Sunday, March 22, 2009

Off The Rails

The exciting sequels to 24 Years Ago Today and The Menu and Diary Of A Madman.

I picked up a copy of Rudy Sarzo's book Off The Rails after being told about it by Umlaut friend Tom Vader; click HERE to read Tom's thoughts on the book.

I don't want to repeat what Tom said, but I agree with him 100% about the book. Generally I have a hard time reading biographies about bands because so much has to be pulled from the memories of people, which may or may not be completely accurate due to the passage of time and brain cells.

Sarzo's book is different because it's based on the journal he kept while on tour with Ozzy.. The book almost reads like a Metal version of Get In The Van with its details and insight into the day-to-day experience of being on a tour bus with Ozzy during his full-blown alcoholic days.

My only complaint is that the dialogue reads stiffly alot of times, but I'm sure that's due to Sarzo attempting to recreate conversations based on his journal entries. I liked how Sarzo conveyed how unpopular Metal / Hard Rock was in the early 80's. Eventhough he was only in his early 30's, Ozzy was considered washed up at the time and on that first Blizzard Of Ozz Tour they were playing to half empty venues and many shows were cancelled due to poor ticket sales. It was a different time... but that was my world, man. That was my world.

Ultimately, Sarzo's book is a tribute to his late friend Randy Rhoads; his firsthand account of March 19, 1982 is chilling. Umlaut was fortunate to have seen Randy Rhoads twice in concert, and I got a kick out of reading Sarzo's backstage accounts of these shows..

July 4, 1981 - Oakland:

Click HERE for Umlaut's account.

Sarzo wrote:

After we ended our set, we ran up the long tunnel that connected the stage area in the baseball field with the dressing rooms. I was half undressed as I reached our dressing room when I heard the event's stage manager yelling, "You guys have to come back for an encore, the audience is going wild and we're afraid we'll have a riot on our hands!" When we went back onstage and looked out into the Oakland Coliseum we knew that we were witnessing a defining moment in the band's short history as the crowd erupted with a deafening chant of "Ozzy! Ozzy!"

Wow.. Umlaut got nostalgic chills down his spine reading Sarzo's account of that show. I was down at the front on Rhoads' side of the stage and my teenage brain was overwhelmed by how great the band were... After all these years, it's nice to know the band thought the show was special too!

December 30, 1981 - San Francisco:

Click HERE for Umlaut's account.

Evidently this was the first night of the Diary Of A Madman Tour and Sarzo devoted 8 pages to it (!), detailing the pre-production activities and the show itself. Very cool, right? The best part is that he details the fiasco that happened at the end of the show, when Ozzy was supposed to emerge back onstage for the encores from under the drum riser riding in the palm of a huge gauntlet, but there was a malfunction and the gauntlet didn't fully extend and the encore was cancelled and the houselights went up... and the crowd booed.

Sarzo wrote:

The front steps of the drum riser raised slowly as the gauntlet crept onto the stage from below. Unfortunately, there was so much smoke on stage that Ozzy couldn't locate the "Hummer" sized gauntlet as he wobbled across the stage waving his hands through the smoke hoping to find it.

Frustrated with the whole fiasco Ozzy got off stage in the midst of boos from the crowd.

"Sharon, I can't find the bloody hand! There too much fuckin' smoke!"

"You get back out there and get on it! Sharon insisted.

"Fuck off! You do it," Ozzy said, heading back to the dressing room.

Boos from the crowd reverberated through the arena.

Hilarious, right!? Umlaut remembers the empty gauntlet, the smoke... and the boos.

The book is made even more legitimate by the inclusion of many photos by legendary photographer Ross Halfin. My image of Randy Rhoads was shaped in large part from seeing Halfin's photos as a teenager... and having his photos alongside Sarzo's words made this book even more compelling to me; I blazed through the 265 pages in 2 days over a weekend. Books: Is there anything they can't do?

Oakland Stadium - July 4, 1981
(Pic by Ross Halfin)

Flying high again.