Legendary OZZY OSBOURNE Drummer Lee Kerslake Talks About Blizzard/Diary Reissues, Randy Rhoads, The "Evil And Nasty" Sharon Osbourne
July 25, 2011, 10 years ago
To celebrate the re-release of OZZY OSBOURNE’s legendary first two solo albums, Cory Lambert on behalf of BraveWords.com caught up with legendary URIAH HEEP/Ozzy Osbourne drummer Lee Kerslake whose powerhouse backbone can be heard on these hard rock masterpieces. The definitive versions of 1980's Blizzard Of Ozz (with previously unreleased bonus tracks) and 1981's Diary Of A Madman (complete with live show) are available individually on vinyl or CD, or together in a deluxe collector's box. All versions were restored and remastered from the original analog sources by George Marino.
BraveWords.com: Both Diary Of A Madman and Blizzard Of Ozz have been reissued recently individually and as part of a box set. Yet, there is no mention of you or Bob Daisley anywhere in the box other than song writing credits I believe or on the DVD that's in the box. Actually the only photo of you inside the box is the back cover of Blizzard Of Ozz and the photo inside Diary Of A Madman is with the other guys who did not play on the record but was the touring band. No photos of you at all on that one.
Kerslake: “Sharon made sure of it. Sharon does not want us to have any recognition whatsoever. The fact is she's evil and she's nasty and why she hates us I have no idea. The only thing I could ever recall was once Ozzy had asked me to speak to her on his behalf regarding the two shows in New York in one night as Ozzy said 'I can't do two shows in one night - not with my voice!' He told me to tell her. I did as he we said we were a band. I would have died for Ozzy as we were a band and I loved him as such. Because I broke the news to her, she's hated my guts. Don't tell her what to do. As far as I am concerned, a manager works for the band, we don't work for her. And it's that way for every contract I have ever known and that's a fact. She said - 'I'm the manager, you do what I tell you.' So I said 'Hang on a minute, you work for the band.' She's hated me ever since. So I said 'Come on Sharon, put the knives and ammo away.' All we wanted was what was ours; it's our pension if you like for us later in life. So why not re-release them and put on the bonus tracks that we have and pay us our fair royalty and she said 'over my dead body.' That's what we were told. What a horrible horrible woman to do that. I can't believe people can be that nasty.”
BraveWords.com: Why do you think Blizzard of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman are held in such high regard?
Kerslake: “I could only suggest that it was a unique combination of talent that Randy, Bob, Ozzy and I had together. Admittedly, on Blizzard I only co-wrote one track but I did play on it and co-produce it with Bob, Randy, Ozzy and Max Norman. When I heard it played back for the first time, I said to Max - 'We've got a massive hit here. This is so different to anything I have ever heard.' We then got a request from Sharon to do another album after the UK tour so that we could do the album and then work us till we drop, to break in America. The band was called the BLIZZARD OF OZZ and when the album got released in America in the spring of '81, it just flew out. It was something that they had not heard before. It was attributed again to Randy and Bob and me. It was more Randy and Bob as I had just helped arrange ideas a bit. But their genius and my ideas ultimately became Diary Of A Madman. It's an honour to be liked. I am very proud of what Randy, Bob, Ozzy and I did.“
BraveWords.com: Both albums are still considered classics.
Kerslake: “I saw Randy in the studio and he said he had a piece of music. And I said I had some also. Before I got a chance to play it, Randy played this (plays intro to Diary Of A Madman) - and I loved that. I said I had a dropped tuning kind of thing. I said to Bob - 'We could do the second (mimics riff to Diary of a Madman)' and we got the bass and drums and it came fucking out of us like a vacuum cleaner! (laughs) And then we wrote it and it was so exciting and it grew and grew. I said 'This is great fun!' I had the vocal melody and then Bob and Randy went 'Whoa! What do we have here?' And it was like that every day. God knows what the third album would have been. It would have been genius I'm sure. But we will never know.”
BraveWords.com: You and Bob took Sharon to court because you claim that there were royalties owed from using your performances on those albums. Care to comment?
Kerslake: “Bob and I lost that court case. Sharon had won on a technicality as the statute of limitations had run out. The statute of limitations is just bollocks. It just means the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We also co-produced them which is another thing that got left off. Those things go are often unmentioned. I just wished the rest of the world and the public would know it. I am just proud of that work.”
BraveWords.com: Describe the atmosphere of that time frame.
Kerslake: “The three of us were magic together. It was stunning. I mean, I had written a lot of songs with Uriah Heep so my character is their in the writing. The music we were writing was just incredible - it was just flowing out of us much like a MCCARTNEY/LENNON situation. Randy would come in with a piece of music and then Bob would add some bass here and there and I would do a vocal melody here and then I might do something on piano. Then Randy would say 'That's brilliant, that's great, let's do that!' It all came in little bits but it just flowed. We were just so in tune with each other, the three of us, and Ozzy too when he was with us. Ozzy would say, 'Here's me hand, here's me heart, this band, will never part!' We were all one. He used to say he was sick and tired of the BLACK SABBATH situation where it was them three on one side and he was on his own. And that's the way it should be and that's the way it was in Uriah Heep as well. It's always the management that screwed it up. “ (laughs).
BraveWords.com: We at BraveWords.com love those albums also and thought since they were re-issued, we would talk to you since you were and are part of them.
Kerslake: “That's a great thing and I thank you very much for that. As I said, it's an honour. There was music that was not used for the albums that we did in rehearsals. Still unreleased. Sharon didn't want to use them as she didn’t want to pay us.”
BraveWords.com: I wonder if that’s why the box set did not include the songs from the Live Mr.Crowley EP. She was in Toronto in 2010 and talked about the reissues and said there was going to be tracks on the re-releases that included in-studio talking and writing sessions. If only they were released, along with the song ‘You Said It All - it would have made that box set better. Not to mention restoring the fadeouts.
Kerslake: “However, the only thing that I am really vexed about is that I never received any awards for those two albums. Bob managed to get some as he went back with Ozzy to do Bark At The Moon in ‘83. So he got his gold and platinum albums. I never got one. She made sure I never got a damn thing. Now is that a pathetic hate or what? This is the woman who took us off the album. To me that's like saying 'well, I got a dispute with Mick Jagger so I am going to take him off the album and put some other blokes voice on.' I mean that's pathetic. She's a sad woman. A very very wealthy sad woman. “
BraveWords.com: People still can't believe they would go ahead and tamper with those two albums and the legacy of the great Randy Rhoads.
Kerslake: “And to be honest, that's illegal to me. You don't take albums that have sold over 14 million copies and that have stood the test of time, with our quality and our playing and have people say how much they loved those records with the playing and the song writing as being influential and then go destroy them? What a barbarian she is. It's clear she has no love for the music just dollars and pound signs. “
BraveWords.com: All the fans wanted was more of the magic. Actually on the DVD in the box set Sharon comments on how excited Ozzy was to play the two shows at the Palladium.
Kerslake: (laughs loudly) “Bob was with me when he asked us to tell her he could not do it. We were at the bar and Roy Wood from WIZZARD was there too. Ozzy obviously betrayed us as well. He made us stand up for him and then shat all over us.”
BraveWords.com: How would you describe the band, the Blizzard of Ozz with Lee, Randy, Bob and Ozzy?
Kerslake: “Powerful. Very talented. And great fun. Ozzy in those days drank heavily and would get drunk. That was ok as he had to wait around until we got the basic tracks down. But it was great fun. It was fantastic. Then Sharon came on the scene and all of a sudden it totally changed. All she was doing was riding on our backs and making a fortune. She deliberately took our photos off of Diary Of A Madman so no one knew we were involved with the recording of that record. And she's twisting the knife even now as I can't get the gold and platinum albums that are rightfully mine. I need someone to say "Hang on a minute, he deserves them." Maybe someone from Sony.”
BraveWords.com: So when you hear those two records, what do you think of?
Kerslake: “The fun we had with Randy and Bob and Ozzy. Recording, having dinner, going to the pub - there was no one to worry us. I have always loved living in the studio. You shut off your switch and forget the outside world and its problems. And being surrounded by people like Randy, Bob and in those days Ozzy was fun. I really liked Ozzy a lot; he even stayed at my place in Essex with his wife Thelma.”
BraveWords.com: People have described your drum style as tight, precise and heavy. How would you describe it?
Kerslake: “That's difficult because it varies. But I will say that I do play my drums with feeling. That's it. Whatever the songs needs, I think it, I feel it and then I put it down. Mick Hucknall from SIMPLY RED does his singing the same way. Regardless of style he gets into every word. I have jammed with STEVIE WONDER’s band, BILLY COBHAM, EARTH, WIND AND FIRE - as those people will teach you how to play. I learned from all that and incorporated that into my own playing. ‘Over The Mountain’ has an intro on Diary Of A Madman I had for years but never got to use it. When the song required an intro I said I had one and played it and it worked. That's what happens when people like Bob and Randy and I excite and inspire each other. That's great fun when that happens. Not thinking about money. When Sharon came in, the cancerous seed, the black seed, everything changed.”
BraveWords.com: You can't buy talent like that.
Kerslake: “Apparently Sharon thinks you can. And then dispose of you when she wants to. Even when Bob went in to write for Bark At The Moon - he said there is no way to re-create the magic of Blizzard and Diary as two of the people aren't there. (Lee was not in the band and Randy had passed - editors note). Randy was truly unique. He took only a couple lessons to learn how to play flamenco. He stayed in a flat in West Kensington and we took him over to Hempstead and within in a week he was playing beautifully.”
BraveWords.com: Do you remember what you thought when you first heard Randy play?
Kerslake: “I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe it. I got a call from an agent who was working for Don Arden who asked if I was still with Uriah Heep. I said I wasn't and that I was working on my own album. He asked if I would consider joining a band. He said he knew of a band that was missing a solid drummer. He mentioned me to Ozzy who said he knew me. We all met up at the rehearsal studio and I used the kit that was there. I knew Bob already from the WIDOWMAKER days. So I learned two songs and went in to play with them and as soon as I went "BAM" on the drums, Randy jumped two feet in the air. "We fucking got one! We got a fucking drummer!" He was jumping all over the place. You got a drummer!? I am in a band with an amazing guitarist and amazing bassist. In addition, the music was mostly written and let's not forget the masterful Don Airey on keyboards. (Editors note: Don Airey appears on Blizzard Of Ozz while Johnny Cook appears on Diary Of A Madman).
BraveWords.com: And the last time you saw Randy?
Kerslake: “The last time I saw him was in Shepperton Studios. He then went on the road and got killed. Bob and I were in Dallas Texas getting ready to start a Uriah Heep tour and we heard on the radio that he was killed. I got down and cried me eyes out. It just ripped us apart. He was such a lovely wonderful guy. He did not want to go on with Ozzy as he wanted to stay with us. I said 'No you have to. The album is going to go through the roof.' I wished I hadn't said it now as he would still be here. Fate and destiny are frightening things.”
BraveWords.com: What's your favourite piece of Randy music?
Kerslake: “There's so many. I loved the song ‘Diary Of A Madman’ as a whole. ‘Crazy Train’ is also a favourite. Randy could double track better than anyone, in one take. He would go and do it come back and say (mimics Randy) 'That was great fun.' His favourite drink was Golden Cadillac, which was a cocktail. It has Bailey's or Tia Maria and Vodka or something. His voice as he drank more would go deeper and deeper and we would make fun of him. He cracked me up. (laughs) God bless his soul.”
BraveWords.com: How would you describe his personality?
Kerslake: “Fabulous. So un-assuming. So talented and yet so willing to learn.”
BraveWords.com: How would you describe your relationship with Randy?
Kerslake: “He absolutely loved us. We were so close. He didn't want to go. We told him we were thrown out. He said he was going to leave the band as he did not want to leave us behind. I told him not to be stupid but thanks for the sentiment. We had written the albums that are going to make him very wealthy and famous. I said Randy should stay with him as he could leave whenever he wanted. Then we find out that after that year he was going to leave Ozzy's band as he had enough of him. He was sick of it. Ozzy's a liar. Bob and I know for a fact that Randy thought the world of us. He loved our talent as he was with us with Ozzy wasn't there. So how can Ozzy say that? He was up at the pub! Randy has to stay with Ozzy as it would have made him famous. And it did.”
BraveWords.com: Would you say that Blizzard and Diary are better than the Uriah Heep albums you did?
Kerslake: “To a point. I mean, when we did Demons And Wizards and The Magicians Birthday they were genius and management said 'It was great and you have to write more like that and you have to keep writing to get ‘betterized’.' (laughs). Our manager was our producer in the studio and he decided which ones we left on and which ones we take off. With Randy, Bob and me - we had total control in the studio and we knew what we were doing. We knew what to keep and what to leave off. Diary and Blizzard were genius records. Diary was the epitome of it all as the songs were just 'ON'. We set our way with Blizzard and made our point with Diary. As long as we had our freedom, we could have written another one like that. In was in us to do another. I can't explain the magic, it just happens.”
BraveWords.com: I think with Diary in particular, every song is strong enough to stand on its own.
Kerslake: “Exactly. You just hit it right on the head. We worked that way to make sure that was gonna happen. I said every song should be its own single if we wanted it to be. And that's the test of time. We were thinking quality as we did it.”
BraveWords.com: Any words to the fans of those two albums?
Kerslake: “I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. Without you, I would not have a job. Just remember those two albums fondly as we had fun making them, Randy, Bob, myself and Ozzy. Those albums were very successful and I am a very proud man. I just want all people to know that it was four people who made those records what they were. And it still hurts that I never got recognition from the industry by way of those gold and platinum awards.”
BraveWords.com: About 20 years ago, Rob Halford of JUDAS PRIEST was on Canadian television and they asked him to pick his favourite records. He picked Ace Of Spades by MOTÖRHEAD, Blackout by the SCORPIONS and Diary Of A Madman. He said Diary was perfection.
Kerslake: “Great. Nice one. That makes the heart feel good. It's like a silver pat on the back from the audience and a gold pat on the back from a colleague in the business. For both albums, Bob wrote the lyrics and he's an incredible lyricist. He knew what to write to fit to make it brilliant. It all happened so quickly and the material flowed. It was, to use a term, a supergroup, given what we had done up till that point, but there was no egos. A supergroup without egos.”
In addition, BraveWords.com recently spoke at length with bassist / lyricist extraordinaire Bob Daisley about Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman. Part one of the interview can be read here, while part two is available at this location.