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How Ozzy Osbourne was Fired from Black Sabbath

It’s safe to say Ozzy Osbourne was blindsided when he was unceremoniously fired from Black Sabbath.

After all, he and guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward had been at it since 1968, recorded several multi-platinum albums and sold out tour after tour.

But by 1979, the wheels were falling off in a haze of cocaine and alcohol abuse, as infighting became more and more prevalent while the band worked on the follow up to 1978’s underrated Never Say Die album, which basically bombed. Tensions between band-leader Iommi and Osbourne were at an all-time high as the guitarist and taskmaster constantly asked a perpetually drunken Ozzy to redo his vocals. Over and over.

Then, on April 27, 1979, Ozzy was officially fired and his best friend in the band, Ward, was chosen as the deliverer of the bad news.

“I was loaded… but then I was loaded all the time,” said Ozzy in his book I Am Ozzy. “It was obvious that Bill had been sent by the others, because he wasn’t the firing type. I can’t remember exactly what he said to me. We haven’t talked about it since. But the gist was that Tony thought I was a pissed, coked-up loser and a waste of time for everyone concerned. To be honest with you, it felt like he was finally getting his revenge for me walking out. And it didn’t come as a complete surprise: I’d had the feeling in the studio for a while that Tony was trying to wind me up by getting me to sing takes over and over again, even though there was nothing wrong with the first one.”

Accordingly the reason why Ozzy was fired from Black Sabbath was because he’d become too unreliable and was continually wasted, which is true, and Ozzy will be the first to admit it. Evidence of his unreliability was evident on the “Never Say Die” tour, when Ozzy missed a show in Nashville after he crashed following a cocaine binge that saw him up for three days straight. When the band checked into the hotel in Nashville, Ozzy somehow wound up going to sleep in the wrong room, and never got the call to wake up and get down to the gig.

In fact Ozzy slept for 24 hours, missed the show and had everyone searching up and down Nashville for him.

Ozzy Felt Betrayed by Sabbath Bandmates

Despite his egregious errors, the frontman still felt betrayed by his bandmates when the axe came down.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel betrayed by what happened with Black Sabbath,” said recalled Ozzy in his book. “We weren’t some manufactured boy band whose members were expendable. We were four blokes from the same town who’d grown up together a few streets apart. We were like a family, like brothers. And firing me for being fucked up was hypocritical bullshit.”

Indeed, Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and Bill Ward all had substance abuse issues at the time, but Ozzy was the guy who got the boot.

In a way for Ozzy, it was a blessing in disguise as he went on to a monster solo career after discovering guitarist Randy Rhoads and going on to record Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman in 1980 and 1981 respectively.

The only thing Ozzy wishes about being fired, and the band continuing with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, was that they would have called it Black Sabbath II.

Check out more of Cam Maxwell’s Rock ‘N Roll Insight.

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