Ozzy Osbourne photo by Ozzy superfan Peter Jest – the long-time Milwaukee-based promoter and owner of Shank Hall. The popular Milwaukee music venue has hosted everyone from Megadeath to Cheap Trick for over two decades. All photos in this post were provided exclusively to Metal Injection for use/publication by Peter Jest.
On January 20th, 1982, a seventeen-year-old fan snuck a dead bat into Ozzy‘s show in Des Moines, Iowa (January 20th, 1982–NEVER FORGET!), successfully throwing it to Ozzy on stage, and well, you likely know the rest as the story has been well documented. Even the handbill for the tour seemed to foreshadow what was to come, warning fans that eating prior to the show was “not recommended.” In addition to biting into the dead bat (which Ozzy realized was real after he put it in his mouth and “crunched down on it”), the Des Moines Register reported that Ozzy had also released several doves, violating his agreement with the city and Mayor Pete Crivaro to not use animals in his show. One dove was found dead, presumably killed after flying into the crowd. Another injured dove (as reported in the Des Moines Tribune on January 25, 1982) was brought to the Humane Society of Warren County in Indianola by a parent of a young fan who was in the crowd that night. Ozzy‘s history with doves isn’t a great one either after he bit the head off of two live doves in a meeting with CBS Records, though it’s important to note this ‘What did Ozzy do now?” moment in 1981 has been recounted a few different ways by Ozzy and others, who perhaps have a better recollection of what happened. As Ozzybeing Ozzyhad drained an entire bottle of brandy prior to the meeting.
Ozzy, who never intended to hurt any animals, suddenly found himself Public Enemy #1 of every animal rights organization. The Humane Society was especially unhappy with him, and as word spread about what happened in Des Moines, other cities worried that similar incidents would occur when Ozzy‘s Diary of a Madman tour came to their town. The “what will Ozzy do next” rumor mill was rife with gory stories of what he allegedly had planned for his upcoming shows. The rumors got so crazy that before his show in Wisconsin on January 22nd, the local Humane Society decided to dispatch one of its officers, William Forss He was given the power to arrest Ozzy if any animals were harmed. According to Forss, the Humane Society had received reports Ozzy planned to either slaughter or “blow up a goat” on stage that night. In addition to the goat nonsense, the ominous warning of not eating before the show from the Des Moines show flier would come back to haunt Ozzy, helping to perpetuate the myths of gore one might witness in Milwaukee. Before the show, a local reporter spoke to a few of Ozzy‘s teenage fans, who shared what they had heard (or hoped) Ozzy would do at the Milwaukee Auditorium, aka the MECCA:
“I heard he (Ozzy) was going to saw a German Shepard’s leg off.”
“Violence, it gets the adrenaline pumping. You pay to see a good show, a good act.”
“I’m sitting in the third row. I hope he does blow up a goat.”
“I don’t mind (what Ozzy does) as long as he doesn’t get anything on me.”
“I wanted to see him bite the head off of a dove. I was disappointed but it was a good concert.”
This brings us to an article published on January 25, 1982 three days after Ozzy‘s show at the MECCA. The article notes Ozzy arrived in Milwaukee sans his “animal entourage” which sometimes included “fifteen to twenty doves and goats.” As a lifelong Ozzy fan who had tickets to the Diary tour stop at the Boston Garden that year, when Ozzy posted the article on his Twitter on January 22, 2022, my teenage self questioned the whole animal entourage thing. Sure, the shows for the Diary Tour were full of all kinds of questionable stuff. But you didn’t necessarily see anyone calling for the cancellation of Ozzy‘s shows for his nightly hanging of his “personal dwarf,” the late John Edward Allen. But throwing and spitting raw liver and meat on stage (another possible stunt planned for Milwaukee) also got the thumbs down from the show’s local promoter, Stardate Productions. As for the raw liver and meat, these on-stage antics of Ozzy did go down at some of his shows back in the day. In chapter seventeen of Rudy Sarzo‘s book Off the Rails: Aboard the Crazy Train in the Blizzard of Ozz, he spoke about the meat throwing aspect of Ozzy‘s live shows, which also included lobbing raw cow organs, like tripe into the crowd. John Allen got pelted by a large piece of raw meat thrown back at him by a fan, rendering him unconscious. He would be rushed to the hospital where he was treated for a concussion and received twelve stitches in his skull. Yikes.
In author Sue Crawford‘s book on Ozzy‘s wife Sharon (pronounced SHARON!!!!), Sharon Osbourne: Unauthorized, Uncensored – Understood (2005), we get some additional insight into the origins of Ozzy‘s early meat-hurling days:
She (Sharon) would send adverts to towns where Ozzy would be appearing, encouraging concert-goers to bring along raw meat to throw at him during the show. According to Ozzy (as cited in the book) the mailshots read something like ‘Bring your liver to an Ozzy show and he’ll throw it back at you.’ Additionally, Sharon claim updated Ozzy‘s contracts with each of the venues he played, obligating them to provide $25 dollars worth of calves’ liver and pig intestines. During the show, Ozzy (or according to Randy Rhoadssometimes John Edwards, Ozzy‘s personal dwarf), would use a catapult to send a pile of raw meat, as well as plastic rats out into the crowd.”
Lastly, in an interview with Ozzy included in the Blizzard of Ozzy/Diary of a Madman 30th Anniversary Box Set (2011), the Prince of Darkness reminisced about how the fabled meat catapult malfunctioned during a show at the LA . Sports Arena on New Year’s Eve, 1981:
“I remember playing in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve on that tour. Was it the-can’t remember the name of the venue- and everything that could go wrong went wrong. I used to have this giant hand that’d push forward on the drum riser and I’d be sitting in the middle of the hand, and at a certain point I’d click this slingshot and throw meat into the audience and… it went [noise] and slapped this meat on the back of my head instead. I remember that very well.”
Now that we’ve established there was plenty of gross stuff happening at Ozzy‘s shows to make promoters worry, as well as fans hopefully speculating they might be pelted with meat or blood splatter, here’s a first-hand account from Dean Hagen (the vocalist for Milwaukee-based sleaze punk band, Galactic Junkrod). Hagen was fourteen when he attended Ozzy‘s show in Milwaukee. The interview was kindly conducted exclusively for Metal Injection by Tom Crawford, the Station Manager of proudly non-commercial radio station WMSE/91.7fm (Milwaukee). If you were once a young metalhead, Hagen‘s story may give you a nostalgic case of the heavy metal feels:
“This was my very first concert. I was begging my Mom for permission to go to the show with my friends and my fifteenth birthday was just a few days after the show at the MECCA. We were all listening to the local radio stations waiting for updates on if the show would go on Ozzy Being sick in the hospital after biting into the bat at his show two days prior in Des Moines. The weather was really bad, which had people worried about the poor weather (snow and freezing rain). It might also affect the show. And I (being fourteen at the time) had to take the bus. We met at the bus stop with a bunch of PBR tallboys which we drank on the ride to the show. Ozzy‘s voice sounded a little shot. Everyone was throwing stuff on stage to the point of distraction – this was a huge part of the buzz before the show, what would be thrown on stage! It was a great spectacle!”
Interestingly, one of Hagen‘s neighbors just happens to be the legendary bassist, OG member of Blizzard of Ozzand animal lover and activist, Rudy Sarzo. So perhaps we may learn more about the myths behind the mythical MECCA show someday. Lastly, a recording of the MECCA show exists (as do physical bootlegs). Sure, Ozzy‘s voice was a bit shot. He was of course still undergoing treatment for rabies which is no picnic. Side effects from treatment include nausea, abdominal pain, fever, dizziness, and hives. But Ozzy came to play, and that’s exactly what he did, backed up by one of the greatest heavy metal band configurations of all time, the Blizzard of Ozz: Randy Rhoads (who was killed two months later on March 19th), Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridgeand Don Airey (who replaced Lindsay Bridgwater following the European leg of the Diary tour). After the band finished up “Mr. Crowley” Ozzy took a moment to defiantly address the elephant in the room, Humane Society Officer William Force:
“I understand we have some special guests here tonight from the Animal Society! I am a fucking animal! I am an animal! I am the FUCKING ANIMAL! Rock and Roll! Let’s hear it for ROCK AND ROLL!”
This has to be one of the greatest moments in Ozzy‘s history of stage banter, hands down and I highly recommend listening to the audio of the show now that you know the insane series of events that led up to it. To help prep you for your trip back to 1982, check out a few candid images of the show, shot on Kodachrome by Peter Jest (and scanned by Tom Crawford) because, take it from me, Ozzy fans are the best.