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When you’re a kid you look forward to summer with a sense of excitement. The summer of 1983 was one I looked forward to with even more excitement than usual. I was eleven years old and I was starting to make that transition to my teenage years. You know the period when you start trying to convince anyone that will listen that you’re not a kid anymore? What made that summer extra special was my parent’s purchase of a new camping trailer. We were going to spend the entire summer camping, meeting new people, and experiencing new things. It was an adventure, and what kid doesn’t love an adventure? This was to be the first of many summers we would spend camping, and in each one of those summers there always seemed to be a new cassette that would become the anthem of the summer for me and my camping buddies.

 

In that summer of 1983 the cassette that was wearing out my tape deck was Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Oz. There was something that brought out my pre-teen rebellious nature in that cassette. In those days we took our portable cassette decks with us everywhere. We got some strange looks from adults as we walked through the campground towards the arcade, but it didn’t bother us one bit. That music made us feel alive.

 

Ozzy’s personality and stage presence were legendary. He didn’t believe in doing anything small – the man was larger than life. We all remember the incident with the bat right? He sure knew how to draw attention to himself, but it wasn’t all about the gimmicks – this guy created some powerful music as well. With his band Black Sabbath in the 1970’s he developed a unique persona, a new dark side to Rock ‘n’ Roll that he would develop even further during his solo career.

 

In 1979 Ozzy was unceremoniously booted out of Black Sabbath. All of the members were known for their drugs and alcohol abuse, but Ozzy took it to a different level. It got to the point that they simply weren’t getting anywhere at all. Tony Iommi, the founding member and lead guitarist of Black Sabbath, decided it was time for Ozzy to go. We probably all owe him a debt of gratitude. If Iommi hadn’t forced Ozzy out of Sabbath that year, he may never have released one of the best rock albums of the 1980’s, Blizzard of Oz.

 

Blizzard of Oz was actually the first cassette I ever purchased with my own money – well my allowance anyway. It inspired me. The whole cassette was powerful stuff, but I’d have to say my favorite tracks were, Crazy Train, Mr. Crowley, Goodbye to Romance, and Suicide Solution. Ozzy’s words certainly made you think, but at that age it was more about the hard-core rock and amazing guitar solos. Randy Rhodes really knew how to play that guitar!

 

 

Crazy Train was the first song I heard from Blizzard of Oz – probably because it was one of the first singles released from the album. It got a lot of air play in the early 1980’s, and would become one of the greatest rock anthems of all time. It was actually written as a statement against the Cold War which dominated our lives in those days. If you aren’t old enough to remember the anxiety we all felt from the constant threat of nuclear annihilation, I can tell you it was very real. It really was a crazy train we were all riding!

 

 

Mr. Crowley may not be considered as big an anthem as Crazy Train, but it was powerful stuff none the less. The intro to this song was eerie and captivating with its classic organ music. It had that horror movie feel to it – which was definitely appropriate as it focused on Alistair Crowley, a notorious occultist from the 19th century. Crowley was rumored to have dabbled in black magic, and Ozzy was fascinated with him. What did go on in his head? We’ll probably never know.

 

 

Every cassette needs a ballad, even a dark rock album like Blizzard of Oz. That roll was filled by the haunting classic Goodbye to Romance. For Ozzy this song was his way of saying goodbye to his old band Black Sabbath. It had been a big part of his life, and now it was over. He felt for a while that his career might be over without Sabbath – it was actually the beginning of a huge solo career that would launch Ozzy into the stratosphere of rock legends.

 

 

Probably the most controversial song on the cassette was Suicide Solution. This song got Ozzy in a lot of heat. Parents across North America were convinced that he was encouraging kids to commit suicide, but nothing could have been further from the truth. This song was actually about Ozzy’s own struggle with his personal demons, and even then he knew deep down that suicide was never the solution. He suggests this in parts of the song when he asserts “suicide is no way out.” It’s hard to see how these lyrics could have been viewed in a negative light, but they were. There’s no disputing the song was controversial though, which only added to Ozzy’s mystique.

 

 

1983 was a long time ago, but those long summer nights are still vivid in my mind. Ozzy was usually the musical accompaniment during those evenings, and his album Blizzard of Oz is just as powerful today as it was back then. If you want to drive your kids crazy for a change why not dust it off and throw it in the old cassette player? Who knows? Maybe you’ll inspire a whole new generation of Ozzy fans.