39 years ago: Ozzy Osbourne returns with ‘Bark at the Moon’

When Ozzy Osbourne released his third solo album Bark at the moon on Nov. 15, 1983, it was two years since the critically acclaimed Diary of a Madman come out. To say that the period between records was turbulent would be an understatement of epic proportions as it saw a series of personal and professional issues take place with almost none of them for the better. Still, the former Black Sabbath frontman was able to deliver a respectable LP that would achieve fan favorite status despite the circumstances leading up to and during production.

Drug- and alcohol-addicted Osbourne was arguably at his scariest career peak when it came to disreputable drugs in the early 80s, landing him in trouble with the law, endangering his health and acting as a coping mechanism when he suffered the greatest imaginable loss. There was a two month stretch in early 1982, which to this day defines the perception of the Prince of Darkness. He bit the head off a bat, collapsed on stage, urinated on the Alamo and lost his guitarist Randy Rhoads in a terrible plane crash.

It would be the final blow, on March 18, 1982, which sent Osbourne into an emotional tailspin where he never got the chance to properly grieve. Less than two weeks later, he was back on the road to continue Diary of a Madman trip with exIan Gillan guitarist Bernie Tormé, who would split after a handful of dates. Night Ranger axeman Brad Gillis was then recruited and would play on the live album of Sabbath covers, Talk about the Devilas the year drew to a close, but the revolving door of musicians was hardly done spinning.

Bassist Rudy Sarzo left to rejoin Quiet Rebellion and was temporarily replaced by UFO‘s Pete Way, who, along with Gillis, would say goodbye after the final date in 1982. Three months of shows were about to begin in the second week of January, and Osbourne was short a guitarist and a bassist. The bass slot was filled by Don Costa, who would be out at the end of the year Bob Daisley could return to work on the next album.

The key role, as always in Osbourne’s band, would be the guitarist. He had already worked extensively with two veritable legends Tony Iommi and Rhoads, so the next long-term player would have to be something special. First, George Lynch was hired, practiced a bit with the band in Europe, but it was informal shown the door.

On the recommendation of Osbourne’s confidant Dana Strum, who had a hand in getting Rhoads a job with Ozzy, Jake E. Lee Was introduced. The flamboyant guitarist based in San Diego who played in an early version of Steering wheel and then Rough Cutt also said that he was once considered to be added as another guitarist Motley Crue in the band’s early days. He was the perfect fit for the era, wrapped in leather, flamboyant and like a fresh uncaged gymnast when it came to performing live. Most importantly, he could dissect how many even now consider him a close second to Rhoads as Ozzy’s best guitarist.

“Since Randy was killed, I’ve had a lot of bad luck with players,” Osbourne said Kerrang! back then. “Often they just want to stay with me to get a name before starting their own careers. But I like to think that the band is now as close to permanent, although sometimes I wake up in the morning and wonder, who is still here.”

The decision was made to return to England’s Ridge Farm Studios in the hope of capturing some of the magic of Osbourne’s first two solo efforts, which were recorded there. By most accounts, Osbourne was unable to contribute to the songwriting process.

Ozzy Osbourne. “Bark at the Moon”

“Well, most of it was really me and Bob Daisley, because Ozzy would show up and kind of play around with songs,” Lee remembered years later. “I remember I had the riff for ‘Bark at the Moon’ and I played it and he said, ‘Oh, I love it – we’re going to call it ‘Bark at the Moon’ because he already had the album title in mind.”

“He’d come in with that kind of thing and then he’d drink and he’d either pass out or leave, which would just leave me and Bob,” Lee continued. “We would stay in the studio and flesh out the songs. It was fun working with Bob. He wrote all the lyrics, [he’s] a great copywriter. So yeah, me and Bob, we had a great partnership. It was fun making that record.”

Imagine their surprise when the contract was presented at the end of the recording sessions, describing what the album’s liner notes would read: “All songs written by Ozzy Osbourne.”

“I was told from the start, ‘If you write part of the songs, you’ll get writing credit, you’ll be published — that’s part of your deal,'” Lee said. When he reneged on the contract and threatened to sue, he was told Sharon Osbourne that he could “stand in line” with the rest of the people and threaten legal action, and that in the meantime another guitarist would be brought in to re-record his parts. Fearing a legal ordeal that wasn’t worth it, Lee signed it—but had learned a valuable lesson.

“[When they said] ‘Let’s make another record,’ and I was like, ‘OK, but this time, you know what, I want the contract first before we start recording. I don’t want to be a dick, but I also don’t want to be fucked again.”

“I wrote the music with Jake and I wrote all the lyrics except for a line or a word or two from Ozzy,” Daisley said, adding that he and Lee took a lump sum rather than get into a legal wrangle. “Jake and I couldn’t be credited for the writing for that reason, even though we got our performance credits. It was very frustrating to put so much work into a recording and then see someone else take all the credit for the writing, but that’s what we agreed upon, so there’s not much we can do now.”

Ozzy Osbourne, “So Tired”

The American version of Bark at the moon opening with the title track and the lead single, one that would become one of Osbourne’s best-known hits, due in part to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-inspired video where the singer turns into a werewolf at the end of the clip. It echoed the album’s now iconic cover, where the upcoming special effects artist Greg Cannom, who had previously done make-up for The howl and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, had dressed Osbourne to literally bark at the moon.

There was no shortage of keyboards on the album, and the instrument became more and more prevalent as the 80s progressed. Don Airey’s playing dominated “You’re No Different”, the melancholic, almost ELO-esque “So Tired” and provided the opening mood for “Centre of Eternity” – which was called “Forever” on European pressings of the LP – and would almost always just be in the background on the rest of the record.

Ozzy Osbourne, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebel”

Straight forward rockers like “Now You See It (Now You Don’t)” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebel” showcased Lee’s playing, which although very different from Rhoads, carried or accentuated some of the weaker songs like ” Slow Down” and “Spiders”, coincidentally two tracks that would only appear on the US and UK versions of the original album respectively. Overall, Lee proved to be a more than capable guitarist despite the mixed reviews the album would receive.

Any momentum from Bark at the moonwhich would peak at No. 19 on Billboard charts, would be lost as the rotating cast of musicians left Lee and Osbourne as the sole alum from the record when it came time to record the next LP, 1986’s oft-panned The ultimate sin.

Ozzy Osbourne Albums Classified

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