When Ozzy Osbourne was arrested for burglary: “That was a short, sharp lesson”

The entire landscape of what metal music has become is shaped by what Ozzy Osbourne created with Black Sabbath. Even though Osbourne may not have envisioned himself as pioneering an entire genre, his pained howls set against the guitar of Tony Iommi cast a dark spell under every listener who heard tracks like ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Paranoid’. While Osbourne made his fortune with his voice, his early years were spent getting caught up on the wrong side of the law.

Coming from the city of Birmingham, Osbourne was known to experience the various belches of smoke from the sheet metal factories operating around every single city. Although most artists would flock to music, it wasn’t uncommon for many people to get what they needed by turning to crime.

As Bill Ward would recall later in Metal Evolution, “It’s a very industrial place. You could go into work in the factories, or you could be a gangster.” Since a factory job had no place in Osbourne’s future, he found his first thrills by committing petty theft. During his teenage years, Osbourne would make a minor career out of burglary before eventually being nabbed by the law one night.

Telling everything to The Big Issue, Osbourne said that he stood no chance at becoming a burglar again after he got caught for the first time, explaining, “I tried a bit of burglary, but I was no good at that. Fucking useless. I didn’t do any major burglary jobs. It was less than three weeks before I got caught. My dad said to me, that was very stupid. And I did feel very stupid. I didn’t pay my fine, and I got put in jail for a few weeks. That was a short, sharp lesson. It certainly curbed my career in burglary.”

Even though the future looked dismal for Osbourne for a while, he started to find a way out of Birmingham by hooking up with his old classmate, Tony Iommi. Having turned in time working with Jethro Tull, Iommi had formed a band called Earth, playing heavy electric blues and had been convinced to try out Osbourne as a singer.

While the rest of the world was singing about the hippy movement that was bound to change the world, Ward would recall that the first batch of Sabbath songs was informed by how intense their upbringing had become, saying, “We thought, ‘that’s all well and good’. But that’s not what’s going on here. I’m looking at a guy getting his guts beaten up.”

Taking the harsh sounds of their reality, Osbourne turned songs like ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ into bitter reflections of where the band had come from, writing songs about the hardships of their upbringing and the skinheads that used to kick their heads in for even daring to where long hair on the street. While Sabbath’s music may have been considered ugly by some, it would become the progenitor of heavy music later on.

Gaining traction with their debut album, Osbourne would eventually be shell-shocked by his first royalty checks, going from being a petty thief looking for money to one of the biggest lunatics ever to take the stage. In an era when anyone from Birmingham had a slim chance of breaking out, Osbourne could take every piece of his dark surroundings to his advantage whenever he opened his mouth.

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