Van Halen's Michael Anthony recalls watching Ozzy Osbourne set Bill Ward on fire: "He didn't even flinch. He just kept drinking his beer"

Michael Anthony, Ozzy Osbourne, Bill Ward
(Image credit: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images, Lester Cohen/WireImage)

Van Halen's Michael Anthony has recalled the time his former band went on tour with Black Sabbath.

While in conversation with Sirius XM’s Eddie Trunk, the bassist declared that “there was a lot of shenanigans that went down” on Van Halen’s early tours, and delved into a particular memory from 1978, during which time headliners Sabbath were in the troughs of alcohol and substance abuse. In spite of their excess, Anthony notes how the band “still knew how to have fun offstage.”

Looking back on one particular highlight of the tour, the ex-Van Halen man recalls the time Ozzy set drummer Bill Ward's beard on fire.

“Ozzy, Bill Ward and myself would be sitting at the bar at the hotel after the show having a beer,” he says. “Ozzy would elbow me and go, ‘Hey, Michael. Check this out.’ And he’d just turn over and pick up a lighter and light Bill Ward's beard on fire.”

Anthony noted his surprise over Ward's nonchalant reaction to the dangerous prank, and understood then that this kind of hazardous pastime was not unfamiliar to the band, noting how “[Ward] didn't even flinch. He just kept drinking his beer.”

Not fussed by games of arson himself, Anthony took to playing with fire extinguishers when it came to his own pranks, as well as the cliched trashing of hotel rooms.

“We'd read what like Led Zeppelin would do, what Sabbath would do, what all these people would do on tour.

“My forte was fire extinguishers. Just kind of shooting them off where I shouldn't be,” he continues. “I've cleared a couple of hotels out my time. Had to pay the police off, stuff like that."

When it came to tour antics however, Sabbath were definitely the forerunners of the most dangerous variety. In fact, an overzealous pyro prank in 1980 at the hands of Tony Iommi left Ward with third degree burns. As a result, the guitarist received a furious phone call from Ward's mother, who dubbed him a "barmy bastard" and insisted that he "grew up" and put his pranks to an end.

Liz Scarlett

Liz works on keeping the Louder sites up to date with the latest news from the world of rock and metal. Prior to joining Louder as a full time staff writer, she completed a Diploma with the National Council for the Training of Journalists and received a First Class Honours Degree in Popular Music Journalism. She enjoys writing about anything from neo-glam rock to stoner, doom and progressive metal, and loves celebrating women in music.