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“I thought they were taking the piss”: Ozzy Osbourne on his first meeting with Metallica

Ozzy Osbourne and Metallica
(Image credit: Press/Krasner/Trebitz /Redferns)

Ozzy Osbourne may have helped define heavy metal with Black Sabbath in 1970, but Metallica took the genre to near unfathomable heights almost 20 years later when they released The Black Album.

Five years before that, Ozzy took the young thrashers under his wing for a tour of the US in Spring '86. Their paths have crossed plenty in the decades since, so we could think of little better than getting one of metal's biggest icons to weigh in on the genre's biggest band. 

Metal Hammer line break

How did you first hear of Metallica?

“Everybody used to stay at LA’s Sunset Marquis, so I ran into them there. Not long after, we had them out on tour with us. They came right out of their box; people loved them. They brought along a great following, which helped them take off down the line. They were all nice guys, so I was happy when my old bass player [Rob Trujillo] ended up playing with them.”

What was it like taking them out in 1986?

“They were opening the show. I remember walking past the dressing room and they were playing Black Sabbath – I had no idea they were big fans, I thought they were taking the piss!”

Did you hear the Sabbra Cadabra cover they did in 1998?

“I didn’t know they’d done that!”

What were they like?

“While we were on tour, I’d keep seeing James hanging about, like he wanted to ask something. Eventually he walked up and said, ‘We want to play Paranoid with you’, and we were like, ‘Sure!’ – then they showed just how big Sabbath fans they were. Cliff had a massive smile on his face the whole time. Of course, it all came back round when I got up to do it with them at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame [in 2009], which was brilliant too.”

They had a reputation for partying a lot. Did you ever end up partying with them?

“No, to us they were just a nice bunch of guys! The wildest we had from them was James, who must have broke his arm three fucking times on that tour skateboarding.”

Was it obvious to you that they were going to be such a big deal?

“Absolutely, you could tell just from how the crowd reacted every night. But you know, they’re a great band – I remember it all really took off when they put out The Black Album, especially with Enter Sandman.”

Were you surprised when the album did as well as it did?

“In this business there’s a lot that’ll surprise you and I’m forever being surprised by things. Clearly the album touched a nerve or something, but I just know that it’s a really good album, you know?

Do you think there’s anything in particular that helped make it such a big deal?

“It’s one of those albums that came at the right time and place, then took off. If we knew exactly what was needed to make an album go off like that, we’d all do it, but they got it perfectly right and made an absolute must-have album.”

Since then you’ve appeared a few times onstage with them at their shows – how’s that been for you?

“Oh man, it’s fun! Lemmy used to play with them a lot as well. It’s just very fun and welcoming to be up there with them.”

What was Rob like when he first joined your band?

“Rob has always been a great friend of mine. He’s a great bass player and a great guy; he’s the only guy who, when it came time to move, did things the right way. I always ask that the guys who play with me, if they get another offer and want to move on, that’s fine, just don’t drop me in the shit, give me time to get a replacement. Rob’s the only guy who ever did things right by me for that.” 

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.