“Being in a band is so much more than the playing. Actually, the playing is down on the list”: Before Megadeth, Marty Friedman says he auditioned for Ozzy Osbourne – but “failed miserably”

Marty Friedman and Ozzy Osbourne
(Image credit: Terry Wyatt/Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Marty Friedman has opened up on his experiences of auditioning to become Ozzy Osbourne’s guitar player back in the late ‘80s – an audition the former Megadeth hero says he “failed miserably”.

Shortly before Friedman eventually joined Dave Mustaine and co at the onset of the ‘90s as the thrash metal group’s new lead electric guitar player, he was shortlisted as one of the “thousands” of guitar players who had been eyed up for the Osbourne slot, which had been vacated by the outgoing Jake E. Lee in ‘87.

That Friedman was summoned for a six-string try-out at the time is no surprise, given his work alongside Jason Becker in Cacophony had established his reputation as one the most promising up-and-coming guitarists of his age.

However, the experience didn’t pan out exactly how Friedman would’ve thought, with the Jackson signature artist recently recalling how he “failed miserably” – but not because of his guitar chops.

Speaking during a Q&A session at the recent Metalmania III Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp, Friedman discussed the ill-fated electric guitar try-out, which was first put in motion when he received a call from Ozzy’s wife and manager, Sharon.

“I actually got a call from Sharon Osbourne way, way back, and I was living in San Francisco, and they said, ‘We'd like to fly you down to audition for Ozzy,’” he explained (via Blabbermouth). “And I'm, like, 'Oh my god. This is great.' 

“I was practically homeless at the time, living with my then-girlfriend and dealing with the rent and all that stuff, as California rock musicians do,” Friedman went on. “And I was so happy to get the call. So I learned the music, went down to L.A. – they flew me down to L. A. to play with the band. And it was, I guess, the guys who were in the band at the time.”

Despite “playing everything absolutely just fine”, and although Friedman “thought it sounded great”, the audition ended up being a write off. Not because of his playing, but because their “images were very different”.

“Those guys in the band were, like… it was just like a rehearsal, and they were totally decked out in 1980s Sunset Strip... skull t-shirts with handcuffs and long necklaces,” Friedman reflected, “And they were just ready to go out on the Strip, and I was just in jeans and a t-shirt, totally normal. 

“I just thought that… It was just a different air. It wasn't like these three guys are gonna get together and jell, even though it sounded fine, I thought. I mean, I thought I played everything correctly.”

By the sounds of it, saying he “failed miserably” seems to be a bit of an over exaggeration from an outsider's perspective, especially since we imagine Friedman nailed the parts he was required to play for the Osbourne gig.

Nevertheless, it was a chastening experience for the young player, who fortunately was able to take a few life lessons away with him after the audition.

“Being in a band is so much more than the playing,” he went on to conclude. “And, actually, the playing is kind of down on the list. If you have the same kind of vibe with the people, you can just kind of smell it: 'This is the guy I wanna hang out with.' 

“And it was different on that level… They smelled like L.A. and I smelled like San Francisco, which was a different smell. Neither of us smelled very good. But they were cool. Everybody played everything great. They were auditioning thousands of guys. So I didn't get it.”

Though Friedman admitted he “would have loved to have got the gig”, he did note some lifestyle differences that probably wouldn’t have fit well with him – “They were probably just getting ready to go back out drinking, and I'm not a very big drinker” – and it wasn't long before he was linking up with Mustaine as the new Megadeth man.

Friedman recently rekindled his relationship with Megadeth earlier this year, taking to the stage with Mustaine and co for his first performance with the band in 23 years.

This isn't the first time Friedman has been critical of his past playing, having said "most likely, it just plain sucked" of his attempt to cover Jeff Beck in front of Eddie Van Halen.

Someone who shares Friedman's pain is White Lion shred hero Vita Bratta, who this year told Guitar World of his own failed audition with Ozzy Osbourne.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.