By J. Hogan
-Gains & Gleanings-
Ozzy Osbourne’s first solo album, “Blizzard of Ozz,” came out when I was 13 and finding wonder in the electric guitar, and music in general, for the first time.
I didn’t hear much of the lyrics, to be honest… it was Ozzy’s young guitarist, Randy Rhoads, who caught my attention.
Randy recorded two albums with Ozzy before dying in a plane crash on tour with the band in 1982.
Those albums, and Randy’s musical genius, resurrected Osbourne’s career after he’d been fired from the famous Black Sabbath.
His combination of fiery rock guitar and classical influences ushered in a whole new style of playing that influenced music throughout the 1980s and beyond.
It was several years later, when my band was working out the nuances of one of Randy’s songs — “Crazy Train” — to flesh out our set of original songs for a series of shows that I paid any real attention to the lyrics.
Osbourne, from the get-go, had been known for writing controversial lyrics with his first band and was fired because he’d been incapacitated by his drunken, drug-addicted ways too often to be a useful or reliable contributor to his band.
Since then, he’s gained not only fame as a shock-rocker who bit the head off a live bat on stage, but also as a habit-addled, mumbling mess on a reality TV show in his still outrageous older years.
When I read the lyrics of “Crazy Train” as we worked on getting the song tight, I found myself laughing at how contradictory life can seem sometimes.
The lyrics to this song, which starts with its famed duh-duh, duh-duh duh-duh, duh-duh intro and a maniacal laugh from Osbourne, were a cogent plea for mankind to stop opposing one another in Cold War anger that risked killing millions.
Osbourne’s plea, “Maybe it’s not too late, to learn how to love and forget how to hate,” seemed out of character with my image of him.
Thirty years have passed since my band played that song at those shows.
Rhoads, by then nine years gone himself, helped me learn to play the guitar with his amazing talent.
Osbourne showed me something else…that people will surprise you, bringing out complex sides of themselves, often beautiful and insightful ones, if given a chance.
In just this last week I’ve been pleasantly surprised by two people who’ve manifested things I didn’t know they had in them, and it’s been a blessing.
Truth be told, I was flabbergasted because I’d never given a thought to either of them so awesomely exceeding my preconceived assumptions of their limitations.
I’m more than glad they did, even if I’m a bit embarrassed at my own lack of faith in what might be possible in and through them.
It’s a lesson I could’ve let settle in for keeps a long time ago when I was pleasantly surprised by Mr. Osbourne.
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.