Diary of a Madman was Ozzy Osbourne’s second solo album but it heralded the arrival of the decade of Ozzy. It was a fitting prequel to the chaos that followed: pissing on the Alamo; snorting a line of ants on a tour bus; biting off a bat and a dove’s head on two separate occasions and facing lawsuits and accusations of Satanism.

Ozzy was the Prince of Darkness incarnate in the '80s, a wildly out-of-control figure who scared parents and religious groups while inching ahead of his former Sabbath bandmates as metal’s de facto figurehead. Reality television and God Bless Ozzy Osbourne were far off. The decade culminated in Ozzy’s arrest for attempted murder after he tried to strangle his wife Sharon. “No use saying sorry” wasn’t a lyric; it was a mission statement.

Diary of a Madman is an appropriate album for the carnival of debauchery. “Flying High Again” could be Ozzy’s anthem, an unapologetic celebration of the base and carnal that would be perfected eight years later by Guns N’ Roses. While some claim “Over The Mountain" is about astral projection (that seems more fitting for Geezer Butler), I think it’s about getting fucked up: “Over and under in between the ups and downs/Mind on a carpet magic ride goes round and round /Over the mountain kissing silver inlaid clouds/Watching my body disappear into the crowd.” The warm riff and Ozzy’s whine capture the luminous feeling of a buzz turning into a bender.

Randy Rhoads again is the lynchpin, a talent that burned brightly before his untimely death. How many guitarists perform on just a handful of recordings and are revered, except for bluesman Robert Johnson and a handful of others? You can’t think of this album without wondering what Rhoads could have done in the ensuing years. His solo at 2:30 in “Mountain” is a primer for what’s ahead. He rescues “You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll” with another dazzling solo about three minutes in. We didn’t need to play Guitar Hero; we could witness one.

Like its figurehead, Diary of a Madman has also been the subject of controversy. Original bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake were removed from the 2002 reissue and replaced with new recordings by former Ozzy bandmates Robert Trujillo and Mike Bordin. There was no mention of the change. This was later rectified, perhaps due to fan outrage, when the 30th anniversary was released with Blizzard of Ozz earlier this year.

Despite his self-destructive bent, Ozzy continues to tour and play at 62. He’s metal’s crazy grandpa now, not a bad boy. Talk of a Black Sabbath reunion swirls. Diary of a Madman remains a poignant reminder of when Ozzy was public enemy number one and one of the world’s finest guitarists was still among us

--Justin M. Norton

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