Remembering Randy Rhoads on 30th anniversary of his death (video)

Remembering Randy Rhoads on 30th anniversary of his death (video)

Mar 19, 2012

Today is the 30th anniversary of the death of famed guitarist Randy Rhoads.

Randy Rhoads became recognized as an up and coming guitarist with Los Angeles band Quiet Riot, before gaining fame and notoriety as part of the original 'Blizzard of Ozz' Ozzy Osbourne solo band. Ozzy released his second solo album 'Diary of a Madman' in February of 1981 and was on tour, when Rhoads died.

After a show in Tennessee at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum, Rhoads and hairdresser Rachel Youngblood took a late-night joyride on a small-engine aircraft piloted by the band’s tour bus driver Andrew Aycock. They attempted to startle sleeping members of the band by flying extremely low and close to the tour bus. On a third attempt, the wing of the plane clipped the back of the bus and the plane crashed.

The plane crashed into a garage on a property near the landing strip, bursting into flames. Aycock, Youngblood, and Rhoads, 25, were killed instantly and burned beyond recognition. The death of the young guitarist was a blow to the rock and roll community and a devastating loss for the Prince of Darkness.

With this 30th anniversary of the death of guitarist Randy Rhoads' death, Joe Bosso of spoke with Zakk Wylde and Tom Morello about the rock legend. First, Zakk Wylde:

MR: Is it hard to believe that it's been 30 years since Randy died?

ZW: It is hard to believe. But you know, the testimony to Randy's greatness is the fact that we all still remember. Whenever my buddies and I get together, we can't help but talk about Randy Rhoads.

Let's say he didn't have to go up to God's tavern when the good Lord needed him. Let's say he just walked away from it all and went back to teaching, which he was thinking of doing – he wasn't all that comfortable with the fame thing and playing big places – he'd still be a total legend for what he did on those first two Ozzy records.

What he achieved in just a couple of years is right up there with the best of the best. He did on two albums what most guys can't do on 20. That's pretty remarkable.

MR: Before you had a chance to audition for Ozzy, you were studying Randy's playing.

ZW: Oh, totally. Without a doubt, I studied him. He had unbelievable technique and could do all the things on the guitar that are astounding. His scales, the diminished scales he used – unreal. But it was his writing and the way he composed his solos – I mean, his solos were songs within the songs… He was way ahead of what everybody else was doing.

I learned all of Randy's solos – before I even got in Ozzy's band. But when I was in the band, I absolutely played them Randy's way. You have to. There's no reason not to. I mean, it's not like you could fill his shoes – that's impossible – but you have to give respect to his music. There is no other way. Whether it was me or Jake E Lee or Gus G or anybody, you've got to play Randy's solos like Randy did.

To me, each and every one of his solos are like gold, man. They're like Stairway To Heaven or Hotel California – you're waiting for those incredible moments, and when you hear them live, they have to be like on the records.

MR: Take us back to how you came to audition for Ozzy.

ZW: My wife – she was my girlfriend then – Barbaranne, she heard on Howard Stern that Ozzy was looking for a guitar player. Right at the same time, I was in a club and this guy, Dave Feld, said the same thing, and he was friends with Mark Weiss, the big photographer who had just done some shots of Ozzy.

So I made up a tape and gave it to Dave, and then he gave it to Mark, who got it to Ozzy. I got the phone call to do the audition, and I couldn't believe it.

I didn't think I had it in the bag or anything. My attitude was, Hey, I'm meeting Ozzy – that's good enough for me. I remember there were all these other dudes at the audition, and they were all older than me and they were saying stuff like, 'Yeah, I hear it's a good-paying gig' – stuff like that. They couldn't give a crap about Ozzy's history or Randy or any of that. They were just into the fame and the money."

MR: What songs did you play at the audition?

ZW: "I think we did Bark At The Moon, Suicide Solution, Crazy Train and I Don't Know. I played Randy's stuff accurately – Jake's too. It was an intense thing, but I tried to not let the nervous energy get to me. You can't let anything bother you in a situation like that. If you do that, you'll fail. I remember I just wanted to do well - that was it."

MR: At any of your first shows with Ozzy, did you experience negativity from Randy loyalists?

ZW: No. Not at all. Everybody was great. The people were on my side because they knew I was one of the guys. I was on the team, you know? They knew I loved Randy as much as them. Everybody was rooting for me.

MR: In playing Randy's music live, how do you feel it changed you as a guitarist?

ZW: I think any guitarist who's inspired by or influenced by Randy knows what a brilliant soloist he was. I really got my head around where you could go with a solo by playing Randy's music. Construction – playing a beginning, middle and end – that's one of the biggest things I got from him.

There are other things – scales, diminished scales, hammer-ons and pull-offs – that were all part of Randy's arsenal. But the melodic sense of the solos, how you can tell a whole new story in a song, that's his crowning achievement.

Randy had what only the greats have – he had feel. Great musicians, you don't just hear them, you feel them. When I listen to Randy Rhoads, I feel every note. I learned a lot from him.

When Randy Rhoads died in a plane crash on 19 March 1982, the guitarist was just 25 years old and had recorded only two albums with Ozzy Osbourne: Blizzard Of Ozz from 1980 and 1981's Diary Of A Madman.

Despite his tragically brief career, Rhoads' playing - full of pulse and drive and bursting with game-changing creativity - took hold of scores of guitarists across the globe. Tom Morello counts himself as one of them. The Rage Against The Machine star, who now leads Street Sweeper Social Club and performs solo as The Nightwatchman, cites Rhoads as a major influence.

"He's the greatest hard rock guitar player of all time," says Morello, who named his first son Rhoads in tribute to the musician who fired his imagination three decades ago.

Tom Morello talk with Joe Bosso about the impact the late guitarist had on a budding young shredder in Libertyville, Illinois.

Do you recall the first time you heard Randy Rhoads?

"Sure. I remember the exact moment. I was packed in the back of somebody's mom's hatchback in Libertyville. The radio was turned to The Loop in Chicago, and this song called Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne came on. The other people in the car were more New Wave fans, and they were talking over it, but suddenly I was yelling, 'Everybody, shut up! What is that?'

"This blistering riff came at me, followed by an incredible solo, and of course, there was Ozzy – I recognized his voice as the guy from Black Sabbath – and by the end of it, I was like, 'What just happened?' There was no 'interweb' at the time, so I had to wait for the next Circus magazine to explain to me what it was. And then I ran out and bought the Blizzard Of Ozz cassette."

Did Randy spark your interest in playing the guitar?

"I had already started playing, but it was right around the same time. I was big fan of punk rock and the whole Do It Yourself ethic, so for a guitar player to come along and rekindle the spirit and reset the bar for hard rock guitar players was a pretty big deal."

"See, I was never a big fan of the whole 'party-hard-we're-gonna-rock-harder' world. I liked music. But I could see myself in Randy, how he was a real student of music. The fact that he practiced for hours on end really appealed to me. He was serious, and he wanted only to get better at his craft. When I was practicing eight hours a day, his was the poster I had on my wall."

"Almost immediately after hearing him for the first time, he became my favorite guitar player. I remember buying Diary Of A Madman when it came out, and somebody at the record store was making fun of me because of the album cover. I had to explain to this person that, while I certainly liked Ozzy, I was really a big Randy Rhoads fan – that's why I was buying the record. It was like, 'Well, the guitar player doesn't have raspberry jelly coming out of his mouth… ' Randy was a serious, you know?"

Were you practicing Randy's licks at this point?

"By the time Randy had passed, I don't think that I had the ability to play his songs, no. That came later. But I did spend about nine months learning the song Diary Of A Madman. For any guitar player, it's challenging. But for a beginning player, that's a massive, Herculean undertaking."

What else was it about Randy that drew you in? And why him? Obviously, there were other guitar players you could have gravitated to.

"There's a few reasons. There was the music, which was extremely heavy but completely musical. It wasn't like prog-for-prog's sake. His riffs and arrangements were head and shoulders above anybody else in the genre.

"And then comes his solos, on which, along with his rhythm playing, he distances himself from everybody. He combines technique – which doesn't really matter at all – with a tremendous sense of melody and harmony. Those things can only get you so far, too, but he had so much passion and feeling, yet he would still play these ripping solos and take your head off.

"The guy wasn't just a great guitar player – he could fucking jam! If you listen to the live stuff, where he does subtle variations of the solos you're familiar with, he's unbelievable, totally without peer. To me, he's the greatest hard rock guitar player of all time."

Do you remember how you heard about his death?

"I don't recall where I was or how I heard it, but I do remember being absolutely torn apart. It was so tragic. In a way, Randy Rhoads is the Robert Johnson of metal. It's such a small catalogue of stuff that has been so incredibly influential, and then to have died under such bizarre circumstances. And he wasn't even at the height of his fame, he was still on the way up. So you're left with the question: Had he lived, what more would he have done?"

How would you say that Randy has informed your work?

"One thing I can point to is the countless hours that I spent on technique. Now, you might not hear Randy's influence in the cow and duck noises that I sometimes make with the guitar, but what got me to that point was being serious about the instrument.

"I spent time learning the Mr Crowley solo, so I developed the ability to play notes at that speed, which I certainly didn't overuse in Rage Against The Machine – maybe a little bit in Audioslave. [laughs]

"What's interesting is, when I stopped trying to sound like Randy Rhoads and realized that what I loved about him was that he had a sound that was completely unique and was a representation of him as an artist, that's what inspired me to find my own unique voice as an artist. So I attribute it all to him."

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