Why Ozzy Osbourne Landed A Bad Reputation In The Music World

As the frontman of Black Sabbath and a successful solo artist in his own right, Ozzy Osbourne is widely respected as one of the founding fathers of heavy metal. In a career that has spanned more than five decades, Osbourne has been there, done that, and then some. While he isn't the only rocker in the same age bracket who has no plans of retiring from music, the fact that he's still recording new tunes and preparing to go back on tour early next year (via Loudwire) is very impressive considering everything he's been through, including his recent health issues.

The 21st century has mostly been kind to Osbourne in terms of his reputation as a rock and heavy metal legend. Although he may have seemingly kowtowed to the trendy youth of the early 2000s by putting his family on television via the reality show "The Osbournes," he has undeniably mellowed with age, giving up drugs and alcohol and living a quiet life (well, at least by his standards) as an elder statesman of rock 'n' roll. But back in his younger days, there were several incidents where the Prince of Darkness went too far, damaging his reputation and casting him in a largely negative light.

Osbourne was fired from Black Sabbath for substance abuse

It's almost unimpeachable to say that Black Sabbath's first four albums are among the most important in heavy metal history. Although they were already deep into the rock 'n' roll lifestyle in the early '70s, everyone in the band, Ozzy Osbourne included, was in peak form, writing classic song after classic song and influencing future generations of metalheads. By 1978, however, Osbourne's drug and alcohol use had long been affecting his ability to perform; Sabbath's Music Might bio page described them as "tired and uninspired" during their world tour that year, where opening act Van Halen completely blew them away. 

Finally, on April 27, 1979, the last straw came for the rest of Black Sabbath when they fired Osbourne, tasking drummer Bill Ward to deliver the bad news to Ozzy. The decision came as a huge shock for the frontman, who recalled in his autobiography, "I Am Ozzy," that he was "loaded all the time" while he and his bandmates were rehearsing in Los Angeles. "I can't remember exactly what he said to me ... but the gist was that [guitarist Tony Iommi] thought I was a p***ed, coked-up loser and a waste of time for everyone concerned," he wrote, as quoted by Ultimate Classic Rock.

While Osbourne did eventually sober up for good around 2013 (via Variety), his reputation as a heavy drinker and drug user followed him around for quite some time, as the next few incidents will show you.

Biting off the heads of flying creatures

There must have been a point in time when the animal kingdom collectively branded Ozzy Osbourne Public Enemy No. 1. His first offense purportedly came in 1981 during a meeting with CBS Records executives, and as Far Out Magazine noted, it was supposed to feature some wholesome, definitely un-Ozzy-like antics from the singer, who was supposed to "[release] three doves in the air like some kind of metal magician." But as fate would have it, Ozzy did some Ozzy things before the meeting and was so drunk and impatient while speaking to the suits that he decapitated two of the doves with his bare teeth. "[I] pulled out one of these doves and bit its [expletive] head off," Osbourne later told rock journalist Mick Wall. "Just to shut [one of the executives] up. Then I did it again with the next dove, spitting the head out on the table. That's when they threw me out."

One year later, Osbourne bit off the head of a bat during a concert at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines, Iowa. Apparently, he thought the animal was just a toy someone threw on stage, but when he clenched his teeth on the creature's neck, that was the only time he realized it was the real thing. Not only did Ozzy require a series of anti-rabies shots; this further increased his infamy in the music scene as the incident made headlines nationwide. However, that was only a warm-up for something else that would also take place in 1982.

The 'Alamo incident': What really happened?

Obviously, going solo didn't lead to a calmer, more sober version of Ozzy Osbourne, and neither did entering into a relationship with (and later getting married to) his manager, Sharon Arden. That was again evidenced on the afternoon of February 19, 1982, in San Antonio, when, after getting soused to the gills as was often the case in those days, he relieved himself on the Cenotaph, a 60-foot-high statue located across the street from the Alamo building. (While wearing one of Sharon's dresses, no less, because she had hidden his clothes to discourage him from partying outside.) Cops then came to arrest the Prince of Drunkenness, er, Darkness for public intoxication, and he was later freed from a local jail on a $40 bond, as explained by Loudwire.

That night, Osbourne went on to play as scheduled at San Antonio's Hemisfair Arena Convention Center and was subsequently banned for the next 10 years from playing in the city. But didn't Ozzy actually urinate on the walls of the Alamo, as many still believe to this day? As noted above, it was the Cenotaph that he turned into a urinal, and this was corroborated in 2003 by an unnamed Alamo tour guide who spoke to Chris Rodell of the Boston Herald. "It's just not true," the guide shared. "If he had, the police wouldn't have arrested him. They would have beaten him to within an inch of his life."

Ozzy's (alleged) misadventures with Mötley Crüe

If you watched the Mötley Crüe biopic "The Dirt" on Netflix, you probably remember the scene where Ozzy Osbourne (played in the film by Tony Cavalero) gives brand new meaning to the expression "never meet your heroes." During this scene, Osbourne gives the boys from the Crüe some sage, if profanity-laced advice on rock stardom, then proceeds to ask them for a "bump" of cocaine. Despite Tommy Lee's (Colson Baker, aka Machine Gun Kelly) insistence that they're "all out of blow," Ozzy demands a straw, and once he gets one, he gets down on all fours and snorts a line of ants near the swimming pool. Not quite done doing those Ozzy things, he then lifts up his dress (presumably another one of Sharon's outfits), pees all over the ants, and licks his urine to the disgust of everyone in the area.

Did this on-brand-for-the-time incident really happen? Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx detailed the alleged ant-snorting in the band's autobiography, "The Dirt," which the film of the same name was based on. However, Osbourne's former guitarist Jake E. Lee disputed Sixx's account in a 2019 appearance on the "Tone-Talk" podcast. "I was just trying to get a f***ing suntan," he said. "That's all I was doing. They were getting f***ed up. Ozzy snorted a little tiny stupid spider that was crawling across. There was no ants — there was no f***ing ants."

Ants, spider, same difference. It doesn't matter which account is correct, because, on that otherwise pleasant day in 1984, chances are Ozzy was snorting a living creature (or creatures) in the absence of coke.

Ozzy was sued over the lyrics of 'Suicide Solution'

To address the elephant in the room, the controversy discussed here was a result of the panic over heavy metal lyrics that was prevalent in the 1980s. As such, Ozzy Osbourne's reputation may have been damaged momentarily, though that time, it was through no fault of his own.

Per Ultimate Guitar, Osbourne was sued in 1985 by the parents of John McCollum, a teenager who allegedly died by suicide after listening to the song "Suicide Solution," a track from Ozzy's 1980 solo debut album, "Blizzard of Ozz." McCollum's parents claimed that the song contained the lines "Why try? Get the gun and shoot!," though  Osbourne and the song's co-writer, bassist Bob Daisley, maintained that the second line was actually "get the flaps out," with "flaps" being British slang for a woman's reproductive organ (via Songfacts). Osbourne would later clarify that the tune was about the dangers of the self-destructive lifestyle he and his bandmates were living.

Ultimately, the court ruled in Ozzy's favor, and his father-in-law and former manager, Don Arden, probably had the best reaction to the controversy: "To be perfectly honest, I would be doubtful as to whether Mr. Osbourne knew the meaning of the lyrics — if there was any meaning — because his command of the English language is minimal."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.