Year of the Ozzy
By Wil Forbis
May 1st 2002
Oddbournes art by Daniel Gordon
Click graphic for larger version.
So apparently there's this new show on MTV called "The Osbournes" and it's a big hit. I say apparently because I have yet to actually see it, and I staunchly refuse to believe in things unless I see them - hell, there’s still quite a few things I have seen that I still refuse to believe in – like zebras, leprechauns and Ralph Nader. But there's this new show, and it's got Ozzy Osbourne and his family chillin’ in their cribs up there for everybody to see, and word on the street (of which I am closely connected to) says the show is a monumental success. "Biggest out of the box hit in MTV's history" or some shit.
But really, that ain't the best part. The fact that Ozzy, who's played the clown prince of rock for decades, might make an amusing sit-com star ain't all that surprising. In the many interviews I've read with the dude throughout the years, Ozzy has come across as a humorous, vivacious entertaining chap. But he's also been someone routinely dogged by the media; a guy the suits and ties at Rolling Stone and People have snidely made fun of for being too drunken, too loutish, and too indicative of the lowest of the low on the totem pole of music genres - heavy metal. But dig it – Ozzy’s a crossover success now, not just someone festooned upon a teenager's bedroom wall, but a dawg firmly entrenched in mainstream public eye. There ain't no escapin’ him. And the concept that these same critics might have to pull their heads out each other’s asses and at least acknowledge Mr. Ozz is richer than Bill Gates throwing lucky sevens.
Now, if you're one of the few motherfuckers who actually taken Ozzy seriously over the years then we are brothers in the same cause, and brother, the cause is just! But it's been an uphill battle. Even in the late eighties when Ozzy was riding at his highest (until his new hit show) there was many a verbal battle in which I'd have to defend Ozzy from the faux-intelligentsia who were spouting off about R.E.M (thusly named cuz they put you to sleep) or Fugazi (straight playas in their own right, but they seem to attract a fan base of know-it-all elitists.) Wearin’ an Ozzy shirt in those days was the equivalent of wearing a Scarlet Letter in that infamous book by Nathaniel Hawthorne... you know the one, what was it called?
Truthfully, there's always been two camps of Ozzy-Infidels practicing their infernal jihad against our doddering wizard. First, there's aforementioned alternative hipsters, now safely entrenched in their record reviewing jobs at Rolling Stone and Spin. To them it was unthinkable that Ozzy might have at least some self awareness of the goofy hell-spawn image he presented; it was incomprehensible that he might have some understanding of the black arts of marketing. (Though, in all honesty, cred for that should probably go to his wife, Sharon. “Behind every great man…” etc.) And right next these scum were the more mainstreams crits, the scribes for Time mag and The New York Times who didn't even see the Ozzmaster as worth a second glance while they blew their load over Tracy Chapman, Michael Penn, and other "artists" who've since faded into yesteryear. (You could argue there was third attack dog on Ozzy - the Tipper Gores, but at least Tipper genuinely believed in her (nonsensical) cause, as opposed to wrapping herself in the ironic sneer so comfortably worn by the 90's generation of cultural critics.)
Now don't get me wrong, there's a lot to make fun of when dealing with Ozzy. He stammers, he mumbles, he eats bats, he has a perpetual glaze of farawayness - and Lord, I know the whole genre of heavy metal is hard to defend at times, as it seems so intent on swathing itself with scrotum-bursting testosterone and trite lyricism (Though I've always considered Ozzy one of the better lyricists of the past twenty years. Boo-yaah to him and Bon Scott.) Hell, I'd be willing to laugh along with the alterna-scum who make jest of Ozzy, if they were willing to turn their critical eye upon themselves. Are you gonna tell me there isn't just as much to mock at a Yo-La-Tengo concert? (We could start with their almost primitive musicianship - Oops, I forgot. Hack is hip.) Am I supposed to believe the tangential lyricism of Michael Stipe isn't worth a jab or two? Kurt Cobain mumbles his lyrics and he's some sort of profound genius - Ozzy mumbles his lyrics and he's just a guy who mumbles his lyrics. (Sure, Ozzy maybe never blew his head off but he did one better and convinced people listening to his albums to blow their heads off! You tell me which is cooler.)
So what's so cool about the success of the "The Osbournes?" It's this: the same self-righteous media who've been dissing Ozzy all these years have to start giving him his due. Why? Dig it: Rock critics are the sorts of fuckers whose interest in Western youth is only surpassed by Catholic priests, and kids today like Ozzy. They like OzzFest, they like Black Sabbath and they like “The Osbournes.” If those greying and beer bellying guardians of pop culture wish to stay relevent, they're gonna have to do a 180 on the road to hipsterville and get on the Ozzy Bandwagon. They're gonna have to concede that a guy who's sold millions of albums, who's had a career in the public eye for over thirty years, might be on to something worth taking note of. They’re gonna have to tear off that Guided By Voices shirt (sorry, Saleeby) and don a faded sleeveless from the "Bark at the Moon" tour. They're gonna have stop reciting verse from Public Enemy in their suburban white boy squeak and start moaning out lines from "Crazy Train." They're gonna have to overwrite that tattoo of Che Guevara with a picture of a bat-eating demon spitting out blood and dwarf-brains. (Not all that hard really - just work Che's nose a bit.)
Damn... victory taste good!
Dokken still sucks though.
Wil Forbis is a well known international playboy who lives a fast paced life attending chic parties, performing feats of derring-do and making love to the world's most beautiful women. Together with his partner, Scrotum-Boy, he is making the world safe for democracy. Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Wil's web log, The Wil Forbis Blog, and receive complete enlightenment.