Apart from that one time Death played there in the 90s, Preston, Lancashire hasn’t got much widely acknowledged metal cred, despite spawning 80s thrashers Xentrix and recent tech-death slime-lords Slugdge. It’s always been a passionate, albeit nuclear, scene but thanks to dedicated crate digger and lifelong Ozzy Osbourne fan Mark Sandwell, the city now has another legendary folktale to add to its heavy metal history.
Flashback 11 years to 2010. Mark, a devout fan of metal, punk, hardcore, and a record collecting obsessive with an oft-trodden lunchbreak vinyl hunting trail was doing his usual rounds of city centre record stores and market stalls when he discovered something most unusual: an original, framed gold disc of Ozzy Osbourne’s 1980 classic Blizzard Of Ozz, stolen – unbeknownst to Mark – from Ozzy years ago.
“I found it in a car boot sale on a table of random junk,” he recounts, still incredulous. “It was still in the frame, but the glass was missing. I asked how much they wanted – a tenner! It didn’t cross my mind it was actually an original – I was used to finding all the cheap replicas you can buy.”
Of course, Mark did the only thing anyone would do with a treasured piece of heavy metal history: left it in his spare room in a plastic bag for a decade. Recently, he finally got round to having it cleaned up and re-glazed. Once done, he posted it on his Instagram.
“This is where it starts getting interesting,” he continues. “Within ten minutes a music promotor friend of mine in Manchester got in touch. He told me the disc was stolen, that he was friends with the daughter of Ozzy’s current manager and that he would contact her. I thought ‘bloody hell!’, deleted my post and wondered what the next step would be. I knew I’d have to give it back – it’s like having someone’s trophy, someone’s war medals; what I didn’t expect was [Ozzy’s management] to be so cool about it.
"At the beginning of this year his team got in touch – they wanted it back, in exchange for ‘something cool’. I was expecting an autographed record, something to remind me of the whole crazy story, but they’d had an official gold disc of Blizzard Of Ozz made for me with my name on it, and an autographed copy of [2020’s] Ordinary Man I’m completely over the moon… It’s definitely my favourite record trade ever!"
Ozzy Osbourne is currently working on his 13th solo studio album. He is scheduled to play the UK in May/June 2023. Check out pictures of Mark's various gold discs below.