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Ozzy Osbourne on Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen feud: “Randy didn't have a nice thing to say about Eddie – they were rivals”

[L-R] Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen
(Image credit: Getty Images)

UPDATE (09.16.22): Turns out Randy Rhoads did have a nice thing to say about Eddie Van Halen: “Eddie is a great player” – quotes from a 1982 interview with Guitar World conflict with recent comments made by Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne has shed further light on the rivalry between late electric guitar legends Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen, which was touched upon in a documentary about Rhoads earlier this year.

Two of the most well-known axe-slingers in the world in the ‘80s – an era when the guitar arms race was in full swing – Rhoads and Van Halen, who both incorporated tapping licks and rapid-fire solos into their music, were frequently pitted against one another in both the media and fan-driven debates at the time.

In Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon – which arrived in May – audio can be heard in which Van Halen called Rhoads “honest”, but asserted that “everything he did he learned from me”.

“He was good, but I don’t think he really did anything that I haven’t done,” he said. “There ain’t nothing wrong with it, man. I’ve copied other people…”

And now, in a new interview with Rolling Stone (opens in new tab), Ozzy has leapt to Rhoads’ defence, saying there was no way he stole his style from Eddie Van Halen.

“I heard recently that Eddie [Van Halen] said he taught Randy all his licks… he never,” Osbourne says. “To be honest, Randy didn’t have a nice thing to say about Eddie. Maybe they had a falling out or whatever, but they were rivals.”

In the same documentary, guest interviewee Kim McNair, a friend of Rhoads’, said: “[These were] the years of guitar heroes. To a large degree, bands were judged on their guitar player. I think all the guitar players in town kept up on each other.”

Another guest, Lori Hollen, president of the fan club of Rhoads’ band Quiet Riot, noted that both Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth were regulars at the band’s shows.

“[It] was always interesting to me, because I know Randy never went to see them play,” she noted. “But they would always come to see Quiet Riot and Randy play.”

The tension Rhoads held towards Van Halen was reportedly noticed by his Quiet Riot bandmates, who would have fun at Rhoads’ expense by taping pictures of Van Halen to his wah pedal.

“From those that were there, the story was that Van Halen and Eddie would come check out Randy quite a bit, and watch him play, and there seemed to be some sort of competition between Randy and Eddie,” Andre Relis, maker of the documentary, told Eddie Trunk in a recent interview.

“I think that Eddie, in my opinion, thought of Randy as a threat, and just seemed to be – as you can see from the audio of Eddie – Eddie believes that he ripped his style off, and on the Quiet Riot side, and Randy side, they thought that that was just bogus.”

Relis explained that both Rhoads and Van Halen came from “different worlds”; EVH would often turn his back to the audience to conceal the nature of some of his guitar playing, while Rhoads would always face the audience.

“On the Randy side, that comes from being a teacher, growing up in a music school and just wanting to teach people,” Relis said. “When you do watch the way in which Randy Rhoads stood onstage, and the way in which he focused on the audience… He was definitely teaching and sharing. 

“As far as Eddie Van Halen, obviously they came from different worlds and backgrounds. I think the notion was that Eddie was more of the rock star, a little more arrogant, and Randy, on the other hand, was not.”

Ozzy Osbourne released his highly anticipated 13th solo album, Patient Number 9, last week. It saw the Prince of Darkness join forces with a host of high-profile guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Mike McCready and his longtime six-string sidekick, Zakk Wylde.

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Sam is a Staff Writer at Guitar World, also creating content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar (opens in new tab).