“I THOUGHT I was going to have f***ing bolts in my neck,” says a rueful Ozzy Osbourne.
He’s referring to his lowest point during three gruelling years since the fall that “really screwed me up”.
Ozzy gingerly places his forefingers on each side of said neck. “F***ing bolts!” he repeats, only louder.
He may be heavy rock’s Prince Of Darkness, who once bit the head off a bat, but he sure as hell doesn’t want to become Frankenstein’s monster.
The name Lazarus is more appropriate after his brave reappearance on stage this week, closing the Commonwealth Games in his home town of Birmingham.
Ozzy’s fateful tumble occurred in spring 2019, when he went to the bathroom in the middle of the night at his Los Angeles mansion.
He aggravated long-term injuries sustained after breaking his neck in a quad bike accident at his UK property 16 years previously.
But now, after life-changing surgery and mountains of painkillers, the 73-year-old is on the road to getting his old life back, supported by wife Sharon.
Ozzy says: “Never have I been laid up so bad for so long.
“It’s been breaking Sharon’s heart to see me like this but I will get back on tour if it f***ing kills me.”
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As if to prove his point this week, Ozzy made his first fleeting live outing since New Year’s Eve 2018, at the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony.
Dressed like a Christopher Lee vampire, he sang Black Sabbath’s signature song Paranoid in the company of his old mucker, guitarist Tony Iommi.
‘IT DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN PLAYING BIRMINGHAM’
Given the sheer determination written all over his face, another of Ozzy’s big songs springs to mind . . . Iron Man.
He has this to say about his surprise appearance: “Standing on stage in Birmingham, my home town, playing live, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Aside from his update, I’m speaking to Ozzy via Zoom, him holed up at home in LA and me in London.
We’re marking the imminent release of his new solo album, Patient Number 9, featuring a dazzling array of guests including guitar gods Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck as well as late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins.
But first we have to get our Zoom link working properly . . . and it turns into an hilarious senior moment.
“I can’t see you, do you think it’s my fault?” I venture.
“You’re asking me?” he replies, incredulously. “I can’t turn a f***ing light on!”
Miraculously he appears, though, dressed in black but minus the trademark round glasses.
What you get from Ozzy, and today is no different, is irrepressible gallows humour and he’s never far from a cackle of uncontrolled laughter.
He’s also a real fighter who won’t give up on his dream of a full return to touring, resuming his role as one of rock’s master showmen.
Never have I been laid up so bad for so long. It’s been breaking Sharon’s heart to see me like this but I will get back on tour if it f***ing kills me.
“That’s all I know how to do,” he explains. “I can’t watch videos of myself on stage because I get so p***ed off!”
If you’ve read the latest reports on him, you probably imagine Ozzy as a walking medical disaster zone.
“I’m not good at being laid up,” he says. “I had Covid recently and was sick as a dog for one day but then I was OK.” You may recall that he’s also been diagnosed with Parkin, a genetic condition with similar symptoms to Parkinson’s disease.
But he affirms: “I don’t shake at all. My Parkinson’s doctor says, ‘I’ve got to tell you something, I’ve seen all kinds of Parkinson’s but yours is the mildest ever’. I don’t even know how anyone worked out I had it in the first place.”
But it’s the spinal injury which has dogged the lovable rogue these past three years.
His first surgery didn’t go well. “I was told, ‘You’ve got a good chance of being paralysed for the rest of your life’,” he says. “You just don’t expect the surgeon to be a f***ing butcher. I was left in agony.”
This year, however, Ozzy has had two operations which, he says, “are helping bring me back to where I want to be”.
The latest, in June, only required him to be in hospital for one night, in contrast to the lengthy first stint when things went wrong.
“Thank God I found the right surgeon who knows how to deal with spinal problems,” he says. “He had to cut nerves and you have to take f****ing nerve-pain pills, but I am getting better.
“I go forward two inches and back one, but I’m doing it.”
So, what is his routine for getting back on his feet?
“Every morning, I get up and do an hour of physiotherapy, which is slowly working.
I don’t shake at all. My Parkinson’s doctor says, ‘I’ve got to tell you something, I’ve seen all kinds of Parkinson’s but yours is the mildest ever’. I don’t even know how anyone worked out I had it in the first place.
“There’s a hill outside my house and I said to my assistant, ‘I’m going to run up that as soon as I can’.”
Ozzy has also been fully involved in getting his 13th studio album ready.
“I’m a f****ing animal,” he says. “You can get hold of me and work me as much as you like. I want to wake up and jump out of bed.”
He cannot speak too highly of the loving support he’s received from Sharon, family and friends.
He says: “Thank God for Sharon and the kids and for so many people in the business. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am.”
He also adds an affectionate tribute to his daughter: “I’m really close to Kelly, who is having a baby, which is great. She got me to phone Andrew Watt (producer of his last two albums). Slash has been calling me lately and Tony (Iommi) has also been in touch regularly to see how I am.”
Bearing in mind all his scrapes over the years, I ask Ozzy if he feels as if he’s living on borrowed time.
Giving me one of his mischievous, wide grins, he says: “I can’t complain because I’ve done some f***ing stupid things in my life.
“Once, I was in Albuquerque, where they have this cable car, 1,000ft up, going to a restaurant at the top of a small mountain,” he begins.
To cut a long story short, after much intake of booze and illegal substances (well, it was in Breaking Bad country) it is the day after the night before when Ozzy gets asked: “What about when we went to that restaurant?” “What restaurant?” he says. “Well, you climbed through the roof of the cable car and stood on the roof singing Black Sabbath songs,” comes the answer.
Today, Ozzy says: “I looked up at it and a cold shiver went through my body. I had no clue I’d just done that.”
“Do you miss all the hellraising stuff?” I ask.
I’m a f****ing animal. You can get hold of me and work me as much as you like. I want to wake up and jump out of bed.
“On the 4th of July, my wife and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary and I said to Sharon, ‘What the f*** happened to 40 years?’ I mean, I can remember the early Black Sabbath years quite well but I honestly don’t remember a lot of it since.
“I’d be on the road, I’d come off the road and that was my life. So, with these injuries, it’s the longest I’ve ever been at home.”
The word home is about to take on a new meaning for Ozzy. He and Sharon plan to make England their permanent base after decades on the West Coast of America.
“I cannot f***ing wait to get back,” he says. “I mean, it’s OK being in America but I’m English.
“The reason we haven’t come back sooner is that I couldn’t fly because of Covid and then I couldn’t fly because of this injury.”
Ozzy plans to bring over the equipment from his state-of-the-art basement studio in LA so he can carry on making music.
“I’ve got a million dollars’ worth of stuff including mixing boards, the whole deal,” he says, making a grand windmill gesture with his arms. Listen to the Jeff Beck-fuelled title track of his new album, or One Of Those Days, complete with a classic Clapton solo, and you’ll hear the work of a man who isn’t going quietly and who won’t be giving up any time soon.
“I’ve done two albums since I got sick and if I hadn’t had anything to do with music, I’d have gone f***ing insane,” he says.
Ozzy draws my attention to a particularly choice lyric and adds: “Only I could sing about defecation but, you know what?, I am 73 and doing music keeps me young.”
You’ve got to hand it to him. Force of nature, national treasure and, to amend his album title slightly, Patient Number 1.
I LOVE UKRAINE
LIKE the rest of us, Ozzy is appalled by the plight of Ukraine.
He would “crawl on stage” to appear at a Live Aid-style event in support of the eastern European country under attack from Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
“Bob Geldof should get on to it,” he says. “If he told us, ‘We’re doing it’, I’d be up there. The world needs to go, ‘Hey, f***ing Russia, stop!’ (Sounds like a good song title!)
Ozzy adds: “Live Aid woke us up by using music to get a message across. Music is a global language and everyone can tap their foot. And Live Aid told the world that people were dying of starvation.
“Look at the press it got. The publicity was turned up to 9,000 degrees.”
Ozzy well remembers playing with a reunited Black Sabbath at Philadelphia’s Live Aid show in 1985.
“We did Iron Man and Paranoid but backstage was more interesting for me,” he says. Every rock star you can ever think of was there – the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the list goes on and on.
“It would be great if we could do something like this for Ukraine.”
Ozzy finds it hard to watch the news coming out of the war-torn country and says: “It is so sad and it really affects me. Why is Putin doing this? Get it over with, man!
“How can these people f***ing sleep at night when they send in bombers and rockets to blow kids up and old-age pensioners?
“And if they start using their nuclear s**t, you can kiss your ass goodbye.
“But we’ve got to do something otherwise Putin will try somewhere else like Poland. This is right at our back door.”
But Ozzy says he is amazed at the resilience of the Ukrainians. “If you’re defending your country, you’ll fight harder than the people invading.
“Some Russians didn’t even realise they were going to war but their shells are blowing the place to bits.
“Whatever we can do to send relief, count me in!”