"A generation which ignores history has no past and no future." Robert Heinlein
By Sam Graham
It was an album that was destined to fail. After being sacked by Black Sabbath in 1979, the Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne decided to go solo (it was either that or go back to Birmingham. What would you do?). I won’t go into the backstory any more than that, because it’s a well-trodden path and there’s nothing more can be added to it. Suffice to say, most solo projects over the decades have been notoriously bad: Robert Plant, David Lee Roth, Blackmore’s Night, MD.45, Richie Sambora, Methods of Mayhem, and of course (although not really a solo project; more of a branch-off) Lulu. The list could go on forever. Naturally though, there have been some that excelled, like Dio, Phil Collins and of course, Ozzy Osbourne, but it’s a rare occurrence.
What more needs to be said about Ozzy Osbourne? His whole life is a whirlwind of myths and facts, and unless they involve the actual Devil, they’re all true. He is the embodiment of rock and roll excess.
Released in September 1980, the Blizzard of Ozz kicks in straight away with the signature tone of ex-Quiet Riot guitarist Randy Rhoads in the opening song I Don’t Know. After a few licks Ozzy sings about the ludicrousness of his iconic status and how he is just a man, and can’t answer all the mysteries of the universe. The middle of the song breaks down and Ozzy tells us about how life never handed him fame and fortune on a silver platter (although it was only the miracle of him owning his own PA that got him into Sabbath in the first place). The solo is short, but nice and makes all those licks in the verses here and there worthwhile. This song is Ozzy at his most honest, frank and upfront. He realised that his status had become a joke and wanted to put it to rest.
Next comes probably the most known song on the album, especially if you’re not a big fan of Ozzy:Crazy Train. It was made more popular in the recent decade by Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine’s swing-cover of it as the theme tune to The Osbournes. And you know you’ve made it once Dick Cheese is covering your music. Everyone knows this song, even if you don’t like metal. Just the opening words “All aboooard!” give the song away. The riff is probably Ozzy’s most well-known and well-rehearsed by legions of guitarists the whole world over. Crazy Train is the sing-along one of the album, because not only is it so known, it’s so damn catchy.
The next song, entitled Goodbye to Romance is that song that everyone sings along to, arms around each other, when they’ve had a few. It’s the album's ‘ballad-y’ one and it’s a gentle sounding song about loneliness, although it can be taken as Ozzy saying a fond farewell to his compadres in Black Sabbath, who were at the time making Heaven and Hell (1980) with the late metal wizard Ronnie James Dio. While the music in Goodbye to Romance may be phenomenal, its Ozzy that carries this song as it’s his message to Sabbath. The song ends with a hint of redemption, saying that he ‘thinks the sun while shine again’ and lo and behold, they’re making a new album and headlining Download ‘12.
Soon after Goodbye to Romance comes Suicide Solution. A song so powerful it drove someone to suicide in 1984. Only joking, but the song is surrounded in controversy that’s still talked about today. The actual truth is that Suicide Solution is about the alcohol-induced death of AC/DC frontman Bon Scott in 1980. All that stuff about subliminal messaging in the music had been talked about in court before (Judas Priest, Better by you, Better than Me) and after this song and was always thrown out for being a load of tripe. The actual song is awesome and I dare you to not sing along to those infamous opening lines. It’s the heaviest song on the album and surprisingly enough, doesn’t feature a guitar solo other than a few bends towards the end of the song. Don’t let that deter you though, this song kicks enough arse to compensate for it.
Mr Crowley is probably the second most famous song on the album, because it was released as a single along with Crazy Train. The intro, played by Don Airey, now of Deep Purple makes the song instantly recognisable and the song marches along with Ozzy singing about the infamous occultist and accused spy Aleister Crowley. This solo is one of Randy Rhoads’ best, and definitely one of the best on the album, from the shredding intro all the way to the charming end solo. This song has been covered by everyone from Cradle of Filth to Dragonforce; such is its popularity among fans.
The powerful one of the album comes in the form of Revelation (Mother Earth) in which Ozzy, on behalf of all humanity (God help us), begs Mother Earth for her forgiveness, because we’re a breed of parasitic douche-bags that are slowly whittling her down to nothing. Ozzy’s contribution actually ends half way through this song, after that it’s all Randy. This song is like his showcase on the album and, in my opinion, the best lead-guitar work The Blizzard has to offer. Before that though, there’s a piano piece that’s elegant and grief-stricken, and helps carry Ozzy’s message along in the music as well as the lyrics. Then Randy’s shred-a-thon begins. It’s the longest song on the album, but it doesn’t feel stretched.
If you have the remastered version of this album, the final song You Lookin' at Me Lookin' at You is nothing short of a cool song with a cool riff and an even cooler chorus. It’s fairly emotionless compared to the weight of Revelation (Mother Earth), but metal isn’t about how much soul is in a song, like the belligerent masses of Youtube would have you believe. You Lookin' at Me Lookin' at You is simply a cool sounding song and doesn’t sound out of place on the album at all.
Now, lastly we come to this question. Has The Blizzard stood the test of time? Well, even today it’s Ozzy’s most popular album. Record producers were so convinced that The Blizzard would fall flat on its face that when it did sell (six-million copies to date, making it Ozzy’s highest selling album), they were flabbergasted. It broke all reservations about solo projects and cemented Ozzy as not just a one-trick-pony, because of its difference to Sabbath’s music. The album also set a new precedent for how the guitar was played. Randy Rhoads’ style became one of the most copied in the world and still is to date. No matter who Ozzy gets in as lead guitarist, the statement “They’ll never be as good as Randy” is always uttered. The classical-fused-with-rock playing became the new thing in the 80’s and I would go as far as to say that it helped create the technicality that wasn’t seen in the genre until midway through the decade. Before that metal was still rooted in blues-based ideas. That ideology would be developed further in Ozzy’s second release Diary of a Madman with songs like S.A.T.Oand the title track. So, yes, it has.
While in later years, Ozzy’s releases may have only a handful of stand-out songs (Ozzmosis: Perry Mason and Thunder Underground), every song on The Blizzard of Ozz is golden and the album will be long remembered as his magnum-opus for decades to come. Even if you’re not a big Ozzy fan, this album is worth getting and I’m sure a great many people would agree.
Devil-Horn Rating (Out of Five): \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/