December 3, 2011
Although I’ll grant you the genius and ripeness of those first five Black Sabbath albums, the OZZY OSBOURNE (John Michael Osbourne, born 1948) of that period seemed unformed and not wholly Sabbath — more of a Pupa of Darkness. Cherubic and smooth among the vulpine and heavy-stached, Ozzy was the ecstatic thrall to Iommi’s dark riffage. Even in his youth, Iommi looked old, inquisitorial, with his high-waisted pants, guitar high and tight, Count of Monte Cristo hair, resolute in his non-groove. What was beautiful, lumpen Ozzy to do in the face of his severity? Get the hell out. The apex of Oz, 1980-82, Ozzy finds Randy Rhoads, tiny, blonde, melodic, dutiful. Ozzy moves aggressively into fringed jumpsuits, and eyeliner. The fleshy neck and burgeoning jowls, forever pulling down the corners of his mouth, only just visible in those 1970s performances, assume their full grandeur. During metal’s Days of Androgynous Zeal, where most frontmen aspired to transform themselves into middlebrow pinups of the moment (David Coverdale strived for Morgan Fairchild) Ozzy’s aims were more obscure. Perhaps a Pat-Benatar-loving Linda Blair gone to seed. Seeing Ozzy in the video for his epic power ballad duet with former Runaway turned cheesecake metalhead Lita Ford, one can only infer that he was trying to capture the stylistic panache of Bonnie Tyler. On album covers and in videos, Ozzy used fake blood, eyeliner and scary hands to play up his Prince of Fucking Darkness persona, but live, he was a cheerleader at a pep rally — pacing the stage, beaming and clapping, “Thank You! We love you all!” Outraged parents of the 1980s were terrified that Ozzy would turn their sons into suicidal Satanists; the greater risk, it now appears, is that they might turn into motivational speakers who dress like Penny Marshall. Keep on smoking them joints!
READ MORE about members of the Blank Generation (1944-53).