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Q&A: Ozzy Osbourne (January 2006)

In the wake of The Osbournes reality show and Black Sabbath's live reunion, the Great Oz was on a roll: an album of favourite cover versions; a musical on 'mad monk' Rasputin...

What do Ozzy Osbourne and Boney M have in common? Bizarrely, the connection between the Black Sabbath legend and the fro’d up 70s disco hitmakers is none other than Grigori Rasputin, the shagtastic mystic who penetrated Russia’s aristocracy (geddit) in the early 1900s. ‘He could preach the Bible like a preacher/Full of ecstasy and fire/But he also was the kind of teacher/Women would desire,’ warbled Boney M on their 1978 smash, Rasputin. ‘Preach the Bible like a preacher’? Now there was a cat that really was gone. Not to be outdone, Ozzy wrote his own song called Rasputin for his 1995 album, Ozzmosis. Okay, so it didn’t actually make it on to the record, but – like the Mad Monk’s alleged foot-long todger – it sowed the seed for a much larger project: a full-blown musical (yes, you heard right – a musical) that is only now nearing completion. Classic Rock visited Ozzy’s Buckinghamshire mansion intending to interview him about his new Under Cover album. But the singer seemed keener to talk about his plans for his all singing, all dancing Winter Palace extravaganza. He also delivered some sad news for Sabbath fans, offered his take on the Ozzfest Iron Maiden plug-pulling fiasco and fretted about the imminent Bird Flu pandemic.

Why is there a big book about Rasputin with lots of scribbled notes in it sitting on the table in front of us?                         

I’ve just finished writing a musical about Rasputin. I’ve done it together with Mark Hudson [musician, record producer and most recently voice coach for ‘Team Osbourne’ on TV’s X-Factor talent show]. The BBC do the greatest documentaries and years ago I remember watching this fantastic programme about Rasputin. I thought, “This guy is the original rock star.” The Russian aristocracy was captivated by his mystical vibe, and he slept with all these high-class women in exchange for political favours. He was fucking everybody’s wife. The musical has been a fun thing to do.

How long have you been working on it?

I started 10 years ago, and I’ve been doing it on and off since then. I wrote a song called Rasputin for the Ozzmosis _album and although I didn’t use it, it spurred me on to work on a full-blown musical. I really knuckled down when The Osbournes_ TV series was going ballistic. I had to concentrate on some music because that programme drove me nuts.

There’s just some fine-tuning that’s needed. I’ve recorded the soundtrack but I want to get a better mix on some of the tracks. We’re working on a script and I want to get some other people involved. At the moment most of the vocals are by me, my daughter Aimee and Mark and his daughter. Sharon [Ozzy’s wife and manager] wants to put a record out first.

Your ambition is to get it on the stage as well?

There’s been interest from producers. It could open on Broadway or it could be a touring show. I remember talking to Elton John about Billy Elliot and he said: “A word of warning Ozzy, if you ever get involved with the theatre be careful – it’s a brutal business and theatre critics are absolute shits.” But I’ve seen Billy Elliot and it’s fucking brilliant. At the moment it’s really interesting for me, because musicals are a whole different genre. Would you play the lead role in Rasputin: The Musical? I’m not going to be in it. I’ve done my bit now. It could be Michael Crawford, anybody.

We’d better talk about your new album of cover versions, _Under Cover. Do you have any favourite tracks?_                             

We originally put it out last year as part of the Prince Of Darkness box set. Now it’s being released as an album in its own right with extra songs. I really like Mississippi Queen [Mountain], the Beatles and Lennon stuff [In My Life, Woman, Working Class Hero] and Go Now [The Moody Blues]. A weird thing happened when I was in Abbey Road, I’d just done the last line on Woman – I swear I’m not making this up – the door opens, and in walks George Martin with his son. Fucking weird. That did my head in.

Black Sabbath toured with Mountain very early on in their career, didn’t they? 

They were one of the first bands Sabbath ever opened up for. I met [Mountain guitarist] Leslie West a couple of months ago in New York. He said to me: “Wasn’t I the first person to give you cocaine?” And I said: “Yes, you were.” Memories, eh? I wouldn’t go near coke at first. Then when I took it, I thought I’d found the meaning of life... devil’s fucking dandruff.

_You’ve also done a cover of Cream’s _Sunshine Of Your Love.                          

Cream were a big influence on Sabbath. Listen to NIB [from Sabbath’s debut album] and compare it to Sunshine Of Your Love. The riff to NIB – Da-da-d-dah, dah-dah, da-da-d-dah – oh yeah! – is basically the same. I don’t know if it was a conscious decision at the time, but that’s it.

The covers album is only a bit of fun. If it sells it sells, and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. I enjoyed doing other people’s songs. My own albums are so emotionally draining.

What’s the next step for Ozzy?

I want to see this musical through, and then I want to get a band together. The only trouble is, there don’t seem to be any hot young guitar players anymore. Otherwise I can see myself getting snowballed into doing another fucking TV show. Having said that, I don’t want to tour as extensively as I have done. On this year’s Ozzfest I got this godawful chest infection early on and I never really recuperated – it drove me nuts.

I want to do indoor arenas next year. I’m fed up with playing outside because I’m allergic to everything and its mate. You do a gig in one state and it’s full of brushweed or whatever. I don’t like it. It’s called the Ozzfest, after all – and if Ozzy gets sick it ain’t the Ozzfest. I’m also worried because the world’s weather patterns are getting disrupted. There’s hurricanes and earthquakes, and now there’s bird flu. I’m thinking, “Is the man upstairs trying to get rid of us?”

Will you play the Ozzfest as Ozzy Osbourne rather than as part of Sabbath?                 

I think so. It was a great to get back with Sabbath, I love the guys and we had fun and all became friendly again. But it’s time to move on. I don’t want to make another Sabbath album, not if it’s not up to scratch. I could put any old bollocks out and it would probably sell. But what’s the point in demolishing such a great thing? The combination of Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward is special, and it shouldn’t be ruined.

Without that combination I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you now in this palatial fucking house. I remember what it was like to have nothing. I remember what it was like to steal pints off the bar. I’ve got no complaints.                                

OZZY ON THE MAIDEN BUST-UP             

“The Iron Maiden debacle on this summer’s Ozzfest was fuck all to do with me,” maintains Ozzy. “I never even watched Maiden’s show. I was busy hoping my voice would hold up when I went on stage. I’ve done my share of crazy shit over the years but why, at the age of 57, would I want to start playing tricks on Maiden? I personally have never pulled the plug on anyone. The worst I’ve ever done is to throw a couple of stink bombs at Whitesnake.”

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL

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