What We Learned at Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Ordinary Man’ Album Preview
Ozzy Osbourne continued the promotional blitz for his new solo album, Ordinary Man, Thursday (Feb. 13) in Los Angeles, inviting a crowd of fans and a few press members to the SiriusXM studios for a playback of the new record and a taping of an Ozzy's Boneyard special reflecting on the creation of the album, which truly seems like a passion project for all involved.
Osbourne, decked out in a blue jacket, black derby bowler hat and stylish gold handled cane, was joined on the panel by host Billy Morrison of Royal Machines and guitarist / producer Andrew Watt, sporting a long brown coat, black and white thick souled shoes and a vibrantly colored shirt. Bassist Duff McKagan was also part of the chat via phone. Loudwire was on hand and here are some of the takeaways from the chat and reflections on what we heard.
"You Just Have to Believe in Fate"
That's how Duff McKagan described it, speaking about receiving the call to put together an Ozzy record and turning it around so quickly. McKagan, with a rare break of six days in his schedule away from Guns N' Roses and other projects, received the call from Andrew Watt and with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith also involved, he flew to L.A. to accept the challenge of creating an Ozzy Osbourne album.
“Andrew was on fire,” said McKagan, admitting that he went into recording not knowing how the trio, who had not worked together previously, would gel. But there was never a period where the trio of musicians felt lost for a riff or part to get things going. They left spaces in particular for a Slash guitar contribution and where they wanted specific Ozzy parts, but the musical side was worked up over a very short period.
Chad Smith Tipped the Scales to Do the Album
If you can believe it, the record almost didn't happen, as Watt was initially unsure of his ability to create an Ozzy Osbourne record. After meeting with Ozzy at the request of Kelly Osbourne to do the Post Malone collaboration "Take What You Want," a request came to do a full record with Watt tasked with the undertaking. He initially planned to turn it down, but a call to Chad Smith set him straight.
Smith's unabashed enthusiasm to do the record, followed by McKagan signing on gave Watt the confidence to pursue the project. “If you’re the worst one in the room, you’ll get the best out of you,” Watt said of his decision to step up to the plate. Both Watt and McKagan praised Smith's efforts on the album, with McKagan adding, "Chad is just a great musical writing drummer."
Osbourne Treated Watt to Dinner, Then Left Him Agonizing for a Night
After Watt brought the recordings he, Smith and McKagan had done to Osbourne, he hilariously recalls Osbourne taking him to one of his favorite restaurants for his special spaghetti and calamari treat, then heading back to listen to the music.
Ozzy sat still in a chair taking it in, while the animated Watt was passionate about moving around the room and getting in Ozzy's face over the music that excited him. At the end, Ozzy just asked, "Can I go now? I'll call you tomorrow."
Watt agonized that evening fearing Osbourne didn't like what he heard, but was relieved the following day when Ozzy called and asked, "When are we starting?" From there, it took about three weeks to write the lyrics and record Ozzy's and the remaining parts of the record.
Play / Record / Next
The album really was conceived at a breakneck pace. McKagan and Watt concurred that almost every performance on the record was either a first or second take. Even Slash, who came in as a guest to lay down a solo, nailed his part on "Straight to Hell" in just one take.
Even Osbourne didn't have to labor to get his parts down, with the tracking coming fairly easily. “If you know what you want, you don’t need to record it 50 times," said Osbourne. “It’s not supposed to be perfect. You get a vibe or you don’t.”
"It's just straight up raw," added Osbourne of the music, while Watt marveled over the record being truly "performance-based music."
When asked by an audience member if there were any tracks that didn't make the record, Osbourne stated that they got to 10 and felt they were done. “It just gets boring for fucks sake,” stated the singer about deciding not to continue further, feeling what they had was just right.
"Ordinary Man" / Extraordinary Experience
The album truly was a "pinch myself" experience for Watt, who was born in 1990 but had immersed himself in Ozzy and Sabbath records growing up. While initially being asked to work with Osbourne on a record was a "wow" enough moment, Watt recalled Ozzy requesting choral and string moments and telling him to go to Abbey Road to do it. The producer had never been, so knowing he was at the place where the Beatles had recorded was not lost on him. He actually found a string arranger who had worked on an early Sabbath record during his visit.
But that's not all, as he returned to the U.S. only to have Sharon request that he fly to meet Elton John to record a guest spot for the title track. Even for someone who has worked across multiple genres in his young career, these were keepsake moments. "It's all a dream," said the producer.
Ozzy's Got Stories, But He Also Does His Research
Though Watt, Smith and McKagan set the base with their instrumental recordings, Ozzy's fingerprints are all over this record. The song "Eat Me" came from a story Ozzy had found about a German man trying to get people to actually eat him. He found it humorous, especially given his current environs. "Because everyone in California is Vegan, I thought, 'That'll fuck 'em up,'" remarked Osbourne, who also plays a bluesy harmonica to open one of the album's grittier tracks.
The furiously chaotic album highlight "It's a Raid" also comes from an Ozzy story, with the Prince of Darkness reflecting on the studio space they were in reminded him of recording in the same area for Black Sabbath's Vol. 4. Osbourne told Watt of his more hedonistic days, being in a home surrounded by coke and weed and thinking that things were getting warm. So he pushed a button he thought was air conditioning, but soon police were descending upon the house.
As he yelled, "It's a raid," he attempted to get rid of all drugs as best he could before they came knocking, only to be caked in cocaine when the cops arrived. "I couldn't sleep for four days," recalled Osbourne. Ozzy yelling, "It's a raid" was just one of the "Ozzy-isms" Watt used in place of guitar solos on the punkish track, which also includes the hilarious Osbourne line, "Lord, I'm running out of cigarettes / Fuck." "I was like, 'Are you fucking serious?,'" Osbourne recalls of initially being played the furiously chaotic track, but he adds, "It turned out great."
Yet another song, "Scary Little Green Men" came from Osbourne watching a historical TV show on aliens and crafting a tune around it. Morrison also revealed that knowing Osbourne as long as he has, the track includes a melody that the singer had been trying to include on something for years.
- Of using the word "defecate" on the album opening "Straight to Hell," Ozzy laughingly replied, "I don't think anyone else could get away with it."
- McKagan on his playing: “We were super aggressive in trying to be of service to Ozzy,” said the bassist of "Under the Graveyard," pointing to Black Flag’s “My War” as an influence. He also called out Sex Pistols' Paul Cook as an influence on "Holy for Tonight."
- Ozzy's tough 2019 factored into the writing. “Writers come up with their best stuff when they’re miserable, and I was really fucking miserable over the past year,” said the singer.
- Ozzy reflecting on career highlights, while discussing meeting the Queen: "I liked her but I don't think she liked me. She said (affecting stuffy British accent), 'Oh this is what they called variety.'”
- Ozzy was in a reflective mood, with it being the 50th anniversary of Black Sabbath's debut album and what many are proclaiming to be the birth of metal. “50 years has gone by so quickly," said Osbourne. "You couldn’t write my story. It’s just an incredible time I’ve had.” He also added, with typical Ozzy humor, “Where the time goes I don’t know. I’m seven years clean and sober … and fucking boring.”
Initial Ozzy Osbourne Ordinary Man Album Reaction
There is no denying the passion involved in this record, but those thinking this is a full throttle metal album might be a little surprised. Sure, there are moments on here that have metal touchtones — the dark foreboding opening of "Today Is the End," the at times sludgy tones of "Goodbye" and the more chaotic and heavier moments of "Eat Me" and "This Is a Raid" — but this album is a more eclectic offering that falls more in the hard rock vein.
That said, that's not a bad thing. The album was crafted very well, has a solid flow and the listener is not left feeling a sense of repetition. There's energy in the performances that jumps off the page and parts that were created not only as a love letter to Ozzy, but also to a variety of his influences. The Beatles-esque title track, with a guest turn from Elton John is already receiving a lot of love and interest. The driving opening track "Straight to Hell," complete with moments where we envision fans singing along to verses when Ozzy returns to the road, is a definite standout. And the opening classical picking of "Under the Graveyard" has already made its mark on listeners. But there's plenty more to digest here.
The wistful and reflective "All My Life" feels like the next radio single waiting to happen. "Goodbye" puts the emphasis on some heavy drumming from Smith with an energy that we dare the listener to not bob along to the music. Osbourne offers a soon to be quotable, "There's no tea in heaven" to finish out the track as well.
Osbourne keeps it dark on "Today Is the End," which feels a little Sabbath-y, while staying dark yet more melodic on "Scary Little Green Men," which finds Smith feverishly drumming to the song's finale.
"Holy for Tonight" is a true album standout, reflecting some of Osbourne's angst as he enters his twilight years. "Pray for me father / I'm running out of ends," he sings at one point, while later positing, "What will I think of when I speak my final words."
While there's a certain sense of melancholy and reflectiveness that permeates the record, Osbourne ends it on an upbeat and chaotic note, more than ready to start a few circle pits with the Post Malone-guesting track "It's a Raid."
There's a little something for everyone on Ozzy's Ordinary Man album, yet it all flows together for what should be considered an uptick in Osbourne's solo catalogue and a well representative document of Osbourne's life at this stage in his career.
Be sure to tune in to the Ozzy's Boneyard album preview special on Sirius XM's Channel 38 at 12PM ET on Feb. 20 to hear the full chat and music in its entirety. And to reserve Osbourne's 'Ordinary Man' album prior to the Feb. 21 street date, head here. Catch Ozzy on tour this year at these stops.
Ozzy Osbourne Discusses "Ordinary Man" Song With Elton John & Slash
Ozzy Osbourne Discusses "It's a Raid" Featuring Post Malone
Black Sabbath Songs Ranked Worst to Best (Ozzy Osbourne Era)