Archive for February, 2011

BOOKS!!! DVDS!!! OZZY OSBOURNE!!!

Monday, February 21st, 2011

I read a book and I watched a DVD:

IAO

IAO

I Am Ozzy, by Ozzy Osbourne – the perfect rock autobiography. Val, my wonderful band’s wonderful drummer, lent me this book soon after he joined the band, and I was so happy to get it from him. I’d forgotten Ozzy had an autobiography – I hadn’t even bought it when I saw it on the shelves a few years ago. What was I thinking? What kind of a fanboy am I anyway? But, opportunity arises (or maybe it’s my DES-TI-NY), and the book came my way anyway. I quickly found time to read the book, and as soon as I got to the last page I went back and read it from page one again. This is probably the only time I’ve done such a thing!

The book doesn’t seem to hold anything back (sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, violence, murder, rock ‘n’ roll) and is alternately hilarious and immensely sad. He’s been through it all – near-death experiences, being fired from his band, marriage, kids, divorce, murder, mayhem, jail, ill health, addictions – but he’s also had the time of his life. He’s met people, good and bad, and with his family is still a staggering musical force with his own, very special legacy. It probably only matches Keith Richards’ autobiography in ribald hedonism and insanity.

The whole book is great, and it’s told constantly in that unique Ozzy voice with plenty of Birmingham slang and cussing, but all of it is heartful. He starts it off thanking his fans, then Randy Rhoads. After the table of contents, there’s a series of pages with one line written on each of them, setting up the Ozzy effect, nice touch. At the bottom of the last page of that section he leaves a warning:

Other people’s memories of the stuff in this book might not be the same as mine. I ain’t gonna argue with ‘em. Over the past forty years I’ve been loaded on booze, coke, acid, Quaaludes, glue, cough mixture, heroin, Rohypnol, Klonopin, Vicodin, and too many other heavy-duty substanes to list in this footnote. On more than a few occcasions I was on all of those at the same time. I’m not the fucking Encyclopedia Britannica, put it that way. What you read here is what dribbled out of the jelly I call my brain when I asked it for my life store. Nothing more, nothing less….

Part one is called “In the Beginning…” (sounds pretty biblical, doesn’t it?), chronicling his youth and his Black Sabbath Years, while part two, “Starting Over”, is about the solo band/married to Sharon years. The first story in part one is “John the Burglar”, about his early life. It covers his childhood and teens and brief career in crime, and ends in 1966 when he gets out of jail, where he served a three month sentence for breaking and entering. The chapter, like the whole book, is told with a mix of humor and sadness, of hardship and leisure, and you often want to laugh with Ozzy, you often want to cry. Ozzy grew up in an ugly, bombed-out town where he found himself with two options in life: “manual labour or manual labour”; or, a third option he hadn’t considered in his early years called “rock ‘n’ roll”, as it turned out.

The opening page is hilarous, and he gets right into the bit about jail, before going back a few years to his childhood, his horrible school life, and then on page 16 he mentions first seeing Tony Iommi (a real lady’s man in those days, it seems, and a budding young musician). Pretty soon he’s singing together with family (first song: Cliff Richard’s “Living Doll“). Funny, there’s not much about his three older sisters and two younger brothers. He briefly mentions his tattooed grandmother, his first experiences with rock ‘n’ roll, his first drink, and the trouble he got into as a young gangster who couldn’t take school because he was dyslexic and couldn’t process the written word. Warming big strong guys up to him with his clown routine so that he’d have a fighter as an ally when the bullies set their sights on him (worked in school, worked in jail, worked in the band too). Tormenting teachers and being tormented by them. There is one great story about how they found an old neighbour of theirs who had fallen outside and couldn’t get up, and they saved her from a slow death by hypothermia; this made Ozzy late for school, so when he rolled in the teacher gave him a horrible whipping. The story about the old lady is haunting: she had lost her husband in the war and all of her sons in a bomb shelter that took a direct hit, but years after the war she still kept her memories of them fresh in the home, going about life as if they had never died. Then there’s the time mum boiled a brillo pad together with the cabbage soup – yuck! He took early jobs where he’d be exposed to toxic, poisonous chemicals… that he’d inhale and get high off. Then there was the job as the car horn tuner, and all of the insanity (and inhumanity) that went on at the job at the slaughterhouse, not to mention the sickening gutters of blood and offal. Some creepy stories there, people can be so cruel, including Ozzy Osbourne it seems (the pigeon and bat stories come later in the book, of course, but their seeds are sewn here). Introduction to music comes with the Beatles, a young Ozzy used his paychecks to buy their music, starting with “With The Beatles”!

Thanks to Beatlemania, it seemed all right that I didn’t want to work in a factory. John Lennon and Paul McCartney hadn’t wanted to work in a factory either! And they were just like me – working-class kids from the back streets of a run-down, far-from-London industrial town. The only difference was that their town was Liverpool, not Ashton.

Got his first tattoos in prison, of course, and there are plenty of stories, like how they used to mistreat each other, most especially the torment of Bradley the pedophile, and then there are all of the other sad tales of prison.

Chapter 2, “Ozzy Zig Needs Gig” starts off with Ozzy meeting Geezer Butler one day when he responded to this ad, inviting him and his PA to join Rare Breed. “Don’t ask me where the ‘Zig’ in ‘Ozzy Zig’ came from. It just popped into my head one day,” he sez. Ozzy’s dad has taken out a loan to raise the £250 to buy an amp and two speakers, and they helped Ozzy get a place in two bands, Music Machine and The Approach, before Geezer came along with the opportunity for Rare Breed. Ozzy walked around with no shoes in those days, even in the winter, and had a bathroom tap hanging around his neck on a chain. I guess he’s never been afraid to do whatever he wanted, even if people looked at him as a clown and laughed at him. Geezer and Ozzy met their old friend Robert Plant that summer, when he was thinking of giving up Jimmy Page’s offer to be in the New Yardbirds so that he could be in his own band, Hobbstweedle (?!?!). Rare Breed broke up when Geezer got a promotion at work and devoted himself to that (for a while).

Then one day Bill and Tony (who had been in Mythology before it broke up after a serious drug bust) came around in response to the Ozzy Zig ad that was still up months later. Tony recognised Ozzy as the clown from school and wanted to walk away, but Bill convinced him to give Ozzy a chance (he had his own PA, after all, and beggars can’t be choosers), and when Ozzy brought Geezer in the lineup solidified. Next, the band had to pick a name: based on Ozzy’s inspiration sitting on the crapper they came up with Polka Tulk. What?!? The band had a saxophonist and a bottleneck guitar player for a better blues sound, but they got rid of them and renamed the band Earth. The band worked hard, never turned down gigs, and sometimes went to venues to see if there was an opening from a band that hadn’t turned up. Once it worked, and the band that didn’t show up for the gig was… Jethro Tull. They got the gig, but in the end Jethro Tull tried to steal Tony Iommi to play in their band. He appeared in “The Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus” playing his Fender Stratocaster with Jethro Tull alongside the Stones and Eric Clapton and John Lennon. But he quit after a week and came back to Ashton because he wanted his own band (wise choice, Tony).

Chapter 3, “The Witch and the Nazi”, is about the band’s first shows, a mini-tour up to Copenhagen, after which they discovered the horror movie motif and the old Boris Karloff film “Black Sabbath” and decided to name the band after it (there was also a hippy band called Earth floating around at the time and club managers were mixing them up). Eventually, the boys hear a new album being played in a pub one day and recognise their Birmingham mate Robert Plant’s voice. “Excuse me, is this the new New Yardbirds record that you’re playing?” “No, it’s Led Zeppelin.” “Excuse me, I think it has to be the New Yardbirds, Robert Plant’s band.

I couldn’t believe it: the New Yardbirds must have changed their name to Led Zeppelin… and they’d made the best record I’d heard in years. In the van on the way home, I remember saying to Tony, “did you hear how heavy that Led Zeppelin album sounded?”

Without missing a beat, he replied, “We’ll be heavier.”

Righteous. Eventually there was a stint in Hamburg playing at the Star Club that the Beatles had performed as the house band (but seven years earlier), where they shacked up with groupies so that they didn’t have to share a room/bed with each other, and Ozzy ended up with an ugly woman who treasured her father’s Nazi regalia (yuck). Back in the UK, they then cut a single with Gus Dudgeon, “Evil Woman”, and Ozzy got to hear himself on radio… at 6:00 AM. On the way to do a residency in Zurich they stopped in a studio to cut their first album, and off they went. When they were back from Switzerland they saw the album for the first time, with its cover, and it sounded great. Then it got released on Friday, February 13th, 1970. That’s when they started getting their first bad reviews, ha ha. Tony punched out some guy who wrote a bad review. Ozzy played it for his dad, who didn’t like it. But that’s also when they started getting bugged by the occultists.

I couldn’t believe it when I learned that people actually ‘practiced the occult’. These freaks with white make-up and black robes would come up to us after our gigs and invite us to black masses at Highgate Cemetery in London. I’d say to them, ‘Look , mate, the only evil spirits I’m interested in are called whisky, vodka and gin.’ At that point we were invited by a group of Satanists to play at Stonehenge. We told them to fuck off, so they said they’d put a curse on us. What a load of bollocks that was. Britain even had a ‘chief witch’ in those days, called Alex Sanders. Never met him. Never wanted to.

When the band figured out that their little league manager was being overwhelmed by their success, they looked into alternatives, and talked to the gangster-ish Don Arden and his daughter Sharon. Ozzy liked her a lot, but didn’t fall for her – yet. The band would eventually sign with Patrick Meehan, who gave them money in an opaque fashion (whatever they wanted, just pick up the phone, no receipts), but in sum still probably a lot less than they were owed.

Chapter 4, “You Guys Ain’t Black” is about their first tour in the US, and the months leading up to it. Ozzy complains that with the first album they were a “bloke’s band” and barely got any groupies, except the two-baggers (needed two bags over their heads in order to properly shag them – very un-PC to say such a thing, of course, but that’s Ozzy). There were also three-, four- and five-baggers. Eventually, they recorded and released a second album five months after the first one that they were going to call “Warpiggers” after Walpurgis Night, the witches’ sabbath. So they made an album cover that looked like war pigs dancing around (the sword for war, the pink colouring for pig).

BSP

BSP

Then they found that album was too short, and they had some studio time left, so they wrote a new song in 20 minutes, Paranoid. When the studio execs heard the song, they knew that it had to be the lead single, so the whole album was renamed Paranoid. Sure enough, they were right and the single hit the top ten in the US and the UK, but the album cover no longer matched. Ozzy complained that the guys on the cover look like gay fencers. “‘They’re not gay fencers, Ozzy.’ Bill told me. ‘They’re paranoid gay fencers.’” Classic. Next to them on the charts was Cliff RIchard’s “I Ain’t Got Time Any More”, and they played Top Of The Pops with Paranoid while old Cliff played that song with a full orchestra. Hilarious. It was a highlight of Ozzy’s to be on Top of the Pops, which he had watched growing up, and which everybody in his family would be tuning in to. Of course, after this they didn’t have to shag five baggers any more, or even two baggers, but had groupies knocking on the door any time of the day or night wherever they were.

On tour in America, Ozzy also discovered real food – pizza – and saw the ocean for the first time in Florida. Since Bill hated flying, Bill and Ozzy got driven around the US by Bill’s brother-in-law, while they indulged in drug and alcohol misadventures. There was also a weird concert in Philadelphia where all the audience that came out were black. It was a sullen, hostile crowd. “After we finished War Pigs, you could hear a pin drop. One guy called out to us ‘Hey, Black Sabbath, you guys ain’t black!’” The rest of the tour went better, but they did get accosted by Satanists, one of whom tried to stab Tony onstage. Met members of the Manson family in LA (scary), but also saw Elvis play (he came out for only 20 minutes, there was tons of warmup) and admired his merchandising savvy.

In chapter 5, “Killing the Vicar (in Atrocity Cottage)” Ozzy chronicled his domestic life and his first marriage with Thelma Riley, who had a son Elliot from a previous marriage, and their two children. Ozzy only mentions Elliot to say that he regretted treating him badly, but no more. I wonder what became of Elliot. Thelma never called him Ozzy, only John. With his manager’s money he bought a cottage in the country, and a big chunk of the book is spent recounting plenty of goofy, rural misadventures – riding a horse down to the pub, holding hash parties in the kitchen, rampant gunfire, killing cats, accidentally feeding the vicar a powerful hash brownie and worrying that it was too much for him, waking up in the same bed as the houseguests, and all sorts of nutty stuff.

I rarely slept in my own bed at Bulrush Cottage. I was so loaded every night, I could never make it up the stairs. So I’d sleep in the car, in my gypsy caravan, under the piano in the living room, in the studio or outside in a bale of hay. When I slept outside in winter, it wasn’t unusual for me to wake up blue in the face with icicles on my nose. In those days, there was no such thing as hypothermia.

Crazy shit would happen all the time at the hosue. The fact that I was usually pissed up and fucking around with my shotguns didn’t help. That’s a great combination, that is – booze and shotguns. Very fucking safe.

There were also misadventures with Led Zeppelin:

After a few nights out with Zeppelin, I worked out that their drummer, Johhn Bonham, was as fucking nuts as I was, so we’d spend most of our time trying to out-crazy each othe. That was always the way with me, y’know? I’d try to win people over with my craziness, like I had in the playgound at Birchfield Road. But, of course, behind the mask there was a sad old clown most of the time. Bonham was the same, I think.

Then there’s the recording of Volume Four in California and the mountains of cocaine and rivers of beer. Thelma came for a visit and everybody was on their best behaviour, then it was back to bedlam. A lot of the book is spent recounting the band’s practical jokes on each other, and usually Bill is the brunt of it. Here’s a good one from the recording of Master of Reality in a “haunted” castle in the UK:

Bill got the worst of it, though. One night he’d been on the cider and had passed out on the sofa. We got this full-length mirror and lifted it over him, so it wa sonly a few inches form his face. Then we poked him until he woke up. The second he opened his eyes, all he could see was himself staring back. To this day, I’ve never heard a grown man scream so loud. He must have thought he’d woken up in hell.

Bill started going to bed with a dagger after that.

That one made me laugh out loud on the subway when I read it. So did this one, about the time in California when Bill was pissing over the railing bordering the mansion:

Tony gets this can of blue spary paint and sneaks round to the other side of the railing, and when Bill starts pissing, Tony sprays his dick with it. You should have heard the scream, man. It was priceless. But then, two seconds later, Bill blacks out, falls headfirst over the railing, and starts to roll down the hillside.

I said to Tony, ‘Gis a look at that can, will yer?”

He passed it up to me, and there on the side, in big capital letters, it said: ‘WARNING, KEEP AWAY FROM SKIN. MAY CAUSE RASH, BLISTERING, CONVULSIONS, VOMITTING, AND/OR FAINTING. IF ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS OCCUR, SEEK MEDICAL CARE.’

‘Ah, he’ll be all right,’ I said.

And he was, eventually.

Although he did have a blue dick for a while.

Poor Bill. He nearly died of hepatitis around that time, and then later on when they were preparing for a reunion tour in the ’90s he had a heart attack (hands went numb, etc) that they initially mis-diagnosed this as “Ah, he’ll be all right.” Sheesh. But it wasn’t only Bill, Tony also collapsed from exhaustion after a gig because the guys were just doing too much coke and other drugs and not sleeping, and Ozzy’s epiglottis swelled up to the size of a golf ball.

There’s a great anecdote about Frank Zappa calling Supernaut his favorite rock ‘n’ roll song, because it’s the sound of pure adrenaline. Later there’s another one about the guys in Frank’s band asking for coke, because Frank hates drugs, and then later on Frank also asking Ozzy if he has some, saying it’s for someone else (and maybe it was).

Chapter 6 is called “The End is Nigh”, and it’s about the downhill path that Black Sabbath took after Sabbath Bloody Sabbath when they were too coked up, too full of themselves, while also running out of ideas.

You can hear the frustration on Sabotage. There’s some heavy-duty shit on that album. One incredible track is ‘Supertzar’. I remember the day it was recorded: I walked into the studio and there was an entire forty-member choir in there along with an eighty-six-year-old harpist. They were making a noise like God conducting the soundtrack to the end of the world. I didn’t even attempt to put a vocal over the top of it.

[Disclosure time: I'm partial to this quote, because my band took our name from this song.]

Of course, there were problems, and Ozzy quit the band. Black Sabbath tried to keep it going with a new lead singer (an old habit of Tony, Geezer and Bill’s), but it didn’t work out well, and then Ozzy came back and he sang on the last album, “Never Say Die.” But then it got too intense again, and there was the case of Ozzy missing a gig because he fell asleep in someone else’s hotel room and couldn’t be found at gig time (because he was exhausted from touring he slept over 12 hours straight, as anyone who’s exhausted would do) and Ozzy got fired. Don Arden came back into Ozzy’s life at this time, and so did Sharon, and they got his solo career started. Of course, the professional relationship didn’t stay just professional for long, and they were screwing like bunnies between arguments about musical direction.

But of course, that’s all part of part two: Starting Over, and the first chapter, “Des Moines”, is about the early years when they weren’t sure that Ozzy could make it on his own. Of course, now, he’s probably sold more records than Black Sabbath ever did (some estimates say he’s sold 100 million units, while Black Sabbath has sold 50 million), but in the early days there was no guarantee of that. He put together a band, auditioning Randy Rhoads and hiring just him based solely on his brilliant warmups. They booked tours in small venues, rather than opening for someone else, and eventually it took off. Ozzy has a lot of memories from the early days.

I hung out a lot with Lemmy from Motorhead on that tour, too. He’s a very close friend of the family now. I love that guy. Wherever there’s a beer tent in the world, there’s Lemmy. But I’ve never seen that man fall down drunk, y’know? Even after twenty or thirty pints. I don’t know how he does it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he outlives me and Keith Richards.”

Ozzy describes Lemmy on tour, carrying around with him a suitcase full of books, which was all he had in the world except for the clothes on his back. Then Lemmy was with Ozzy at father-in-law Don Arden’s house reading in the library, Arden asked Ozzy who the caveman in the library was, Ozzy said something like “oh, that’s Lemmy, he’s harmless.” Seems hard to picture Lemmy enjoying himself quietly in someone’s library, but I can believe it if I suspend my rock ‘n’ roll disbelief.

Lots of ugly scenes from that period, though, and Ozzy gets a few things off his chest:

When the tour started at the end of 1981, I was a wreck. I was in love with Sharon, but at the same time I was cut to pieces by losing my family. Then the fights between me and Sharon started to get even crazier than before. I’d get drunk and try to hit her, and she’d throw things at me. Wine bottles, gold discs, TVs – you name it, it would all come flying across the room. I ain’t proud to admit that a few of my punches reached their target. I gave her a black eye once and I thought her dad was going to rip me into pieces. But he just said, ‘Watch yourself.’ It’s shameful what I did when I was loaded. The fact that I ever raised my hand against a woman disgusts me. It was a fucking atrocious, unforgivable way to behave, and there’s no excuse fo it, ever. And like I said before, it’s something I[‘ll take to the grave with me. I don’t know why Sharon stuck around, to be honest with you.

Ozzy had a lot of torment, and one of the things that got him the most was the breakup with his wife when he realised that he was in love with Sharon. He moved out of the house, and eventually there was a restraining order against him. He writes about the torment of losing his kids, but then again, he was too wasted most of the time to appreciate them (and he’d soon enough have a new family to neglect with his drinking and drugging).

There are some grimly funny stories told about this time in his life. One of the things that Ozzy salvaged after the break-up was a stuffed bear that he’d gotten his manager to buy, but he’s shot the stuffed bear’s head off in a drunken mania (appalling, yes). Salvaging it meant taking a cab from his ex-wife’s cottage back to London (couldn’t have been cheap). But it didn’t go well in the end:

When I got out of the cab, I had to leave it propped up against a bus stop on the street outside Sharon’s house on Wimbledon Common while I carried my bags into the hallway. But instead of going back out to get the bear, me and Sharon decided that it would be funnier to put one of her frilly kitchen aprons on it, and then get her friends to come outside and see it. But while we were trying to organise all that, someone nicked the fucking thing. I was heartbroken. I loved that bear.

I don’t know what’s more surreal – the thought of Ozzy loving a stuffed bear with its head blown off, or the thought that someone in Wimbledon Common has Ozzy’s bear as a souvenir.

Ozzy started a new life with Sharon, and eventually asked her to marry her… about 20 times. He’d ask her, then get cold feet, then he’d ask her, then they’d have a fight. But they finally did, and true to form he got blasted at the reception and passed out in the hallway.

And the family madness continued. You saw it in the first decade of the new millenium on The Osbournes, but it was no different in the ’80s:

One of my favourite tricks at Outlands Cottage was to shave off people’s eyebrows while they were asleep. Believe me, there’s nothing funnier than a bloke with no eyebrows. People don’t realise that your eyebrows provide most of your facial expressions, so when they’re gone, it’s hard to show concern or suprprise or any of those other basic human emotions. But it takes people a while to realise what’s wrong. At first, they just look in the mirror and think, ‘Christ, I look like shit today.’ One guy I did it to ended up going to see his doctor, ‘cos he couldn’t work out what the fuck was up.

I went through a period of giving the eyebrow treatment to everyone: agents, managers, roadies, assistants, friends, friends-of-friends. Whenever someone turned up to a management meeting with a face that didn’t look quite right, you knew that they’d spent a night at my place.

There are other crazy stories in this chapter. Like the pigeon-biting incident when record company executives in LA were giving him a hard time. Someone had dreamed up a stunt where Ozzy would make a point by releasing two pigeons, but instead he only released one of them… and bit the other’s head off. It got them in trouble with the record company, but it got them great publicity; same with the “pissing on the Alamo” incident. Also, there’s the bat incident in Des Moines, which is the title of the chapter. Ozzy writes that during that tour the band had a crazy routine of throwing raw meat and pigs blood out into the audience, and hanging their alcoholic midget every night, and there was all sorts of craziness, and people were throwing things onstage. Then there was… the bat… which he figured was a toy… but it wasn’t. Chomp… oops… rabies shots.

Things take a turn for the worse in chapter 8 “While I was Sleeping”, which recounts the airplane accident that killed his awesome guitarist Randy Rhoads, makeup person Rachel Youngblood, and the coked-out tourbus driver who had piloted a small private plane. It all happened when Ozzy and Sharon were sleeping in the tourbus – the plane went out of control and hit the bus and crashed and burned. A horrible event that shouldn’t have happened, and Ozzy still can’t figure it out – Randy and Rachel both hated flying, why would they have gotten in the plane? One spooky part of it was that Ozzy found the imprint from the front of the Gibson t-shirt that Randy had been wearing that day lying in the field next to the wreckage. Terrible. But the band had to continue, and then Randy went through a few guitarists before settling on Jake E Lee, who he doesn’t write about at all (he also doesn’t mention Zakk Wylde much either, and I don’t think that Robert Trujillo or Mike Bordin are really mentioned either).

Chapter 9, “Betty, Where’s the Bar?”, is largely about Osbourne’s struggles with addiction, chapter 10, “Blackout”, is also about his struggles with addiction, as is chapter 11, “Dead Again”. Seems like Osbourne hit rock bottom in Prague when, after a period of sobriety, he and Zakk went on the beer (“It was soooo good”), and Ozzy said to Zakk that the one rock star thing that he’d never done, but he still wanted to do, was to throw a TV out of the window. He did it, but was so disgusted with himself, that he just didn’t want to do drugs and drink any more. Something shifted in his addict’s brain, if you can believe the telling, but it’s good for him if it’s so (and for his family as well, of course). It’s even gotten to the point that he scorns British pub culture, pointing out the irony of how UK people would unwind after attending the funeral of a friend who has drunk himself to death by going down to the pub.

Other tales that he tells are about the accident with the quad bike which nearly cost him his life, and then there’s all the madness around The Osbournes TV show. After four seasons of insanity, the series ended, to Ozzy’s relief. He would have never done the series, he said, if he’s have known what the lack of privacy meant (eldest child Jessie was smart, she didn’t want to be in the show at all). Also, there was the surge in celebrity that made life difficult, and there were problems around what it did to Jack and Kelly. But during the time, Ozzy and Kelly finally got a number one song with “Changes”, nearly becoming the Christmas Number One of that year (beat out by Gary Jules’ “Mad World”). Ozzy was disappointed that none of the other guys in the band called to congratulate him.

One of the best parts of the The Osbournes years and the celebrity, however, was Ozzy’s brushes with other celebrities. Of course, there’s the infamous visit to George Bush’s White House that is recounted so well in the first episode of the second season of The Osbournes, but there’s also meetings with people he loves and respects like Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Elton John and Elizabeth Taylor (yes, it’s a surprising list – is Ozzy much more conservative than we’d all like to imagine?).

There were two Black Sabbath reunions, Live Aid in but Ozzy doesn’t write much about them. There are a lot of people and events that Ozzy doesn’t write much about, and you get the sense that there’s a lot of reliance on anecdotes, while there’s also a general skirting around certain issues, but in a crazy 40-year career in show business there’s going to a lot that isn’t mentioned. But he does recount the case of his attempt to strangle Sharon one night when he was out of his mind on booze and drugs, as well as the case of him being mis-diagnosed with AIDS after shagging a grubby groupie (last time he ever cheated on Sharon, according to him, the AIDS scare thing taught him a lesson… I guess). As far as anecdotes go, there’s one really disgusting one about the time they were viewing a house that Roger Whittaker was trying to sell.

He writes a bit about his parents, and the times when each died, as well as the death of Don Arden, and each story is sad. There’s also a lot of animosity with Don Arden, and even with Ozzy’s mum, who seemed too focussed on money for Ozzy’s taste. A bit odd to fault someone who had a hard life growing up poor being very focussed on the fuel that lubricates the wheels. I guess he’s the kind of guy who has been successful for so long that he takes money for granted, although he does give several perspectives on it throughout the book of having to buy his way out of some of the disfavourable deals that he signed onto as a young artist that he needed to get out of if he ever wanted his independence.

Ozzy has lots of crazy, funny stories, but also lots of sadness in his madness. There’s the cruelty to animals, there’s getting away from their first manager Jim Simpson in an underhanded way, there’s mistreating his first and second wife, and there’s the years spent in a drug and alcoholic haze and neglecting his family, not to mention incidents like the birthday party where he made a fool of himself, scared the kids, beat up the clown, and alienated the kids’ parents.

The book has four batches of photos. The first one shows the family, Black Sabbath and the early days, and pictures of his first solo band with Randy Rhoads. There’s childhood pics of Ozzy, a picture of Ozzy with his mum and dad as a young rock star, a cool picture of Ozzy and an early band playing naked (and Ozzy seems to be playing bass!!!), pics from “Atrocity Cottage” with Ozzy’s first family (no pictures of his first wife, though). Only four pictures of Ozzy together with Tony, Geezer and Bill, there should be more… Then there’s a sad (and sadly ironic) picture of Randy Rhoads and Rachel Youngblood together, standing next to the same tourbus that their plane later crashed into, killing them both. A second set of pictures shows Ozzy and Sharon, many of them with him wearing the fake werewolf teeth of the “Bark at the Moon” days. Then there’s a weird pic of a new wave Ozzy with short hair wearing some sort of a horrid suit, and another picture of Ozzy with short hair from the time he shaved his head to get out of doing a gig (didn’t work, it only made him look like Bruce Dickinson when he cut his hair short). This section has a cool picture of Ozzy sitting on the crapper that shows the smiley-face tattoos he has on his knees, and there is a mug shots from Memphis where he got busted for public urination. The third set shows pics from the Black Sabbath reunion, both from Live Aid and from the Reunion tour, and and there are pics of his new family. Ozzy starts wearing those cool round shades around this time, and there are shots from The Osbournes TV show. Awww, there’s also a nice pic of Ozzy mooning the audience – that’s how we’ll remember him. Last set of pics shows Ozzy with celebrities – Elton John (“the most generous man I’ve ever met), Paul McCartney (“My rock ‘n’ roll hero”), Liz Taylor (“My father once told me she was the most beautiful woman in the world”) and the Queen (“She didn’t have to bring me flowers.”) There’s also a great pic of Ozzy and Marilyn Manson kneeling on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Marilyn slightly behind Ozzy (“Not sure I want to know what Marilyn’s thinking about.”). Lots of great pics of Ozzy with his family (wife, kids, sisters), him riding a dirt bike, siting on the quad bike that nearly killed him, with a lookalike, and finally… Black Sabbath being inducted into the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame.

What a great book. I wish I hadn’t given it back to Val – I want to read it again.

MNEII

MNEII

Money No Enough II – This is the sequel to Money No Enough, and again it follows ordinary Singaporeans through their daily troubles, of course they are centered around money, but also love and family. There are three brothers, two of them scammers (one in real estate, the other selling health supplements in a pyramid scheme) and the last of them a dumb bloke. There’s an ailing mother, and a patch of grandkids. The first half of the movie is a comedy, as the family has plenty of laughs, first joking about the country’s road toll system called Electronic Road Pricing (ERP), a.k.a. “every road pay”, but here they are labelled “EPR”, perhaps to avoid some sort of sedition charges or something. The movie goes through plenty of crazy character establishment, and each of the three brothers is some sort of motormouth character, whizzing away in hokkien and mandarin, barely any English is spoken (I wonder how accurate this is – you hardly hear a Singaporean speaking Chinese without peppering every sentence with at least two or three English words, and local dialects are a bit of a rarity now too). The men are brutes, the wives are bullied, and the prettiest of the bunch subjects herself to her lyin’ cheatin’ man, even taking a rap for him (twice). Huh?  There are a few pretty funny segments, such as the one where the dim brother fantasises that he’s driving an F1 car. The families begin to rake in the dough, and dumb brother even buys a car for himself and his family. But then the roof caves in, and everything disappears. Sheesh! So the comedy quickly turns into a drama, and the victim is the poor old grandmother.

The movie was nice, and it’s cool to see Singapore appear in a film about Singaporeans. One of the crappier parts of it was all of the product placements, including really overt stuff from a local bank that was flogging its children’s deposit accounts stuff, as well as a brand of cars, a cafe, and even a local delicatessen. Jeez!

881

881

881 – Wow, two Singapore films in one week. This one is 881, a song about the “getai” singers who fill stages during “ghost month”, when the gates of hell are thrown open and dead spirits mingle with the not-yet-dead spirits (us) in our world; performances are staged and fake money is burned for their benefit to stay on their good side. Two young ladies, Little Papaya and Big Papaya, get together to start up an act with Auntie Ling and her mute son, who narrates the film. He is a handsome hunk of a dude, but he plays the wounded child here, and his best friend is a chicken, who he carries everywhere (there are plenty of “cock” puns here, which the translators enjoy with great aplomb) and squeezes for effect on cue in songs sung by the Papaya “Sisters”. The girls aren’t any good, so they go to visit the goddess of getai, who happens to be Auntie Ling’s twin sister (of course), and they are blessed with the gift of golden voices. This makes them famous as singers, but brings new problems. Now they have rivals, the Durian Sisters, who are sexy and sing well, but are bitchy as hell. So they have a sing-off which the Papaya Sisters win, but soon Little Papaya is dying of cancer. The final scenes are sad and chilling, sung in hospital as Little Papaya fades away.

The magic of the film is not the plot, which is predictable, but the Hokkien, which flies fast and furious in ways you don’t really hear in real-life Singanpore, where people don’t really speak the old languages well (or the new languages either, come to think of it). The actors have a real zest for the language, near as I can tell, and even reading the subtitles is a lot of fun (less fun is the stilted, whiny mandarin when it comes out. The songs are great, even though you tend to hear the same ones more than once (or twice, or three times). The costumes are also fantastic, as are the surreal effects, such as the green titty blasters that the nefarious Durian Sisters use against the angelic Papaya sisters. Also of interest is how plain the Papaya sisters look in real life, and how hot they look when they are dressed up. Makeover! Very nice Egyptian outfits too. Also, the cinematography is stunning, and many of the shots are immaculately and uniquely framed, nearly everything is very artistic. I saw this film on the same weekend I saw Tim Burton’s “Nine” – what’s with these number movies?

9

9

Nine – This is one of those films that is done with computer graphics that try to make it look like it’s stop motion. Okay, whatever. The film opens with a mystery – who is this strange doll-like creature that has woken up without a voice and the number 9 written on his back? He probably doesn’t even know himself. So, off we go on a voyage of learning. Soon he is terrorized by lethal machines that snap, stab and attack, then he finds others of his kind. The enemy is alive, but it is sleeping. Then he wakes it up… and real problems start. The movie is not about finding answers, but about righting wrongs and bringing life back – not to its earlier form, but the less-bad situation of the start of the film. How frustrating. The plot, unfortunately, doesn’t really make any sense. But, in a way, you don’t care, because you feel for the creatures you see, and the effects are beautiful. The creatures are effectively sewn out of sack cloth, and the animation captures it lovingly, as it does the strange lighting and the great action scenes. A very nice film, in spite of everything. I saw this film on the same weekend I saw Royston Tan’s “881″ – what’s with these number movies?

Comics!!!

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

I went to the public library and I got our some unbelievable funky comics!

TCBSD

TCBSD

“The Creeper”, by Steve Ditko – A groovy Steve Ditko creation for Marvel, the Creeper initiates a war on crime and blasts apart a bunch of crooks, then takes on mysterious superpowered villains, like Proteus, who can make himself look like anyone. The Creeper himself is cool looking, and he has a gimmick of terrorizing criminals with his insane laughter that’s, in a way, pretty funny. Lots of murder and mayhem as some of the Creeper’s enemies are totally unscrupulous, and forever shooting down informants as they talk to the Creeper.

GH/RH

GH/RH


Green Hulk/Red Hulk – A totally outrageous set, the story chronicles the sudden appearance of a new super creature, the Red Hulk. While the Hulk is generally child-like, destructive, and very green, Red Hulk is murderous, malevolent, arrogant, sleazy, and quite happy to finish off an enemy by shooting him between the eyes after having beaten him in an inch of his life. He finishes off the Abomination in this way, but of course in no time a new Abmonation has sprouted up in the form of Rick Jones, who inexplicably becomes another Abomination. Red Hulk takes on Iron Man, She-Hulk, and terrorist-like brings down the SHIELD. helicarrier. He takes on Thor, Ares and the Sub-Mariner, as well as Moon Knight (huh? he doesn’t even have super-powers), as well as Ms Marvel. In one of the stranger episodes, the Hulk (both green and grey) enters the picture and pick a fight with a squad of wendigo – men who have been turned into werewolves after engaging in cannibalism – who are freed from their curse by Brother Voodoo (???). Finally, She-Hulk enlists the help of a bunch of female superheros (Thundra, Storm, Invisible Girl, Brunnhilda and a few others) to get revenge on the creep for beating her up in the SHIELD heli-carrier. Leonard Samson and Thunderbolt Ross show up, as do a few Soviet superheroes (Ursa Major, Red Guardian, etc). Finally, there’s a recreation of the Hulk’s encounter in Canada with Wolverine, and some kiddy comics of the red, blue and green hulks hanging out. One strange thing about the collection is that in one scene, Red Hulk is shown with Thunderbolt Ross, who it seems is Red Hulk – how can they be in the same place at the same time?

The story is good fun in a very stupid way, but ultimately I have to wonder why comic books are so dumb now. In the past, comic book writers used to waste a lot of panels with dialogue that offer the most convoluted explanations as to why something happened, now they don’t even bother explaining anything.

H:HNM

H:HNM


Hulk: Hulk No More – While I was amused at the “Green Hulk/Red Hulk” collection, this one really tried my patience, starting with the illogical title, proceeding through the boring battles between evenly-matched opponents, all the way to the preposterous triple betrayals at the end. Jeez louise!

The first story is one of those corny “we elder super-gods will each select a team of Earth’s finest heroes and villains and pit them against each other” gladiator tale. Barfy and hammy, although there is a fun moment when Red Hulk steals the Silver Surfer’s surfboard and zooms around the universe for fun. There’s also a sick scene when Tiger Shark bites deep into Namor’s neck (ewww!!!). Red Hulk kills everybody, including Dormammu, Psycho Man and the High Evolutionary… only to be stopped by Galactus, who strips him of the cosmic power that Red Hulk had absorbed from the Silver Surfer (that’s his mutant ability, by the way – he can absorb others’ power, sort of like Roger the homonulcus in the Hellboy/Mike Mignola universe). Then there’s a Ben Ulrich adventure (reporters in comic books have a fine tradition for creating boredom, going all the way back to Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen), that shows Red Hulk destroying Green Hulk by draining him of his powers; oh yeah, AIM, Modok and Spiderman all come into the picture at this point. Then there’s Rick/The Abomination’s battle with Ares, which is stupid and indecisive (although there’s a nice bit of irony in there somewhere too). But it doesn’t get worse than the battle between two teams: Red Hulk, Punisher, Dynamo, Deadpool and Thundra (and, maybe, an indecisive Electra) versus Wolverine, X-23, Arcangel, Wrapath and Domino. Brawling, Wolverine slashes Red Hulk’s eyes, blinding him, then Wolverine is thrown high into the air (of course, he lands in the river and has to make his way back). That’s the extent of his involvement, pretty much, outside of a lot of posing. Of course, the Red She-Hulk then makes an appearance, as does Doc Samson, and in a final story the good doctor visits his shrink who is none other than… Modok!

Here’s a stupid scene – Red Hulk tumbles from the top of the Empire State Building the resulting impact awakens The Thing in the nearby Baxter Building, who complains that he’s been woken up… and that’s the last we ever see of him. Terrible. And, like the “Green Hulk/Red Hulk” book, you get kiddy Hulks comics at the end that are quite immature, of course (but maybe not quite as immature as the pages that came before it).

DTU-BFFs

DTU-BFFs


Deadpool Team-Up BFFs – Another stupid comic, starting off with Deadpool, now a professional wrestling manager, teaming up with The Thing, a pro wrestling ringside commentator, against Max Intensity, the most famous wrestler in the universe looking for a new battle. Of course, Max Intensity rips himself in two so that there can be a tag team – they defeat him, but not before it is revealed to our disbelieving duo that, yes, wresting is faked. NO!!!!! Right. Then there’s the Raiders of the Lost Ark Deadpool in Asgard trying to steal Norse treasure from the gods, only to awaken evil spirit Den Vakre, trapped inside a gem or something; by the end, Thor doesn’t seem to notice how immature Deadpool is and commends his character, encouraging him to improve his self-esteem and have more confidence in himself (and no, I don’t think it was intended to be ironic). Barf. Then Iron Fist and Deadpool team up to defeat mystic kung fu madman Gin Goh, the serially-reincarnated slayer of millions. Deadpool takes millions of hits, he’s stabbed and trampled, but that’s okay – he’s indestructible, everything heals near-instantly. Deadpool then teams up with the Hellcow against a mad scientist, becoming a vampire himself temporarily before his healing restores him (can’t keep a good Deadpool undead for long), and three’s some sort of really strange ending to that one, including Deadpool eating a Hellcow-burger, – of course, a very angry Hellcow is also recuscitated. Deadpool teams up with a whacked out Watcher (and his assistant), who for once breaks his vow of inactivity and simply joins in the fray against an alien dog creature. Superfluous. Deadpool next becomes a herald of Galactus (!) for more hijink, and the torture concludes when he teams up with Wolverine to defeat a Shi’ar robot. Happily he saves the day by… cross dressing. Nice.

Baseball weekend

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Busy weekend, kinda – Friday night I rushed home after a busy day at work to join Naoko and Zen and one other family at a Korean restaurant for dinner, but work kept me an hour late, so all the food was cold. Boo. After that the family came over and we had a nice time here, yay. Saturday I chilled out at home all day mainly, and Sunday we had a softball tournament at Turf City. It was really hot! We were out of doors from 10:45 until 5:30. The kids played only once, but they lost 20:0. That is one point shy of the maximum you can lose by (the kids play three innings, and the umpire will call the inning if one team gets seven runs, otherwise an inning can go on forever if a team is not good). Oh well.

Here are some pictures:

Hey hey we're the Coconuts

Hey hey we're the Coconuts

On Saturday the weather was nutty. Here’s a shot out of my south-facing window:

Looking south

Looking south

… and here’s a shot out of my north-facing window:

Looking north

Looking north

Bahrain trip 2011

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Had a great trip to Bahrain, it was a lot of fun. I took tons of pictures, they tell all the story that there is to tell, really. The basics are that Sunday afternoon I flew to Kuala Lumpur, hung around a bit in the not-so-great flight lounge, took business class to Bahrain where I watched one movie (the Expendables, not recommendables), slept four hours, got to the hotel at midnight, slept another four hours, was still pooped when I got up at 6:00. The BBC called me to go in for some story, but I didn’t (couldn’t). Went to an insurance conference all day, went for drinks in the evening, went for an insurance conference for half of the second day, and then buzzed around Manama with my new friends Duncan, Hasan, Leigh, Susie and Victoria (like the Kinks song). We checked out a museum, a fort, some shops (suqs), some preserved buildings in a cool residential neighbourhood, a great club on the 52nd floor of the Bahrain Financial Harbour building (we sat next to the guy playing the Godin guitar), then off for dinner at Meat Company (it was a vegetarian restaurant), and then to the airport… reluctantly. What a fun trip! Here are some pictures:

Bahrain's World Trade Centre

Bahrain's World Trade Centre

Bahrain's World Trade Centre (at night, with one wind turbine spinning)

Bahrain's World Trade Centre (at night, with one wind turbine spinning)

Bahrain's Beatles

Bahrain's Beatles

The Rush of Bahrain

The Rush of Bahrain

The lobby of the Ritz Carlton.  Nice ROC logo on the floor.

The lobby of the Ritz Carlton. Nice ROC logo on the floor.

Two boys and a pony cart.

Two boys and a pony cart.

Fortress afternoon

Fortress afternoon

Anyhow, under an arch...

Anyhow, under an arch...

Four arches.

Four arches.

Pony trail

Pony trail

Man and flag

Man and flag

Castle tower in Manama

Castle tower in Manama

Shadow with castle

Shadow with castle

Abaya suq

Abaya suq

Suq!

Suq!

No! Spitting!!

No! Spitting!!

Antiques Hut.

Antiques Hut.

Giant portrait

Giant portrait

Crescent moon and crescent moon

Crescent moon and crescent moon

mystery portrait

mystery portrait

Manama alley

Manama alley

Desert moon

Desert moon

Klimtisch garb

Klimtisch garb

Facade

Facade

Shadow corner

Shadow corner

Street, light

Street, light

All of Manama

All of Manama

Lighted staircase

Lighted staircase

Sulking parrots

Sulking parrots

Crystal jade

Crystal jade

Kebab-man

Kebab-man

Manama-tronic

Manama-tronic

Pete in business class

Pete in business class