On this day in 1982, the wild man of rock, whose life was threatening to run out of control, did something at a concert in Des Moines that would turn into one of the great rock and roll tales of all time.
Ozzy Osbourne was touring America in support of the Diary of a Madman album with his Night of the Living Dead tour. The album title was strangely apt since stage shows had become more and more outrageous. At the end of a gig Ozzy would catapult meat (mostly intestines from a butchers shop) into the crowd. Naturally, Ozzy fans started to get into the spirit of the event and started bringing their own meaty offerings to shows. One fan was turned away from a concert for bringing in a whole Ox’s head. On top of that, word was out that at a meeting with his record company in Los Angeles, Ozzy had bitten the head off a dove and fans were now beginning to bring small creatures of their own to gigs.
But that was the tone of relations between Ozzy and fans. So on this otherwise unremarkable night in Iowa, someone at the Des Moines concert threw a bat on stage. The bat, stunned by the bright lights, lay seemingly dead on the ground. Ozzy, always the showman of course, picked up the animal and bit into it. When the bat reacted by flapping its wings, Ozzy knew it was alive and, more importantly, a real bat (he later said he had presumed it was made of rubber). Ozzy was immediately rushed to hospital for rabies shots – not the best end to an evening.
Ozzy said in his memoirs that after biting into the bat, “immediately … something felt wrong. Very wrong. “For a start, my mouth was instantly full of this warm, gloopy liquid, with the worst aftertaste you could ever imagine. I could feel it staining my teeth and running down my chin. Then the head in my mouth twitched.”
Sharon Osbourne was shocked at the media coverage, as she recalls in her autobiography: “Any way the next day we are in this [expletive] hotel room in the heart of corn country and we turn on the television of the news. And suddenly there it is. God know what was happening in the rest of the world but the headline in Iowa was Ozzy Bites the Head off Bat. And we laughed and laughed and laughed. “Big bands have whole departments churning out publicity and they are lucky if they get a mention on page 97. We hadn’t even lifted up a phone – I was far too worried about Ozzy getting his shot – but the story was soon front-page news around the world. The publicity was not wholly good. We were banned from Boston to Baton Rouge. We were even banned from playing Las Vegas, which has to be the most decadent city in the whole world.”
The next month, Ozzy, dressed in Sharon’s clothes, would relieve himself against the wall of the Alamo, but that’s another Spotlight…