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Ozzy Osbourne Garry Sharpe-Young the story of the Ozzy Osbourne band CHORDS OF DISQUIET
With the inevitable disintegration of Black Sabbath in the late 70's Ozzy had motivated himself to set about creating a fresh band. Ozzy's personal assistant at the time was Dave Tangye ('Tang') who also happened to manage Cumbrian heavy rock band Necromandus.
Created under the original name of Hot Spring Water the quartet comprised vocalist Bill Branch, guitarist Barry Dunnery, bass player Dennis McCarten and drummer Frank Hall. A name change to Heavy Hand led eventually to Necromandus, a fusing of the words 'Nostradamus' and 'Necromancy'.
Frank Hall's first memories of Ozzy Osbourne date as far back as 1969. Black Sabbath would often play the gig circuit around the Lake District and it would be at one of the bands very first gigs that Ozzy came to the fore. "I first clapped eyes on Ozzy at the Towbar club in Nethertown in Cumbria," the drummer recalls. His memories of a pre-stardom Ozzy are in stark contrast to the onstage persona that would come to be known by millions. "I remember talking to Bill Ward who told me 'He's not long been out of prison' to which I replied; 'Better to break into music than houses I suppose!' Ozzy was a dramatic figure- he was really like a wild man. Onstage he used to whip his head up and down really, really fast and put his finger in his ear while he sang! I noticed he soon stopped doing that! The thing was though is that he was in fact a really friendly bloke, actually quite shy and nervous".
Ozzy's evolving dress sense, rarely captured in photographs during the formative years, would also give cause for concern. "In the early days he would always go onstage barefoot. God knows why. He certainly had a presence all of his own. I don't know why I remember this but he was wearing black cordurouy trousers at that first gig. His hair was this long brown shaggy Rod Stewart kind of cut, spiky on top." This is not to say Frank too would not get caught up in the rock n' roll image stakes. "I had very long black hair and I would wear a black raven's feather in it," he admits. "People would say "What tribe are you from?"
Tony Iommi too would make an impression for reasons out of keeping with his media persona. "Tony is a great practical joker" Frank confides. "Both he and Ozzy are very, very funny but in different ways. Tony would often wind Ozzy up by putting eggs in his bed every night." (As we shall see this jape would be handed down through the rock generations in later years).
Besides playing together on the live circuit the band already had a strong Black Sabbath connection having cut a 1973 album Orexis Of Death for Vertigo Records during 1973 with Tony Iommi at the production desk. The Black Sabbath guitarist also had Necromandus signed up to his Tramp agency. Also involved with the agency were Judas Priest manager Dave Corke, one of the undisputed maverick legends of rock management, and Norman Hood. Necromandus would tour the Midlands area with Judas Priest as support band. "Priest had Al Atkins singing back then," Frank Hall affirms. "They did a lot of gigs with us and they had this great drummer, a black guy called Chris Campbell. Their manager Dave Corke would always buy my clothes from me for some odd reason. I would walk into the agency office with a pair of jeans and a denim jacket and Dave would say "How much do you want for those?" So I'd sell them and walk out virtually naked.
Dave was a Hell of a character. Once he organised this freshman's ball gig with Necromandus, Vivian Stanshell and Keith Moon. As you can imagine it turned into a night of absolute lunacy." The Necromandus album has been a constant source of fascination for Black Sabbath fanatics. Frank unveils the makings of a bona fide lost classic. "There were two attempts at making the album. The first was at the Marquee Studios at the back of the Marquee Club and the second was in Blue Mink's Morgan Studios. The first time we came out with some pretty scrappy songs so Tony Iommi more or less said; "Go away and come up with some better songs."
The new material more than came up to scratch. Hall describes the bands music as 'Progressive rock' not too far removed from today's acts such as Spock's Beard and Dream Theater. Finally getting down to recording Necromandus found they were not the only ones ensconced in Morgan Studios. "Yes were there recording Tales from Topographic Oceans, Hall recalls. "I saw Jon Anderson walking in the middle of the street one day and told him, "You're from The Warriors!" I used to go and see him with that band before he joined YES. As you can imagine he was quite surprised. But we got talking and he introduced me to Rick Wakeman." The world-renowned keyboard maestro was doubling up on duties at the time recording for Yes and mixing his own solo work The Six Wives Of Henry VIII. Necromandus were on the night shift starting work at 9 in the evening and emerging as dawn broke. Frank was forthright in his approach to Rick. "We had this one track which I really thought could benefit from an outro using cellos, violins and keyboards so being cheeky I asked Rick if he would do it. I really got into his ribs about it, really pestered him but in the end it turned out he wanted to do it anyway. "Yes" he said "I'll do it for a crate of Guinness!" Rick actually thought it was a good idea."
This union never transpired though as Frank relates. "When I told Tony that Rick wanted to put piano on this song he simply didn't believe me. Tony's first question was "What does he want?". He thought Rick would charge us megabucks. I told him he only wanted a crate of Guinness but it just didn't happen because Tony thought I was only joking and naturally thought too much money would be involved. I'm sure Rick would have done it for the beer."
The focal point of NECROMANDUS was always guitarist Barry 'Baz' Dunnery. Although never to break into the public arena Dunnery's talents left many open mouthed in astonishment. "He was incredibly fast," reckons Hall. "I remember Steve Howe being very impressed as Baz was going through his legato runs and speed picking. I'll never forget that look on Steve's face, like, 'fucking hell! What's he doing?'"
Ozzy's reputation for targeting guitarists with exceptional abilities was evident even then. With Black Sabbath on a global commercial high the singer had nevertheless earmarked Dunnery as Frank Hall explains. "Everyone knows Baz's brother Francis from It Bites but believe me Baz leaves his brother standing. Baz was, and is, a fantastic guitarist. Both Ozzy and Glenn Hughes really rated him. Ozzy, I'll never forget, really tried to push Baz. He told Baz that he had the world at his feet." Iommi himself would guest on one track though putting guitar down on 'One Fine Lad', a song about army life. However, Frank has some problems with remembering which song was which because, for a reason the drummer never discovered, all of the song titles would be changed. "The first Necromandus single was to be 'Don't Look Down Frank', a song about me. For some reason that title got changed to 'Nightjar'. All the titles were changed."
With Black Sabbath riding high internationally, an Iommi production credit, a guitar hero in the making and signed to a major label it seemed as though the future looked bright indeed for Necromandus. It was not to be. Orexis Of Death was shelved. The reasoning behind the decision remaining a mystery for nearly three decades. "The album was axed because Baz left the band," Frank sighs resignedly. "He said that he didn't want to go but he felt he had a conflict with the musical direction of the band. This was our big chance. We just couldn't understand it at all. We were devastated." With Dunnery out of the picture Iommi thought Necromandus was dead in the water. "We offered to try and get another guitarist as good as Baz but Tony thought this would be unlikely. He was right. We tried to get someone to keep the band going and get the album out but it was just impossible. Then of course Black Sabbath got back out onto the road so Tony was busy with that and the whole thing was just forgotten."
Frank though was picked out by Glenn Hughes, vocalist for noted funk-rockers Trapeze. "Glenn was always asking for Necromandus to open for Trapeze. He asked me to consider joining the band because he could see things were shaky with Necromandus. I was just so low and disappointed by the whole thing at that point I went back home." The Orexis Of Death album would remain consigned to the vaults until the late 90's when curiosity regarding all things doom-laden prompted its semi-official release on a series of small labels.
With Necromandus consigned to the history books Hall travelled back up to his native Cumbria soon reforging links with Dunnery in a band called Nerves. At first a covers act, Nerves, with Steven Hatfield on keyboards and Don McKay on vocals, would evolve into the hard edged R&B outfit Tantrum. Hall's musical career gradually fizzled out and the drummer would find himself working on a building site to make ends meet. Returning home from work one day in 1976 he would be given a jolt to see a familiar car outside his house.
"I recognized it straight away," he declares. "It was Ozzy's Range Rover. I got inside the house and there in my living room was Dave Tangye- Ozzy's P.A, Baz and one other guy." Frank and Dave Tangye went back a long way; "I actually got Dave the job with Ozzy," Frank maintains. "Ozzy asked me one day if I knew of someone to mind him and I suggested Dave straight away. I told Ozzy he was totally trustworthy and you can rely on him. Dave became Ozzy's P.A. and minder for many years."
Tangye did the talking. Frank remembers the exact words. "Right, Ozzy wants a guitarist, bassist and drummer and you lot in Necromandus are the likely candidates." Piling into Ozzy's car the new recruits journeyed down to Staffordshire and Ozzy's home at Bullrush Cottage. Enter Blizzard of Ozz… The original incarnation of Blizzard of Ozz was in an enviable position. Ozzy was a globally known figure and with Baz Dunnery the quartet was blessed with a world class guitarist. Frank Hall had many reasons to be optimistic. "Ozzy had a lot of offers on the table from a few record companies. The potential was just huge at that point because the press would jump on any new Ozzy album. Ozzy was really keen to show the world how good Baz was too." The musical persuasion of the inaugural Blizzard Of Ozz was not what the average Black Sabbath fan would have ever anticipated, however, as Frank elaborates. "Necromandus was always a kind of progressive, Jazzy type rock band. I suppose you could put us in the same camp as Greenslade or Gentle Giant- that type of thing. We didn't actually change much when we worked up the songs with Ozzy. Some of the material was extremely complex, lots of time changes and it sounded great. Ozzy of course wanted heavyweight detuned guitars all the time but the combination really was striking."
The band spent over a month working up new songs and gathered together some 15 or so, enough to be whittled down for a full album's compliment. The chaotic circumstances prevailing in Ozzy's personal and business life would take their toll though. "Ozzy was having a really hard time dealing with a lot of Black Sabbath stuff, his personal life and management troubles too. He had an awful lot to contend with." Frank confirms. Naturally these early sessions would be peppered with famous Ozzy tomfoolery. "It was a fun summer!" the drummer laughs. "I don't know how we managed to get so much work done. Ozzy would often seek what he called "Inspiration" at his local pub the 'Hand & Cleaver'. By the time he got back around 11 at night he would want to rehearse!
I remember one night Ozzy got really bothered by rats. He had this old dog kennel at the back of his house and he was obsessed with the idea it was full of rats. Well, He had been talking about rats all day and then suddenly I saw him marching off to this kennel with a can in his hand. "Where are you going with that petrol can?" I said. Before I could stop him he had covered this thing with petrol and set light to it. Now, Ozzy was growing a beard at the time and he was standing far too close to this building when he lit it. Boof! It went up in flames and blew back on Ozzy, singing off his beard and eyebrows!"
Frank would witness another Ozzy trick that had the band members fearing for their singer's life. "There was a field at the back of Ozzy's place that he rented out to the local football team. In the corner of this field was a large pond. Well, one day Ozzy got into his Range Rover and, God knows why, drove straight into the middle of this pond! Ozzy thought it was hilarious until he realized the car was stuck in the mud. Not only that but it was sinking with Ozzy in it! I mean- it was going down fast! We thankfully got him out but it he had to wait for his car until the farmer pulled it out in the morning with his tractor."
The band did manage to prevent one of Ozzy's potentially near fatal exploits though. "We were having this big barbecue one day" Frank reminisces. "Ozzy is a great cook and would come up with these fantastic curries. God knows what he would put in them because we would feel stoned for days afterwards! Anyway, we were eating and this helicopter was flying low over Ozzy's house which really bothered him. I seem to remember he thought it was the press trying to get some pictures. Ozzy loved shotguns, and so he marched into his house and got out this Remington pump-action shotgun and started to fire at the bloody helicopter! We just managed to stop him but he did get a few shots at the thing."
All these exploits (and many more besides) were naturally having a serious effect on the work schedule. "Baz got very disillusioned with it all. We spoke one night and agreed to move out. It was a shame because the music was great- I could still sit down and play it today.
"Ozzy was obviously having to deal with too many things at once. Baz was being approached by other bands at the time- he was asked to replace Peter Banks in Flash. Some friends of mine from Barrow-in-Furness knew Phil Collins well and had recommended me for the position in Genesis. They liked my jazz-rock style but of course I was with Ozzy at the time and had to decline the offer."
And so Blizzard of Ozz Mark I split up. McCarten joined Birmingham band Grit while Dunnery and Hall reformed Nerves back in Cumbria. There were no hard feelings and Hall, along with his parents, would be invited to Ozzy's house for a mammoth celebratory bash in honour of the Queen's silver jubilee in 1977. This is when the drummer would discover Ozzy had other strings to his bow besides singing. "For that party the house was totally crammed- hundreds of people" he recounts. "My Mum and Dad were in awe. My Mum always tells people that she slept in Ozzy's bed. She did actually, Ozzy let her have his big four poster covered in carved gargoyles for the night.
That day I found John in his sitting room. Now he had this very impressive and extremely expensive Steinway piano in there. Ozzy showed me that there were more ways than one to play it. I couldn't believe my eyes when he climbed up on top of it. He stood on it and urinated inside it. He was playing the strings by directing this endless stream of urine trying to get a tune! We were in absolute hysterics and I was pushing against the door as hard as I could praying my Mother wouldn't try to come in!" Beat that, Keith Emerson.
In later years Dunnery would become a member of the ELO offshoot Violinski whilst Hall's career has most recently seen him playing with jazz band The Children. He can also be found touting his own band project, The Binmen, also featuring former Sweet singer Malcolm McNulty.
Meanwhile, with the Necromandus musicians no longer on the scene, Ozzy had another stab at forging the Blizzards. His manager, the ubiquitous Don Arden, had discovered that a band an acquaintance of his handled business affairs for were in limbo. That band was Dirty Tricks, currently signed to Polydor Records, and had just completed a run of three albums, the first of which happened to be produced by Rodger Bain- the man responsible for the early Black Sabbath albums. The band comprised vocalist Kenny Stewart, guitarist John Fraser Binnie, bass player Terry Horbury and drummer Andy Bierne. Arden played Ozzy the band's new tapes, for the Tony Visconti-produced Hit And Run album, to favourable response and a meeting was duly arranged.
Bassist Terry Horbury takes up the tale. "We'd split up really. But the three of us, myself, John and Andy stuck together planning on starting another band. Our manager had decided he wanted out of the business but unfortunately would not let us out of contract so we were in an impossible situation. It wasn't just that. Punk and New Wave had come in and really set us back too. For Dirty Tricks to do a gig we'd need our full crew, etc which was costly but these new bands would just turn up and plug in. Basically we were in a jam.
'What happened though was that we got the call to meet up with Ozzy. We first met him in Don Arden's office in London, we all had a banter then arranged to travel up to Ozzy's house near Stafford to get some songs together. So, we all went up to Ozzy's place. I think all in all we stayed there three weeks. I remember that almost as soon as we arrived Ozzy seemed distracted by something outside the window. Next thing we knew he's grabbed this shotgun and then we see he's crawling along the hedgerow like a commando. Well, after a time he came back with this dead partridge he'd just shot. He just stood there with a big grin on his face dripping blood all over our guitarist's wah wah pedal. That was our 'Ozzy greeting' if you like.
It was quite a house. In the yard Ozzy had this big bus he had brought. He was in the middle of turning it into a tour bus. He's ripped out all the seats and was painting it black inside and out. Ozzy had Marshall amps and cabs everywhere, which for poor musicians like us were the holy grail, but he was using them for tables! Oddly though, despite the Marshalls everywhere else, he had no P.A. set-up in the actual rehearsal room. What he did have in there was a Revox tape recorder, a microphone and a large stuffed bear which looked like it had been attacked a few times!"
There would be no hint of the former material in use as this new proto Blizzard of Ozz Mark II started out from scratch and writing new material. Terry Horbury: "It was a bit like an old Blues session really because the only way Ozzy could record was through this Revox. We'd be blaring away and we could see him singing, reading ideas from his lyric books he had, but not hear him. It was only when we played the tapes back we got the full picture."
Terry remembers distinctly the name 'Blizzard Of Ozz" being mentioned as the monicker for the band. Pointedly, no Black Sabbath material was attempted. "I don't ever recall doing any Sabbath songs. Ozzy said that we would probably do 'Paranoid' as an encore or something but he wanted all new stuff. I think all in all we got about half a dozen songs together. It was good stuff, just good solid Hard rock. I've still got tapes of the rehearsals.
The problem was that, to be truthful, Ozzy really wasn't in the best shape to get a band together at that time. We would be ready to work at 10.30 but Ozzy wouldn't wake until midday and then he'd go down to the local pub until 4. Glenn Hughes came round once while we were there. I'll never forget it, Glenn was so out of shape that after he had sat down in a chair he found he couldn't get up again! We all had to lift him out of the thing- he had literally become part of the furniture! With Ozzy though it's just so easy to forget because he was full-on all the time. Every five minutes he would tell us a hilarious story about his past. One of the few I remember was that apparently one day Ozzy and Geezer were standing next to each other at the urinals having a piss. Ozzy, for some reason, had a can of silver spray paint in his pocket so he whips this out and sprays Geezer's manhood with it! Of course Geezer couldn't do anything because he was in mid stream so just had to stand there while he was sprayed silver! We'd get about a hundred stories like that every day. So much so that we actually had some serious discussions between the three of us just what we were letting ourselves in for!
'Ozzy was having a real hard time of it really. Money was a big problem, Ozzy even told us it would be a good idea if we all signed on the dole in Birmingham!"
The three musicians suggested to Ozzy that rather than travelling to Staffordshire it would be more practical to pursue matters in London. "Ozzy thought this was a good idea too so I went ahead and booked a month's rehearsal at The Tunnel studios for us" relates Terry. "The day before we were scheduled to go in I phoned Ozzy to make arrangements and he simply said "Oh, I've just rejoined Black Sabbath". So that was that."
After their Ozzy adventure the Dirty Tricks musicians would all follow differing paths. Binnie wound up with the much vaunted Rogue Male. Horbury and Bierne would work with Alvin Lee for a while before the bassist hooked up with German ex-UFO guitarist Michael Schenker and then Vardis. He would also become acquainted with another figure in the Ozzy saga- Bob Daisley.
"There was a time when Bob was in Uriah Heep but had got the call to go back to Ozzy. We were trying to work out a plan for me to temporarily fill Bob's role in Heep while he sorted out the Ozzy thing. Although I would have loved to have done I was committed to another band at the time so it never happened."
01 - Judy Green Rocket (Previously Unreleased Demo) 3:34
02 - Mogidisimo 0:29
03 - Nightjar 4:11
04 - A Black Solitude 4:29
05 - Homicidal Psychopath 3:20
06 - Still Born Beauty 4:03
07 - Gypsy Dancer 6:50
08 - Orexis Of Death 4:28
09 - Mogidisimo (Reprise) 1:09
10 - Judy Green Rocket (Live) 3:33
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