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 Post subject: straight from bernies website
PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2009 11:07 am 
Madman Poster
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Joined: Fri Apr 01, 2005 3:53 pm
Posts: 2835
Location: Dalhousie, NB Canada
Frequently Asked Questions
I get asked questions a lot about my short time with Ozzy, and there are some silly press quotes about it all floating around. Here is what I remember:

On 22nd or 23rd March 1982, a very few days after the tragic death of guitarist Randy Rhoads on the 19th, I was approached to stand in/ replace him as guitarist in Ozzy's band.

At first, which probably sounds strange, I didn't really want to do it.

I'd always been much more into Zeppelin and Purple than Sabbath in the late sixties/ early seventies: I had then got into punk, and joined Ian Gillan from Deep Purple in Gillan. I didn't know too much about Ozzy, I hadn't really kept up with what he was up to. And I didn't see my playing as being stylistically much like Tony Iommi, who was the only guitarist I knew of in the context of Ozzy.

But, anyway, I was talked into giving it a try late afternoon on the 23rd March: I had about two days to sort myself out before going to audition for Ozzy in LA. So, first thing I did was go out and buy copies of Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman: I was totally blown away: by Randy's playing, by the great songs, and by Ozzy's performance: two totally brilliant albums.

From this you can also see that I did not have much time to learn what was quite a body of material.

I was supposed to fly out on the 25th and went to the airport: the airline wouldn't let me on because the record company had only supplied a one way ticket, which at that time would have meant that I would have been sent home by US immigration soon as I arrived in LA.

So, finally, off I flew out to LA on friday 26th, and met Don Airey that day, but no-one else from the band so far as I can recall. On the 27th, the day after I arrived, I met everyone and auditioned, and auditioned again the day after that: there were 2 other guitarists auditioning the second day, culled from maybe 4 the first day: I may be wrong about the number on the first day, I don't remember the first day so clearly, I was still very tired, disorientated, and jet-lagged. I felt very out of place.

On the 28th I was offered the gig, which I understood at the time to be temporary, in order to give Ozzy and his band time to get over the tragedy of Randy's death, get back on the road, and decide what they wanted to do next. That suited me fine, since I had an album coming out in Europe and Japan in a matter of months with my band the Electric Gypsies, and I wanted to go back to promote that.

On one of these days while I was in LA, Randy's funeral took place, I don't know the date. I did not go, but obviously Ozzy and the rest of the band and Sharon went. It may have even been the morning of the day we flew to New York, I don't remember.

On the 29th we flew from LA to New York.

I played my first gig with Ozzy on 1st April at Bethlehem Pennsylvania: my guitars had not yet got through customs after being freighted from the UK, so I had a hired guitar, which was a total nightmare, and one which Ozzy had bought me in LA which I still have and love. We ran through the entire set for the first time during the soundcheck.

I was very proud to be asked and to be able to help Ozzy and the band get over the first few gigs after Randy's death. I still find that humbling. That must have incredibly difficult and painful for them: they must have looked across at me on stage, and wished I wasn't there, wished it was Randy.

And from my point of view Randy was such an incredible guitarist, a truly great player, very difficult for anyone to try to match, or to attempt to replace: and I was not an imitator. I was, and am a pretty instantly recognisable player. From that point of view, I may not have been an ideal choice.

(On the personal side I liked Ozzy very much, he was a nice person: and very funny. He, and Sharon (his wife/manager) were both very kind to me, and that was at a time when they had an enormous amount of troubles and other priorities pressing on them. (Sharon had also lost a close friend in the aircrash which killed Randy. her friend had been working on the tour as the stageclothes/wardrobe lady. That tends to get overlooked). In fact everyone in the band, Tommy, Rudy and Don, were also very helpful and kind, and I really appreciated that. It must have been very difficult and painful for all of them).

It was obviously a big priority for Ozzy to get back on the road, and carry on working on a project which he, Sharon, and the band had put so much into, and had turned at that stage into a big success. They had to carry on, and they also really had to do so as quickly as possible, or all those years of groundwork, which had once again lifted Ozzy from comparative obscurity to playing stadiums, would have been labour in vain, totally wasted effort.

I also think that a pause to reflect on the situation would have made it even harder for them to carry on.

I was very glad to have been able to help at all with that, and very proud and honoured to have been asked and trusted to be able to help.

But I did not really see that the reason I was on the planet was to spend the next few years playing Randy's guitar parts, or trying to play them as best I could. There were plenty of other players who would have been very happy to do that, would do it as well or far better than me, and would do it without trying to put their own stamp on it, as I felt I had to.

Much as I was happy to help, and honoured to be asked, I did not feel that imitating Randy was a good way for me to show the respect I had acquired both for him and for his writing and playing.

Because of that I decided that this was not a situation I wanted to stay in.

We were staying at the Helmsley Palace in NYC, I called Ozzy's room and said that I did not want to continue, but would wait until they found someone else they were happy with. They were both very understanding, though I think they both thought I was totally crazy.

Brad Gillis meanwhile had been travelling in one of the crewbuses, having been recommended, as I think he told me, by someone in the record co in LA. No one appeared to want to give him an audition: I saw him with a guitar one day messing around and thought, this guy can do it, he's absolutely great! He also knew the material, having been a fan of Randy's. I spoke to Ozzy and Sharon (I think) and Don Airey about him, Don (the principal inquisitioner: you had to get past Don to get a proper audition!) was not at all keen to audition him. At the time I think he preferred me to stay. I talked him into giving Brad a try, he auditioned him, loved his playing, and we were all happy. I was outta there, and they got a great guitar player.

I would still love to record some of those tracks the way I played them, in memory of Randy. For some reason I've never got round to it: hope to someday.

There have also been some press quotes regarding my discomfort with the size and the level of the gigs: this is perfectly true, but not because I was nervous or whatever. I get more nervous at auditions or doing interviews! People misinterpreted what I meant by that. I did not like playing places where I could not hear what the other players were playing. I am by nature a jammy player, I like living on my wits, making it up as I go along: thats what I'm good at. John Coltrane and Charlie Parker are as much my heroes as Eddie van Halen.

That discomfort was really nothing to do with the size of gig (I've played many bigger ones both before and after) , everything to do with the stage size and monitoring: in Ozzy's set up when I came into it, for whatever reason, it was very difficult to hear what was going on, and pretty impossible to play and bounce off other people. Many other players would not find that a problem, they play the same thing every night: I don't like to play the same thing every night, and I did find it a problem. At the end of the day I'm a musician, and any musician has their strong points and weak points: being unable to play off the other musicians, I didn't feel I was going to do a particularly good job long term, or be happy doing it. This may have been just the icing on the cake as to why I did not stay, but it was very important to me. To a less interactive player that may not have mattered so much.

I'm very glad to have had the chance to do it.



"In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends"

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