Ozzy: The One Upper Cure

Buy: I Am Ozzy

I  have this neighbor, and I realize that we all know this person somehow, but this neighbor of mine is just a shameless one-upper. Like, he’s been the Pope, that kind of one upper.

At first I just thought it was new in town swagger, they’re from Canada and moved to Texas, home of the Bravada. Nope, he’s just a dick hole. You get a car, he’s not only had that very car, but “traded it up” for something “good.” Any story you may have about something crazy you did, his is crazier. You drove the wrong way home after drinking a bottle of Jack, he flew a plane upside down after drinking Everclear. He’s totally the guy that brags about drinking Everclear. That kind of asshole.

So I read Ozzy’s memoir, is what I’m getting at. I don’t need to mention the Osbourne, right? I say Ozzy and we all picture something: the guy with Lita Ford hair and blood in his mouth, or maybe his Sabbath days of old school rocker style, or perhaps the fumbling, bumbling mush-mouth crying out “Sharon!” as he tries to figure out how the hell the trash compactor works as he’s being filmed for MTV.

There’s one thing we all can agree on: the dude is fucked up.

And let me tell you, I was shocked to find out that he was fucked up way before he became a rock star. This is where the one-upper bit comes into play. Maybe, maybe Vince Neil could give it a go, but I think in the end they’d both call it a draw. Trust me when I say that there’s not really a person that can compete with this guy in a round of, “Well, that’s great but let me tell you about the time I…”

Right off the bat let’s establish that this may be the greatest memoir ever written. If there’s a person who’s life you want to know about but from a safe distance, this is the guy. I heard the rumors about the puppy eating, the almost killing his wife Sharon, the drugs – good lord, the drugs, but to hear him tell his side of things, it sheds a whole new light on the guy who’s music I’ve always loved.

Well, it turns out that he didn’t eat puppies. But he did grow up incredibly poor, was constantly ridiculed and called “stupid,” and learned very quickly that doing outrageous things to make the school bullies laugh would keep them from punching you in the neck meat. Stage for his insane life to be: set.

I laughed at his answer to “how poor was he?” He explained, “We were so poor that I didn’t know what underwear was. We couldn’t afford it, I later learned.” For someone in a First World country, not having underwear? Damn. Hillbillies down by me turn tighty-whities into tank tops. Sometimes the whole outfit consists of nothing but their britches.

Ozzy got chucked out of school at 15 and sent to work in the factories. His job was to dump engine bits that were gunked up with oil and such into a massive vat of toxic chemicals. Uh oh. Straight away he’s told it’s dangerous, don’t inhale the fumes, and wear a mask.

It’s like a freaking sit-com. Cue “Yakety Sax” as the hilarity is about to ensue.

And of course, Ozzy “Oh, you dare me?” Osbourne sticks his head over the vat and gets high for the first time. And it’s a crazy-ass Citizen Ruth toxic chemical high. The chemical fumes leave soot behind, so he’s telling his boss, “No, sir, I ain’t sniffin’ no bloody chemicals, I’m working, ain’t I?” as he staggers about looking like Al Jolson.

From then on it was just a constant race to get loaded with some music thrown in for funsies.

All of the casual references to rock legends that he meets along the way is just–. Look, can you imagine being in London in the late 60s in the music scene? Gilmore, Clapton, Jimmy Page, all getting rolling with their careers, and he’s talking about them like he’s one of us.

That’s the genius behind the writing of this book, Ozzy is as big a fan of music as we are. He fanboys Tony Iommi and Page, he’s awestruck at the thought of opening for Jethro Tull. And that’s hilarious, because they have a fucking flutist. Don’t give me any shit, it’s a flute in a rock band. We all have to go through our Tull phase, I suppose, typically while high in a basement as a teen. But all I can think about now is, “Do you want to hear Ron Burgundy play the yazz floo?”

Let’s be honest: we’re gonna read this book because we want to know about the drugs and the bat-head biting. And he’s pretty damn upfront about it. First, the drugs. I think that in this post-Corey Haim world (shut it, some of us were rooting for Leukoplakia) we’re all a little numb to the drug stories.

And then you read about the 25 Vicodins to wake up, on top of four bottles of Hennessey, grams and grams of coke, the handfuls of downers and uppers, all to be rounded out by some weed (which just seems laughable at this point, like the mint wafer at the end of the huge meal in The Meaning of Life) and this is all by noon. No, really. I don’t know how his body didn’t fall apart, and neither does he. Nor his doctors. He really put that shit in those amounts in his body multiple times a day.

Tony Montana said hello to hees leetle freen cocaine by flopping face first in a pile. Hilariously over the top, right? Ozzy looked at that and said, “Pfft. Bush league.” He did so much coke that his coke sniff – that horrible snot sucking, sinus clearing noise – actually ripped his epiglottis in half. That, my friends, is a shit ton of coke. His doctor had never seen the like of it. Here comes this dude with finger-in-the-light-socket hair, covered in tattoos, and half of his throat is filling up with a golf-ball sized piece of tissue, with another piece the same size halfway down his throat.

“Well, Doc, I ain’t gonna lie to you, I do a little coke.”

You know how people misuse the word “literally” all the time? “I literally swam in a vat of entrails while my coworkers looked on.” Or “I literally dumped out sandwich bags of coke on the bathroom floor and began to Hoover it up.” No, you didn’t. Ozzy, on the other hand, is the one person alive today that gets to use the word literally for those instances.  Literally.

At one point he has an HIV scare (fucking groupies while bare back will do that to you, numb nuts) and the report comes back with a positive result. Except he’s not positive for HIV. There’s just so much booze and drugs in his system that the lab can’t find his immune system. That shit packed up and headed for a holiday in Majorca after a few years of trying to counter balance the damage he was doing to his body.

The stories this guy has to tell, it’s worth the price of the hardcover. He tells what he can remember, then fills in the many, many blackouts with police reports and the like. So, you know, a good chunk of the book.

How the book is written is my favorite part. I get the impression that the ghost writer, Chris Ayres, hung out with Ozzy for a few months, recording every word Ozzy said. It reads like it was transcribed, but anyone that’s listened to Ozzy talk knows there must have been some massive editing and organizing going on in the background.

And really, the guy is hilarious. I’ve always loved listening to natural-born story tellers, people who embellish their sentences with colorful phrases and random comparisons. There’s a trick to doing it well, and Ozzy has that knack. With all the times he talks about jerking off, and believe me, he talks about it loads, he never calls it the same thing twice. There were definitely some phrases I’d not heard before, which makes it seem like I’m the choking the chicken champion, and you know what? I am. Blue ribbon winner, in fact.

He describes Tommy Lee’s anatomy after walking in on him getting a blow job as “a baby’s arm with a boxing glove on the end.” And “Fuck me, pulling my todger out would be like parking a tugboat next to the Titanic.” Not a lot of rock stars will write about having a teeny peen.

Before you go thinking that I’m trying to paint him as this lovely guy (even though he is) who’s done no real harm, the guy bit a head off a live bat. He totally cops to it. He also claims that he thought it was a fake. Now, the pigeon who’s head he bit off in a meeting, he knew about. He also fully intended to take his shotgun and blow the heads off his wee flock of chickens.

And god damn, the guy is telling a story of having enough of being told to go feed the bloody chickens, so he takes his shot gun, walks out to his coop in the English countryside, and lays waste to the whole flock. His next door neighbor, a stodgy English type, which is like saying “clean cut Mormon,” merely looks on with a droll expression and asks, “Blowing off a little steam, Mr. Osbourne?”

The guy is shocked by himself. That’s what makes you not want to take a shot gun to him, quid pro quo. He’s no Hannibal Lecter, delighting in the misery and trials of others, but has become Starling, and he can’t stop hearing the screaming of the lambs. Or chickens. Or cows. He’s actually an animal lover with 18 dogs of his own, not to mention the cats and his old pal Sally the Donkey that came inside with him to watch the telly. Which made me want a donkey to watch Southland with, but that’s neither here nor there.

It’s a great look inside the mind of an addict, and how, for him in particular, he really didn’t get that he was being a Class A jerkoff. He didn’t get how insane it was to put that amount of utter crap into your body, daily. He thought he was drinking a little and making people laugh while he danced on the table. And shot a flock of chickens. Or beat up a clown at his kid’s birthday party. It took his wife filming him and showing him what he looked like when he did all of this shit. That’s how it is, right? You’re drunk and thinking that you are entertaining everyone at the bar with your hilarious rendition of Paul Lynde, and in reality you’re just grabbing some guy’s nuts, painfully, and mumble-yelling at the crowd.

He just got caught up. Caught up in the booze, the drugs, the rock and roll lifestyle, and mostly not knowing that he no longer was that short, poor kid that no one liked from the wrong side of town that had to do the craziest things to not get beat up. In other words, you’re safe to bring your stoat to Ozzfest this year. He doesn’t have the appetite any more.

Rating: On a scale of 1 to 10 “Sharoooon!”s, I give this a mumblemumble Zed.