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Sarzo, Rudy
Off The Rails: Aboard The Crazy Train In A Blizzard Of Oz (Book Review)
February 2010
Released: 2008, Independent
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: JP

There are many metal biographies, authorized and unauthorized of metal bands and performers but there are surprisingly few written directly by a musician. The clear advantage of these books are first-hand recollection of experiences. The potential down-side is the other side of the double-edge sword, that the reader is only getting a one-sided perspective of a story and the author may have an agenda (or faulty memory!) while documenting ancient times.

Off The Rails fortunately comes across as a sincere and heart-felt effort to discuss an interesting and turbulent time in rock history. Rudy Sarzo, world-calibre bassist and veteran of the metal-wars has taken the time and energy to independent produce not only his life story-to-date but to tie his experiences of working with guitarist Randy Rhoads.

Technically speaking Sarzo and the publisher have created a nice looking book. The book itself is slightly larger than your standard paperback, nice paper, tons and tons of rare photos and with the smaller font spread over 260+ pages, makes for a longer read. It will hold you captivated if you have any interest in the early years of Ozzy’s solo career and Randy Rhoads.

Sarzo comes across as quiet and unassuming and perhaps smart enough to avoid the pitfalls of the rock and roll lifestyle, as perfected by Mr. Osbourne, by learning what NOT to do! Sarzo also seemed to keep copious notes, tour diaries, clippings and other archival material from the early 80’s giving much weight and authority to the story. Dates and times are constantly listed helping make this a definitive story. It was amusing to read how critics of various concerts constantly got his name wrong, his identity wrong or other pertinent information wrong. Something’s never change as even today mainstream media often makes bad mistakes when the journalists, who are uninterested in a band or concert to begin with, are assigned the story and do an inferior, cursory job.

The book follows the standard life-trajectory of Sarzo but spends the vast majority of the text, at least 80% of the book, during his short tenure as bassist with Ozzy. The stories of those times are fascinating including the endless drunken antics of Ozzy (and Sharon) the tragic death of Rhoads, and more. It was a very intimate story, almost as of Sarzo opened his personal diary to share his thoughts and experiences, uncensored, with the rock world. I would have liked Sarzo to discuss his own life more. The book generally wraps up with Sarzo joining Quiet Riot, leaving another 20+ years of his rock and roll career unexplored. Perhaps he will write a second autobiography one day.

However, as stated upfront in the sub-title the main thrust of the book was a tribute to Randy Rhoads. Sarzo and Rhoads relationship is explored in detail. The two men ended up hanging out quite a bit on and off the road, as Ozzy was too busy being crazy, the drummer, Tommy, off in his own world chasing girls and Sharon who was busy trying to keep the whole ‘Crazy Train’ on the rails. There are many unique and interesting stories about life, love and loss. It is a human-interest story and Sarzo was certainly the best candidate to document the story and do it justice.

At the time of writing this review Ozzy’s highly anticipated biography is about to be published. It is this authors suspicion that the ‘official’ Ozzy story will be highly…edited, (doctored?)…to achieve the desired effect. Accordingly, Sarzo’s book, Off The Rails will be the ideal counter-point and mandatory companion piece to Ozzy’s bio. Hopefully Hard rock and Metal fans will take notice of this understated but highly worthy documentation of the early Ozzy solo era and life of Randy Rhoads. It is my sincere hope that Off The Rails, doesn’t get overshadowed by Ozzy’s bio, which will inevitably be a literary juggernaut. My advice: read Sarzo’s book first for the real deal and then tackle Ozzy’s/Sharon’s version.
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