ABOVE: OZZY OSBOURNE IN INTERVIEW IN 1986.
This weekend, bats preemptively climbed a few notches on the threatened wildlife list when Black Sabbath announced a reunion album and world tour for 2012. The definitive hard rockers will make a full-length studio album with original frontman Ozzy Osbourne, who made an untimely departure from the band in 1978.
In a 1986 issue of Interview, Osbourne flouted the genre he helped create: “Heavy metal… I don’t even associate myself with that. It constitutes a moron with a guitar, puking blood over everybody, trying to be gross.” In 2003, with a 20-year remove from the infamous bat-biting incident, a considerably more lucid Osbourne chatted with Marianne Faithfull about Sharon, sobriety, and songwriting. In honor of Black Sabbath’s pending reunion, we naughtily imply that the Prince of Darkness may have found the light.
MARIANNE FAITHFULL: Hi.
OZZY OSBOURNE: Hello, Marianne. How are you?
FAITHFULL: I’m very well, Ozzy. How lovely to talk to you again.
OSBOURNE: It’s been a long time since we’ve spoken. You’re now in England?
FAITHFULL: I’m in New York. Where are you?
OSBOURNE: I’m in Montreal.
FAITHFULL: You’re on a Canadian tour.
OSBOURNE: That’s correct. It’s gone amazingly.
FAITHFULL: It’s so wonderful to talk to you, Ozzy. The last time I saw you it must have been in the mid-’70s.
OSBOURNE: Yes, I remember it well. You’re clean and sober now, aren’t you?
FAITHFULL: More or less. I have a glass of wine occasionally.
OSBOURNE: Yeah, I’m now just about 60 days sober again. I can’t have a glass of wine.
FAITHFULL: Well, you’re going through a lot of stuff with your wife.
OSBOURNE: Poor Sharon. In actuality, Marianne, it was kind of a learning process because I was doing all the pain pills and all the fuckin’ rest of the crap that all the addicts and alcoholics do. And I suddenly realized that my tolerance for medication was so high that if I ever got something serious, the doctors wouldn’t give me 95 Vicodin [for it]. [Faithfull laughs] So it was kind of the boot in the pants that I needed. But Sharon has pulled through amazingly well. You know, when someone has cancer you—
FAITHFULL: You wake up and fly, right?
OSBOURNE: When it’s in your own house, it’s completely different. I love the woman with a passion.
FAITHFULL: I haven’t met her, but I’ve seen her on The Osbournes. I think that you and Sharon are what I call normal people and the other people watching the show are not.
OSBOURNE: Well, it’s my belief that we all have skeletons in the closet somewhere. And we’ve all done something that we hope nobody ever finds out about. But my family’s just like an open book. People are saying, “Well, you’re not as bad as we thought you were…”
FAITHFULL: They’ve only seen a one-dimension picture of you.
OSBOURNE: They all think I’m a bat-biting, animal killing, bad man. I’m so proud of my kids.
FAITHFULL: I bet you are.
OSBOURNE: My son’s in rehab.
FAITHFULL: Well, that’s part of the learning curve.
OSBOURNE: We’ve never been just like, Coochie, Coochie, Coo to the children. If they ask us a question, we’ve always given them an honest answer.
FAITHFULL: And I love that.
OSBOURNE: My son had the balls to come and tell me, “Dad, I’ve got a problem,” which knocked me over.
FAITHFULL: I’ll bet it did. That’s a terribly hard thing to deal with. I don’t know him, obviously, but when you speak to Jack, do give him my love.
OSBOURNE: Will do.
FAITHFULL: Because I went to Hazelden [a treatment center].
OSBOURNE: I’ve been to Hazelden, to Betty Ford, to Promises. I could write the book on rehabs. [laughs]
FAITHFUL: Well, Hazelden got me off heroin, so it can work.
OSBOURNE: But you’ve got to be willing. There’s no magic bullet, there’s no magic pill, you’ve got to be willing to go through the pain.
FAITHFULL: Well, I really was at the end. I couldn’t go on, and I was in the program for five and a half years—very strict. And then I decided that I could have a glass of wine, and it didn’t lead me straight back to anything after.
OSBOURNE: Well, I can’t do it because one is—
FAITHFULL: —one is too many and a thousand never enough.
OSBOURNE: That’s the old saying. I have to travel now with a sober person.FAITHFULL: Listen, I’ve got to ask you a question about your songwriting. Can you tell me about your process?
OSBOURNE: I’m good at coming up with melody lines and I don’t play any instruments. I’ve got this friend of mine, Mark [Hudson], who’s a professional songwriter, and I relay ideas to him. I’m currently writing a [project] with him. It’s frustrating because I don’t understand [written] music.
FAITHFULL: You’ve got no rules.
OSBOURNE: I’ve got no rules, so musically, one plus one doesn’t make two in my head—it makes nine.
FAITHFULL: Where do you think your strong spirit comes from?
OSBOURNE: Well, I don’t know, I’ve been watching my wife fight cancer, her determination not to give up.
FAITHFULL: I remember your sensitivity and your heart very well. Then you’ve gone and built a lot, obviously, with Sharon’s help.
OSBOURNE: Sharon saves my life every day. I mean, to say “I love my wife” is not enough. I absolutely live for my wife. Last year, looking back I imploded emotionally. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t walk—literally. My speech is only now beginning to come back.
FAITHFULL: I think you’ve been wonderful
OSBOURNE: All right Marianne, love you, and I’ll speak to you soon.
FAITHFULL: Lovely to check in with you again.
OSBOURNE: All right, God bless ya.