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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Music > Feature Interviews - Authors > Feature Interviews P to T > Randy Rhodes biography

 

RANDY RHOADS

THE LATE, GREAT GUITARIST'S RIDE ON THE CRAZY TRAIN IS THE SUBJECT OF A NEW BIO

BY KEN SHARP

 
Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: October 12, 2012.

ALL ABOARD… 

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 30 years since the music world was rocked with the tragic loss of Randy Rhoads, the lead guitarist in Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Oz band. Alongside Eddie Van Halen, Rhoads led the 80’s wave of exceptionally talented hard rock players. Their style and dexterity helped to define and transform the shape and scope of heavy metal music. His remarkable playing was a wily confluence of influences, ranging from rock, classical and blues. The results of that wide stylistic swath can be heard in his fiery and acrobatic guitar playing that powers such enduring jewels as “Crazy Train,” “Over the Mountain,” Flying High Again” and “Goodbye to Romance,” amongst others.  

An extraordinary new book, Randy Rhoads (Velocity Book/$99) celebrates the guitarist’s all-too short career. The product of years of rigorous research, the 400-page oversized hardback book, authored by renowned music scribe Steven Rosen and Andrew Klein, is a work of art. An absorbing and comprehensive portrait of the life of one of music’s most gifted guitar players, this beautiful tome is teeming with engrossing text, rare memorabilia and hundreds of photographs, creating the most comprehensive look at the life and legacy of Randy Rhoads. It is highly recommended. 

PopEntertainment’s Ken Sharp spoke with co-author and resident Randy Rhoads expert Andrew Klein for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at this landmark project. 

This is the first major book on Randy Rhoads. Take us through what fans of Randy can expect from this project in terms of text, visuals and rare memorabilia. 

In terms of text, the book is comprised of fourteen chapters, a prologue, foreword, intro, and epilogue. We start in chapter one with some brief family history and learn more about Randy's life and career as the chapters progress. We also devote a chapter to his gear and another to his legacy.  One of my favorites is chapter 14, which profiles many of rock's most gifted photographers.  Each shares their own story and memories of what it was like to see Randy in action through their respective lenses.  Chapter five is one that people will enjoy as well: it focuses on the women in Randy's life.  Randy's first serious girlfriend, Jan McGuire, and of course, the woman who spent the last five years of his life with him and was engaged to marry him, Jodi Raskin-Vigier.  We spent considerable time with Jodi in preparation of this book and she was kind enough to share all of her memories with us.  There were a few other women in Randy's life; however, their stories are as brief in our book as their relationships were with him.  It’s also worth mentioning that a major contributor to our book was a woman named Lori Hollen.  Lori was the Quiet Riot fan club president and one of Randy's closest friends.  Although it was strictly a platonic relationship, she was closer to Randy than anyone.  Her stories bring us closer to Randy than we ever dreamed we could get.  He told her everything; how he felt about Quiet Riot, Ozzy, his girlfriends, his career and his life in general.  She was his confidant. 

In terms of visuals, we hope that we have given the fans what they want.  Randy was so charismatic.  People love to look at his pictures.  As we all know, there was something about him.  He had it - we all have our own definitions of what it is, but whatever it is, he had it big time!  So, our book has more than 400 pages.  In all honesty, I don't know how many photos there are in the book.  We tried to add something special to every page.  We wanted to avoid creating full pages of text, when possible.  We, along with our graphic designer, Denny Anderson, wanted every single page to be visually exciting and different from one another.  In my humble opinion, each page of the book is a work of art.  Many, many hours were spent designing each page, and each were carefully planned and thought out, which is why the book took so many years to create.  We redesigned some of the pages multiple times until we were completely happy. That's how much we cared.  We really wanted to create something special that would stand the test of time and be worthy of Randy; something that would honor him and his legacy.  

Our senior editor, Peter M. Margolis was a friend and guitar student of Randy's.  Peter really brought out the best in us and forced us to maximize our abilities.  Nothing less than perfect is acceptable to him, which is one of the many reasons why I know he was the right guy for the job.  Fans get super excited when they see images of Randy they have never seen before.  Hopefully there are some images in the book that will be considered rare.  Many of Randy's closest friends and even some of his band mates were kind enough to allow us to use their photos.  Lori Hollen and Jodi Vigier-Raskin were gracious in opening their vaults as well.  The book includes many familiar photos that have been published multiple times.  We hope that we have presented them in a new or artistic way that will offer a fresh perspective.  In terms of memorabilia, we have presented some goodies that fans will enjoy.  Itineraries, tickets, flyers, backstage passes, handwritten notes, track sheets, and legal documents.  Randy sent a post card to Jodi every single day he was away with Ozzy for two and a half years.  Sometimes he would send more than one in a day.  Letters were sent to her constantly as well.  We spent many long days with Jodi reading every single one of them.  For me, as a fan, it was a real treat.  For Jodi, the love of Randy's life, I could see the pain on her face.  You never get over it.  You can learn to live with the reality of losing a loved one, but the pain never goes away.  When she dumped the post cards out of a box onto her coffee table, they were stacked several feet high.  We were able to use some of that information to help us write his story from his perspective and get a better understanding of how Randy felt about many things; his band mates, old friends, and his future.  Clearly, the letters show that he treasured Jodi and the special bond they shared.  If there is such a thing as soulmates, Jodi and Randy exemplified what it means. 

While Randy was a member of Quiet Riot, he found fame as a member of Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Oz. How did a local hot shot L.A. guitar player wind up in Ozzy's band? 

This story has been told so many times that it’s become a thing of rock legend.  However, there are many details about these events in our book that have never before been shared publicly.  Dana Strum, a local L.A. bassist, was kind enough to share his story with us.  Dana had become friendly with Ozzy, who had recently been thrown out of Black Sabbath. Dana was selected to be the bassist in a solo band that Ozzy was putting together.  Dana was also put in charge of finding the next hotshot guitar player for Ozzy.  As the story goes, everyone walked in trying to play like Tony Iommi and Jimi Hendrix.  Dana, who was well familiar with Quiet Riot and Randy, became obsessed with connecting Randy and Ozzy.  He was certain that Randy was the right guy.  Dana obtained Randy's phone number from a mutual friend and began hounding Randy night after night until Randy finally agreed to meet them at Dirk Dalton's studio in Santa Monica.  Randy showed up late at night with his cream Les Paul and Fender practice amp.  All Ozzy wanted to do was go home.  He was tired and intoxicated and tired of meeting with and listening to guitar players.  Randy began playing his solo from a Quiet Riot song called "Laughing Gas" and Ozzy told Dana to tell Randy that he has been given the job.  Ozzy then walked out of the studio while Randy was still basically warming up.  Dana ran outside after Ozzy to make sure he got into the car okay and to say goodbye.  Randy was left alone in the studio and was still playing when Dana returned.  Because it was dark and Randy couldn't see through the other side of the glass, he was unaware that he was alone nearly the entire time.  Randy didn't get to meet Ozzy on that October evening in 1979.  They actually met for the first time the very next day at LeParc in West Hollywood, a hotel where Ozzy was staying.  The drummer that was chosen to complete the lineup was none other than Frankie Banali, who would later join Quiet Riot.  For many reasons, which are explained in the book, Randy was the only one who ultimately played in Ozzy's new band.  Ozzy and Randy would soon be joined by bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake. 

The '80s produced a large number of high profile metal guitarists yet only two guitar players - Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads - have gained cred and furthered their legacy through the years?  Can you explain? 

There were a number of incredible guitar players from that era.  Eddie and Randy were not only the first, they were at the top in terms of innovation, original sound, and technical ability.  Each came out doing something fresh and new.  Most of the guitar players that followed did just that.  Each was either an Eddie clone or Randy sound-alike.  Yngwie Malmsteen was really the next guy to come out and take his seat next to Eddie and Randy. I think Randy would have loved what Yngwie was doing, especially on his first solo venture Rising Force.  Many Randy aficionados imagine that a Randy Rhoads solo record would have possibly featured that same combination of hard rock and ripping classical.  Both Eddie and Randy's legacies are well preserved because the cream always rises to the top.  Mozart and Beethoven will never be forgotten.  They and their music will forever be revered, examined and replayed.  Same for Eddie and Randy.  They are the only two from that generation of guitar players who were at that level.  Both reinvented the guitar. I don't think that will ever happen again in terms of rock guitar playing. 

Discuss Randy's background as a guitar player - teaching student at the Rhodes' family music school, Musonia Studios. How did his background as a teacher help shape his style and approach as a player? 

Randy's obsession with the guitar began when he was seven years old.  He found a Gibson Army-Navy acoustic in his mother's closet that belonged to his grandfather.  From that day forward, he would rarely be seen without a guitar in his hands for the rest of his life.  Both Randy's parents were accomplished musicians and music teachers.  The guitar or some other instrument would have eventually found its way into Randy's hands.  Many people don't know that Randy was also an accomplished classical pianist.  He actually preferred to write on the piano, rather than on the guitar.  Randy began taking classical guitar lessons from a woman named Arlene Thomas.  She was a guitar and vocal teacher at Musonia.  We spent considerable time with her in preparation of this book.  She and Randy formed a strong bond that would last his entire life.  She was like a big sister to him and due to their parallel teaching schedules, they were together for long hours, many days per week, for several years.  He didn't stick with the classical lessons for long.  He didn't have the patience at that time.  He wanted to learn how to play rock.  He began studying with a guy named Scott Shelly who also granted us an interview.  Scott taught Randy for about a year.  Scott felt that there was nothing more he could teach Randy.  Soon thereafter, Randy began teaching at Musonia.  As Quiet Riot's popularity grew, so did the number of students that Randy had.  At his peak, he had about 80 students. Randy taught for eight hours per day, six days per week; every half hour he was working with a different student.  Randy stated in an interview that he learned more by teaching than from anything else.  Sometimes students would ask questions that had an answer to something else Randy was trying to figure out.  Early on, his students wanted to learn other players' licks, but Randy quickly stopped doing that for them.  He felt that teaching other players' licks encumbered their ability to find themselves.  Randy didn't grow up with a stereo in his house.  He credited this to finding his own voice. 

Share the back story behind the creation of "Crazy Train.

"Crazy Train" is a timeless song that will never leave the public consciousness.  It seems to still grow in popularity 32 years after it was recorded.  Randy had a fascination with toy, model trains.  Bob Daisley has stated that he too had a love of model trains.  He and Randy used to go to toy conventions on their days off and look at all the train sets together.  When Randy obtained his custom effects pedal board, he was testing it out before rehearsal one day.  It was really loud and made a chugging sound when Randy wasn't playing.  Bob said to Randy, "God that sounds awful.  It sounds like a train."  Randy nodded in agreement and said, "I know, it’s crazy."  Bob then said, "Yeah, it sounds like a crazy train!"  With that, Bob, who was the band's only lyricist, now had a working title for a new song.  Randy already had the riff.  One night at his London flat, Randy was in his room writing new material.  He developed the now-famous riff that opens the song and proceeded to call his friend Lori Hollen, back in Los Angeles.  He said to her, "I want to play you something that I wrote, can you please tell me if it’s any good?"  He played what he had written so far and she said to him, "Randy, I think that's the best thing you've ever written."  Today, turn on your television to any sporting event and you will hear "Crazy Train".  It has become a national sports anthem, like what Queen's "We Will Rock You" was several years ago.  "Crazy Train" was also recently featured in a humorous automobile television commercial, and a rendition of it was the opening theme song to Ozzy's popular MTV reality show several years ago. 

As a guitar player, what makes Randy Rhoads special? 

Randy Rhoads was a special guitar player because he was a special human being.  His personality was extended through his playing.  He could make that guitar talk.  The listener can feel what Randy was feeling.  All the good that was within him was audible through his Marshall Amplifiers.  He loved the guitar.  He loved to play.  He loved to teach.  He loved to learn.  He loved to show others what he knew and help them become better.  To quote him, he said, "I just loved the guitar." He was someone that was one in a million.  I hate to use clichés, but with respect to Randy, it’s true.  He was very different from the average person.  When he entered a room, no one could take their eyes off of him-that charisma, or component of his being transcended to his playing. 

As a Randy Rhoads historian, point us to several examples that best demonstrate Randy's ability. 

Sadly, knowing what I know now, I believe that he didn't get to record his best work.  Ozzy used to say that all the time, and I never knew what he meant.  Now that I have developed close and personal friendships with Randy's friends, students, and band mates, I have had the opportunity to hear things that have never been released.  As good as Randy was on the records, he was much better than he demonstrated or that people realize.  He didn't hold back on the records at all.  Randy always strove to do what was best for the song.  He definitely had moments where he ripped and played his best.  But I'm not certain he was entirely comfortable in the studio.  He placed an enormous amount of pressure on himself.  He was never satisfied.  When the Blizzard of Ozz was at Ridge Farm recording in Surrey, England, Randy would ask the producer, Max Norman, to make a 15-minute loop of the solo section.  Randy would then send everyone out of the studio so that he could be alone.  Randy would sit behind the board with his guitar and work on his solo.  They would all poke their heads in to check on him, and he'd send them away again, sometimes for hours.  Then, when he finally laid down a solo he could live with, he'd double track it, and then triple track it.  Once he knew what he wanted, he could easily replicate it.  Randy had perfect pitch and he could play anything he heard, even with one listen.  When listening to writing sessions, guitar lessons, or rehearsals, I could hear that he was much more comfortable in those environments.  He was laid back and could be himself.  That's when he was at his best.  Even now, when I listen to bootlegs of some Ozzy concerts, I could hear that box Randy was stuck in.  He was extremely limited in what he could add to those songs night after night.  That is why he never played a song the same twice.  He was always striving to be better and he loved trying new things.  As for the two albums he recorded with Ozzy (Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman), there are definitely some stand-out tracks that Randy was most proud of.  He took great pride in his work on "Revelation Mother Earth," which was his favorite, and he was pleased with his solo on "Mr. Crowley". Regarding the second record, he was pleased with "Flyin' High Again" and the title track.  I have listened to many hours of recordings made by Randy's guitar students.  Randy was playing many of those licks long before he met Ozzy.  If you listen to the two Quiet Riot albums, you can hear a lot of the stuff that ultimately ended up on the Ozzy records.  The main riff in "Steal Away the Night" was something Randy made all his students play as a warm-up exercise. 

Had Randy not been tragically killed in an airplane crash, from your research, can you lend perspective as to how his musical career would have progressed? 

The fans think Randy was going to record classical music.  Kevin DuBrow believed that Randy would have rejoined Quiet Riot.  Ozzy believes Randy would have changed his mind and stayed in the band.  Jodi thinks Randy wanted to give it all up, get married, and buy a house on the beach in Malibu, because he hated the rock star life.  The truth is I don't think Randy knew what he wanted to do.  He was open to everything.  He wanted to do everything that he wasn't doing.  He spoke with a local singer in LA just before he died, about doing a blues record together.  He wanted to make guest appearances on other people's records.  He loved Earl Klugh.  Randy wanted to record music along those lines as well.  The only thing he knew for sure was that he desperately wanted to leave Ozzy's band.  When they first formed the group, it was a democracy.  A year later, Sharon entered the picture.  Suddenly, Bob and Lee were thrown out, and the name of the band was changed from the Blizzard of Ozz to Ozzy Osbourne.  Randy joined a band thinking he would have equality.  When it became the Ozzy and Sharon show, Randy wanted out.  There was no changing his mind.  He was miserable at the end of his life. 

How do you characterize Randy's lasting legacy today? 

Randy Rhoads was sent here to inspire millions of people, and after he did, he left us.  He only recorded 19 songs with Ozzy and they were recorded over a 9 month period.  That's it.  He was able to change the guitar forever by doing so little.  It’s unimaginable to me to think what he could have done if he had more time.  Like James Dean and others who were brilliant and left us with a small body of work, Randy will always be remembered that way.  He left all of us wanting more. 

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WATCH THE OFFICIAL VIDEO OF RANDY RHOADS PERFORMING "CRAZY TRAIN" WITH OZZY OSBOURNE AND BLIZZARD OF OZZ.

 

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