Gimme a Reason takes classic albums celebrating major anniversaries and breaks down song by song the reasons we still love them so many years later. Today, we celebrate 40 years of Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz.
Next year marks the 40th anniversary of Ozzy Osbourne’s groundbreaking debut album, Blizzard of Ozz. To celebrate, you can preview or stream music from Ozzy Osbourne here. Bonus: We’re also giving away his new career-spanning vinyl box set, See You on the Other Side.
Almost 40 years ago, Ozzy Osbourne released his debut solo album, Blizzard of Ozz. When he did, there was no reason to believe the record would be a hit, let alone rewrite the rules of hard rock music. The year prior, Osbourne had been let go from his position as singer of seminal heavy metal band Black Sabbath. Ozzy, who cannot play an instrument and knows no music theory, was replaced by virtuoso singer Ronnie James Dio. Ozzy’s response was a now-legendary bender.
Enter Sharon Arden, Ozzy’s future wife and manager. Sharon roused Osbourne from his stupor and helped him assemble a powerhouse band, which recorded a nearly perfect record.
Ozzy’s secret weapon was a young, Californian guitarist named Randy Rhoads. A technical wizard with a love of classical music, Rhoads essentially rewrote the book on heavy metal lead guitar in his own image on Blizzard of Ozz. His articulate and furious guitar solos laid the groundwork for a generation of shredders to follow, and his disdain for typical chord progressions yielded a suite of melodic curveballs, from the progressive mini-opera of “Revelation (Mother Earth)” to the sharpened blast of “Steal Away (The Night)” and, of course, his crowning achievement, the immortal radio hit “Crazy Train”. It’s difficult to imagine the Gothic grandiosity of Mercyful Fate or the baroque lava guitars of Trey Azagthoth and Morbid Angel without Rhoads and Blizzard of Ozz.
Tragically, Rhoads died in a plane crash in 1982 after recording just one more album with Ozzy. He was just 25 years old, and there’s no telling what he and Osbourne would have gone on to accomplish together. Thankfully, we’ll always have Blizzard of Ozz.
Click through to see 40 reasons why we still love Blizzard of Ozz. All aboard!
Be sure to listen into The Opus: Blizzard of Ozz when it launches October 24th with host Andy Bothwell, aka Astronautalis. Never miss an episode by subscribing now. You can also revisit a selection of Ozzy Osbourne’s best tracks via all major streaming services.
Click ahead for 40 reasons we still love Blizzard of Ozz…
“I Don’t Know”
01. What an intro. Ominous introductions are de rigueur for metal records, but this one’s impressive. Randy Rhoads’ pick slide gives barely any hint that he’s about to redefine lead guitar playing, and the gong hit and bass fill by Bob Daisley seal the deal, all before the Ozzman opens his mouth.
02. “People look to me and say/ When is the end, when is the final day?” Ozzy sets the record’s apocalyptic and also confessional tone early. The first verse in “I Don’t Know” positions him as a reluctant false prophet searching for a silver lining. He maintains this attitude toward his career to this day.
03. Rhoads’ tap-happy lead guitar style, at once revolutionary and deeply reverential to classical music, set the bar for lead playing in heavy metal from this point forward. His first solo, brief though it is, lays all of his shredding skills on the line right up front.
04. When Blizzard of Ozz was released, Rhoads’ guitar style made a splash overnight. Before, he’d been the lead guitarist in LA-area band Quiet Riot, who hadn’t been able to break out of their local circuit, and whose first two albums had only been available in Japan. Future Slaughter bassist Dana Strum peer-pressured him into auditioning for Ozzy’s post-Sabbath project. He got the job after Ozzy had only heard him warming up.
05. Ozzy chose to begin his first solo record with an essential piece of his discography. “I Don’t Know” hasn’t left his live setlist since its release.
06. Controlled, catchy, and aggressive, “I Don’t Know” sent a powerful message when it was released: that Ozzy would not be undone by his firing from Black Sabbath. Reportedly, Ozzy went on a legendary bender after being sacked from the legendary heavy metal outfit until Sharon Arden coached him into starting a new project. Arden is now Ozzy’s wife, Sharon Osbourne. As such, Blizzard of Ozz is the soundtrack to one of rock’s great Cinderella Man stories.
07. All aboard! “Crazy Train”, the lead single of Blizzard of Ozz, remains Ozzy’s most famous song. It reached No. 9 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart in 1981. As of this writing, it’s amassed millions of plays on Spotify, and, as a ringtone, it’s been certified double platinum. According to Setlist.fm, it’s Ozzy’s most-played song live with well over 1,000 performances.
08. Rhoads’ infectious riff, which covers the entire minor scale, was instantly iconic. Guitarist Greg Leon, who took Rhoads’ place in Quiet Riot, says he helped him write the lick when the two of them were playing with the tune to Steve Miller’s “Swingtown”.
09. To this day, “Crazy Train” remains a staple of hard rock radio (including Ozzy’s Sirius XM channel, Ozzy’s Boneyard).
10. Miami rapper Trick Daddy prominently sampled the “Crazy Train” riff on his 2004 song “Let’s Go”. The song, featuring Lil Jon and Twista, was an instant crunk classic, and reached No. 7 on the Billboard Singles charts, making it Trick Daddy’s most successful song. It’s also his most-streamed song on Spotify at over 57 million plays — such is the power of Rhoads’ riffage, even postmortem.
11. “Crazy Train” is so inexorably tied to Ozzy as a public figure that a cover of it — performed by Pat Boone soundalike Lewis Lamedica –was the theme song to The Osbournes, the MTV reality TV series about Ozzy, Sharon, and their family.
12. Cold War paranoia, and the mental cost it exerts on everyday people, is the central theme in “Crazy Train”. Ozzy’s a longtime peacenik, and this theme would follow him throughout his career. Many thrash bands, including Metallica, Megadeth, and Nuclear Assault, also picked up on the Cold War as a lyrical theme years later.
13. Donald Trump played “Crazy Train” in a Twitter video in 2019, prompting a sharp response from Osbourne. Ozzy and Sharon have since forbidden Trump from using any of the Ozzman’s songs in the future.
“Goodbye to Romance”
14. Rhoads’ love of classical music extends beyond its application to sick riffs and face-shredding solos. The waltz-like acoustic guitar figure that anchors “Goodbye to Romance” is deeply indebted to the baroque tradition in classical music.
15. “Goodbye to Romance” was the first song written for Blizzard of Ozz. Ozzy intended it as a farewell to his former bandmates and the beginning of his successful solo career.
16. The band originally intended “Goodbye to Romance” to be the first single from Blizzard of Ozz. Jet records, however, wanted a different song. The band put together the unreleased tune “You Said It All” before finally writing and recording “Crazy Train”.
17. On the subject of production mishaps, Blizzard of Ozz wasn’t meant to be the title of the album at all. Originally, it was the name of the band itself and a double entendre winking at Ozzy’s cocaine habit. When the record was finally released with Ozzy’s name in a bigger font, the band became a solo project. Reportedly, Rhoads was furious, but the record’s success and his friendship with Ozzy convinced him to stick it through.
18. Though Rhoads became a highly influential guitar icon during his time with Ozzy, “Dee” is his only studio-recorded guitar solo composition in the Ozzy Osbourne catalog.
19. Ozzy was kicked out of Black Sabbath shortly after a tour where they were played off the stage nightly by a little band called Van Halen. For his solo project, Ozzy needed a guitarist as forceful as Eddie Van Halen — which Randy Rhoads was. While Eddie packed as much flashiness as he could into songs like “Eruption”, a solo piece on Van Halen’s debut album, Rhoads opted instead for acoustic, understated, and pastoral on “Dee”. These curveball choices kept Rhoads’ all-too-brief career both unpredictable and fascinating.
Click ahead to find more reasons we’re still all aboard with Blizzard of Ozz…
20. Ozzy claimed the lyrics to “Suicide Solution” were influenced by the alcohol-related death of his friend, AC/DC singer Bon Scott. However, it’s also been said that the song was about Ozzy himself, giving new insight into Osbourne’s struggles and showing him at his most vulnerable.
21. The bass-led breakdown in the middle of the song perfectly captures its hazy, boozy subject. Ozzy’s psychedelic vocal hits here, giving the song a totally delirious feeling.
22. Ozzy was exonerated after the dismissal of a lawsuit that was brought against him by parents who blamed their son’s death on “Suicide Solution”. The case was an important one in terms of First Amendment rights for musicians.
23. The synthesizer intro to “Mr. Crowley” remains spooky and iconic more than 30 years later; the synths totally capture the imagination through a set of stereo headphones. The intro was recorded by keyboardist Don Airey.
24. Keyboards have been essential to the Ozzy’s solo sound since Blizzard of Ozz; however, synthesizers were not considered fashionable in hard rock at the time. Ozzy’s keyboardists usually played behind a curtain or backstage during live performances, even though they frequently contributed backup vocals.
25. “Mr. Crowley” is Ozzy’s second contribution to Crunk music. Birdman sampled Don Airey’s intro on his 2007 song “100 Million”, featuring Jeezy, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne. It wasn’t a hit the way “Let’s Go” was, but it still benefits from the swagger and ominous mood of “Mr. Crowley”. Rick Ross would also appear on “Stop” by Dj Khaled and The Game three years later, which also samples the intro to “Mr. Crowley”.
26. “Mr. Crowley” is about (in)famous British occultist and author Aleister Crowley, whose magical experiments, substance intake, and sexual escapades remain legendary. Crowley also made a name for himself as an author with his memoir, Diary of a Drug Fiend. Crowley remains a staple of metal legend. Jimmy Page purchased his manor, Boleskine House, and bands like Triptykon and Behemoth (among many others) have also written songs that deal with his life and teachings.
27. Ozzy’s vocal performance on “Mr, Crowley” might be his most mournful and elegiac. However, he doesn’t pronounce Aleister Crowley’s name correctly. It should rhyme with “slowly”.
28. “Mr. Crowley” might contain some of the best lyrics in Ozzy’s career, including Black Sabbath. One couplet in particular stands out. “Mr Crowley, won’t you ride my white horse?/ Mr. Crowley, it’s symbolic, of course.” These lines pay homage to death’s steed in the Book of Revelation while winking at Ozzy and Aleister’s shared history with cocaine. Then he rubs the metaphorical gummy in the listener’s face, just to make sure everyone gets the gag.
29. “Mr. Crowley” was the second single from Blizzard of Ozz and nearly as successful as “Crazy Train”.
30. The first half of Blizzard of Ozz serves as the essential core of Ozzy’s solo discography. “I Don’t Know”, “Crazy Train”, “Suicide Solution”, and, finally, “Mr. Crowley” are Ozzy’s four most-performed songs, with over 1,000 live performances each according to Setlist.fm. His fifth- and sixth most-performed songs are “Paranoid” and “Iron Man”, both tunes from his time in Black Sabbath.
“No Bone Movies”
31. “No Bone Movies” was the last song written for Blizzard of Ozz. The song’s lyrics were inspired by the band’s visit to a porno film, which Rhoads’ called a “bone movie.”
32. The song was intended as a B-side. Now, it’s hard to imagine the album without it!
“Revelation (Mother Earth)”
33. At six minutes long, “Revelation (Mother Earth)” is the longest song on Blizzard of Ozz. Its length, complex nonlinear structure, and lush arrangement hearken back to the golden era of British progressive rock and suggest it’s meant to be the “epic” centerpiece of the record. The portentous and biblical lyrics return to Ozzy’s reluctant prophet persona and showcase that character at its best. Rhoads’ neoclassical accompaniment seals the deal.
34. The chugging section at the very end of the song juxtaposed with Randy Rhoads’ over-the-top playing is a signpost for where metal would go from here. The last half of “Revelation (Mother Earth)” is more or less the blueprint for much extreme metal for the rest of the ’80s.
“Steal Away (The Night)”
35. Straightforward, catchy, and propulsive, “Steal Away (The Night)” makes a great palate cleanser after the sweeping “Revelation (Mother Earth)”. It’s still one of Ozzy’s fastest songs, though it’s barely been performed since the ‘80s.
36. Blizzard of Ozz was released in England in 1980, the same year that the New Wave of British Heavy Metal broke. The revolutionary movement reinvigorated interest in heavy metal in the wake of punk rock and included bands like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Venom, and Saxon. The NWOBHM, inspired by Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Motorhead, and Judas Priest, was typified by great singles with shout-along choruses and crunchy guitars — all ingredients present on “Steal Away (The Night)”. It’s unquestionably the most NWOBHM-inflected track on the record.
A Blizzard of Success
37. While Blizzard of Ozz only peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard album chart, the LP has since been certified five-times platinum by the RIAA for five million units moved.
38. It’s the highest-selling album of Ozzy’s career as a solo artist or in a band, besting Black Sabbath’s Paranoid (four-times platinum).
39. Blizzard of Ozz ranked No. 9 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time.
That Album Cover
40. The Blizzard of Ozz album cover artwork — featuring Ozzy sprawled on an attic floor, holding a cross, and surrounded by a black cat and a skull — captures the metal madman in all his Prince of Darkness glory.