Beyond the bat, past the Alamo thing, what lies closest to Osbourne’s heart is the death of Randy Rhoads. It happened one month after the Texas arrest.
He found not only an inspiration in Rhoads to move forward in his post-Sabbath career, but a friend who became a chief collaborator on classics like “Crazy Train,” “Flying High Again” and “Over the Mountain.”
Then Rhoads died in a harrowing mishap on March 19, 1982. According to Osbourne in his 2010 memoir, I Am Ozzy, while traveling to a festival in Florida, Rhoads announced his departure from heavy metal. “I don’t think I want to be a rock ‘n’ roller anymore,” he told Osbourne, who couldn’t believe the young guitar prodigy would bolt from such a lucrative gig. “I want to go to university,” the Santa Monica native told his boss. “Get a degree.”
“We had this communication, it was incredible,” said Osbourne, who desperately tried to convince Rhoads to stay.
In the documentary Don’t Blame Me, Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister added, “He was a good boy, Randy, man, but more importantly, he worked with Ozzy very well. Without him, Ozzy couldn’t have done the album Blizzard of Ozz."
Rhoads, who had an alleged fear of flying, took up an offer from a random pilot with an expired flight license to traipse about the airspace while the rest of the band had decamped, including a sloshed Osbourne.
Pilot Andrew Aycock thought it would be a stellar move to take up Rhoads and the band's seamstress, Rachel Youngblood, for a ride where he intentionally buzzed the bus where drummer Tommy Aldridge and bassist Rudy Sarzo were chilling. The third pass went exceptionally wrong, clipping the bus and sending the aircraft spinning out of control into a nearby house. Rhoads' body was identifiable only by his jewelry.
“I’d never felt so totally fucking out of it in my life,” Osbourne wrote in I Am Ozzy. “It was worse than the worst acid trip I’d ever had.”
Suddenly, Osbourne was without the guitarist who invigorated his musical career, kept him relevant and made him a star after his former bandmates wanted nothing to do with him. “I loved him as a person; I loved him as a human being," Osbourne said in Don’t Blame Me. “I suppose that time when he died, a part of me died with him. It was the first guy – the person – who came into my life and gave me hope.”
“When I was with Black Sabbath, I’d never felt worth anything, because I couldn’t contribute musically.“When Randy came along and was my partner … I remember when we wrote 'Goodbye to Romance' and I wrote this melody, and I kept humming this melody and he lived in my house when I lived with my ex-wife in Staffordshire, and he said, 'What’s this song and melody?' and he said, 'We’ll sit down, we’ll write it, you know? And with Sabbath, I would’ve never fucking dreamed of that.”
Falling into a mental breakdown after Rhoads' death, Osbourne managed to pull himself back together fast, and less than a month later, he was back on the road with a new, temporary guitarist in Bernie Tormé, who had most recently played for Ian Gillan.
The years would include more moments like this – from a legendary, drug-fueled tour with Mötley Crüe to being blamed by the parents of a teen who had killed himself while one of Osbourne's records was on the turntable, leading to a lawsuit. But those treacherous two months in 1982 stand as his most troubled.