that masks the suffering of a simple and troubled man.