Blizzard of Ozzy: New Disc, Monster Tour, More in ’10
The Prince of Darkness scores with jock-jam hit, massive world tour
Ozzy Osbourne, sober and healthy at age 61, has big plans for the next year and a half ”“ even if he’s not altogether clear on some of the details. “I’m not doing a fucking Christmas album, am I?” he asks. Yes, he is: Black Christmas is due late next year, accompanied by a TV special. Ozzy’s wife and manager, Sharon, insists with a laugh that she’s discussed the idea with him, but “he’s trying to forget that it actually exists.”
That project will be the culmination of a lengthy promotional cycle that begins with the June 22 release of Osbourne’s 10th solo studio album, Scream, as well as the return of Ozzfest, in a six-date run featuring MÃ¶tley CrÃ¼e and Rob Halford. Afterwards, Osbourne will embark on an 18-month tour, his longest ever, which may hit countries such as Israel and China for the first time. He will also release deluxe 30th-anniversary editions of his first two solo albums ”“ 1980’s Blizzard of Ozz and 1981’s Diary of a Madman ”“ with their original drum and bass tracks restored. (Sharon had them replaced in 2001 to retaliate for a lawsuit brought by the players.) The tour is likely to include full performances of those albums.
The idea behind the promotional blitz is to connect young listeners ”“ who many know Osbourne from reality TV and perhaps Ozzfest ”“ to the music behind Osbourne’s image. “We’re getting Ozzy in the music saddle again, as opposed to The Osbournes,” says former Sony Music president Michele Anthony, who, along with partner Danny Bennett, is working with Osbourne’s management on the marketing plan.
As work on Scream began, Sharon was determined to have an anthem that would appeal to young male sports fans. “The core demo is 18-to-34-year-old males,” says Epic executive VP Lee Stimmel. “Where you get that male demographic is through the sporting world. And through places like ESPN, WWE and video games.” When Sharon heard an early version of ”˜Let Me Hear You Scream’ ”“ once titled ”˜Peter Pan is Dead’ and loosely inspired by Michael Jackson’s death ”“ she was convinced that the track was the right pick. The song has already hit the Top 10 in two rock-radio formats, popped up in major-league baseball broadcasts, scored a riot scene in CSI: NY, and may appear in the next edition of the Madden NFL video game.
The sound of Scream is meant to be a compromise of sorts, adding processed, contemporary production touches to fit into active-rock radio while maintaining a connection to Ozzy’s vintage sound. “You can stay in the Eighties or move on,” says Osbourne. “It’s a very heavy record. It’s a bit of my Sabbath days. It’s a bit of my solo days. It’s a bit of the modern day.”
The album is Osbourne’s first without guitarist Zakk Wylde in 22 years: The two remain on good terms, but Osbourne says he decided that Wylde’s band, Black Label Society, took too much time away from their collaboration. So new guitarist, Gus G, a 29-year-old speed demon and Tony Iommi fanatic from Greece, stepped in ”“ but he played over nearly finished tracks rather than collaborating on songwriting as Wylde did. “it’s a fine line, actually, between thinking of the ghosts of past [Ozzy] guitar players and basically not caring at all,” says Gus. “I just tried to be myself and have respect for Ozzy’s legacy as an artist.”
Meanwhile, Osbourne has sold the film rights to his bestselling memoir, I Am Ozzy. “It has to be a brand-new talent playing Ozzy,” says Sharon, “because if you go the Val Kilmer/Doors way, it becomes too Hollywood.”
Osbourne is excited to hit the road and is already thinking about potential set lists. “I’ve got such a fucking body of work to choose from now,” he says. “I’d like to do some different Sabbath songs, and some different Ozzy songs.” But he’s not too interested in his team’s marketing strategies. “they have to try and find a way to sell fucking records, I suppose.” He says. “I’m a fucking rock star. What the fuck do I want to sit in a fucking board meeting for?”