McGinnis: Ozzy’s autobiography an entertaining tripWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“They said I would never write this book,” the first page of “I Am Ozzy” reads. On the second: “Well, f*** ‘em, ‘cuz here it is.”
Those opening sentences set the tone for Ozzy Osbourne’s autobiography, written with co/ghost writer Chris Ayres. While the book does tell the life story of one of the most unique public figures in pop culture history, it does so with an eye on the lighter side. This is not really a soul-searching tome where the author spills his guts for 400 pages. This is written to be more of a rollicking ride on the Ozz-train.
There are serious issues discussed, here — Osbourne’s drug and alcohol addictions are a constant issue, and the death of guitarist Randy Rhodes in a tragic plane crash is covered in gut-wrenching detail — but the majority of the book feels like you’re spending a night at the pub, hanging out with your best mate as he tells you wicked tales of his life. This makes it a very entertaining read, if not a very deep one.
If you’re looking for any particular level of insight as it relates to being a rock star — recording, writing, and performing — you’re kinda out of luck. Ozzy doesn’t really cover these issues with any depth, and most of the albums are mentioned only in the context of how successful they were and the effect on his career. This is more the story of Osbourne’s life, and the music is seen only through the prism of how it effected that life.
But what a long, strange life its been. Ozzy starts from the very beginning, with tales from childhood and school leading up to breaking out as a rock star with Black Sabbath. The bulk of the book covers from the time the group first formed through 1989 — his career resurrection through “The Osbournes” TV series isn’t really dealt with in much length at all. The focus is on his prime years as a rocker, and that’s where the most interesting stories reside, anyway.
And yes, the most interesting (and infamous) stories of all are covered in great detail. Yes, he bit the head off a dove, and he planned ahead of time to do it. Yes, he bit the head off a bat on stage, but that was not planned at all. Yes, he made a scene at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, but he was plastered and incapable of planning. The book seems to be pretty open about the controversies stemming from its subject, and deals with all the obvious questions — no issues you’d want to hear about are skirted at all.
As for Osbourne himself, he comes across as a generally likable, if generally bizarre, individual. He doesn’t seem to be particularly introspective or thoughtful, but how analytical could the freaking Prince of Darkness really be? He doesn’t try to explain away or hide from the ugly bits in his life story (his divorce, the addictions, the scandal over teen suicide), but they are all quickly diffused by his genuinely affable nature. And as mentioned, the general tone is one of good humor, preferring to have fun with his life rather than dwell on the darker issues.
The structure of the writing helps establish that tone, as well — all of Ozzy’s unique verbal quirks and mannerisms are captured in print, and the word choices speak directly from the working-class British family Osbourne was raised in. As a result, the reader really feels like they are hearing Ozzy tell these stories, rather than reading them through the filter of someone else’s writing, a typical by-product of a ghost written book. Ayres deserves a lot of credit for his ability to really channel his subject in this regard — and channelling Ozzy f’n Osbourne must have been an incredible task.
The somewhat disturbing undertone of whole story is Ozzy’s addictions, and their effect on the people he loves. Sharon is clearly the most important person in the world to him, and he devotes more space to discussing his devotion to her than anything. And that makes moments like his 1989 arrest for assaulting Sharon while under the influence (he claims he can’t remember it at all) all the more inexplicable — almost as inexplicable as her refusal to leave him. The portrait of Sharon that emerges is one of a woman who is, in her own way, as stubborn and crazy as Ozzy, which may make them absolutely perfect for each other.
But these kinds of observations come few and far between in “I Am Ozzy,” which is generally a funny and engaging read. It doesn’t seem to want to dig too far beyond the surface of Osbourne’s career, and there aren’t enough genuinely shocking elements for it to really be labeled a “tell-all” book. But if you want a fun and bizarre ride looking at the life of a fun and bizarre individual, you could do far worse.
E-mail Jeff at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.
Tags: Ozzy Osbourne