The more lurid and grizzly rock’s urban legends are, the longer they tend to endure. They catch the sideshow aspect of rock ’n’ roll, and whether we’ll admit it or not, everyone likes a good sideshow. One of the most enduring is that of “The Prince of Darkness” biting the head off a bat. So for Ozzy’s 62nd birthday, here is what Performing Songwriter uncovered:
Ozzy Osbourne has steel bolts in his neck. No joke. They’re the result of a near-fatal motorcycle accident he had in 2003. There couldn’t be a more appropriate fashion accessory for the Frankenstein monster of rock—a pale, mumbling ghoul who’s very name conjures up demons and graveyards.
“Ozzy sold his soul a long time ago,” his wife Sharon Osbourne joked after her hubby recovered from the accident. “That’s what accounts for his iconic fame, based on just three or four radio hits, and the rejuvenation of his career as a lovable zombie on our hit TV show, and the inability of drugs, alcohol, and vehicles to actually kill him. He will remain in a state of animated undeath until such a time as our dark lord has finished his hoary mission and anointed a new Prince of F***ing Darkness.”
Despite years of flirting with the grim reaper in Black Sabbath, Ozzy’s defining dark moment came on January 20, 1982. He was in the middle of his “Night of the Living Dead” tour. To set a grisly mood, Ozzy pelted his audience nightly with pig intestines and calves’ livers. Fans began sneaking raw meat and small dead animals into the concerts to throw back.
At the show in Des Moines, someone tossed a live bat onstage. “The truth is, I thought it was a f***ing toy,” Ozzy told MOJO in 2005. “It must’ve been stunned by the lights or something ’cause it was dead still when I picked it up. I put it in my mouth as a joke. It’s f***ing wings started flapping and I ripped it out of my mouth but its head came off! The worst part was the anti-rabies injections in my arse the next day.”
Oddly, this wasn’t Ozzy’s first experience in the beheading department. The year before, at a record label party, he tore into two doves. “I was going to give this little speech,” Ozzy recalled to MOJO. “At the end I was going to release three white doves. Trouble was I’d already drunk a bottle of brandy that morning and by the time I got there I was f***ed. I just remember this PR woman going on and on at me. I said, ‘Do you like animals?’ Then pulled out one of these doves and bit its f***ing head off. Just to shut her up. Then I did it again with the next dove, spitting the head out on the table, and she fell to the floor screaming. That’s when they threw me out. They said I’d never work for CBS again, but Sharon started working the phones and that night it was on the TV news. That’s when the first album started shifting.”
—By Bill DeMain
Photo by Scott Weiner/Retna