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Week in Rock History: Ozzy Osbourne Bites the Head Off a Bleedin' Bat

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January 20, 1982: Ozzy Osbourne bites the head off a live bat during a concert
Perhaps you've heard this one before? While on tour in support of his second solo album, 1981's Diary of a Madman, former Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne shocked audiences at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines, Iowa, by biting the head off a live bat. It ­almost made sense in context: Osbourne had taken to hurling animal organs at his audiences, who in turn began to arrive armed with their own unsavory ammunition.

At the Des Moines concert, a bat was hurled at Ozzy's feet, where it laid stunned by the bright stage lights. Ozzy, thinking it was made of rubber, bit its head off (a move he'd perfected with a dove during a record label meeting in 1981) and learned quickly that it was real. Rushed to the hospital and treated for rabies, he never made that mistake again.

As Osbourne described in his memoir, I Am Ozzy (brace yourself):

Immediately, though, something felt wrong. Very wrong. For a start, my mouth was instantly full of this warm, gloopy liquid, with the worst aftertaste you could ever imagine. I could feel it staining my teeth and running down my chin. Then the head in my mouth twitched. Oh fuck me, I thought. I didn't just go and eat a fucking bat, did I?

January 20, 1993: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that Tom Waits can keep the money awarded to him after suing Frito-Lay
In the 1980s, chip manufacturer Frito-Lay decided that the perfect spokesman for their new Doritos ad campaign would be gravel-voiced singer-songwriter Tom Waits. The musician disagreed, however, and declined the offer to perform their jingle. Undeterred, Frito-Lay hired a sound-alike singer and released the commercial.

Incensed, Waits filed a lawsuit against the snack company in 1988, although the outcome was uncertain; impersonators graced many ads in that era. He was awarded approximately $2.4 million by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Frito-Lay appealed, claiming that they had not deliberately imitated Waits' distinctive voice.

The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where the justices voted in favor of Waits and allowed him to retain the money. It was an early, somewhat unexpected victory for independent artists against unauthorized impersonators. Only Bette Midler had won a similar suit, netting $400,000 over a 1986 Ford commercial that used an impersonator.

Take note, Pringles and Tostitos: Tom Waits will not sell your damn chips.



Last week: The Pixies Break Up

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Song Stories

“Money For Nothing”

Dire Straits | 1984

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