This article originally appeared in Classic Rock #200.
When did you first hear the term ‘rock’n’roll’?
‘Rock’n’roll’ was one of many musical terms that was used in my home from childhood, because my father [Don Arden] was a promoter and an agent and later a manager. I was going out to see rock’n’roll shows from the age of five, everyone from Sam Cooke and the Rolling Stones to Jerry Lee Lewis to Chuck Berry… the pioneers of the industry. Rock’n’roll was always present in my life.
Did you associate it with a sound or an attitude?
Both, I think. Having been brought up in the house that I grew up in, I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t a musician.
Who’s the most pure rock’n’roll artist you’ve ever seen?
I’m biased, obviously, but when I saw Sabbath in the early days they were so uncontrived, so honest, so unsophisticated and so raw. They didn’t know just how great they were. And that purity was so appealing, because they were utterly real.
And the worst?
Oh, God, there’s so bloody many. You used to get a lot of American bands who’d try so hard to be naughty and ‘rock’n’roll’, and you’d think: “Oh, fuck off.” I can’t stand it when actors try to be rock’n’roll, it makes me want to vomit. Rock’n’roll is about blood and sweat and attitude and balls, and you recognise it when you see the real thing.
Do you see the spirit of rock’n’roll in the modern music industry?
It’s totally been drained. I have this conversation with Ozzy all the time. The great, iconic artists are a dying breed, and who’s going to take over when they go? The last really great hope for rock’n’roll was Guns N’ Roses. And while that band name still exists, it’s not the Guns N’ Roses that we know and love.
Ozzy has said that Lady Gaga is the last remaining rock star.
She’s phenomenal. She’s a true artist; she’s a musician, a singer and songwriter and she can command an audience of tens of thousands of people. And all this in her twenties. Artists like that are like precious jewels today. So few artists now are as special as the old gods.
- Ozzy Osbourne: My Life Story
- My First Love: Sharon Osbourne on Gene Vincent
- The Story Behind The Song: Black Sabbath's Iron Man
- 10 times Sharon Osbourne saved Ozzy's life
Where did it go wrong?
Well, I’m going to sound like a hypocrite here but social media and TV talent shows have a lot to blame for it. It’s the easy route. Artists used to hone their craft, they would tour, they would know who they were and they’d come up with an individual identity. Now you get people who can sing okay-ish coming up through talent shows – and that’s why I say I’m a hypocrite, because I’ve been part of it – and they’re taught how to move and how to dress and they’re set into a little pre-packaged genre box. We create these artists who don’t have any identity or attitude and throw them out into the world.
Will The X Factor ever produce a real rock’n’roll star?
No, never. The closest was Adam Lambert on American Idol. He’s brilliant. But he was great because he knew who he was as an artist before he went on the show.
Do you think you have more balls than most rock’n’roll stars now?
I don’t think, darling, I know.