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Monday, November 15, 2010

Book Review: The Wit and Wisdom of Ozzy Osbourne, by Dave Thompson

The Wit and Wisdom of Ozzy Osbourne, by Dave Thompson
2010 Krause Publications
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



If there's one thing we've learned over the course of Ozzy Osbourne's career, the man has exhibited a willingness to go with the flow (namely the flow outlined by his wife and manager, Sharon) when it comes to the maintenance of his image. Perhaps no one on this planet could've come out of the shadows of Anton LaVey in the eyes of the general public to purge his Prince of Darkness stage persona and become the Prince of Tomfoolery the way Ozzy has.

We still hold Ozzy accountable for his early work in Black Sabbath and a hefty portion of his solo albums. The man is hardly satanic, but it doesn't mean Ozzy Osbourne hasn't filled his till on the right arm of the devil. In other words, Ozzy's played Beelzebub and the masses like chumps on his way to an uber-successful career. If Ozzy's been in league with demons, they're manifest personification of his one-time drug and drinking habits, not to mention the continued scourge roles as bat-biter and wrongly accused songwriter. Most people know Ozzy as a daft but lovable loon from television and a happy-go-lucky bloke belting out "Crazy Train" and "I Don't Know" with perpetual giddiness. Sharon helped Ozzy rid himself of his suicide solutions and by now we've come to look at Ozzy Osbourne as a rock god who'll only quit, to paraphrase him, when the seats in the arena start turning up empty.

Ozzy's clean now, he still outsells most everyone else in the heavy metal market and the core nucleus of his family has reached an iconic plateau on the same level as the patriarch. Though he has other children in his life, the world knows his chawing sprats Kelly and Jack, the former having recently made herself over into a more glamorous persona, the former growing more business savvy by the day. He comes by it honestly. In fact, Jack is currently at work on a film bio on his dad as of this writing. Ozzy jokes he would love to see Johnny Depp take the lead role. Why not? Captain Jack Sparrow is made immortal through Depp because he modeled the character after the equally boffed and sloshed image of Keith Richards. A natural to play Ozzy, yes?

There have been more than a few diaries of the madman ready for consumption by Ozzy's followers, one of which he personally delivered earlier this year with his autobiography I Am Ozzy, the reported source of Jack Osbourne's tribute film. Back in the day, we would've killed to have a compendium of Ozzy's insane natterings, albeit he was hardly as mush-mouthed as he later became. We were all so intrigued by Ozzy's rock character it was, frankly, weird to see him later in life chilling in sweats in front of the tube with his family picking on him from behind. Rock god stripped, indeed.

Yet there's more to Ozzy Osbourne than f-bombs and hard knocks. If anything, Jack and Kelly Osbourne have been given more license than the average offspring to mouth off as they did on MTV's The Osbournes. To quoteth The Ozzman himself, "If I'd dared to say what they say to my dad, I'd be lying in the garden with a pitchfork stuck in my fucking chest."

This is one of many colorful anecdotes corraled in Dave Thompson's The Wit and Wisdom of Ozzy Osbourne, a Cliff's Notes look at the career of Ozzy through the rock legend's own musings. While Thompson leads his sections off with superb narrative within the first few chapters, the author lays off in the later ones with sparse commentary and lets the juices flow out of his subject.

Thompson must've had quite the time arranging licenses to get this book finished, because The Wit and Wisdom of Ozzy Osbourne has quotes spanning from the early seventies straight on through to direct excerpts from I Am Ozzy. In a way, The Wit and Wisdom of Ozzy Osbourne is a two-minute drill overview of his life, because it has a hit-and-run feel, albeit mostly complete in touching upon the most important facets to Ozzy's ever-changing image.

Thompson, who has interviewed Ozzy himsself, also grabs quotes from historic periodicals such as Creem, Sounds, Rolling Stone, NME, Guitar World, Spin, Daily Mirror and Oui along with contemporary websites. He touches upon Ozzy's time before and during Black Sabbath, his life as a hoodlum teenager where he was collared for shoplifting ("I was good at playing truant," he states) and some jaw-dropping stories about his siblings and stern father. Ozzy describes his entire family as neurotic, and he even set fire to his sister once. "I got beaten round the fuckin' house, as usual," after this incident, he notes. Prior to, his father praised Ozzy for beating the same sister up as she was reportedly a clean freak to the extreme.

There's a casual candor to a lot of Ozzy's ramblings, but there's quite a bit of life lessons to be learned from it as well, which Thompson smartly assembles in the rear portion of the book. For all of the drama queen potty-mouth nuances surrounding Ozzy in his family during the early 2000s, at the core is a man who faced evil, faced himself and though he treated his first wife poorly, he has come to value his family and his personal being a lot better.

Ozzy notes he can still be a depressed sod at times, but of late, he's been in search of the light instead of the dark. This is reflective in his more recent albums including this year's Scream, which has more optimism and less haunts to it than Ozzy's longtime fans could ever dream of. No more "War Pigs," no more "Mr. Crowley." Ozzy admits in this book he's been a plaything and playmate of the devil though he's been quietly on the side of a God of transcience more than a God of vindiction. Black Sabbath were warning the world about a possible hell on earth, not subscribing themselves to the dark underworld they brought to life in song. Ditto for Ozzy, and once you've read The Wit and Wisdom of Ozzy Osbourne, you're likely to have a bit of a different view of the guy. Yeah, he comes off like an asshole at times from various points of his career, but like his stage presence, Ozzy Osbourne has been able to change. Like or hate it, the Ozzman has cometh into his own.

4 comments:

cjk_44 said...

Ray, so even though there are direct excerpts from the autobiography this is still worth reading?

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I've not read I Am Ozzy, but this author only hijacks a few quotes from that book. It appears he put in his own interview footage with a bunch of historical quotes, etc. etc. It's worth reading because it's a quick sitdown overview of Ozzy's career with some frequently hilarious quotes.

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