Monday, March 19, 2007

Randy Rhoads, 1956-1982

March, 1982 was a rough month in the entertainment world.  John Belushi died on March 5, and it was 25 years ago today we lost one of the most phenomenal Rock guitar players of all-time, Mr. Randy Rhoads.  With all of Ozzy Osbourne’s notoriety, Rhoads has been virtually forgotten over the years, and I find that very sad.  He was the Stevie Ray Vaughan of heavy metal, both in terms of his musical prowess and the manner in which he died, and to lose him at the age of 25 was a crushing blow for Rock ‘N’ Roll.

When Ozzy first went solo in late 1980, I couldn’t stand him.  I hadn’t really gotten in to the back catalog of Black Sabbath yet (all I knew of them at the time was "Iron Man" and "Paranoid" and the newer stuff with Dio on vocals), and I was pretty repulsed by Ozzy’s biting-the-head-off-the-dove thing.  "Crazy Train" really didn’t really blow me away at first, either, but when I first heard that chugga-chugga-chugga intro riff from "I Don’t Know", I was immediately hooked!  I said, "Whoa—who is that guitar player?"  Not long after that, the second album, Diary Of A Madman, came out with "Over The Mountain", "Flying High Again" and "You Can’t Kill Rock ‘N’ Roll", and I realized then that this guy was something special.  Randy played so aggressively, yet very melodically at the same time, and made some amazing sounds with his fingers, not unlike Jimi Hendrix once did.  Even I had forgotten that Randy was in the original lineup of Quiet Riot—I’ve never heard any of that material before.  The man was an amazing talent, yet he’s never truly been given his due.

Based on everything I’ve heard and read about him, Randy Rhoads was a really good human being, too.  Mature beyond his years, and seemingly totally devoid of ego, he wasn’t your stereotypical arrogant Rock star partier, and he didn’t allow Ozzy’s legendary excesses to corrupt him.  He had a steady girlfriend and was real close with his mom, too.  With all the assholes (Axl Rose), talent-less posers (Kid Rock) and overblown egos (David Coverdale) in Rock ‘N’ Roll, it sucks that much more when the truly good guys like RR are taken away so soon—S.R.V., Eric Carr of Kiss and Jim Croce being a few other prime examples.  What’s worse, Randy’s death was so utterly senseless!  By all accounts, RR had an aversion to flying, so why the hell was he even on that plane in the first place?  And of course, the pilot had a couple major malfunctions, A) his pilot’s license had expired, and B) he had Cocaine in his system—a fine time to go around buzzing the trees and the parked tour bus that Ozzy was sleeping in.  We could have lost Ozzy that day too.  What an absolutely needless waste…

One wonders what Randy Rhoads might have gone on to do in his career.  I imagine he would have eventually outgrown Ozzy and/or grown tired of his shenanigans and either formed his own band or had a successful solo career—a Ted Nugent of the '80s, if you will (minus the arrogant macho bravado).  Hell, it's no big stretch to think he would have easily supplanted Eddie Van Halen and the ultimate Rock guitar god. In any event, he’s deeply missed.

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