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Rock Reads: Ozzy Osbourne's I Am Ozzy

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Osbourne offers a brief foreword to his autobiography that says in part, "Other people's memories of the stuff in this book might not be the same as mine. I ain't gonna argue with them. Over the past forty years I've been loaded on [a lengthy list of drugs.] On more than a few occasions I was on all of those at the same time. I'm not the f*#king Encyclopaedia Brittanica, put it that way. What you read here is what dribbled out of the jelly I call my brain when I asked it for my life story. Nothing more, nothing less…"

Ozzy's story of drug and alcohol abuse is well-known, as is the fact that he was pulled out of the lengthy stupor by the woman who would eventually become his wife. Still, even a sober Ozzy, one of rock's most significant figures in the last forty years, is today often viewed as a train wreck thanks mostly to his befuddled antics as seen on the MTV program The Osbournes. But if there's two things that Osbourne can pretty much do in any state of mind it's have a good time and provide a good time and he does both here; he clearly had a ball writing I Am Ozzy and the vibe carries over into every chapter of this fun page-turner.

Ozzy is a master of self-deprecating humor and he gets into it right away, using the first chapter to detail his short-lived "career" as an inept petty thief and then set up the situation that led him to the beginning of his real career.

Ozzy's first successful band was called Earth; it was this band that decided to write "scary music" and change their name to the equally scary Black Sabbath and from then on there was no stopping the crazy train.

One of the most endearing things about the book is that nothing is candy-coated but neither does Ozzy spend the book carping about all the management rip-offs, records that bombed or gigs that went bad. In a typical comment about Black Sabbath not drawing any good-looking chicks to their shows he points to songs like "War Pigs" and says with material like that there's no wonder.

In another he recalls how he almost got beat up by walking into a Hollywood convenience mart and asking for "20 fags," referring to a pack of cigarettes and not at the time knowing that he had uttered a slur. You can't turn a page without this type of thing being recalled and knowing how Ozzy is you can imagine it all happening exactly as he says.

There are of course moments in the story that are not at all funny, like the death of guitarist Randy Rhoads in a small plane crash. That event was a turning point in Ozzy's life; a few weeks later he started down a long road to sobriety by asking future wife Sharon Arden to marry him (she initially told him to f*!k off.)

Following Ozzy through several decades of highs and lows in this manner is exhilarating; the book is so well edited that when the story leaves off (at a point in 2009) the reader can hardly wait for what Ozzy does next. Rarely is a book about the rock'n'roll lifestyle this warm and fans can only hope that Osbourne will be around long enough to pen an addendum to these memoirs some day.

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