Randy Rhoads: All Aboard!
As we sustained the final chord, Ozzy introduced Randy and Tommy, as we gently segued into the soft intro of “Goodbye to Romance.” It was here that Little John made his return appearance, this time wearing a noose around his neck. The dwarf was promptly hoisted up, via a safety harness under his robe, some 20 feet above Tommy. As we performed the melodic ballad, Little John’s body twitched and writhed much to the crowd’s amusement as he acted out his execution. During “Flying High Again” the castle walls were bathed with bright colors to accentuate the bright tempo of the song.
For the Black Sabbath portion of our show, the castle was lit up to look like a cathedral. The center arch framed a luminous screen with the image of a colorful stained glass window projected on it. As Tommy began pounding the ominous bass drum intro of “Iron Man,” a rotating black cross was projected on the screen above his head. Ozzy yelled for all the house lights to come up so he could see the faces in the crowd as the band thrust into the lumbering classic.
From “Iron Man” we lurched into “Children of the Grave.” A menacing skull appeared on the screen as spotlights swept over the audience like searchlights looking for escaped convicts.
At Sharon’s insistence, we had eliminated the encore from our set, much to Ozzy’s disapproval. Rather than leaving the stage after “Children of the Grave” and waiting for the audience’s call for more, we went straight into the metal anthem “Paranoid,” ending the set with a climactic display of pyrotechnics as we hit the last chord and quickly exited the stage.
As the audience began yelling for more, the stage filled with smoke—Ozzy’s cue to jump aboard the 10-foot gauntlet and catapult the raw meat into the crowd. “Go on, Ozzy!” Sharon prodded him. “Just remember: all you have to do is get on the hand and step on the lever after the pyro on the fingers go off.”
The front steps of the drum riser raised slowly as the gauntlet crept onto the stage from below. Wobbling across the stage, waving his hands through the smoke, Ozzy labored to find his way onto the Hummer-sized prop. A minute later, he returned backstage, frustrated with the whole fiasco. The audience was beginning to boo.
“Sharon, I can’t find the bloody hand! There’s too much fuckin’ smoke!”
“You get back out there and get on it!” she insisted.
“Fuck off!” he replied. “You do it!” And with that, he headed back to the dressing room, as a wave of audience disapproval reverberated through the arena.
The following morning, December 31, we boarded an early flight back to Los Angeles. The trip back home was quieter than usual; everyone was still reeling from the aftershock of the previous night’s fiasco. Sharon was determined not to repeat the same mistakes during the sold-out New Year’s Eve concert at the Los Angeles Sports Arena that evening.
Our equipment trucks caravanned through the night and arrived at daybreak for an early morning load-in. As the production was being set up, every single item was double-checked. This included the motor that turned the curtain rod and made the Kabuki curtain fall on cue. As it happened, though, the motor itself was not faulty; in the midst of the opening-night pandemonium, a staffer had forgotten to plug it in. An overlooked detail like that can ruin a whole show. Rather than take chances for the New Year’s Eve show, Sharon had decided to drop the opening act for that evening and push our show time a couple of hours later than scheduled to give our crew sufficient time to set up the elaborate production.
Much to Sharon’s chagrin, the traditional encore was back in our set. Overnight she had come to the conclusion that you cannot do away with one of the 10 Commandments of Heavy Metal: “Thou shall get off the stage, wait for the crowd to chant your name, return to the stage and play some more.” From this night forward, “Paranoid” was back where it belonged.
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