’Blizzard of Ozz’ – 52 years today. Did Ozzy write the lyrics? #classical albums

Co-writing, I think it’s quite a fair description for a lot of songs. Not only does Ozzy do the vocal melodies. He is also an inspiring bundle of special emotions and energy. And the lyricists that work with him knows that. They must consider that he is hunted by demons from the past, but always makes a come back after a crisis, and this with a smile on his lip.

One issue that has become more and more discussed among Ozzy-fans the last ten years is how much he contributed to his own classical songs in the beginning of his career. And this day is a fine day to address the question, since it was at this date that he made his comeback, back in 1980.

The issue is that a lot of the fans in the beginning of Ozzys career thought that he was the lyricist and that he in the lyrics was telling the listeners about his thoughts and views about life, as a kind of diary of the madmen himself.

For example, this is how Ozzy, or the Ozzy team and the record company, describes the history behind Crazy Train in the texts that was included in the compilation album The Ozzman Cometh 1997.

“I’M GOING OFF THE RAILS ON A CRAZY TRAIN!” reflects everything I was going through at the time. We wrote this in Monmouthshire, Wales at a residential studio”

But it wasn’t that simple. Far from it.  

This is how the bassist Bob Daisley says that the music came into being when they made Ozzys two first albums in an interview with Youtube channel The Metal Voice 2018.

“Most of the main riffs were Randys, but the music part we did together. Now what we did …would be to play an idea of a song.  A backing track kind of a thing, and Ozzy would sing a melody over it. And a lot of these melodies were very good, you know, Ozzy was very melodic in his vocal tunes and melodies. And there weren’t any other lyricists in the band. But I’d written songs in the past” (20.02).

The bassist is quite clear in his biography. It was he, not Ozzy, that wrote most of the lyrics.

Nevertheless, the album Blizzard of Oz became to be a true game changer for John Osbourne, 32 at the time. He had been kicked out of Black Sabbath 1978. He drank a lot and took a lot of coke, and nobody believed in him. Except for his soon-to-be partner and wife Sharon. Fortunately, this woman also acted as his boss and manager, and helped him find musicians that suited him.

I guess that you could say that the guitarist Randy Rhoads, drummer Lee Kerslake and bass player and text producer Bob Daisley – together with Sharon Arden – saved Ozzy’s career.

This heavy metal classic is probably a result of good teamwork. Especially Bob Daisley (ex Gary Moore, Uriah Heep and Rainbow) and his texts is important here. He, the almost legendary Rhoads and Ozzy really were a good combo. 

Ozzy says in his biography that he himself was, at least sometimes, involved in the making of the texts and not only the song melodies. For example: it was he who heard that Rhoads had a good riff that would match well to the lyrics that he had formulated for some time “Wine is fine, but whiskey’s quicker, Suicide is slow with liquor” (Osbourne 2010, s 197).  But Daisley claims that it was he who wrote the lyrics, with hard-drinking Ozzy in mind. (Daisley 2013, s 122).

Ozzy acknowledged in his biography that experienced rocker Daisley helped with the songwriting and was a good bass player (but kind of an ill-humored and complaining bloke as well). Daisley has quite another take on it. That is evident in his biography “For facts sake”, where he describes how he wrote most of the lyrics, for example to the mega-hit “Crazy Train”.

Either way. This album is good. Is it Ozzy’s best? No, but if you look at it from an objective perspective, I guess this is one of his two best solo records, together with Diary of a Madman.

It’s hard rock, and vaguely late Sabbath-reminding, but catchier and kinder, it has more energy, and was more direct and had much better songs than the late 70:s Sabbath albums. And it was, or was presented as, totally focused on the solo artist himself – more precisely the Ozzy-persona; the crazy artist that said goodbye to romance and friends and bit the head off a bat,(and also a dove actually).  

Another example of this focus in Ozzy, besides the Suicide solution song, is ”I don’t know”. Even if it is Daisley’s words, it’s about Ozzys experiences from Sabbath, when everybody asked him and Sabbath about esoteric things and mysteries about life (Daisley 2013, s 122), themes of which he really didn’t had so many things to say.

In the book the former Ozzy bass player even admits that Ozzy changed his lyrics in this song, according to Daisley by accident: Ozzy remembered some of the sentences the wrong way, he writes.

It should be “It’s if you win or lose, you can choose, don’t confuse all the clues, it’s up to you”, but Ozzy changed it to: ”It’s if you win or lose, you can choose, win or lose, it’s up to you”. In the end, everybody in the studio was happy, so the Ozzy version became the final version (Daisley 2013, s 139). And the song was better of.

75 percent of the songs on the debut album are good. It has Crazy Train (473 000 000 plays on Spotify!). It has Mr. Crowley, and it has Rhandy Rhoads. Any bad tracks? Yes, one. It is No bone movies. Totally boring. Doesn’t make you feel anything.

How about the production? Not so good. It sounds a bit…thin? Many seems to like it though. But some of the more skeptical fans says ”Raw”, ”Rough” and ”A bit dated. The production is clearly different from the other albums. Is it cheap or is it perfectly fitting the Ozzy persona at that time?  Either way, I give Blizzard of Ozz a weak 8 out of 10.

What does Ozzy says nowadays about the writing of his songs? Among many things he says that he has co-written the songs, when asked to comment that he has produced 173 songs. (Sirius XM, interview 2019.)

Co-writing, I think it’s quite a fair description for a lot of songs. Not only does Ozzy do the vocal melodies. He is also an inspiring bundle of special emotions and energy. And the lyricists that work with him knows that. They must consider that he is hunted by demons from the past, but always makes a come back after a crisis, and this with a smile on his lip. He is there with his his madness and voice and intuition. He makes artistic choices, even when drunk.

The story and the persona is magnified by show business, and the audiences expectations, of course.

Looking back at the first of solo albums, I am more convinced than ever that Ozzy was, and is, heavily involved in the making of his music, even though it’s quite clear that the riffs and the lyrics often relies on somebody else’s efforts.

Rickard Jakbo

References

Sirius XM (2019) Billy Morrison Asks Ozzy Osbourne If He Knows How Many Songs He’s Written
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3kBb7rHIXo

Bob Daisley-Talks Blizzard of Ozz, Diary of a Madman, Bark at the Moon Pt1

Osbourne Ozzy. & Ayres Chris (2010). I am Ozzy/Jag är Ozzy Swedish translation. Norstedts: Stockholm.

Daisley Bob (2013) For facts sake. Thompson Music: Victoria

Saulnier, J. (2011)   Jason Saulnier  Bob Daisley Interview – Ozzy Osbourne Bassist (Music Legends)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gx6PyOwCYI8, The Metal Voice

Osbourne, 0. (1997) The Ozzman Cometh. CD.

Plats 27: The Rime of the ancient Mariner

Plats 27 * på Rickards topp 100-lista över de bästa 100 äldre metal/hårdrock-låtarna.

Band: Iron Maiden

Låt: The Rime of the ancient Mariner/Balladen om den gamle sjömannen (1984)

Nästan 14 minuter lång och du har inte tråkigt. Så är det med låten som Steve Harris slängde in ”på kul”, om man får tro Bruce Dickinsons självbiografi. Den finns på gruppens femte album, släppt mitt under storhetstiden.

Den får dig att tänka på om också du, som den gamle sjömannen i sitt gråa skägg och upptända blick, skulle gå från person till person för att berätta din historia, om också du fått skulden för ett skeppshaveri efter att ha dödat en albatross.

Här får den som är lite mer musikaliskt bevandrad sitt lystmäte, i och med ”proffskommentarer från ett icke-maiden-fan”. För dig som vill gådirekt till den dramatiska höjdpunkten, gå till 10.15.

Musikaliskt innehåller den, som de bättre Maiden-eposen, flera och rätt olika stycken som avlöser varandra. Ja, den är ”ett komplicerat och stämningsfullt stycke”, som Mick Wall beskriver den.

I ett moment stillnar den så gott som helt. En röst med gammeldags uttal citerar Coleridges text. Orden ackompanjeras av akustiskliknande gitarr och ljudet av träskrovets ristningar och knarr.

Låten tar verkligen med dig till havet, till utsattheten, till mannen som driver planlöst fram som den enda överlevande på öppet hav under månskenet.

Texten

Denna låts storhet handlar till stor del om originaltexten och historien. Det är alltså varken Steve Harris, Adrian Smith eller Bruce Dickinson som ligger bakom idéerna och temat, utan den skuldridne Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Den brittisk poeten skrev i slutet av 1700-talet ned historien om den otursförföljda sjömannen som till slut fann en mening i att grabba tag i människor och berätta om det fasanfulla och fantastiska han var med om.

Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink

Mick Wall skriver i sin Maiden-biografi att Harris ”inspirerades” av dikten, och att Harris på så vi framkallade denna mystiska värld som låten består av. Det är lite att överdriva Harris snille, (som så klart i övrigt inte ska dissas). För Iron Maidens text är en sammanfattning av dikten, och innehåller till och med en kopia av två textstycken (se nedan i fetad i stil), varav en också utgör diktens poetiska höjdpunkt för många.

Men att tonsätta den rätt, att våga göra en låt på 14 minuter, och att skapa det musikaliska landskap som förmodligen gjort dikten mer känd över världen än alla litteraturlärare tillsammans; detta är så klart värt att beundra.

Som all stor konst handlar den om många saker samtidigt.

Här är det havet, ensamheten, kampen, hopplösheten och hoppet, berättandet som överlevnadsstrategi, människans relation och täta koppling till naturen. Vår strävan efter att förstå varför vi kan hamna som spillror på ett skepp mitt i havet.

Texten är en fin illustration av något som liknar Coleridges romantiska credo:

”Att göra det utvändiga invändigt, det invändiga utvändigt, att göra naturen till tanke, och tanken till natur – detta är snillets mysterium i konsten”, som Coleridge skrev i sin Biographia Literaria från 1817. (Eriksson, 2018)

Texten är både modern och romantisk. Professor i Environmental Humanities sir Jonathan Bate, säger i ett temaavsnitt av BBC:s avsnitt av In our Time: Culture att det i vår tid går att ge texten en ekologisk tolkning.

”It is also possible to make an crime against nature, for example to shoot an alabatross/…/ a key element of the modernity of this poem.”

Men han säger också avslutningsvis, mycket träffande, att storheten ligger i att det är en oförglömlig story i ett oförglömligt språk.

Lyssna på ett helt program om texten

För ännu mer om denna storslagna romantik-dikt, Läs The Guardians hyllning från 2009:

Iron Maidens text med stycken direkt citerade från Coleridges, versionen från år 1800.

Hear the rime of the ancient mariner
See his eye as he stops one of three
Mesmerizes one of the wedding guests
Stay here and listen to the nightmares of the sea

And the music plays on, as the bride passes by
Caught by his spell and the mariner tells his tale

Driven south to the land of the snow and ice
To a place where nobody’s been
Through the snow fog flies on the albatross
Hailed in God’s name, hoping good luck it brings

And the ship sails on, back to the North
Through the fog and ice and the albatross follows on

The mariner kills the bird of good omen
His shipmates cry against what he’s done
But when the fog clears, they justify him
And make themselves a part of the crime

Sailing on and on and north across the sea
Sailing on and on and north ’til all is calm

The albatross begins with its vengeance
A terrible curse a thirst has begun
His shipmates blame bad luck on the mariner
About his neck, the dead bird is hung

And the curse goes on and on at sea
And the curse goes on and on for them and me

”Day after day, day after day
We stuck nor breath nor motion
As idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean


Water, water everywhere and
All the boards did shrink
Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink”

There calls the mariner
There comes a ship over the line
But how can she sail with no wind in her sails and no tide

See, onward she comes
Onward she nears out of the sun
See, she has no crew
She has no life, wait but here’s two

Death and she life in death
They throw their dice for the crew
She wins the mariner and he belongs to her now
Then, crew one by one
They drop down dead, two hundred men
She, she, life in death
She lets him live, her chosen one

”One after one by the star dogged moon
Too quick for groan or sigh
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang
And cursed me with his eye

Four times fifty living men
(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump
They dropped down one by one”

The curse it lives on in their eyes
The mariner he wished he’d die
Along with the sea creatures
But they lived on, so did he

And by the light of the moon
He prays for their beauty not doom
With heart he blesses them
God’s creatures all of them too

Then the spell starts to break
The albatross falls from his neck
Sinks down like lead into the sea
Then down in falls comes the rain

Hear the groans of the long dead seamen
See them stir and they start to rise
Bodies lifted by good spirits
None of them speak and they’re lifeless in their eyes

And revenge is still sought, penance starts again
Cast into a trance and the nightmare carries on

Now the curse is finally lifted
And the mariner sights his home
Spirits go from the long dead bodies
Form their own light and the mariner’s left alone

And then a boat came sailing towards him
It was a joy he could not believe
The pilot’s boat, his son and the hermit
Penance of life will fall onto him

And the ship it sinks like lead into the sea
And the hermit shrives the mariner of his sins

The mariner’s bound to tell of his story
To tell this tale wherever he goes
To teach God’s word by his own example
That we must love all things that God made

And the wedding guest’s a sad and wiser man
And the tale goes on and on and on

Källa Youtube Music/Lyricfind

* Efter att ha läst in mig lite på textens historia flyttade jag upp låten från 47 till 27. Detta ska ses som den nya objektivt sanna placeringen på den likaledes objektivt sanna och neutrala 100-listan.

Källor:

Dickinson, B ( 2017) What does this button do? – an Autobiography

Wall, M (2005), Run to the Hills – den officiella biografin.

Eriksson, U (2018) Coleridges moraliska gåta låter oss känna suget från avgrunden, Svenska Dagbladet, 2018 03 07

Lyricfind

Plats 100. Freewheel Burnin.(Bäst of hårdrock och metall)

Del 1 av 100, där jag skriver några rader om alla låtar på listan.

År: 1983 (singeln)

Band: Judas Priest

Varför: En skön kombination av det snabba smattrande sjungandet och de melodiösa gitarrslingorna och ett catchy riff. För en 14-åring på 80-talet även en skön videokombo där arkadspelet och Halford mixas ihop på ett FÖR DÅTIDEN fräckt sätt.

Vad säger arkiven och de andra:

”One of the best opening tracks in rock history”, skriver Loudwire, när de listar Judas bästa låtar.

”The rapid-fire middle-eight is yet another great example of how Halford’s vocals serve as a lead instrument alongside those twin guitars.” , skriver Guardian.

På andra listor:

#148 The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs Of All Time, Martin Popoff

#8 10 of the best JP songs, Guardian.

#7 Ten best JP Songs, Loudwire,

#2 Top 20 favourite JP songs, BryceTalksMetal

Recensioner ur de gamla hederliga(?) svenska arkiven: Här om skivan Defenders of the Faith i sin helhet som recenserades tillsammans med Saxons och Whitesnakes skivor från samma år, ur Svd 1984 03 02: