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CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: A trip down memory lane with the battiest man in rock music

The Nine Lives of Ozzy Osbourne 

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Stephen Fry’s 21st Century Firsts

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However tough this year has been, Ozzy Osbourne has the right attitude. ‘It could be worse, being me,’ he says. ‘I could be Sting.’

The former Black Sabbath frontman is staying sober these days. But his speech is still so slurred that he required subtitles for much of his rockumentary profile, The Nine Lives Of Ozzy Osbourne (BBC2). 

It wasn’t just that we need crib notes to understand him — half the time, Ozzy didn’t know what he was on about either.

However tough this year has been, Ozzy Osbourne has the right attitude. 'It could be worse, being me,' he says. 'I could be Sting'

However tough this year has been, Ozzy Osbourne has the right attitude. ‘It could be worse, being me,’ he says. ‘I could be Sting’

The former Black Sabbath frontman (above, left, in the band) is staying sober these days. But his speech is still so slurred that he required subtitles for much of his rockumentary profile, The Nine Lives Of Ozzy Osbourne (BBC2)

The former Black Sabbath frontman (above, left, in the band) is staying sober these days. But his speech is still so slurred that he required subtitles for much of his rockumentary profile, The Nine Lives Of Ozzy Osbourne (BBC2)

Although the 72-year-old has spent all his adult life laying waste to his brain, which by his own admission wasn’t a prime specimen to start with, he still manages to turn every stray thought into a joke and deliver it with a flourish.

Here he is, explaining why he didn’t fancy clocking on until retirement at the slaughterhouse where he worked after leaving school: ‘I thought, if I want a gold watch that bad, I’ll go and throw a brick through a jeweller’s window.’

A life of crime didn’t suit him, either. He picked the shop at the end of his street for his first burglary, and got himself arrested. Unable to pay the fine, he spent six weeks in Birmingham’s notorious Winson Green Prison.

This 90-minute biography illustrated many of Ozzy’s more lurid anecdotes with cartoons. That worked, because his life story reads like a comic book.

Kicked out by his Hammer Horror heavy metal bandmates for partying too hard on drink and drugs, Ozzy (centre) launched a solo career and became an unlikely American rock god

Kicked out by his Hammer Horror heavy metal bandmates for partying too hard on drink and drugs, Ozzy (centre) launched a solo career and became an unlikely American rock god

After Ozzy tried to strangle his wife Sharon (above) while black-out drunk, she told him that next time he'd better finish the job — or she'd murder him instead

After Ozzy tried to strangle his wife Sharon (above) while black-out drunk, she told him that next time he’d better finish the job — or she’d murder him instead

Kicked out by his Hammer Horror heavy metal bandmates for partying too hard on drink and drugs, he launched a solo career and became an unlikely American rock god.

He sold millions of records in the States, his notoriety fuelled by antics that included biting the head off a live bat on stage in Des Moines, Iowa.

Nowadays, eating bats is liable to start a pandemic. Ozzy got away with a course of rabies jabs. ‘They bloody hurt,’ he moaned.

Neither he nor his wife Sharon was willing to confront the worst of his alcoholic excesses. He was too embarrassed and inarticulate; she was too willing to brush it aside with flippant remarks.

After he tried to strangle her while black-out drunk, she told him that next time he’d better finish the job — or she’d murder him instead.

It was left to daughter Kelly to sum up how grim and unfunny life was when her father was drinking. 

After a binge, she said, he would try to buy forgiveness by taking the family on holiday. Even now, aged 36, the thought of going to the beach brings back a rush of bad memories.

At least Ozzy isn’t pompous or dull. Stephen Fry was both, as he plodded through a turgid retrospective in his 21st Century Firsts (ITV). This was ostensibly a celebration of the age’s great inventions.

At least Ozzy isn't pompous or dull. Stephen Fry was both, as he plodded through a turgid retrospective in his 21st Century Firsts (ITV). This was ostensibly a celebration of the age's great inventions

At least Ozzy isn’t pompous or dull. Stephen Fry was both, as he plodded through a turgid retrospective in his 21st Century Firsts (ITV). This was ostensibly a celebration of the age’s great inventions

That idea fizzled out from the moment Fry fixed his gaze on the London Eye through an antique brass telescope.

In his cardigan and tweed jacket, he looked like he’d wandered out of a novel by H. G. Wells, and his insights into innovation were no more relevant. Satnavs, he droned, were ‘perhaps as momentous as the ancients’ invention of the map’.

Other technological marvels included 3D printers and the miraculous new material, graphene — both of which would change the world, Fry promised us, though he didn’t bother to explain how.

The second half of the show gave up on technical topics altogether, and turned into a lifeless summary of recent history. 

Sports presenter Gabby Logan told us that the arrival of the Middleton family in royal circles was ‘the perfect sitcom’.

What drivel.

In his cardigan and tweed jacket, Fry looked like he'd wandered out of a novel by H. G. Wells, and his insights into innovation were no more relevant. Satnavs, he droned, were 'perhaps as momentous as the ancients' invention of the map'

In his cardigan and tweed jacket, Fry looked like he’d wandered out of a novel by H. G. Wells, and his insights into innovation were no more relevant. Satnavs, he droned, were ‘perhaps as momentous as the ancients’ invention of the map’


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