Randy Rhoads: All Aboard!
Still, everyone was feeling tense. For one thing, Don Arden had arrived and made his presence known backstage, telling everyone in his own eloquent way that “heads will roll if there are any fuckups.” Adding to the band’s stress was the fact that we were playing at home. We were aiming not only for a flawless production but also a flawless performance. When the lights finally came down and we took our places onstage, the deafening roar of the crowd sent a lump down my throat the size of a golf ball.
Once again, I could see Ozzy sitting nervously inside the throne as the “Diary of a Madman” acoustic guitar intro came blaring through the P.A. At the heavy guitar riff cue, the three Kabuki curtains dropped to the ground and crew members pulled them offstage. The thunderous roar from the audience nearly drowned the musical intro as the medieval castle and the red velvet throne perched at the top of steps were suddenly revealed.
Right on cue, Ozzy materialized onstage amid a puff of smoke surrounding the throne. He then quickly stood up, walked down the steps, grabbed the cross and ran across the stage. Simultaneously, the portcullis gates over Randy and me were slowly raised while Ozzy’s throne was pulled back off the riser and Tommy’s drums were slowly elevated.
Much to everyone’s relief, the intro was perfectly executed, culminating with the pyrotechnic explosions and Tommy’s “Over the Mountain” drum fill. With the production uncertainties behind us, we were able to focus on the music. After we finished our encore, Ozzy came back onstage and reluctantly climbed on the hand. I could see the fear on his face as he rode the gauntlet high above the first couple of rows. As he settled down, Ozzy waved at the cheering crowd while sparklers flew from the fingers directly in front of him. He then took one step back and released the catapult, launching raw meat into the audience. Most of it landed on the back of his head.
“Sharon, the whole thing’s daft,” Ozzy complained as he got off the stage. “You’re making me look like a total cunt!”
“Don’t worry, Ozzy. I’ve got an idea,” Sharon assured him, as she put a bathrobe over his shoulders.
The following day, January 1, we traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, to perform that evening at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. After our soundcheck, Sharon was on a mission to carry out her new plan that would replace the gauntlet. The catering lady and Little John were brought to the dressing room.
“I need for you to put any leftover meat from the deli trays in this bucket and bring it to me before the show,” she explained to the woman, who looked puzzled. “Don’t worry,” said Sharon. “We’re not going to eat it. We’ve got better use for it,” she explained.
“Now, John,” she said, turning to the dwarf, “instead of having Ozzy release the meat into the crowd from the gauntlet, I want you to go across the stage during ‘Paranoid’ and throw the meat out into the audience while the boys are playing. Do you think you can handle that?”
Little John strained to lift the heavy bucket. “Oh, I think I can handle it,” he assured her as he dragged the bucket out of the dressing room.
That night, Little John appeared onstage during our encore dragging the lunch-meat bucket behind him. He’d added white face paint, penciled-in scars and fake blood to his costume, making him look like a young trick-or-treater. The crowd was amused by the sight—that is, until Little John started throwing the congealed cold cuts at them.
As he slowly made his way across the stage, there was a ripple in the first 20 rows as the audience ducked to avoid getting hit with lunch meat. It was an amazing sight. The tables turned when the audience began throwing the meat back at Little John, who took this as his cue to run offstage. With the dwarf gone, the audience proceeded to target Ozzy, Randy and me. We ducked and side stepped as the meat flew in our directions, trying our best to play our encore. When it was over, we quickly exited the meat-littered stage.
Sharon was waiting in the wings and gave Ozzy a big hug, exclaiming, “Now that’s a bloody great heavy metal show!”
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