Skip to main content

UFO's Pete Way reflects on the decade of decadence he spent with Ozzy Osbourne

ozzy osbourne and pete way

To this day, what I’m asked more than anything else is if Ozzy Osbourne is as wild as he has appeared to be. The answer to that question is an absolute yes. In my experience, Ozzy was very open, pleasant and funny, but dangerous too. You never knew quite what he was going to do next or who he might upset. It wasn’t as if he went out of his way to annoy anyone, but he liked to have fun at other people’s expense. Every day in Ozzy’s company was an adventure, and I was always numb enough to be able to handle whatever it was that might happen.

There were no limitations whatsoever with regard to what Ozzy was capable of doing. On the one hand, the two of us would have very in-depth conversations about our families and personal lives. On the other, he would turn to me conspiratorially and say, “Pete, what we need is some waffle dust.” Waffle dust was how Ozzy referred to cocaine. I think he saw me as a sort of kindred spirit, and we spent an awful lot of our time together boozing or else looking for waffle dust.

I first met Ozzy in 1980. At the time, he was making his debut solo album, Blizzard Of Ozz, and both his band and UFO were rehearsing at Nomis Studios in Hammersmith. To me he seemed every inch a rock star with his long, flowing hair and a wild glint in his eyes. He would invite me in to their room to watch his young guitarist, Randy Rhoads, in action. Randy was a big fan of Michael Schenker’s and also of UFO’s and Ozzy described him to me as his secret weapon. The two of us otherwise used to go down the pub together and we became good friends.

On one occasion, I visited Ozzy at the new house he’d bought in Stafford in the West Midlands. In fact I nearly killed Sharon Osbourne (or Sharon Arden as she was then) driving her up to the Midlands from London in my Jag. Sharon must have had nerves of steel to get into the car in the first place, because she knew I’d had a drink or two. It was the middle of winter and a lorry pulled out in front of us. I slammed the brakes on, but hit black ice and the car spun off the road. Fortunately, we hit a crash-barrier which stopped us from plunging down a steep embankment.

All aboard the crazy train: Waysted, Ozzy and Mötley Cruë on tour in ’84

All aboard the crazy train: Waysted, Ozzy and Mötley Cruë on tour in ’84

Sharon took charge after the crash. She got us a lift from the lorry driver to the next service station and then a taxi to the house, ringing ahead to tell Ozzy what had happened. When we finally arrived, Ozzy never asked about the accident. He was fussing instead about several bottles of champagne that he’d bought for the occasion and left outside to chill in the snow. These were far more important to him than his wife-to-be and me having just had a near-death experience.

I left UFO after 1982’s Mechanix album, which ended up being a good way short of our best. I had got an offer to produce Twisted Sister’s first record, Under The Blade. It was very much my own particular version of producing, which is to say that most of the time I was stood around with a beer yelling, “Louder!” or else, “Quieter!”

For the overdubbing, we moved to West London and Bryan Ferry’s studio in Olympia. It so happened that Ozzy and Sharon had just then moved into her dad, Don Arden’s, place in Wimbledon and down the road from where we were working. Ozzy was at something of a loose end, which was always a dangerous state for him to be in. Sharon called one night to tell me he fancied a night out. “You will look after him and keep an eye on him, won’t you?” she added.

When I told the guys in Twisted Sister that Ozzy was going to drop by, they were almost beside themselves with excitement. Dee Snider in particular couldn’t believe that one of his heroes might want to hear his own band’s music. Sure enough, Ozzy rolled up and the Twisted Sister guys hurried off into the main room to play for him. Ozzy, though, gets bored very easily. Dee and the boys must have seen him bouncing up and down in the control room and thought he was having the time of his life. In fact he was restless and fidgeting, and every five minutes or so he’d turn to me and plead: “How long’s this going to take, Pete? Can’t we go to the pub now?”

Eventually and just to shut him up, I took Ozzy out into the car park for a fag break. Before stepping outside, I had a sniff of heroin, just to top myself up for the night. While the two of us were stood around together, I foolishly told Ozzy that the house that adjoined the studio was also Ferry’s. I could almost hear the cogs in his brain whirring and without a word, he was off. He walked up to the front door of the house, pulled his pants down and had diarrhoea all over the ‘Welcome’ mat laid out on the doorstep. The smell was so revolting that I instantly threw up. Ozzy stared over at me, an expression of concern on his face and said: “D’you know what, Pete, you should give that stuff up.” And with that the two of us trooped off to the nearest boozer.

Chequered past: Pete Way with UFO

Chequered past: Pete Way with UFO

Not long after that incident, I happened to bump into ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke who had just left Motörhead. When he found out I had also quit UFO, Eddie suggested we do something together, which was how Fastway came about. We ended up getting offered a breathtaking amount of money by CBS Records. It was at that point that UFO’s label, Chrysalis, informed me that I was still signed to them and they wouldn’t release me from the contract. The dispute went on for weeks and finally I decided there was no option for me but to leave Fastway.

Ozzy got to hear of what had gone down and rang to invite me on tour with him. He needed someone to step in quickly to replace Rudy Sarzo who had just gone back to his old band, Quiet Riot. Ozzy offered me £5,000 a week plus daily expenses and as much fun as you could possibly have. I don’t believe I was recruited on account of my skills as a musician, but more for the fact that Ozzy enjoyed my company. The arrangement suited Sharon, too. With her manager’s head on, I’m sure she thought I could act as Ozzy’s chaperone.

Ozzy had a UK tour looming and right before it started, he and Sharon asked me to lunch at an exclusive restaurant in Mayfair that they then patronised. Allow me to set the scene. Sat at the table opposite us were two well-to-do looking businessmen. While at our table Ozzy was holding court in his own inimitable and very loud way.

At a certain point, one of the businessmen leaned over, attracted Ozzy’s attention and said to him: “Excuse me, but really, would you mind toning your language down?”

My immediate thought was that Ozzy was bound to retort. But he didn’t. Or at least not right away. He simply sat back in his seat and perused the menu. This was unusual for him, and it felt to me as though we had dodged a bullet. The two businessmen also returned to their lunch, and Ozzy, Sharon and I passed the next couple of minutes in an uneventful silence. And then, still without having uttered a word, Ozzy stood up. He smoothed out the creases in his trousers and walked over to where the businessmen were sat, whereupon he climbed up onto their table, pulled his pants down once more and pissed all over their food.

His two victims were outraged. One sat with his mouth hanging open, face beetroot-red, while the other dashed off to fetch the maître d’. Even before Ozzy was sat back down at our table, Sharon had got her cheque book out from her handbag and was writing out a cheque in an offhand manner that indicated to me that she was more than used to such incidents.

On the tour, we were up in Leeds and staying at a big old city centre hotel. We had a day off and so Ozzy wanted to go for a lunchtime drink. He had to ask permission from Sharon first and she delegated me to make sure he only had the one. Off we went down the road and found a working men’s club. There were all these toothless old dears sat at the bar and Ozzy asked each of them in turn: “Do you want a drink, darling?”

Sure enough, one drink wasn’t enough for Ozzy, and instead he settled in for the afternoon. It always was the same story with him. No matter how much he’d put away, if you were ever to ask Ozzy if he wanted another drink, he would reply: “Is the Pope Catholic?” When the pair of us did finally start to stroll back up to the hotel, we were met by Sharon driving the other way in their Land Rover and with steam coming out of her ears. We climbed in the car like naughty schoolboys, Ozzy into the back seat because he in particular was in disgrace.

Sharon wouldn’t speak to him. We pulled up at traffic lights and at which point, Ozzy flung the back door open and made a run for it down the road. Sharon screamed at me: “Go and get him, Pete! Get him or he won’t come back!” I gave chase through the city centre, and God knows what the two of us must have looked like, but caught up with him and managed to drag him back to the car. The two of them then made up. That was the pattern of things with Ozzy and Sharon and a volcanic eruption was never far from the surface.

The problem for me on that tour was that I didn’t really fit in with the other guys in Ozzy’s band. His new guitarist, Brad Gillis, and drummer Tommy Aldridge were both Americans and in particular didn’t like the fact that I travelled with Ozzy and Sharon on their bus, while they were dumped on a separate one. To be honest, I found dealing with the two of them a bit of an ordeal. The shows, though, seemed to go down well and Ozzy stuck to me like glue the whole time, as much as anything I think to get away from Sharon.

Right after doing the Ozzy tour, I got an offer from Chrysalis to put my own band together, which became Waysted. Our first album, Vices, came out in October 1983 but was met with no more than a muted reception. However, in the short term I was able to gloss over the issues I had with the band as we were offered the opening slot on Ozzy’s Bark At The Moon US tour. This was a red-hot ticket, especially since the three-band bill was completed by a cocksure group out of Los Angeles named Mötley Crüe. The Crüe had just then broken into the American Top 10 with their second album Shout At The Devil, and were establishing themselves as the new bad boys of rock.

In total we did 45 arena shows with Ozzy and the Crüe. Each one was a sell-out, but since everyone was so desperate to see the Crüe, let alone Ozzy, we were pretty much surplus to requirements. However, that tour has since attained a somewhat legendary reputation that has more to do with what went on offstage than on. At the shows, it was actually a very smooth-running, professional set-up, but back at the hotel afterwards, well, that was another story and not one that really involved Ozzy. Sharon had ensured that between gigs he travelled on his own bus, as much as anything to keep him away from the Crüe, so I didn’t see that much of him.

Early on in the tour, Nikki Sixx told me that I was his hero and how he used to watch me do this and that, and would copy me. It was an odd feeling for me, being viewed as a kind of elder statesman and also to see Nikki get up to pretty much all of the things that I had done what seemed almost a lifetime earlier with UFO. I really am talking about as much excess, women, booze and drugs as one can possibly imagine. Nikki would call out to me from the bathroom of his hotel room and ask me to bring along his camera. He would be stood there, bold as brass, getting a blowjob and want me to take a Polaroid.

For me, the camaraderie that was had on that tour was what made it so special. That’s why I think Ozzy liked having people like the Crüe and me around. He told me once how things had been hard for him when he first left Black Sabbath and that he’d had no option but to simply hire a band. I got the sense from him that he had no real, true friends. He had got to be a star, but that’s not much fun if now and again you can’t have a good blow‑out with your mates. I think Ozzy always missed being in Sabbath for that very reason.

With Ozzy and UFO’s Phil Mogg

With Ozzy and UFO’s Phil Mogg

After making Waystead’s next album, The Good, The Bad & The Waysted, we came straight out of the studio and on to Iron Maiden’s Powerslave UK tour. That was a joy for us to do. The new record was suited to being played live and Steve Harris went out of his way to look after us. We also went down well with Maiden’s British fans and never better than the night Ozzy joined us at Hammersmith Odeon.

Sharon was in hospital at the time, waiting to have their second daughter, Kelly, so Ozzy was cut loose and turned up at the Odeon with Noddy Holder and Don Powell from Slade in tow. For reasons best known to Ozzy, he was also wearing a dress and a German army helmet from the Second World War and carrying a dead rabbit that he’d picked up from a butcher’s shop that morning. Ozzy and I actually shared the same accountant, Colin Newman, who had an office in Soho. Ozzy had made an unannounced visit to the premises earlier that same day and stormed into a meeting that Colin was conducting, swinging the lifeless bunny around his head. Colin had gone bonkers, because of all the blood that Ozzy had sprayed over his office walls.

Soon enough, Ozzy got comfortable in our dressing room. There were buckets of booze on hand and the waffle dust came out. In fact, Ozzy became so at ease that he demonstrated to the room that he hadn’t any underwear on beneath his dress, a spectacle I would have preferred to have avoided. At a certain point, he also announced that he meant to get up onstage with us and sing his best-known Sabbath anthem, Paranoid. I hadn’t planned on having Ozzy come out bare-arsed in a dress and with a Nazi helmet on, but reasoned that there would be no stopping him.

As it happened, we managed to get through four or five of our own songs without interruption. I could, though, see Ozzy stood at the side of the stage and he was raring to go. Our singer Fin Muir duly announced him and the place went nuts. I’ve never seen a reaction like it; people were literally running in from the street and from that moment Ozzy took control of proceedings as if we were his own band. He went charging off around the stage, dress flapping dangerously high, shouting at us: “Come on, let’s go fucking crazy!”

Afterwards, Ozzy was hell-bent on going to a nearby wine bar. I filed into his car with Noddy and Don and lo and behold, Ozzy’s driver went straight into the back of the car in front. It was just a nudge, but our driver got out and began a negotiation with the guy he’d hit. After a couple of minutes of animated chat, Ozzy intervened on the scene to try and bring things to an amicable conclusion. He had, at least, changed out of the dress by then and pulled a couple of hundred quid from his pocket to give to the guy, who was instantly placated.

Next morning, I called Sharon’s office to check that Ozzy had got home safe and sound. I expected Sharon’s assistant to answer the phone, but instead it was a more familiar voice. “Fucking hell, Pete,” Ozzy said to me, “I’m a dead man.” Ozzy, it transpired, was supposed to have gone straight from our gig to the hospital to see Sharon. However, he had never made it. Rather, he’d spent the night in the park opposite Colin Newman’s house. Apparently he’d handed over another fistful of money to a tramp in order to procure a park bench to sleep on. And that was a typical night out with the Prince of Darkness.

A Fast Ride Out Of Here: Confessions Of Rock’s Most Dangerous Man is published by Constable, priced £20.00 in hardback.

Pete Way: "If I’d have put it off another day... it would have been too late"

UFO’s Strangers In The Night: the live album that nearly restarted World War 2