'Now I exercise like a maniac. I'm addicted'
COVER STORY:OZZY OSBOURNE doesn’t do regrets. Not the drink, the drugs, the semi-automatic weapons or the manslaughter of various winged creatures. But there is one thing the 60-year-old Prince of Darkness would have done differently: “I wouldn’t have tried to kill my wife,” he says, writes BRIAN BOYD
“But then I didn’t know I had tried to kill her. I woke up in jail with these scratch marks around my neck and all these bruises around my eyes. I had no idea what I had done. Then they told me I had tried to strangle Sharon to death. I must have had a blackout. I never believed in blackouts before that – I thought they were something that people in rehab made up in order to scare you off the drink.”
He was “unbelievably drunk and really quite stoned” when he attacked Sharon. That same day in 1989, Ozzy Osbourne decided to get clean and sober.
“That’s the only reason I’m sitting here talking to you today,” he says. He orders some tea, looks, wide-eyed, around the suite of London’s Dorchester Hotel and says “this is nice, isn’t it” in a still strong Birmingham accent. He looks, all things considered, magnificent: long, shiny hair, a thin and gym-toned frame, classily dressed. The only nods to his heavy- metal lineage are a giant silver cross around his neck, some knuckleduster-style rings and two skulls on the top of his shoes. On the table in front of him is copy of his just-published autobiography.
I Am Ozzyis a rollicking sex, drugs and rock’n’roll read but, more importantly, operates as a quite serious text on the nature of addiction and compulsive behaviour. You chuckle away at the stories – when he was courting Sharon and had no money he used to steal bunches of flowers from graveyards to give her; once she asked him why her romantic gift had a card with “In Loving Memory of Jim” on it. Later, he’s booking into the Betty Ford Clinic and so clueless about the nature of his alcoholism that after signing in, he says to the receptionist: “I’ll be in the bar, if you need me”.
EARLY DAYS: “IT WASN’T JUST DRINK AND DRUGS. IT WAS GLUE AS WELL – ANYTHING”
John Osbourne from Birmingham did the standard rock’n’roll apprenticeship of the time: he left school early, worked in a glue factory and spent time in prison (for being unable to pay a fine). He sang with a local rock band and one day, looking out the window of their rehearsal room, he saw a queue outside the cinema across the road.
“All these people were queuing up to see a horror film (called Black Sabbath). We thought if people were paying money in order to be scared, we could become a scary heavy metal band and people would come to see us. Later we got accused of being Satanists, which is like accusing Christopher Lee or Vincent Price of being a Satanist. We got noticed because we were different – at the time, in 1967, music was all about peace and love and flower power, which was fine if you were living in San Francisco – but we were in grimy and miserable Birmingham.
Sabbath were hugely successful, not just in albums sold and tours performed but in the amount of drink and drugs they ingested. The whole band indulged excessively, but Ozzy always turned it up to 11.
“What other job is there in which if you show up to work pissed and stoned people say ‘Ozzy’s in good form, it will be a great show tonight’? It wasn’t just drink and drugs – it was glue as well – anything I could get my hands on.” He only ever stopped heroin because it used to make him throw up all the booze, which he thought was a “waste of good drink”.
“I would have been the same no matter what sort of career I had because I now realise I am an addict – it’s in my personality. I accept that as a fact. I’ve been sober since 1989 [mostly: see below]. I don’t want to drink anymore. I’m not saying I’ll never drink again; I’m just saying I don’t want to.
“Do you know, I’ve just passed my driving test. I had tried to do the test five or six times before, but the driving instructors wouldn’t get in the car with me.
“I’m still going to therapy for all of that stuff – and it helps. I’m hopeless, though, at giving anybody advice in that regard. When we do Ozzfest [the travelling heavy metal roadshow he headlines] some of the younger bands come up to me for advice. I still find myself saying: ‘Have an extra drink before you go on’, because that’s what I used to do.”
THE DOVE, THE BAT AND THE ALAMO: “I’M SICK OF TALKING ABOUT THEM”
“The three questions I keep getting asked by everyone are about things I did when pissed and stoned: the dove, the bat and the Alamo.”
For the record: Ozzy once bit the head of a live dove at a record company meeting because he felt he wasn’t getting the attention he deserved; he once mistakenly bit the head of a live bat during a show – he thought it was a rubber, joke shop one; and he was once arrested while wearing a dress for urinating on the battle of the Alamo monument in Texas.
“They all happened and I’m sick of talking about them now. But when you’re an addict and your wife has confiscated all your clothes so you can’t go out and get pissed, you do things like put on one of her dresses, go and get a few bottles of Courvoisier and then take a leak on the Alamo.”
THE OSBOURNES ON TV: “JACK AND KELLY GOT F**KED UP BECAUSE OF IT”
The most-viewed – ever! – programme on MTV remains the reality TV show The Osbournes,which ran between 2002 and 2005 and detailed the lives of Ozzy, Sharon and two of their three children – Jack and Kelly. The show brought Ozzy into a new realm of fame – but he was never happy with it.
“I am never comfortable on TV and was never comfortable on that show. I don’t mind doing the odd TV interview, but with the cameras on you all the time ... That level of fame is terrifying. We were meeting all these presidents and once I met the Queen. After I had played at some show for her, she said to me: ‘Oh, so that’s what variety means then’. I just couldn’t keep my eyes off her skin – she has the nicest skin of anyone I’ve met. But The Osbournesdid worry me because it got so big – and Jack and Kelly got fucked up on booze because of it.”
In 2002, Sharon Osbourne was diagnosed with colon cancer and Ozzy, who says he relies on his wife for “everything”, collapsed.
“I was just terrified because I had never known anybody who had survived cancer. I was so terrified she was going to die. I started drinking again. No one knew for a long time because I’d go and get fucked up in my own little room. I was smoking a lot of dope and going through a case of beer every 10 minutes. Now I know it was wrong. Now I know that if you get bad news and you have a drink that the pain will still be there, but it will be worse because you have been drinking again.Thankfully Sharon made a speedy recovery.”
HIS NEW ADDICTION: “I REALLY NEED THAT ENDORPHIN RUSH”
“Now I exercise like a maniac. I’m addicted to it. I do about an hour and a half and 500 sit-ups every day. I really need that endorphin rush.
“And they finally found out why I had the shakes all the time. For years I just thought it was the DTs but they discovered it was Parkin Syndrome, which is a bit like Parkinson’s Syndrome. When I got the diagnosis I rang my sister and she told me that my mother and my Aunt Elsie had it also.”
What prompted this autobiography was a near-death experience six years ago when he had an accident on a quad bike at his home in Buckinghamshire.
“After all the lethal combinations of booze and drugs I’ve taken, all the overdoses and everything I almost died while driving a quad bike at two fucking miles an hour”.