Rudy Sarzo From RX Magazine September 2010
I came across an old, old interview I did with Rudy Sarzo who we all know from Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Quiet Riot, Dio, and more. I wanted to share this with you all.
Rudy Sarzo has played bass with some seriously successful bands. He was member of Quiet Riot with Randy Rhoads and during their rise to success, he was a member of Whitesnake when they exploded in the mid 80s, he was a member of Dio with the late and legendary Ronnie James Dio, and he was a part of Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz band with Randy.
Rudy recently wrote a book called “Off The Rails: Aboard the Crazy Train in the Blizzard of Ozz” about his stint with Ozzy and more importantly to answer the question, “What was it like to play with Randy Rhoads?”
I had a chance to talk to Rudy about that, dealing with the loss of his Randy, and a whole bunch of other stuff so sit back and enjoy my conversation with Rudy Sarzo.
Izzy Presley – The first time you toured the country, let alone the world was with Ozzy. Who did you learn the most from in that first go around?
Rudy Sarzo – Wow, that’s a good question. That’s not an answer that I can just give you a one layer answer because there’s a lot of people that I learned from. It was one of those situations that I was aware that I was gonna get a lot from it as far as a new experience, so I really kept my ears open and my mouth shut.
Musically? I had already played with Randy, of course Randy was playing on a completely different level than he had been playing with Quiet Riot. Nevertheless the core of what Randy was as a musician, he had already defined that with Quiet Riot before he joined Ozzy. It’s just that when he joined Ozzy he took it to another level.
So I learned that from him and I learned also how to make the transition. He went from being a local musician to being a world class rock star when he joined Ozzy, you know, the whole evolution. So I learned how to handle that by just pacing yourself and not letting it get to your head and more or less just keep concentrating on your musicianship.
Also, with Tommy Aldridge, I had never played with a drummer who was performing at that level, so I had to rise to the occasion and try to keep up with him. I had to try to become a better bass player.
Bass players to me are the guys who are part of the rhythm section so you always have to play with the drummer. Tommy gave me the opportunity to rise to the occasion and play with someone who was playing at his absolute best behind the kit. He never had a bad show. At his worst he was great, at his best he was Tommy Aldridge. He had no comparison. He was in a league all his own.
Ozzy? I learned about the intangibles. He has a quality that you just can’t define. He is a rock star, he was born a rock star.
With Sharon Osbourne, well Sharon Arden at the time because they weren’t married yet; I learned about the do’s and don’ts about business. She was an incredible business woman. I would say about 90% of what I know about the music industry I learned from watching her.
Izzy Presley – There are a lot of press clippings and reviews included in the book, but my favorite one was the review your mom gave of the Fort Lauderdale, FL show. Were you surprised to hear her break it down like she did?
Rudy Sarzo – I was very surprised because I figured they (mom and dad) would come and see the show and be impressed by the lighting or production or whatever, even though we had minimal production.
In my family we had performers with my uncles so she was surrounded with that so she wasn’t really impressed with the glitz or whatever that goes along with showbiz, so she was very honest in her review of what was going on onstage. She nailed it.
My mom had never really seen me before in an arena level band, but it’s not like my mom had went to see me play in a bar. I thought that being at this level that they were going to be impressed, but she was very analytical of the whole presentation.
Izzy Presley – At one point in the book you kind of imply that when Ozzy’s wife at the time was around that there might have been something going on between Sharon and Randy.
Rudy Sarzo – No, no, no. As a matter of fact it is not implied, it is explained as to why it happened. Actually, she wrote about it in her book which came out publicly. It was published about a year to a hear and a half before mine and in it she talked about it before the book even saw the light of day.
As a matter of fact she went on Howard Stern and then she went on Larry King to talk about it and I got a call about it from Cathy Rhodes, Randy’s sister about that subject. I said “it was pretty much common knowledge to everybody within our circle that that had happened, it’s just now it sees the light of day because Sharon wrote about it in the book.”
You can actually trace that information back to her coming out and saying it, I was just putting it in perspective as to how it happened and from the information that I got from Randy himself.
Izzy Presley – How long did it take you to come to grips, get over, and move on from what happened with the crash and losing Randy?
Rudy Sarzo – About twenty years. What I got out of the book; writing the book was something that I did not expect, that was not the purpose of writing the book; which was closure. I didn’t know that I needed to get closure of that I WAS going to get closure out of writing the book. I wrote the book to answer one question; “what was it like to play with Randy Rhoads” , so it took me that long to actually say “now I can move on”.
You never really heal completely, you just learn how to live with it.
Izzy Presley – Do you think that Ozzy ever has gotten over losing Randy?
Rudy Sarzo – The one thing I really wanted to present in my book was the Ozzy pre-crash and the Ozzy in the months after; how he turned into the Ozzy that everybody knows right now; which is somebody who is living with that.
I certainly hope that he does get that closure someday. Maybe he had as we speak, I don’t know, but everybody finds closure their own way.
Izzy Presley – How good do you think Ozzy could have been without the excess of drugs and alcohol?
Rudy Sarzo – I think that he would be exactly the same. I’m not saying that he is successful because of drugs and alcohol; he is successful because he is very talented and he is surrounded by very talented people, and he puts out quality product. Basically he’s the everyday man and people relate to him because they see a bit of themselves in Ozzy, or a lot.
Izzy Presley – Have you ever returned to Cuba?
Rudy Sarzo – No, but it’s interesting that you ask me that question because we have actually been invited to perform at Guantanamo Bay by one of the high ranking officials at the base. That would be such an incredibly rewarding experience on so many levels: performing for our troops and to be in the island but not necessarily on Cuban soil because it’s on the base on Guantanamo Bay, but never the less it would be such a rewarding experience.
Izzy Presley – You are a legal immigrant. You came here the right way when you were a child. What are your thoughts on the immigration bill that was passed in Arizona?
Rudy Sarzo – Well, it’s like this. Illegal is illegal. Whether it is immigration, drugs, or what ever else you want to attach illegal to. I live in California. I know that we are impacted by illegal immigration here on so many levels and like I said, illegal is illegal.
When I go through TSA at the airport nearly daily as I do with all my travels, I show all my legal documents because I’ve got nothing to hide. If you want to go further and check my bags then go ahead, I have nothing to hide. It is only going to affect the people that do have something to hide. It’s like what is the problem with being legal?
It took my family about a year or year and a half to come to the United States legally, to be sponsored. So we got our tickets, we got our passports, we got on a plane, and we came here legally. I travel the world and the countries that are the hardest to get into are the countries that are here illegally the most in the United States.
For me getting into Mexico, getting into Venezuela, all the South American countries, we are constantly hassled making sure that the promoter has all the paperwork, our work permits, our visas, everything, and we are only going to be there for like 24 hours. We are obviously going there to perform, get out, and comeback home.
If they make it so hard t come into their country, why should we be the ones who make it so easy for anyone to walk into. Their country doesn’t allow that, but why should we be the one country that does allow that? I’m speaking from experience; I will debate this with anybody. I know how hard it is to enter those countries because I do it every single year.
Izzy Presley – You talk about being a Beatles fan in the book and this will probably run in August which was the month that Elvis supposedly died in. Were you an Elvis guy too?
Rudy Sarzo – Supposedly dying, I like that. I actually wrote a script about that, him supposedly dying.
Last year we actually got to perform at the Las Vegas Hilton in the Elvis Show Room. We were following Barry Manilow. Not only am I a fan, but I do understand Elvis’ contribution to not only the music industry but the whole American Phsyci and culture.
Elvis was the United States first entertainer who was a triple threat. He was a recording artist, a performer, and a movie star, and he was one of a kind. If you look at Elvis he was different from anybody that came before him or after him. There has never been a replacement for Elvis.
Along with that he was American royalty; I mean they crowned him “The King”. Of course you got Michael Jackson who was the Prince of Pop or The King of Pop, but Elvis was Elvis. He has so many musical contributions because he could be pop, he could be gospel, he could be country; incredible entertainer.
I get stories from executives at the Hilton that claim every time Robert Plant comes to town he requests Elvis’ penthouse. There is so much at that Hilton, so much of Elvis’ DNA all over the place. That literally was built for him so impact that he had on my era is that he is my heroes hero. So yes I was an Elvis fan even if I wasn’t effected directly, he effected the people who inspired me. As I grow older I realize not only the impact he had musically, but the impact he had on the culture.
When I watch a show like “American Idol”, they might as well call it “looking for the next Elvis”, because that is what they are trying to do. They are still searching for it. I think that if they did the show would be over. They wouldn’t be able to top themselves because they still haven’t found one.
The experience for me of playing at the Hilton, knowing that Elvis sweat here, knowing that he played on this stage, or going through his dressing room, or recently they had discovered some rooms, some secret passages and stuff he used to use during the show so I’ve been there.
I think that when Elvis died, a big part of America died with him; I mean when he was pronounced dead. I’m not saying whether he is dead or live because what do I know, but it is possible that he died that day. I do believe that a big part of America died that day, and its something that a lot of people are still holding onto or still trying to capture. I am talking about magic, real magic. A magic that certain performers have and when they pass a magical sense in our lives goes with them.
I had the privilege of being a member of Dio, up until recently when Ronnie passed away. In retrospect, all the times I had hanging and playing with him, it was a sense of loss of magic that he brought to my life and is one of the things that I will miss the most. He was the last of that type of performer, someone who has such a huge legacy and every time you went on stage with him you were guaranteed that you were going to experience that magic whether you were in the audience or standing next to him on stage.
Izzy Presley – It’s so easy to say about someone when they pass that they were a good person, but like Randy I had heard the same about Dio, that he was truly and honestly a good person and super nice guy.
Rudy Sarzo – Absolutely, but they know that because that’s the way that they choose to live. I think that kindness is something that you have to be conscience of if you are a human being. Being kind to each other is something that you must practice and I know that they were aware of because it is something that they practiced every day.
Izzy Presley – What is one thing that you want people to take from the book?
Rudy Sarzo – Well, the reason that I wrote it. I want people to know what it was like playing with Randy Rhoads and what kind of impact his life had not only on me, but on the rest of the people that came into contact with him either through his music or experiencing him as a human being.
**Off The Rails is available in bookstores everywhere and on rudysarzo.com