The 10 Best Ozzy Osbourne Solo Songs
There aren’t many artists who’ve roared to the very front of rock’s wacky races driving more than one vehicle. There’s Ronnie James Dio, Dave Grohl… and, of course, the Prince Of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne.
When Black Sabbath fired their singer in 1979, you would have needed balls of pure crystal to predict his rise back to the very top. Ozzy was a mess but under the tutelage of Sharon Arden, who would become first his manager and later his wife, he would go on to surpass his Sabbathian success, becoming a global superstar as a solo artist. Part of this was due to his larger-than-life personality and tabloid fodder excesses. Without the songs to back it all up however, all the bat-biting, dove-chomping and pissing on national monuments in the world would have counted for little.
It’s true that most of his genuine classics are bunched up within the first decade of that solo career. It’s not just us who think that – check the setlist for previous shows on his sadly postponed No More Tours jaunt and you won’t find too many tracks from the 21st Century. Even so, there are still enough solid gold bangers to populate this list several times over however.
Here, then, are our top 10 Ozzy Osbourne solo tracks. All aboard…
10. Hellraiser (No More Tears, 1991)
If you had to pick the two ultimate rock’n’roll hellraisers, it would probably be Ian Fraser ‘Lemmy’ Kilminster in the white (line fever) corner and John ‘Ozzy’ Osbourne in the black (sabbath) corner. The dukes of dissolution went head to head when they wrote this (along with Ozzy’s guitarist at the time Zakk Wylde) and both Ozzy and Motörhead recorded their own versions, Motörhead’s being used in the film Hellraiser 3: Hell On Earth. Which is better is another debate, but coming from that pair it was always going to be a riff-heavy slab of primal, driving rock’n’roll.
9. I Don't Know (Blizzard Of Ozz, 1980)
Part of Ozzy’s genius has always been in finding and recruiting other genii, particularly in the six-string department. Randy Rhoads had been playing with American metalheads Quiet Riot, but it was on Ozzy’s solo debut album that his jaw-dropping neoclassical style was introduced to the world at large. This was the opening salvo from that classic debut and Randy was right there front and centre. There’s genuine structural depth to go with the flash however, as Ozzy pleads his ignorance as to the future of mankind.
8. Shot In The Dark (The Ultimate Sin, (1986)
The Ultimate Sin came in for a lot of flak as Ozzy’s glam metal album. The big single from that album was polished until it shone, but it did so with a dark lustre and, if you can just unsee Ozzy’s sparkly shoulder-padded blouse in the video, there’s a lot to love here. That chorus for a start; it’s an earworm the size of a moray eel. The authorship of the song was contested when bassist Phil Soussan’s former bandmates claimed they’d had a hand in it, but Ozzy’s version knocks theirs into a cocked hat anyway.
7. Over The Mountain (Diary Of A Madman, 1981)
Randy Rhoads only appeared on the debut and follow-up Diary Of A Madman before his tragic death aged 25 in a plane crash while on tour. That was still enough to stake his claim as one of the finest and most influential guitarists rock and metal has ever produced. The song actually crashes in on one of the best and most recognisable of drum intros, but Randy’s nimble fingers are all over it. The main solo echoes the devil’s tritone of Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath, taking it right back to the beginning before exploding in a welter of colour and light.
6. Bark At The Moon (Bark At The Moon, 1983)
That opening machine-gun riff. The maniacal laugh (which won’t be the last in this list). As an album, Bark At The Moon wasn’t as consistently strong as the first two classics featuring Randy Rhoads, but the title-track was certainly no slouch. Nor was Rhoads’ replacement Jake E. Lee, who turned in a wonderfully fluid solo alongside those slashing riffs. The lycanthropy-themed track also spawned Ozzy’s first music video as a solo artist, which featured the singer running around looking more like an enraged Wookie than a werewolf. Splendid stuff!
5. Miracle Man (No Rest For The Wicked, 1988)
Zakk Wylde might have looked more like ’70s Charlie’s Angel actress Farah Fawcett (his words, not ours) than the outlaw hillbilly biker he resembles today, but he could nail a sledgehammer riff from the start. This was the guitarist’s introduction and one of Ozzy’s most triumphant moments as he took aim at televangelist Jimmy Swaggart. The preacher had previously campaigned against Ozzy and other rock acts, before being embroiled in sex scandals with prostitutes. ‘Today I saw a Miracle Man on TV crying/ Such a hypocritical man/ Born again, dying,’ gloats Oz. Oh, and there’s another maniacal laugh for the pile.
4. Mr Crowley (Blizzard Of Ozz, 1980)
This would be many fans’ choice for the top and it’s certainly a strong shout. From the organ-drenched intro from keyboardist Don Airey to that first mournful ‘Misssster Crowley…’ it hooks you in and wraps clammy fingers around your heart. Inspired by English occultist Aleister Crowley, it’s not the fastest or heaviest track Ozzy ever put his name to, but it’s one of the most powerful, with an insidious series of hooks and some mercurial solos from Randy Rhoads – the final of which is often voted as one of the best of all time.
3. No More Tears (No More Tears, 1991)
While Ozzy has consistently worked with top-class musicians, their talents had generally been channelled into adding the pyrotechnics to songs that were structurally pretty basic. No More Tears was a more ambitious composition. The instantly recognisable bass-line (composed though not played on the album by future Ozzy and Alice In Chains man Mike Inez) bubbles beneath a growing halo of clean synths and guitar lines while Zakk shakes out his roots in a touch of slide guitar. There are still the metal riffs, the hooks and the lyrics that seem to be about a serial killer, but this was more layered, thoughtful and all the better for it.
2. S.A.T.O. (Diary Of A Madman, 1981)
This is the unloved stepchild of the Randy Rhoads era. It was never a single, it’s not as lauded as songs like Over The Mountain or Flying High Again from the same album, but by Satan’s own smouldering codpiece, it’s absolutely perfect. There’s a slow atmospheric build, then the driving riff kicks in and this compact nugget of condensed brilliance drills its way into your brain. There’s no need for a grand chorus when the melody lines of the verses do the job just as well. The lyrics are enigmatic, the solo is as good as any of Randy’s more feted moments and this remains an overlooked and underrated gem.
1. Crazy Train (Blizzard Of Ozz, 1980)
An obvious one for the top spot perhaps, but why be controversial for the sake of it when the double O’s signature solo song is such an absolute monster? It has that unforgettable intro for a start, from the opening bass thrum and Ozzy’s ‘All aboard…’ (cue third maniacal laugh in this top 10 alone), but it’s when Randy’s main opening riff kicks in that things really heat up. Ozzy’s always had a way of pitching his verses so that the melodies bite hard and the whole song is just an outrageously infectious barrage of hooks, face-melting fretwork from the boy Rhoads with some anti-Cold War sentiment that still sounds sadly relevant today. A true classic in every way.
Words: Paul Travers
In the wake of his Parkinson’s diagnosis, Ozzy has canceled his upcoming North American tour dates.
Primus will pay homage to one of their idols by performing Rush’s A Farewell To Kings in its entirety across North America.