This week sees the release of the Wizard of Oz prequel, Oz The Great and Powerful, in which Oscar Diggs (played by James Franco) – a “magician” with dubious ethics lacking any actual sorcerer’s powers – is whisked from his Kansas home to the Land of Oz. He would, of course, go on to become the Wizard, a timeless icon in pop culture.
Our own great and powerful Oz – Ozzy Osbourne – had something in common with Mr. Diggs: He was a frontman who couldn’t actually sing (at least in any conventional sense) and also had dubious ethics (spending a few weeks in prison after getting busted for burglary). As we know, he became the frontman to heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath, catapulting him from the hard streets of Birmingham, England to superstardom.
OK, so the metaphor may not work 100 percent, but we needed some kind of intro to this list of odd Ozzy music moments (as opposed to his many, many WTF life moments – ahem, dove’s head). All of these moments may well have had Ozzy wondering what the holy hell is going on, much like Diggs when he first landed in Oz.
1. Ozzy & Dweezil Zappa – “Stayin’ Alive”
Yes, that “Stayin’ Alive.” After Ozzy and Frank Zappa’s son got together recorded the cover and it went into the vaults for a few years, unheard, until it was released on Ozzy’s 2005 box set, The Prince Of Darkness. The Bee Gees Saturday Night Fever hit becomes a face-melting classic: Besides Zappa, Warren DeMartini of Ratt, Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme, Steve Lukather of Toto and Ozzy’s own Zakk Wylde all take turns soloing.
2. Motorhead with Ozzy – “I Ain’t No Nice Guy”
No real shocker that Ozzy would collaborate with Lemmy & Co. The surprise was that he appeared on one of that band’s few ballads. In fact, “Nice Guy” even features acoustic guitars.
3. Mountain with Ozzy – “Masters Of War”
Yep, that’s the Bob Dylan song. On one hand, Ozzy singing Dylan seems like a weird concept. On the other, Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” was another take on the same topic of how rich people who will never see combat decide the fate of the (mostly) working class armed forces. So maybe this one isn’t so weird after all.
4. Ozzy – “How?”
It’s a cover of the John Lennon solo tune, and Ozzy is an outspoken Beatles fanatic. He covered “Working Class Hero” on his 2005 Prince Of Darkness box set. “How?” was a less expected choice. Oz did it for Lennon’s 70th birthday, and proceeds from the track benefited Amnesty International. OK, maybe this one isn’t that “WTF” either, but most people don’t know it exists.
5. Ringo Starr – “Vertical Man”
It’s one thing to cover a Beatle, it’s another to record with one. Ozzy sang on the title track of Ringo’s 1998 album. How’d it happen? Mark Hudson, who had co-written some songs with Ozzy, produced Vertical Man and brought Oz in on the project.
6. Ozzy & Tony Iommi with The Wu-Tang Clan – “For Heaven’s Sake”
Half of Sabbath teams up with members of hip-hop’s baddest group from the ’90s on this track from the 2000 metal/rap collab collection Loud Rocks. As Ozzy later admitted, “I’m not sure I even know who the f*** the Wu-Tang Clan are!”
7. Ozzy, DMX, Ol’ Dirty Bastard & The Crystal Method – “Nowhere To Run”
Only Rick Rubin, who is producing the upcoming Black Sabbath album, could have gotten Ozzy on this trackwith two notoriously insane rappers and an electronic dance music group. This one was from the South Park film. Fun fact: Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Oz collaborated twice, as the late ODB, a member of the Wu-Tang Clan, was also on “For Heaven’s Sake.”
8. Ozzy – “Walk On Water”
Ozzy recorded this for the 1996 film Beavis & Butthead Do America; it was produced by techno artist Moby and featured Rolling Stones backing singer Bernard Fowler on backing vocals. Ozzy hated it, but he eventually released the demo – which was actually used in the film, though the more marketable Moby version was included on the soundtrack – on his Prince Of Darkness box set.
9. Was (Not Was) featuring Ozzy – “Shake Your Head (Let’s Go To Bed)”
One of Ozzy’s most bizarre performances ever, the original (and still unreleased) take of the song featured Ozzy singing with a pre-fame Madonna. Weirdly, the woman heard singing on the released version is actress Kim Basinger.
10. Ozzy & Miss Piggy – “Born To Be Wild”
This one needs no pithy comment, listen to the song, it does the heavy lifting.