Born to be Mild

I Am OzzyNot surprisingly, it hasn’t taken long to plow through the almost 400 pages of I Am Ozzy, Ozzy Osbourne’s autobiography. Co-writer Chris Ayres has made sure that Ozzy’s storytelling reads as spoken sentences, so there’s nothing to slow down even the pokiest reader. In general, the book pays off with absurd stories of drinking, drugging and bad behavior, and the best of them work because they’re also oddly revealing. At one point, he got loaded and started shooting up his countryside estate including blasting the head of a giant stuffed bear. A few hundred pages later when he and first wife Thelma split, she gives him his clothes and the headless bear. “I loved that bear,” he says. That he kept the bear after shooting it is odd enough, and the thought of him trying to move it from the country to London is a brilliant image that becomes oddly sad when he gets loaded and manages to lose it.

As an account of his times, Ozzy’s book seems accurate enough. It certainly doesn’t prettify his life, though he also admits upfront that he was loaded for so much of the time that he can’t swear to the accuracy of the details and admits he doesn’t remember Motley Crue’s story of him snorting ants off a popsicle stick. Oddly, though, it doesn’t have the same kick that the Crue’s The Dirt did, possibly because there’s a different metastory being told. Motley Crue wanted to confirm that they were rock ‘n’ roll outlaws; Ozzy seems to want to prove that he’s basically the dad on The Osbournes, the family’s MTV show. To that end, the story’s ultimately about his growth, and that positivity takes the lurid edge off stories of high debauchery. It doesn’t kill the book, but unlike The Dirt, nothing in I Am Ozzy has made me want to call someone to share choice passages.

That Ozzy still has cultural currency is largely a tribute to Sharon’s managerial sense, but also to something in Ozzy, even though he hasn’t conveyed any actual menace since the early days of Sabbath. That I Am Ozzy doesn’t feel like he’s selling out rock ‘n’ roll reinforces the idea that there’s something essentially likable about Ozzy, even when he’s learning lessons most of us learned by middle school.