We've found the world's most grotesque tribute to Ozzy Osbourne and it's in a Birmingham pub

A JD Wetherspoons Ultimate Burger meal served with onion rings and chips.
A JD Wetherspoons Ultimate Burger meal served with onion rings and chips, yesterday (Image credit: Stephen Hyde / Alamy Stock Photo)

Last November, a new branch of UK pub chain JD Wetherspoons opened in Birmingham's New Street Station. Named The London and North Western, after the late 19th century railway company that ran services from Birmingham to London, it's an establishment that proudly boasts of its connections to both the age of steam and to the city of Birmingham itself.  

For those who don't know the story of Wetherspoons, it's a business that's loved by many for its cheap, mass-market beer and food – and for its no-jukebox policy – and loathed by others for the same reasons. But whatever your view of the company, one thing Wetherspoons usually gets right is history. Until now.

The London and North Western's walls are adorned by pictures that tell Birmingham's story. We learn that giants of the Industrial Age like Matthew Boulton and James Watt, the men who pioneered the steam engine, met regularly in the city. We learn that their famous Smethwick Engine, the oldest working steam engine in the world, was built nearby. We learn about the local automative industry, about British Leyland and Norton.

We're told about Led Zeppelin's Birmingham connections. And we learn that Ozzy Osbourne helped form Black Sabbath here in 1968. Indeed, The London and North Western is but a stone's throw from The Crown, where Sabbath played their first show. To accompany the blurb, the designer employed by Wetherspoons has selected a classic shot of Ozzy in action. And this is where it gets weird. And kinda grotesque.

You'll know the original shot. Taken by Paul Natkin, it shows Ozzy lifting Randy Rhoads aloft during a set at the Rosemont Horizon in Illinois, in January, 1982, just two months before the guitarist's death. Natkin had gone to the show to shoot keyboardist Don Airey, but he was hidden away in the castle-themed Diary Of A Madman stage set, so the photographer positioned himself in front of Rhoads and fired off some shots. 

Two photos struck a chord. Showing the obvious bond between the singer and his genius sidekick, they've subsequently appeared on the covers of multiple magazines, and one was used as the artwork for the 1987 live album Tribute.    

Ozzy Osbourne onstage, holding Randy Rhoads asloft

(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Ozzy Osbourne: Tribute cover art

(Image credit: Epic Records)

And here's Natkin's image as it appears at the The London and North Western.

Ozzy Osbourne "tribute" at the The London and North Western pub in Birmingham

(Image credit: Dominik Spitzer)

Putting aside the notion that the photo chosen to celebrate the founding of Black Sabbath is one taken after Ozzy had left the band more than a decade later, it's clearly one of the Great Photoshop Disasters of the modern era. 

The bizarrely manipulated image shows Ozzy playing Rhoads' iconic polka-dot Flying V in a freakish, Human Centipede-ish conflation of the two men. Rhoads has been mostly removed from the scene, but his left arm remains on the neck of the guitar, while Ozzy's right arm strums. The two of them, smooshed together as one, forever locked in malformed alchemy. 

Ozzy, of course, doesn't play guitar. "That's one of my biggest regrets," he told Rolling Stone in 2017. “I can play a little bit of harmonica, and that's about it."

To make matters worse, there's no mention of the other Brummies in the band. Which, last time we checked, was all of them. 

In happier news, The Crown, Sabbath's original haunt, reopened as a music venue late last year after being closed since 2014. So if you do make the long pilgrimage to New Street Station to pay respect to the aberrant Ozzy image, be sure to pop over the road for some real history when you're done.  

Thanks to Dominik Spitzer for bringing this important story to our attention

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.