Long before he bit the heads off bats and doves, Ozzy Osbourne worked in a cheerless abattoir in the hardscrabble Aston section of Birmingham, England, where for 18 months he held such titles as "cow killer," "tripe hanger," "hoof puller," and "pig stunner." His bleak, Dickensian early years were marked by soul-crushingly depressing jobs, trouble in school, time in prison, and near-abject poverty. Narratively speaking, his rise from dyslexic fuck-up to heavy metal demigod is like Angela's Ashes meets Anvil! The Story of Anvil. It's all chronicled in I Am Ozzy, his new, startlingly absorbing (and hilarious) memoir, which also thoroughly covers his adventures with every drug imaginable, his four-bottles-of-Hennessey-a-day drinking habit, and his myriad sexual follies (with their attendant cases of the clap). How he has survived is one of the great mysteries of rock and roll. We spoke with Ozzy by phone from his home in California.
Hey, how are ya?
I'm fine, how are you?
Very well, thanks. Good to speak with you.
It's raining like hell here, another good old disaster in California.
Yeah, what happened? [We were supposed to speak the previous day, but the rain in California caused a five-hour blackout at Chez Oz.] YOU HAD SOME RAIN SITUATION?
It's pissing down lakes. They're not very good drivers in the rain here.
[Laughs] Yeah, they're not used to it, I guess, huh?
No, that's right.
Well, I really enjoyed the book. I thought it was hysterically funny — and unflinchingly honest.
Well, you know, I mean, we've all heard how wonderful it is to be a rock-and-roll star and how many groupies you've had sex with, and all the rest of it, you know, man. [But] there's a human side to it. And also, there's a humorous side to it, as well. I mean, I figured if you could laugh at your failings, then you can — it's clear, man, there's a big funny side . . . for instance, when I saw Spinal Tap, I didn't think it was funny at all.
I've lost myself on my way to the stage. It was like a documentary to me.
Was it too close to home?
It's just real, you know. They must've gotten their information from real things that happened, and elaborated on that. But we've all made asses of ourselves. You don't have a brilliant [unintelligible] from a guy who tunes car horns into a world-renowned, crazy rock-and-roll star, you know?
In the book, almost nothing seems glossed over, and you discuss your addictions, sex acts, bowel movements, and other embarrassing moments from your life. When you were putting the book together, did you have any super-secret material that you said "I'm not going to disclose this" to the public?
Well, you know, after the book [was completed], I thought, "Why the fuck didn't I write about this? Why didn't I write about that?" And so, it took me a long time to get ready to do a book. Because people have been asking me [to do one] for years. And Sharon was going, "Look, [if] people want to hear — if people want it, you've got to give it to 'em," you know. So I just sat down with the Chris guy [co-author Chris Ayres], and it didn't take much time. At the end of the day, I said to him, "Have you got enough stuff?" He said, "I've got more than enough," you know.