19th March 2012 marked 30 years since Guitar Hero Randy Rhoads was killed by a 1955 Beechcraft Bonanza (a light Air Craft) and stripped from the world before he could give us his best. Thursday 6th December is Randy’s birthday so being a fan I thought I’d have a look at the late great Randy Rhoads a little closer.
The word ‘Legend’ is tossed around the music business far too often, usually by people with little or no understanding of what real quality is. I’m going to do my best not to use the word, as hard as it will be, but I can’t promise it won’t slip out.
Randall William Rhoads was born in Santa Monica, California, on Thursday 6th December 1956, the same day as R.E.M founder and guitarist Peter Buck. He was raised by his mother, Delores Rhoads, from the age of 17 months after his father, William Rhoads, left the family. His love of music was clearly influenced by his mother, who owned Musonia School of Music in North Hollywood, where he took guitar lessons at the age of 6.
At the age of 14 he and his brother started a band called Violet Fox, playing Rolling Stones and Alice Cooper covers, before forming The Whore with best friend Kelly Garni. They continued to play at Musonia and at garden parties for 2 years until the band finally split leaving Rhoads and Garni to form Quiet Riot when Randy was just 16.
The song Back to the Coast was originally written by Randy and his brother Kelle when they were teenagers and had the title West Coast Tryouts. The self titled album from Quiet Riot was originally only released in Japan, in 1977, and featured covers of Small Faces and Dave Clark Five songs. Randy stayed on for one more album, Quiet Riot 2, in 1978 before leaving to join Ozzy Osbourne’s band in 1980. The album was in the same vein as the first with more original songs and seeing more of the band’s artist collaborating together.
Now, exactly how Randy Rhoads went on to Join Ozzy Osbourne’s band The Blizzard of Ozz is dependant on who is telling the story. Different versions of the same story exist in different guises so I will refrain from guessing, all I know for sure is that Randy auditioned, Ozzy loved it, the rest is history. Lets be honest, who wouldn’t? Randy had a style of playing that made the music appear to ooze from his fingers, effortless and complex, his solos are still regarded as some of the best in rock history. In an interview out take for the Blizzard of Ozz 30 years DVD, Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society, Pride and Glory, Ozzy Osbourne Band) says “Randy was all about the music…”.
Without a doubt my favourite Blizzard of Ozz track has to be Crazy Train, I’ve used it to open many a set as a DJ and the energy that opening riff creates in a room is hard to match in any other song. Goodbye to Romance also being a regular set closer in my F**k Off Valantines Day nights, Randy’s solo usually being the point in which the recently separated loner in the corner, nursing a large JD, breaks into tears and starts to sing along.
Ozzy’s second album, co-written with Bob Daisley, was called Diary of a Madman and featured more classical guitar openings on some of the tracks, including the title track. It was around this time that Randy Rhoads had made comments to his friends about leaving the band and doing a degree in Classical Guitar, Ozzy himself has stated hat he believes Randy would have left the band had he lived.
The Diary of a Madman tour would prove to be Randy Rhoads’ last, climbing into a small plane in a Florida air strip, which clipped the Tour Bus as the Pilot was flying low. This was on Friday 19th March 1982, Randy was a mere 25 years old. Quite rightly the world responded with sadness, the bright light that was a young man in the prime of his life, still with so much to give, snuffed out in one cold and avoidable blow.
Many musicians still site Randy Rhoads as an influence and as rumours circle the internet about conspiracies surrounding the Plane, the Pilot, and Ozzy’s own girlfriend Sharon Arden. What those theorists fail to talk about is, who really cares? The tragedy that was Randy Rhoads’ death is eclipsed by the talent that made him a credit to all the great bands and great musicians he was involved with.
For any fans of Ozzy’s early career post-sabbath, they would be lying if they said the draw was Ozzy’s singing. For most, the draw to those first two fantastic albums was a musical atmosphere brought alive by Randy Rhoads’ electric playing. When we sit back and analyse the growths in so few years from Violet Fox to The Blizzard of Ozz, all we can do is imagine what this great talent would have been producing today. Fans of modern guitar greats such as Vai, May, Knopfler and Clapton would have added Rhoads to their list of stringed masters, as well as hearing that familar style backing all the best vocalists. A solo album… a tour… and of course a song with Dave Grohl drumming would have been on the Christmas list of every young wannabe rocker. The possibilities are endless.
So Happy Birthday Randy Rhoads, a guitar great, a gentleman rocker.. should I say it? Oh why not… A LEGEND!