Rolling Stone interview series Unknown Legends features long-form conversations between senior writer Andy Greene and veteran musicians who have toured and recorded alongside icons for years, if not decades. All are renowned in the business, but some are less well known to the general public. Here, these artists tell their complete stories, giving an up-close look at life on music’s A list. This edition features bassist Bob Daisley.
Ozzy Osbourne has worked with many bass players throughout the course of his long solo career, but he undeniably did his best work with Bob Daisley. Not only was the bassist-lyricist part of the original Blizzard of Ozz band, where he co-wrote classics like “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley,” but he was brought back into the fold again and again throughout the Eighties and Nineties to help craft tunes like “Shot in the Dark,” “No More Tears,” and “Mama, I’m Coming Home.” Daisley and the singer haven’t spoken in nearly 25 years thanks to some messy legal battles, but had they never teamed up in the first place, Ozzy’s solo career would have unfolded in unimaginably different ways.
Daisley’s work with Ozzy alone should be enough to earn him a future sideman award from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but it’s only one part of the Sydney-born bassist’s amazing musical legacy. He also toured and recorded with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Ronnie James Dio, Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, Uriah Heep, and many others.
We phoned Daisley up at his house in Australia to hear how it all happened, and why he still hopes that one day he’ll manage to reconnect with Ozzy and finally mend things. (For an even deeper drive into Daisley’s life, check out his 2013 memoir For Fact’s Sake.)
It’s Tuesday here, but Wednesday where you are. So, how is tomorrow going?
[Laughs] I can tell you that the world doesn’t end on Wednesday.
I want to go back here and talk about your life. What’s your first memory of hearing music as a child that really reached you?
That was probably when I was two or three. My mom and dad both played the radio a lot, and bought old 78 records. I remember them buying things like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole and Paul Robeson. It was people with nice voices. There was no rock & roll at that point. By the mid-Fifties, Elvis and Bill Haley and all the rest of them had broken onto the scene. My ears were being filled with that.
A little bit later on, my older sister Norma started spending her pocket money on vinyl 45s of people like Ricky Nelson, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, and Buddy Holly. I was surrounded by that. It was a good environment for someone that was going to be in music.
Who were some of your favorite rock stars of the Fifties and early Sixties?
When I was 13, I was getting ready for high school and my mom had the radio on in the kitchen. I heard this song and went, “Wow, what’s that?” It sounded so different. It just grabbed my ears and my heart. I was like, “Wow, I’ve got to see what this is.” It was the Beatles and a song called “She Loves You,” which was one of their first singles. I was like, “Wow, God.” I couldn’t get enough of it.
A little bit later on, I discovered blues. That really rang a note in me. It struck a chord within me. Don’t forget, early-Sixties young white people didn’t know about blues. They didn’t know about Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf and all the greats. But the Rolling Stones came around and introduced people. They were like crusaders. I loved the Rolling Stones. I saw the original lineup of the Stones in early 1965 when I was 14.
The Sydney Showground. It was a pavilion called the Worker’s Pavilion. I was right near Bill Wyman. I’d only just started playing bass. That had a big effect on me. I thought that Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts were such a great rhythm section. They had great feel. They weren’t really virtuosos as such, but what a great feel. That was true for the whole band. They were delivering that blues feel in a palatable way for white kids to enjoy and understand.
And then came the Yardbirds and John Mayall and Cream and Hendrix and all that. Anything blues-oriented, for me, that’s what I loved. I still love the Beatles, and I love them to this day. I saw them in 1964 live. That was life-changing.
Was that without Ringo, when Jimmie Nicol was on drums?
No. I saw them all. Jimmie Nicol came out here because Ringo had tonsillitis or something. The first few shows were with Jimmie Nicol. And then he went back. By the time my sister and I saw the Beatles at Sydney Stadium, Ringo was with them. I think it might have been Ringo’s first night back. [Editor’s note: He rejoined them in Melbourne three days earlier.] And I was just so glad. I felt, “Wow, I gotta get the full set. I can’t get three Beatles and a stand-in.” It was just magic.
When did you start playing music yourself?
I was 12 and a door-to-door salesman came to the house selling music courses for a school that had local classes in a scout’s hall. My mum answered the door and he said, “Is there anyone in the house that would like to learn how to play an instrument?” My mum said, “Maybe my son.”
I went to the first class and loved it. It didn’t take very long before I was starting to think, “Wow, this is what I want to do.” And when I was in high school, we were being asked and even pressured into choosing a career. “Do you want to be a metal worker or a bank manager or an accountant?” I thought, “None of them. I want to be a musician.” By the time I was 15, that’s all I wanted to do. I was 100 percent.
What drew you to the bass?
At one of the guitar lessons, the teacher put on a little show where an instrumental band played some surf music. The bassist was playing a Fender bass through an amp and I thought, “Wow!” I loved the warmth of it, the strength of it. It was sort of the backbone of the music. I thought, “That’s what I want to do.” I went home to my mum and said, “I want to learn how to play bass. I don’t want to learn guitar anymore.”
To flash forward, tell me about joining Mecca.
Well, I was first in a band in Sydney called Dennis Williams and the Delawares, which was a sort of Beatle-esque band. We did a few originals, but a lot of covers of the day like Beatles and Stones and Animals and Kinks and all that stuff. When that band broke up, I joined Barrington Davis and the Powerpact. But we didn’t like the name and we changed it to Mecca in 1968.
Mecca eventually changed into Kahvas Jute. We did all original material. It was very progressive rock. I suppose we had our influences and you can hear the influences in the music. They were Cream, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, the Jeff Beck Group. All these bands were a big influence, but we developed our own sound as well. That album is revered today. It’s called Wide Open and is all original material. It was sort of the remnants of Mecca forming a new band with members of a group called Tamam Shud. We used to go gigs together and we formed a new band called Kahvas Jute.
Tell about moving to London and hooking up with Chicken Shack and Mungo Jerry.
I went to London in 1971. In early 1972, I joined Chicken Shack. The original singer was Christine McVie, who was Christine Perfect at the time. They were a name band and it was great for me to get into a name band after being in England for several months. I was cleaning flats and working in a restaurant. And then I joined Chicken Shack. They were under the same management as Mungo Jerry. And Ray Dorset was the main guy in Mungo Jerry, the one with the sideburns and the space in his front tooth.
I loved Mungo Jerry. It was blues music, but more Lead Belly and that kind of blues. They’d already had big hits, and a huge one with “In the Summertime.” They went off the scene for a bit after that, but Ray wanted to re-form Mungo Jerry with new players and be a bit more rock. The Chicken Shack management had a word to me and said, “We’d like to put you in Mungo Jerry with Ray Dorset. He’s reforming the band with new members. Would you be interested?”
I went down, had a play, and everyone got on great. They said, “Will you do it?” I agreed. It was more a career move more than anything else, I suppose. We did a new record. It flew up the charts and got near the top of the charts. That was “Alright, Alright, Alright.” That was a good, hard-hitting pop song. We did Top of the Pops and loads of shows around Europe and Scandinavia.
It was a big step forward, but they were being presented more as a pop band. And then some of the following records were a little bit too poppy for me. … I just wanted to play blues again.
So you went back to Chicken Shack.
I went back to Stan Webb in Chicken Shack. He got a new bottleneck player to play with him by the name of Robbie Blunt. He ended up with Robert Plant when Zeppelin broke up. He was a good player and we had a really good band. It had such a good vibe and you could tell that we really enjoyed it.
I have an album of us live in 1975. It was released a few years ago. I think it’s just called Chicken Shack Live in Germany 1975. It sold a good few copies and it really epitomizes the band and the music and the vibe of that time, what we were into.
To move on to Widowmaker, there was so much talent in that band. Why was it so short-lived?
[Lead singer] Steve [Ellis] had problems. Somebody smashed him with a brick or something and he had damage in the front of his head. His doctor said, “You shouldn’t be drinking.” But he used to sneak off and drink anyway. And when he drank, he turned into a different person. That became a big problem.
We were managed by Don Arden. They used to call him “The Godfather of Rock” because he was so hard-hitting and strong-armed. We were on tour one day and Steve went insane. He stormed into [guitarist] Luther [Grosvenor]’s room and kicked him in the nuts. He couldn’t walk for days. And so Don Arden called the rest of us into his room at the Plaza Hotel. His words were, “That cunt has got to go.” He was talking about Steve Ellis.
We finished the tour, got back to England, and auditioned John Butler, who I thought was a way better singer anyway. I preferred his voice tone. Then we did the second record, which was Too Late to Cry.
And we went on the road in America. But then we had more problems with fights and squabbles within the band. Luther ended up getting nutted by John Butler. He hit him and his eye turned about six different colors.
It doesn’t seem like this was a band destined to last, but it led to you joining Rainbow.
First off, I loved Widowmaker. I wanted to see it make it. It was my band as much as anyone’s. We weren’t working for someone else. It was our band. It was a democratic situation. But at the end of the last Widowaker tour, we were in Los Angeles to play at the Whisky a Go Go. I got a call about auditioning for Rainbow.
I thought to myself, “I’ll try this. I’ll go to the audition and I’ll see what happens.” I get there and there’s [drummer] Cozy [Powell], there was Ronnie James Dio, and there was Ritchie [Blackmore]. We played for about an hour or so, they went into one of the offices of the rehearsal place, and they came out and said, “You’ve got the gig if you want it.”
They’d already auditioned about 40 bass players. They couldn’t find somebody. That’s because there’s three main credentials you need for a band, usually, when you do an audition. You’ve gotta look the part, you’ve got to be able to get on with them, and you’ve got to be able to play.
I said, “I don’t know. I’ll think about it.” [Laughs] They must have thought, “You little fuck. Who the fuck do you think you are? This is Rainbow. We’re offering you the gig and you’re going to think about it?” But I did have to think about it. I wanted to know, for sure, that I wanted to make the move from Widowmaker into that.
Also, Ritchie had a bit of a reputation of chewing people up and spitting them out quite quickly. People that knew me were saying things like, “You could be gone in three months. You might end up with nothing.”
And so I played the Whisky that night with Widowmaker. At the end of the night, we went up to the dressing room and another squabble broke out. I was like, “Oh, fuck. Oh, God. Here we go again.” I said, “Fuck this.”
Ritchie saw me that night. He came to the show and told me he’d be at the Rainbow afterwards, which was just a few steps away. After the squabble, I said, “I’m going up to the Rainbow.” I packed my bag and walked out. What I meant was, “I’m going up to the Rainbow Bar and Grill.” But I also meant, “I’ve decided to join Rainbow.”
I walked in and Ritchie was at a booth by himself. When he saw me, he stood up and clapped. I thought, “Wow.” That meant a lot to me. Ritchie didn’t give compliments easily. That was a really good sign for me. He never suffered fools gladly. He was an aware person. He had the reputation of being cantankerous, but I got along fine with him. As long as you did your job, kept your head down, and went along with it. I had a drink with Ritchie that night. I think the very next day, I started rehearsals for Rainbow.
It was an interesting time for Rainbow. Punk was happening. New Wave is starting. It was a little past their peak. Did you feel like things were changing?
Things were changing, but this was 1977. The punk thing was just getting off the ground. It wasn’t that established. There were the Sex Pistols and the Ramones and some of those other bands that came out of CBGB in New York. But it was still finding its sea legs and wasn’t taken that seriously. The big bands — like Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Rainbow — were still very revered and they filled big halls everywhere they went.
At the time, a lot of people were saying, “This punk is shit. It’s rubbish. The Sex Pistols should go home.” But I understood what they were doing. If you’ve ever heard John Lydon, who is Johnny Rotten, he always speaks sense. I can always relate to what he says. He’s an intelligent man.
Was the period around Rainbow’s Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll a good time for you?
It was. Some of the tracks on Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll had been done. Ritchie played bass on a couple of tracks since they didn’t have a bass player. Ritchie as a bass player is a great guitarist, if you know what I mean. [Laughs] He’s a great guitarist, phenomenal, brilliant player. With bass, there are certain notes that a guitar player doesn’t play normally, or a feel, or an approach. I thought it was just a bit too tidy. But he did a good job. I got to play on about three tracks.
Did you and Ronnie bond quickly?
Oh, yeah. When I first joined the band, we rehearsed for about four or five weeks in L.A. As we rehearsed, I got on great with Cozy. We hung out a lot together and had breakfast or dinner together at Ben Franks in L.A. We used to go there a lot. We had a lot in common. Cozy and I were always reciting Monty Python, and so were Ronnie and Ritchie. We were all big Python fans.
I remember Ronnie always saying to me, “You’re in like Flynn. I’m going to take you under my wing.” He was great. There was nice camaraderie in that band, even though it was Ritchie’s band. It started out as Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, which I can understand since he’d just left Deep Purple. After a while, I think that used to rub Cozy and Ronnie the wrong way. They were like, “When are we going to drop the Ritchie Blackmore part?” And we did. It eventually became just Rainbow.
I think what happened with that band is Ritchie wanted more chart success. We had album success and all the shows were selling out and the reviews were great. In 1977 or 1978, we got the the live band of the year in Sounds magazine in England. We got the number-one live band of the year. The band was being received really well, but Ritchie wanted more chart success. He did want to become more commercial-orientated.
It was Ronnie and me that went first. And then Cozy got to the point where he just didn’t like the music and he left. But then Ritchie continued on with [vocalist] Graham Bonnet and then [bassist] Roger [Glover] came back in the band. And they had chart success with “Since You Been Gone” and “All Night Long” and all that. You can’t knock success. But for me, personally, I thought, “Oh, he sold out.”
How did your Ozzy Osbourne period start after that?
Well, Ronnie Dio phoned me when I went back to London. He said, “Obviously, we’re not going to get back together with Ritchie. The Rainbow thing is over. I’m going to put a new band together. I’ve got interest from record companies. I’m going to be looking for a guitarist and a keyboardist. Would you be interested?” I said, “Yeah.”
He told me he’d be in touch, and so I didn’t look for anything else. I was waiting for Ronnie. I thought, “This will be good.” But I went up the road one day and I bought Melody Maker. On the front, it said, “Ronnie James Dio Joins Black Sabbath.” I thought, “Oh? Thanks for telling me, Ron, while I’m siting around like a spare dick.”
Not long after that, I went to see this band Girl play at the Music Machine Camden. They had Phil Collen, who ended up in Def Leppard. They were on Jet Records, the same label as Widowmaker. I went backstage and spoke to some of the people from Jet, including Arthur Sharp. He had been working at Jet for a good while. He said, “Ozzy’s here tonight. Do you know Ozzy?” I said, “No, but I think I met him once when Black Sabbath did a show with Widowmaker.”
Anyway, I got to chatting with Ozzy and he said, “I’m putting a band together. Would you be interested?” He knew who I was and what I’d done, and I’d just come out of Rainbow. I said, “Yeah, OK.”
What happened from there?
I took a train out to Ozzy’s place. He had already auditioned Randy Rhoads at this point, and he told Randy that he had the gig. But then Ozzy went back to England and decided he really wanted to have an English band. Randy was still in America.
Two other guys were at Ozzy’s when I arrived. One of them had red hair. I can’t remember their names, but they were a guitarist and a drummer. They were OK. They were decent enough players, but not what you would call virtuosos or world class or that impressive or anything.
Ozzy had this little rehearsal room built on the side of his house. Ozzy and I went out into the kitchen. We made a cup of tea and started chatting. He said, “Do you want in?” He and I got on great. He phoned Arthur Sharp at Jet and said, “Bob’s here. We just had a knock together. We get on like a house on fire. The fire brigade’s just left.” Those were his words. I remember it like it was yesterday.
I said, “Yes, I am interested.” That’s because I liked Ozzy’s voice. I loved him as a guy. We got on really well straight away. I said, “To be honest with you, are you set on these other two guys?” He said, “Why?” I said, “They’re alright. They are good, but there’s no spark there. There is nothing special about the situation.” He said, “Wait a minute.” He then walked out of the kitchen, into the rehearsal space, and he said, “It’s alright, fellas. You can pack up and go home. It’s not working out.”
Then he came back into the kitchen and sat down. We were drinking tea. He said to me, “I met this guy in L.A. He’s a guitar teacher. He’s great.” I said, “Who is that, then?” He said, “His name is Randy Rhoads.” I said, “OK, let’s get him over then. That sounds better.”
We went to David Arden. And he still says it today. He said, “Against my better judgement, I paid for this young, unknown kid to fly to England.” He flew Randy over. What he meant by “against my better judgement” is that nobody had heard of him or even knew if he was a good player. Did Ozzy know that he was a good player? Ozzy wasn’t really a musician.
Tell me about first meeting Randy.
I went to Jet Records and met him. I had this vision in my mind of Randy because he’d been described to me by Ozzy as a guitar teacher. I expected to see some bloke with a cardigan and slippers and a pipe. [Laughs] I walked in and saw Randy. He was young. He was only 22 or something then. We met and went up on the train together to Ozzy’s place. We had a knock together. Ozzy had a friend of his that played drums for us. He wasn’t a professional drummer, but he could keep a beat while we had a knock together.
At the end of the first good play together, Randy and I looked at each other and virtually said the same words at the same time. It was something along the lines of, “I like your playing.” We immediately knew there was a spark there, and we began auditioning drummers.
At that time that Randy and I went up to Ozzy’s, Randy was staying in a hotel in London. They put him up in a hotel there, the Montcalm in the West End near the Marble Arch. After we played together the first time, we caught a train to London the next day. And when I was standing at Stafford Railway Station with Randy, I had this sort of premonition. I had this feeling. “One day, people are going to be asking me over and over again what it was like to play with Randy Rhoads.”
I didn’t have that much experience of playing with Randy at that point. It just came to me. I knew he was a good player and I knew it worked between us. That’s why I said, “Let’s get drummers lined up and audition and carry on.” But I remember that voice in my head, that premonition. And know when I look back, it did happen.
I want to ask you about a few songs you wrote. I think with “Crazy Train,” many people just hear the chorus and miss the broader message of the song. It’s about the state of the world then.
Yeah. Here I was, writing lyrics for the band. That’s because Randy wasn’t a lyricist. Ozzy wasn’t a lyricist. Geezer Butler used to write the lyrics in Black Sabbath. And I actually said, “I want to keep the band in self-sufficient mode. We don’t want to go outside the band for someone to write lyrics. Look, I’ll have to wear the lyricist hat.” And so I started to write the lyrics to the songs.
The thing I had to think about was that I was writing for the singer of Black Sabbath. I wasn’t going to write corny love songs or cliché stuff of, “Don’t leave me baby/I love you baby.” There’s nothing wrong with a good love song, but not for an act like that. I wanted to keep it away from the cliché things that were predictable and make it a little more philosophical with more of a message to it.
We’re talking 1979 when we came up with “Crazy Train.” Randy had that riff and that effect on his guitar that made it sort of sound like a chugging sound. I thought, “That sounds like a train.” But it was kind of psychedelic-sounding. I said, “A crazy train.” That’s where that title came from. I just came up with it at that point when Randy was getting his sound for it with these pedals and things.
Ozzy was, in some ways, a bit like me in being philosophical. He was a little bit worried about the state of the world. There were always threats of World War III, and the Cold War was raging between Russia and America. I wanted to interpret some of that into the song. The thing was, it was “Crazy Train” and it was “Crazy, but that’s how it goes/Millions of people living as foes.” Why? It’s all so foolish and silly that that should be happening on a potential paradise planet. It’s so unnecessary.
Tell me about “Mr. Crowley.”
That was Ozzy’s title, and it was obviously about Aleister Crowley. Because he was a satanist and into dark stuff and all that, I didn’t want to make a negative song. I wanted to make it a little bit like talking to Mr. Crowley and going, “What the fuck were you thinking? What were you doing? What went on in your head?” He used to sign his autograph “Polemically Aleister Crowley.” “Polemic” just means “controversial.” That’s why, at the end, I wrote, “polemically sent.”
I’ve heard fans say that “You Lookin’ at Me, Lookin’ at You” would have been a better choice for the album than “No Bone Movies.” Do you agree?
Well, yes and no. [Laughs] “You Lookin’ at Me, Lookin’ at You” was one of the first things that we actually did. It could have been the very first thing that we did. I know “Goodbye to Romance” was one of them. But “You Lookin’ at Me, Lookin’ at You” was put together and we thought it would go on the album.
But when we got to Ridge Farm [Studio] to actually make the album, [drummer] Lee Kerslake had only been in the band about a week. We auditioned all these drummers and didn’t find anybody. He was the last one we had to audition. And so we auditioned him and he was perfect. Randy and I looked at each other when he started to play and went, “Where the fuck has he been? Finally he turns up and he’s the last man standing, the last one to be auditioned.”
When we got to Ridge Farm, we thought, “Would it be fair to Lee to have something with his name on it, as well?” And so we worked up “No Bone Movies” with Lee and gave him a co-writing credit on that. That was why that was on the album. We kind of liked the way that it turned out. We had a little meeting about it. We said, “Let’s put ‘No Bone Movies’ on the album and we can use ‘You Lookin’ at Me, Lookin’ at You’ as a B side to ‘Crazy Train.’ “
That’s why that happened. But I can see why people say that. “No Bone Movies” is a little quirky. [Laughs] It’s supposed to be a little tongue-in-cheek. What happened is that we had gone to the city. This is Randy, Ozzy, me, and I think Sharon was there. We went to this porn cinema in the West End of London. Don’t forget, there was no internet, so porn cinemas were still there. Just for a laugh, we went. Randy had his girlfriend there, Jodi [Raskin-Vigier]. She was trying to take photos of the screen with a flash. [Laughs.]
When we got to Ridge Farm and we were recording, we came up with “No Bone Movies.” I used that term. It wasn’t a British term. That was an Americanism. It’s what Randy called them. We used to just call them blue movies or porn. But Randy called them bone movies. I thought, “I’ll use that in the title for the song.”
It was about a sex fiend, not anyone in particular, that’s addicted to porn and can’t leave himself alone. [Laughs.]
Black Sabbath beat you guys by releasing Heaven and Hell a few months before Blizzard of Ozz. It was a big hit. Was there some concern that Sabbath would be huge and the Ozzy record wouldn’t do as well and his solo career wouldn’t take off?
Ozzy was worried about that. I know he was concerned. It did whack him in the gut a bit that the new Black Sabbath with Dio did so well. Don’t forget, at that time, as you mentioned earlier, the punk thing was coming up. Some bands like Sabbath and Deep Purple and Zeppelin were kind of being considered dinosaurs. This wasn’t by a majority, but a minority of young people and punkers.
The only thing we could do was go into the studio, be ourselves, do our best, and like it or not. That’s what we did. We didn’t go in trying … ”What would be a good single? What will be a hit single? How can we make this album a commercial hit album?”
We didn’t do any of that. It was just, “Go in. Play how you play. Work together. See what you do. See if people like it.”
I think the honesty of that, the authenticity of what we really were, comes out in the music, the joy in it, the belief in it. We weren’t pretentious in any way. It was just go in, do what you do, and do it as good as you can, and we did. I think that holds up in the record of how it turned out.
They let you go from the band right after recording Diary of a Madman. What happened?
During that tour in 1980, when we just had the first album out, Ozzy and Sharon kept pulling me aside and saying, “Let’s get rid of Lee. Let’s get Tommy Aldridge in the band.” And I’d never agree. It wasn’t because of any sort of blind loyalty to Lee or anything. I just thought the band was working so well. Why fix something that wasn’t broken? I couldn’t agree to something I thought was wrong. I said, “Sorry, I can’t agree.”
They asked me several times and I would never agree. And then even Tommy Aldridge turned up to one of the shows, which I thought was a bit distasteful. Lee didn’t know. But then we went into Ridge Farm in February of 1981 and began Diary. As soon as that was finished, I phoned my mum. I said, “We’ve just about finished the album.” She said, “What’s going to happen then?” I said, “We’re probably going to America next week and then go on the road to promote both albums.” She said, “Well, you won’t.” I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “You might think you are, but you’re not. And neither will the drummer.”
She didn’t even know Lee. She just knew. I actually said to her, “This time, mom, you’re wrong. There’s no time. That’s it.”
I think we did a couple more days at Ridge Farm, finished recording, and then a couple days later I got the phone call from Sharon. “It’s over.” I still remember her words.
She didn’t explain why?
No. I think they wanted to get rid of Lee. They wanted to get Tommy Aldridge in the band. The only way to do that would be to get rid of me as well, and then ask me back, which did happen. About six weeks later, I got the phone call from Sharon. I had a meeting with her and the accountant and she said, “Whether you come back in the band is one thing, but we want you to write for and play on the next album.”
That was Bark at the Moon, which was meant to be with Randy, Tommy Aldridge, me, Ozzy, and probably Don Airey. But then in early 1982, when it was all planned we’d do the album that year, Randy was killed in a plane crash on the 19th of March. That was all put back. And then they got Jake E. Lee. That’s when we did the Bark at the Moon album.
You were infamously not credited for your playing on Diary of a Madman; the album listed Rudy Sarzo as the bassist. How did you feel when you looked at Diary and saw Rudy’s name there and not your own?
Lee and I were in the studio with Uriah Heep. We put them back together. They became defunct for several months or a year. Lee phoned Mick Box and was like, “Let’s put Uriah Heep back together. Bob is interested.” We got John Sinclair on keyboards and Peter Goalby on vocals. We had another good band. We were in the studio and we went into the office and somebody had a copy of the Diary of the Madman record. When we opened up, we just freaked. They had taken everything away from us. They credited Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo on the album we played on. They didn’t even play a note on it.
They also took our production credits off it. Max Norman at Ridge Farm was the house engineer. He was a good engineer. We got on great with him. He engineered the first album. You’ll notice on the first album, he’s credited just as “engineer” and it says it was produced by us. That’s what we wanted. By the second album, he was house engineer at Ridge Farm when we went back to record Diary. It was actually my suggestion: “Let’s give Max a production credit since he’s become part of us.”
That was agreed. But when the album came out, Lee and I didn’t get credit for playing on it. We had our songwriting credits, that was all good. That was still on there. But it says, “Produced by Max Norman, Ozzy Osbourne, and Randy Rhoads.” And so we got left off production as well. And I put some good ideas into those songs for production. I didn’t mind Max having a production credit, but I would have liked one myself.
They bring you back for Bark at the Moon, but it says, “All music and lyrics by Ozzy Osbourne.” How did that happen?
I can’t speak for Jake. I don’t know what his situation was. I know he’s spoken out about it. I won’t go into his side of things. My side of things was, I had signed publishing with Uriah Heep. We had a discussion about buying the songs from me and me getting a lump sum. The other thing I had to take into consideration was this was a new band. Ozzy and I were the only ones from those first two albums. Lee had gone. Randy had died. It could have flopped. Nobody knew what it was going to do.
We had a deal where I just got paid to do the songs and play on it, and not have credit for writing. It was a hard pill to swallow, let me tell you, when I put that much into it and just got paid off, but what’s what I agreed to. I can’t complain about that, although it did look pretty awful when the album came out and it said, “All songs written by Ozzy Osbourne.”
What inspired “Now You See It (Now You Don’t)”?
It was just a sex innuendo. I was in the Hard Rock Cafe with Jake E. Lee and I mentioned “now you see it; now you don’t,” meaning a dick going in and out. That’s all it was about. He laughed and said, “You should use that.” And I did. It just refers to someone fucking.
What’s your best memory of playing the US Festival?
I remember it was pretty nerve-racking. Ozzy had a bass player named Don Costa. I don’t know what he did, but he did something since Ozzy whacked him in the nose. I think he had to pay for a nose job since he broke it. And then Ozzy phoned me and said, “Can you do the US Festival?”
I was supposed to come in after that to write for Bark at the Moon. But he said, “Can you come in earlier? Also, I want you to do the US Festival.” That was like two days away. I was like, “Fuck. I haven’t played those songs for two years. How the fuck are we going to do that?”
I was jet-lagged when we went onstage and tired and had been up half the night rehearsing. I was pretty tired. I didn’t know if I wanted a shit or a haircut. We were flown in by helicopter because when you’re talking 400,000 people, it was like the size of Woodstock. It was an ocean of people. As far as you could see, it was people. It was amazing.
I remember it was really hot. It wasn’t humid, which was a saving grace, but it was really hot. It was like 110 degrees or something. But it was pretty nerve-racking to do a show like that after two rehearsals and being jet-lagged.
Was The Ultimate Sin a good experience for you?
Not really, no. Jake and I had been knocking together material in Palm Springs. Tommy Aldridge was there on drums. Ozzy was in the Betty Ford Center for rehabilitation off drugs and alcohol and all the rest of it. He used to come out on a day pass to rehearse. [Laughs] But it was mainly Jake and I. We were putting songs together musically and all that.
When we got back to London, we were looking at drummers since Tommy left to join Whitesnake. One day, Ozzy and I had a bit of a fallout. We had to go into the studio to record four songs just so the record company could hear what we were doing. A lot of the rehearsal time, Ozzy didn’t show up. It was just me and Jake and various drummers just keeping the beat as we put the stuff together.
And then Ozzy showed up at the studio. He started drinking again and smoking pot and all the rest of it. Once he got into the frame of mind where he wasn’t straight, he wanted to make changes. I said, “Ozzy, we have just one weekend to do four songs and get them recorded and mixed and out the door to the record company on Monday.”
I started to get a bit annoyed with him since he was wanting to change things. I said, “If you’re not happy with it and want to make changes, maybe you should have gone to rehearsals.” That was it. He got all pissed off. “You can fuck off! And take that Jake with you!” That’s what he said. I don’t know what Jake had done. [Laughs.]
But I got a phone call from Ozzy saying, “We can’t work together.” That was it. I was gone. But then, about a month or six weeks later, he phoned. He had Phil Soussan playing bass then. He goes, “Well, can you write the lyrics?” I thought, “Well, I’ve already put a lot of the songs together with Jake. I may as well do the lyrics, otherwise I might as well get fucked out of everything.”
There was no offer of, “You worked on all the other songs and here’s your offer.” There wasn’t even an offer to give me credit. There was none of that. So I said, “OK, I’ll write the lyrics.” And so I sat at home, wrote the lyrics, and took them up to Ozzy in London from time to time. He loved them all and used them. That was it for that album. I helped put the music together with Jake and I wrote all the lyrics. But to be honest, when I heard that record, even Ozzy said he hated it. I didn’t like it either. I don’t think it represented what Ozzy was or who he was or what he was about.
It was produced by Ron Nevison and I don’t think he did the right job. I heard it as a different thing. He was a bit of a weird bloke and it didn’t really work out. Ozzy called it The Ultimate Din instead of The Ultimate Sin. [Laughs] And the first pressings that came out, I didn’t even get a mention. Nothing. Not even my songwriting credits, or anything. And the first half million had shipped! They came and went without my credit. And then they fixed it and it kept on selling, but the first half million went out without my credit.
How did you briefly wind up in Black Sabbath after this?
I wasn’t actually in Black Sabbath. I got a phone call from their producer, Jeff Glixman. He phoned me from Montserrat, where they were recording [The Eternal Idol] with Dave Spitz on bass. He had to go home to take care of some personal issues. And I’d worked with Jeff Glixman when I was with Gary Moore. He phoned me and said, “Do you want to do a Sabbath album?” I said, “Well, I’m not doing anything else, so sure.”
I was with Gary Moore at that time. I’d actually joined his band. But I had to some time off and went off to Montserrat to play on the album. And then Tony Iommi and [Sabbath manager] Patrick Meehan asked me to write lyrics. I know Ray Gillen had some lyrics down, some lines and bits and pieces. But I wrote most of them.
They did ask me to join the band. But Eric Singer was the drummer at the time and I knew he wasn’t happy with the way the band was being handled. I think the money situation and what was going on managerially … he was leaning towards leaving. I think Ray Gillen wasn’t happy either. I didn’t want to get on a ship that was sinking.
Plus, I was happy working with Gary Moore. It was a prestigious gig since Gary was so well-respected. I loved Gary and I got on like a house on fire with him. We were good mates. I thought, “I’m not going to leave that to join Sabbath.” I turned it down and said, “I’ll help you with lyrics. I’ll write them and you just pay me.” They paid me some decent dough to do the lyrics, and I did do that. I wasn’t actually in the band, but they did ask me.
I think that album is very underrated. I thought it turned out great, The Eternal Idol. I thought that was a great Sabbath album. Tony Iommi is just a riffmeister. Every riff he comes up with … People come up with riffs and they can come up with lots of riffs. Some of them are OK and some are good. Everything he does was like, “Wow, what a great riff.” He’s like that. He’s the ultimate riffmeister as far as that sort of music goes.
Was Ozzy’s No Rest for the Wicked a better experience than The Ultimate Sin?
Oh, definitely. No Rest for the Wicked was a good experience. I enjoyed that a lot. That was in 1987. I co-wrote all the music with Zakk [Wylde]. We used to sit opposite each other on chairs and put it all together. And then I wrote all the lyrics for it. That was a good experience. I love that album. It has good songs on it.
“Miracle Man” is great.
That was about Jimmy Swaggart. At the time, he was being in the press as a bible-thumping born-again Christian with the threat of hell and all that stuff, and then he got caught in a hotel with a hooker. [Laughs] He was on TV and he was being interviewed and started crying. It’s not up for anyone to judge him, but we had to make a satirical song. And so “Miracle Man” I made about him. Ozzy had the title “Miracle Man” and I made it about him. I think I actually used the name Jimmy Swaggart in the song at first, but Ozzy wanted to change it to Jimmy Sinner.
Another song I really like on that album is “Demon Alcohol.” I like the lyrics on that. I remember we were out to dinner one night. We were in Santa Fe. I think [drummer] Randy Castillo lived in Santa Fe and we were out to see him. We were rehearsing and we went out to dinner one night. Sharon was there and Randy brought his wife. I think [keyboardist] John Sinclair was there, and me and Ozzy, obviously. Ozzy was drinking again and I said something about the “demon alcohol.” And I said, “We should have a song called ‘Demon Alcohol.’”
I was proud of those lyrics. I thought what I put in it really hit the nail on the head with what people with an alcohol problem go through. I made it sort of like the demon alcohol talking to the person.
For the tour, he brought in Geezer Butler.
I was supposed to be doing the tour, and then out of blue it was, “No, we’re going to use Geezer.” I was psyched since I played on the whole album and co-wrote the whole album. And now I was supposed to be in the videos. And all of sudden, it was “No, you’re not doing it. We’re getting Geezer.”
I don’t know what happened. We hadn’t had any fallout. I hadn’t done anything wrong. Who knows? I really don’t know the answer to that one. Maybe he and Ozzy got together and had a drink together and maybe Ozzy got a little bit pissed and had too many drinks and invited Geezer back. I know when Geezer’s mom died, I got the phone call. “Can you fill in for Geezer for a couple of days?” And so I went out and did one or two shows.
It was then that Ozzy told me, “Geezer had to learn all your bass lines. He thinks you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread.” That was nice.
I flew in and saw the show with Geezer playing. I stood at the side of the stage and watched. He went, “Oh, God, you made me nervous, you watching the show like that.” He respected me, which was really nice. It was nice of him to say that. I got on fine with Geezer. There was never any hard feelings or animosity between me and Geezer.
There’s a real pattern here. They use you on the record, they set you aside or replace you, and then they realize they need you and they bring you back.
Well, a lot of that happened because of the lawsuits with Don Arden and Jet Records. I can’t go into too much detail because of the legal situation. But Lee and I were suing Jet Records. Sharon had a big fallout with her father. She was going to help us with our lawsuit. I kept going back to work with Ozzy while that was going on. But the details are in my book. If anyone wants the full story, it’s in there.
I love No More Tears. It’s my favorite post-Randy Ozzy album. Tell me about working on that one.
I got the phone call right at the last minute. I think it was Sharon that phoned me. She said, “We’re in the studio. We’re doing the next album. And Ozzy’s not happy with how it’s sounding. Would you come in and do the album?” I said, “I don’t know. I’d have to think about it.” I still remember she said, “Well, don’t think too long.”
She called back the next day or whatever. Ozzy came on the phone. He sounded a bit drunk. He was in L.A. and he said, “Come on, Bob. You’ve got to do this album. You owe me that much.” I said, “I owe you that much. Fucking A. Blimey.”
Anyway, I agreed. I went in and did the album. That was another one where it was a last minute thing. I was in a hotel room with a tape of the songs, sitting there playing along to them, coming up with parts to go with the songs. The [bassist] from Alice in Chains … Mike Inez. He was a lovely guy. He was there before me, and there were no hard feelings even though I was playing on the album that he had started. Ozzy just wanted me on it because we had a certain rapport and a certain sound together that Ozzy wanted to keep going.
Michael was a lovely guy. He used to come in, listen, and when he saw me, he called me “crème de la crème,” which was very nice of him. There was never any animosity. Lovely guy, and he’s a good player, too. That opening riff to “No More Tears,” he came up with that initial idea. I changed where some of it fell on the beat, and I did the rest of the song on my own, but he came up with that little opening line. I’m always one for credit where it’s due.
Tell me about “Mama, I’m Coming Home.”
That was a good one. I was using a fretless bass on maybe two or three tracks. It just suited it. It just worked so well. I remember Randy Castillo came in the recording room when I was recording one of those songs on a fretless bass, maybe that one. He didn’t really like it. He goes, “What is this? Ozzy’s jazz album?” But it turned out great and it worked well. I enjoyed doing the album. It was good.
They asked me to write lyrics for it and I started writing lyrics. I had about six or seven sets down. And then all of a sudden I got the phone call. “No, forget it. We’re using someone else. You’re going home tomorrow.” And that was it. Bye. Gone. See you.
I think it’s no coincidence that that’s the last great Ozzy record and it’s your last record with him.
[Laughs] You’re not the only one to say that. That’s been said over and over and over. But I wouldn’t put it down to just me being on it. I think there was a rapport between Ozzy and me. We had a thing that worked with the writing, the vibes, the energies. It worked so well.
That’s why when the band was first together with Lee and Randy and me, it was just a magic energy and a magic chemistry. That’s why I didn’t want to disturb that by getting rid of Lee, which is why I’d never agree to that. While I was recording No More Tears, I was in the control room with Ozzy. That’s where I would record, sitting on a chair next to him and the producer. Ozzy actually said to me, “You know, you were right about Lee.”
I was like, “Oh, God.” This is about 12 years later. But I didn’t say any more about it. I just bit my tongue. I thought, “This is pointless now.” I didn’t want to say, “Why the fuck couldn’t you see that back then? Why didn’t you listen to me?” But that was water under the bridge and I didn’t want to take it any further, so I let it go.
Moving ahead a bit, how did you wind up on tour with Ronnie James Dio in 1998?
I think Wendy [Dio] got in touch with me. I moved to Australia the year before. I think Ronnie had a bass player. I don’t know what happened, whether he had to leave or Ronnie fired him or he had something to take care of. I can’t remember. But Wendy phoned me and said, “Look, we’re doing a tour in Scandinavia. We need a bass player. Do you want to do it?” I said, “Yeah, alright.”
I’d hung out with Ronnie when I was in L.A. We were still in touch and still getting on fine. I agreed to do it. I think it was about a three-week tour of Scandinavia. And it was in November, so it was very cold. It was icy.
You’re playing “Man on the Silver Mountain” again along with all these Rainbow songs you last did together in the Seventies.
Yeah. That was a good band. Tracy G was the guitarist. He’s a nice guy. He and I got on great together. It was good.
I’ll spare you and everyone the details of the lawsuits you filed against Ozzy for unpaid royalties. People can read about that in your book. But how did it feel to learn that they’d re-recorded your parts on the first two Ozzy records?
To be honest with you, I thought it was pathetic. Someone sent me a copy of one of them, and I laughed. I thought, “Is this a joke?” I just didn’t think it was done right. The thing is, you can’t reheat a soufflé. You can’t take the ingredients out of a cake and then try and bake it again. It happened once. We did various takes of each song and we used the parts where each of us shined the best. There might be five takes of “Crazy Train” or four takes of something else, or eight takes of something else, and we picked the one that had the best vibe. And it was four people being recorded in a room together. You can’t change that.
And the fans hated them for it. It was like, “God, you’ve got no respect for the fans and everyone that spends money on this music.” They were hated for it. I’m just quoting what fans said, not me.
When’s the last time you talked to Ozzy?
Not long after I got to Australia when I moved here in 1997. It might have been the end of that year, so around 1997, ’98. He was here to do some sort of promotional or radio thing. I met him at his hotel and we had a cup of tea together. We sat and chatted and laughed and all the rest of it. We had a good time. It was nice. That was the last time.
Are you hoping to one day do that again? Just to make peace after all this time?
It would always be nice. I never say never. I don’t burn bridges. It would be nice. Even if I never work with him again, it would be nice to sit down and reminisce. Like I said at the end of the book, what we did affected people in a positive way and we were meant to do it. It was a good thing to do. I’m proud of it. We made a lot of people happy with what we did. It would be nice to discuss that and reminisce on it.
I think it’s never too late to make peace with someone.
Someone can be on their death bed and you’ll go and make peace with them.
I want to touch on a few more things, starting with Gary Moore. Why do you think more Americans didn’t know about him?
I don’t know why that happened. I remember when we did an American tour in 1987 with Gary. We were going down a storm, doing great. Gary was so happy with the way things were doing. But people were saying things like, “He sounds like John Sykes.” But Gary had been a huge influence on John Sykes. John Sykes is a great player. I remember being backstage with John Sykes at the Rock in Rio festival. That was the beginning of 1985. John Sykes and I were talking. He was in Whitesnake and I was with Ozzy. He and I were saying, “We should do some stuff together.”
And when I did my tribute to Gary Moore album, I had to get John Sykes on the track, for sure. I knew John had thought very highly of him and Gary had been an influence on him.
But like you say, Gary wasn’t very well-known in America. People were saying he sounded a bit like John Sykes. But they’re both great players. John Sykes is a great player. But Gary was phenomenal. He really was. He’s one of the best ever, I would say.
How was your experience in the Hoochie Coochie Men with Jon Lord?
That was lovely. A very nice experience. Jon Lord was a real gentleman, a first class musician. We got on real great together, musically and personality-wise. We only did three shows together here that were filmed. You can see it on a DVD called Jon Lord with the Hoochie Coochie Men: Live at the Basement.
I phoned Jon a couple of years after that to say, “We’ve got to do another album.” And his wife answered and said, “Yeah. We love that album. Do another one.” I talked to Jon and we were going to do another studio album, and then he was diagnosed with cancer and then he was gone, I think, the next year. That was very sad.
Why did you move back to Australia in the late Nineties?
Fuck knows. [Laughs] Good question. I often ask myself that.
There’s no answer?
Not really. I suppose, at the time, I was in [the band] Mother’s Army and I was going back and forth from San Francisco. That’s a 13-hour flight. I thought, “It doesn’t really matter where I’m based. I can go back there.” But I was sorry I did, to be honest.
Do you ever think about leaving?
Not now. It would be too much of a life upheaval and it’s so stressful. It’s stressful enough moving houses. When you have to move to another country, it’s just major stress.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just done an album with the drummer of the Hoochies, Rob Grosser. We’ve come up with an instrumental album. It’s not really a band. It’s just me and Rob, and there’s one or two guests. But 95 percent of it is just me and Rob. I’m just so pleased with it. It’s turned out so well.
I’ve called the band the Upstarts. It’s a name that’s not too serious. It’s a little bit cheeky. It’s instrumental stuff and some of it is just modern surf music with a bit of Pink Floyd thrown in. Some of it sounds ideal for television or movie themes. It has got that sort of vibe about it. And I love it. There’s not one person I’ve played it to that doesn’t like it. Everyone says, “I love this. It’s really good.”
It’s easy to listen to. It’s pleasant. Some of it is a little trippy and spacey, a bit Pink Floyd–ish at parts, but it’s really nice stuff. It was such a pleasure for us to work together and do it. That element goes into the music of being enjoyable to do. It’s enjoyable to listen to. That’ll be out this year, within a couple of months. There’s no album title. It’s just the Upstarts. I’m very pleased. It’s really nice to do something different.
You never think about putting the bass away and retiring?
No. I don’t really want to go on the road anymore. I mean, look at the world at the moment. But even before all this bullshit, going on the road and traveling was getting worse and worse and worse anyway because of all this security stuff. It’s just not enjoyable. Plus, at this age, you need to be at the very, very top with flights and the best hotels, all that stuff. I’ve done all that.
But I’d never retire. I’d probably play the last note and retire after that. [Laughs.]
Looking over all your credits is pretty incredible. You’ve just played with so many of the greats.
I feel grateful that I’ve had great opportunities and situations to have played with so many greats. Obviously, they didn’t have me there to do me a favor. I was doing my job. We got on great together and created together. But I do feel privileged and honored to have played with so many greats.
A lot of people have had one or two great bands or one or two great albums. But I played with so many of the true greats. It’s a great feeling.