In the long line of rock and roller autobiographies, there is a tried and true formula. You must always recall your humble troubled beginnings, like Anthony Kiedis did with 2004's heroin-addled tome Scar Tissue. Or you single-handedly re-write your own already decadent folklore like Motley Crue did (with Neil Strauss' help) in the Scumbag's Bible, The Dirt, in which Tommy, Nikki, Vince and Mick detailed every overdose, sexual conquest and recording session with jovial glee. Now it's the Prince Of Darkness' turn, and it was well worth the wait. After nearly a half-century in the music business, in which he helped birth heavy metal and goth-rock, Ozzy Osbourne takes his first ever crack at looking back at the past 62 years of his life for all of us to read. The charm of reading I Am Ozzy is that the language is so beautifully Ozzy and you can hear his voice clear as a bell in your head. It's as if a tape recorder was merely put in front of him. No punches are pulled, just as he always concedes his own wrongdoings and regrets. The book starts with a short printed paragraph from Ozzy apologizing for his years of being loaded on "booze, coke, acid, Quaaludes, glue, cough mixture, heroin, Rohypnol, Klonopin, Vicodin, and too many other heavy-duty substances to list" to blame for the holes in stories and incomplete antidotes. Luckily he had someone help him wrangle in all of his life stories into something engaging and coherent. We can't wait for the audiobook, quite honestly.
Ozzy traces his musical beginnings to performing Cliff Richard's "Living Doll" in front of his family in the mid-'50s. After that, he became hooked on rock and roll and performing. He describes his early obsessions with Beatlemania the same way so many other rockers do. It's funny that someone so steeped in darkness in his later life and career began his musical journey as just another lad clutching Meet The Beatles under his arm.
As the story moves on to the early Sabbath days in the late '60s, the narrative gets foggier as the drugs and booze take hold. The creation of some of the band's best albums isn't as well-chronicled as the chemicals that helped create them are. Ozzy's first marriage is discussed with much regret and sadness. He was simply too young, dumb, and screwed up to be a proper husband, he admits.
It's when future wife Sharon Adler comes into the picture and he is ousted from Sabbath that the story gets a little less muddy. The times he describes his brotherly interactions with the late Randy Rhoads and the horrific accident that took that young guitarist's life in 1982 are heartrending. You can almost hear his voice break at times.
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In I Am Ozzy, one certainly sees how Sharon saved Ozzy's life. In many ways their love is reminiscent of Johnny and June Carter Cash's. She is his rock and foundation, through even his near-fatal choking of her in 1989 all the way to her cancer scare in 2002. When their kids Jack and Kelly come around, Ozzy slows down and eases into his father role better than he did with his children from his first marriage, Louis and Jessica. He recalls the family's reality show on MTV with equal parts candor and aggravation.
At the core, I Am Ozzy is a hilarious and raucous tale of a small-town rock-obsessed boy who got everything he ever wanted but had to lose a lot along the way to get it. Towards the end, the formerly drugged-out metalhead Messiah speaks of getting his thrills these days by drawing and listening to old Beatles records and his heated toilet seat and Japanese-engineered commode. Crazy train, indeed.
Grand Central Publishing, 416 pp., $26.99.