Michael Schenker has opened up about the time he was approached by Ozzy Osbourne to “help him out” following the death of the late Randy Rhoads – and revealed why he tactically turned down the invitation to become his new electric guitar player.
In a sprawling new interview with Classic Rock, the UFO and Scorpion virtuoso reflected on some key milestones from his guitar playing career – one of which occurred in the early ‘80s when he received a call from the Black Sabbath legend.
At the time, Schenker had just set the wheels in motion for the Michael Schenker Group, having left UFO and Scorpions to embark on a solo career in 1979. In 1981, he released MSG, which scored success in the UK and Japan.
But as Schenker was building the MSG repertoire, he was contacted by Osbourne: Randy Rhoads tragically died in a plane crash in 1982, and the Prince of Darkness was asking whether Schenker would “help him out” and become the band’s new guitar player.
“I got a phone call from Ozzy Osbourne in the middle of the night, stuttering, asking me to help him out because Randy Rhoads had died in that plane crash,” he explained. “I loved Sabbath, and I should have been delighted to join – I instantly had visions of Ozzy dragging me across the stage by my hair.”
But, as the German virtuoso recalls to Classic Rock, the timing of the offer wasn’t right, and the prospect of joining Osbourne’s band was not as appealing as it once might have been.
He explained, “A voice in my head said, ‘Michael, follow your vision.’ I’d left UFO and Scorpions because I didn’t want to go any further with the fame thing, and I wanted freedom and peace, so I felt it would be crazy to join.
“Ozzy knew that I was Randy’s favorite guitar player, so he thought I’d be the perfect fit, but it wasn’t the right time: we were already rehearsing the Assault Attack album with Graham Bonnet.”
However, rather than flat-out rejecting the proposition, Schenker claims he indirectly turned down the opportunity to join Osbourne’s band by tactically “making outrageous demands”.
“The only way I could think of getting out of the Ozzy gig was by making outrageous demands, so that’s what I did,” he admitted. “In his book [I Am Ozzy] Ozzy said I asked for a private jet, and that’s true, but it was only so that he’d turn me down.”
Ozzy Osbourne isn’t the only person Schenker has turned down during his career. Over the years, he’s rejected chances to become the guitarist of Motörhead, Thin Lizzy and more.
In an interview with Louder conducted back in 2021, Schenker elaborated on the list of job offers he’s rejected over the years, and doubled down on his stance that he did so in order to avoid fame and focus on his own material.
“Every generation, I have given something that was fresh. If everybody takes from the trend, it will eventually burn out, it will be dead,” he asserted. “Most people are after fame, money, success, instant gratification. It was never important for me.
“What was important was the now, the moment, and to be happy as an artist. I couldn’t have done that with Ozzy Osbourne. I had to decline Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy and Phil Lynott, Ian Hunter, Motörhead.
“So many asked me to join them as their number-one choice. I was tempted. But I always have to remember: Michael, you left the Scorpions and UFO because you had your own vision.”
After Schenker turned down the role, Brad Gillis was drafted in for a short period of time, before Jake E. Lee took the reins – despite almost costing himself the gig by rocking up 45 minutes to the audition.