Book Review: Steal Away the Night: An Ozzy Osbourne Day-by-Day by Martin Popoff

As an in-depth history of Ozzy Osbourne's post-Sabbath career, this book has just about everything a fan could ask for.
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Ozzy Osbourne is a heavy metal legend, and his rise to solo stardom after Black Sabbath is one of the most unlikely tales in rock history. As a solo artist for over 34 years now, Osbourne has become a household name, and has even been to the White House. In the new book Steal Away the Night: An Ozzy Osbourne Day-by-Day, author Martin Popoff chronicles Osbourne's amazing career, with an emphasis on his post-Sabbath success.

The brief first chapter takes us up to 1979, when Osbourne was fired from the band. As Ozzy has indicated many times, those were some of the darkest days of his life. While Sabbath moved on with vocalist Ronnie James Dio, Osbourne's world was shattered. With tremendous support from the former Sharon Arden (now Sharon Osbourne) he began to pick up the pieces of his life. Things began to fall into place with the discovery of a brilliant young guitarist by the name of Randy Rhoads, who helped write such classics as  "Crazy Train" and "Mr. Crowley."

This chain of events is pretty well-known, but what makes Steal Away the Night so impressive are the lesser-known facts the author includes. One example of this is the title of the first album, Blizzard of Ozz. Evidently Osbourne wanted to call the band "Blizzard of Ozz," and saw himself as just the singer, as it was with Black Sabbath. The record company basically went behind his back by crediting Blizzard of Ozz as the solo debut of Ozzy Osbourne.

Blizzard of Ozz was released in September 1980, and was an instant hit.  After a short supporting tour, the group began writing and recording their second effort, Diary of a Madman, which was released in November 1981. Then in 1982 while touring in support of Diary, Randy Rhoads was killed in a horrible airplane accident. Osbourne was devastated again, and the loss of Rhoads was a tragedy that he says he will never fully recover from.

As Popoff states, those first two records stand as a "quiet museum" to the genius of Randy Rhoads. The newly-married Osbournes continued on, auditioning and hiring new guitarists, having children, and dealing with Ozzy's various addictions. He tried a little bit of everything musically, including some dubious flirtations with hair-metal and power ballads. Over the years, the guitar slot has been filled by such talents as Brad Gillis, Jake E. Lee, and Zakk Wylde. Popoff also details the revolving-door rhythm section of bass and drum players, which is a little too convoluted to go in to here.

The cycle of attempting to remain relevant, keeping a lineup together, and Osbourne's ongoing drug habits continued in to the '90s. Sharon again proved to be a managing genius by creating Ozzfest in 1996, which was headlined by (who else) her husband. Then there was the much-ballyhooed first Black Sabbath reunion (not counting the one-off Live Aid appearance in 1985) in 1997 as part of that year's Ozzfest.

As impressive as all of this was though, nobody was prepared for the impact The Osbournes series on MTV would have. The show ran for four seasons, but it seemed like the entire world was hooked after the first episode. Although Ozzy was presented as being sober in the program, and just a little "batty," it later came out that he was completely wasted, so much so that he barely remembers any of it. It is very sad that the bumbling Dad was so loaded, but nobody wanted to admit it and stop the gravy train. This is not something that Popoff dwells on, but for the curious, there is an excellent DVD titled God Bless Ozzy Osbourne (2011) in which a clear-eyed and completely sober Oz comes clean about the period.

In the decade since The Osbournes aired, the family have all grown into their roles, and the Ozzman seems content as metal's "elder statesman." Less is more when it comes to headlines about biting the head off of bats and snorting ants, after all.

Steal Away the Night is a thorough examination of Osbourne's solo years, almost literally a day-by-day account. Besides the intriguing details the author provides, another major plus are the interviews. Just about everybody who had any role in the proceedings gets a chance to comment. The author conducted over 30 interviews especially for the book, with peers such as Bill Ward, Brad Gillis, Zakk Wylde, as well as Ozzy himself. There are also plenty of quotes from other sources, and loads of pictures, many of them previously unpublished.

Martin Popoff has written numerous books about metal, including a couple about Black Sabbath. With Steal Away the Night: An Ozzy Osbourne Day-By-Day though, he has really outdone himself. As an in-depth history of Osbourne's post-Sabbath career, this book has just about everything a fan could ask for.