Randy Rhoads' bizarre death incomprehensible to a little kid
I was at the supermarket with my nine-year-old son Danny a couple of days ago, and we were hanging around in the magazine section, scanning for headlines on the latest video-game titles (“Whoa! Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2! Cool!”) when we came upon the latest issue of Guitar World magazine, with former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Randy Rhoads on the cover.
I mentioned to Danny that Rhoads had been one of my favourite players, but that he had died quite a while ago. Maybe it was the wholesome-looking, youthful face staring out at us—Rhoads perished at the age of 25—but for some reason Danny seemed quite bewildered that he was no longer alive. I tried to explain to my kid how the blonde guitar hero had met his end—how he was a passenger in a small plane piloted by a drugged-up tour-bus driver that crashed into a house after buzzing Osbourne’s bus four times—and that’s when his astonishment really kicked in.
”Was Ozzy on the plane too?”, he asked, incredulous. “Why were they buzzing the bus? What does 'buzzing’ mean?”. Nearly 30 years after the bizarre accident that took Rhoads’ life on March 19, 1982, at least one of those innocent questions remains, tragically, unanswered.
But hey—I’m not writing this particular blog item to bring everybody down. As I mentioned in Ear of Newt a year ago today, a number of projects were underway to keep Rhoads’ memory alive, the main one being the reissue of the two albums he made with Osbourne, 1980’s Blizzard of Ozz and 1981’s Diary of a Madman. Those expanded, remastered, and restored editions were released recently, and I finally got around to cracking open my copies today. To my ears, they’re pretty damn impressive.
The Blizzard of Ozz reissue includes three bonus tracks--including the short, “Eruption”-like guitar solo “RR”--but Rhoads fans will get the biggest bang for their bucks in Diary of a Madman, which includes a second disc recorded live on the Blizzard of Ozz tour--the same one that touched down at Kerrisdale Arena back in ”˜81, if I recall correctly. As well as such mighty Osbourne solo cuts as “Flying High Again”, “Crazy Train”, and “I Don’t Know”—all of which feature Rhoads at his incendiary best—the live disc includes the Black Sabbath gems “Iron Man”, “Children of the Grave”, and “Paranoid”. Ozzy has never been a great singer in concert, but with Rhoads bringing the six-string dynamite in both hands, it doesn’t really matter.
Little Danny might not comprehend the madness that caused a true guitar hero to be silenced in his prime, but I'm betting that one day he'll appreciate the talent that was lost. These new discs—and my vinyl copy of the 1987 Tribute album--will be ready when that time arrives.
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