“The Ultimate Sin” is a misunderstood album. It is loved by many as much as it is hated.
By 1986, the legend of Ozzy Osbourne was growing. After writing the “Bark At The Moon” album with one finger on the piano (I mean this is a sarcastic way), the heavy metal community waited with anticipation as to what he would do next.
Amongst the fans, Randy Rhoads and his tragic death was still getting all the attention. Magazines focused more on Randy Rhoads than Jake E.Lee. Ozzy was in rehab once again after going off the rails once again. The person that held it all together during this period was Bob Daisley. He was the glue. Sharon Osbourne managed Ozzy; however, if it wasn’t for Bob Daisley coming back over and over again, Ozzy’s solo career in the Eighties would have been a different story.
Daisley brought back the Ozzy legend from obscurity. Ozzy had the controversial headlines, but it was Daisley with his uncredited lyrics that connected with us. And it was a Daisley track called “Flying High Again” that broke Ozzy to the U.S market. When people see a song written by a singer, a guitarist and the bassist, 99.9% of the people will believe that the musical players wrote the music and that the singer wrote the lyrics. However that was not the case with Ozzy.
“Flying High Again” paved the way for what was to come. It was a radio staple and it is Bob Daisley’s title and lyrics. As is often the case, Ozzy became a brand name and the individuals around him became forgotten.
Yet all of Bob Daisley’s Blizzard Of Ozz tunes stay in rotation. And we loved them back then; however we didn’t know the truth. We assumed that what was written on the album sleeve was correct and what was said in an interview was the truth. Seriously, why would our heroes lie?
And none of the tracks were hits like the hits that Billboard and the mainstream press trump up as hits.
So coming into “The Ultimate Sin” album process, the Osbourne camp needed ideas. Jake E. Lee got burned on the song writing credits for the “Bark At The Moon” album, so he demanded a contract up front before he even started writing. It’s not an ideal way to commence the album development cycle however this litigious house is the house that Sharon built.
Ozzy of course was in a bad shape and had a stint in rehab. When he came out of rehab, Jake had already compiled 12 songs ready. This is what Jake E. Lee said in a Guitar World interview from November 1986;
“On the Ultimate Sin, while Ozzy was in the Betty Ford clinic, I got a drum machine, one of those mini-studios, a bass from Charvel-a really shitty one-and I more or less wrote entire songs. I didn’t write melodies or lyrics because Ozzy is bound to do a lot of changing if I was to do that, I just write the music. I write the riff and I’ll come up with a chorus, verse, bridge and solo section, and I’ll write the drum and bass parts I had in mind. I put about 12 songs like that down on tape and when he got out of the Betty Ford clinic it was, “Here ya go, here’s what I’ve got so far.” And I’d say half of it ended up on the album.”
The other piece in the puzzle was Bob Daisley. Apart from “Shot In The Dark” (which is credited to Phil Soussan and Ozzy Osbourne) all of the lyrics on “The Ultimate Sin” are written by Bob Daisley. This is what Bob Daisley said on the album in an interview on the BraveWords website;
“I did write the album with Jake and then Ozzy and I had a falling out and he fired me and he was going to fire Jake as well. I’ve never been a ‘yes’ man. So a few weeks later, he called me and he had Phil Soussan on bass but I’d already written a lot of the music with Jake so they knew they had to credit me on the songs anyway so I guess he thought he may as well get his money’s worth and asked me to come back and write the lyrics also. I did that as sort of a paid job. I write it, you pay me and take it and go. So I spent a few weeks writing the lyrics for the whole album. Then they recorded it. In a way, I am glad I am not on that album. It’s the one album I didn’t really like”
Of course, the Osbourne’s didn’t credit Daisley for his song writing contributions on the initial 1986 pressing of the album, though this was corrected on subsequent pressings. So there are 500,000 albums out there that doesn’t credit Bob Daisley.
Another form of controversy centered around “Shot In The Dark”.
“Shot in the Dark”
This is what Phil Soussan said about the song on the Songfacts website;
“It is metaphorical for someone who wants to change. He wants to end what has been and start from new but only has so much control! Literally, he turns his back on what has been his life!”
In a Noiscreep interview, Phil Soussan stated the following;
“The original song version and lyrics was what I presented to Ozzy at that time. I have always been a huge Pink Panther fanatic and the title and song subject were written as such. The idea was originally a fast tempo track and Ozzy loved the lyrics. He made some changes to it; added some melody and the part just before the solo. He wanted me to come up with some lyric changes here and there to make it “darker” while keeping the original premise.”
This is what Jake E Lee said in a Guitar World interview from November 1986;
“I write a lot of songs like that-most of the songs I’ve kept have been really commercial or really weird-and I wasn’t so sure of that when Phil (Soussan-bassist and writer of “Shot In The Dark”) first presented it. It was getting kind of commercial and Ozzy wasn’t too sure of it either. But Ron Nevison (producer) gunned for that one and it worked out alright.”
The Great Song Writing Controversy Revisited
This is what Jake E Lee had to say in an interview on Ultimate Classic Rock on the song writing credits controversy that seemed to plague the Osbourne camp in the Eighties;
“On ‘The Ultimate Sin,’ I did get credit because I got screwed out of the first one. I was promised that I would get [credit]. Because I was young and I was in the middle of Scotland recording, I didn’t have a manager or a lawyer — it was just me. From the beginning, every musician, it’s always hammered into them, “Keep your publishing” and “Keep your writing.” So those were the only conditions that I had was “OK, I’m getting song writing credit, right?” I was always assured that “Yes, I’m getting publishing — of course you are!” When I didn’t on the first record, it was upsetting. But I figured OK, what am I going to do? I got screwed — what am I going to quit? We’re about to tour on a record that I finally got to make. There’s no problem for Ozzy to find another guitar player — am I just going to be that guy that played on that record, didn’t even get credit on the record and then refused to tour because I had a problem with Ozzy? No. I had to go out and tour. It would have been stupid not to. So I was only able to put my foot down at the end of the tour. “Let’s make another record” and I was like, “OK, but this time, you know what? I want the contract first before we start recording. I don’t want to be a dick, but I don’t want to get screwed again either.”
In relation to the screwed part, this is what Jake told Steven Rosen in a Guitar World interview from November 1986, when he was asked the question, how much input did you have on “Bark At The Moon”;
“Most of the music was mine. “Rock N’ Roll Rebel”, “Bark At The Moon”, “Now You See It, (Now You Don’t)”, “Waiting For Darkness” and “Slow Down” were mine.”
This is what Jake E Lee had to say about working with Ron Nevison in a Guitar World interview from November 1986;
“….he was hard to work with. He doesn’t have a very open mind; he hears things his way and he thinks that’s the way it should be done. And I heard things my way and I think that’s the way it should be done. And there wasn’t a whole lot of compromise. It was mostly who felt the strongest about something and argued the longest won out.”
“I didn’t go into the studio with the attitude of, “Oh boy, I get to play today, let’s see what I can put down!” I went in there thinking, “Oh sh*t, what are we going to argue about today?”
In an interview on the Crappy Indie Music Blog, Ron Nevison answered in the following manner, when he was asked about his thoughts on Jake’s comments;
“(laughs) Well, he would like to be his own producer. But what you don’t know is that he wanted to come in at midnight. He wanted to work midnight to 8am. There’s more than one person in a band, though. What about all the people at the front desk… and the second engineers, and maintenance people. So I said no. I’m all for working with people when they want to work, so we compromised and started at like 6 at night. I said that I can’t do it… not even speaking for the rest of the band, but if I work for you at midnight to 8am, I have to take a couple of days off to turn my life around be able to work with someone else again. But he was a strange guy. He was… no drugs; he was into Zen stuff, martial arts… I don’t know what he was into. But he was a fantastic guitar player; I never had a problem with him. If he had a problem with me he never told me. Doesn’t surprise me.”
The Jake E Lee Origin Story Revisited
Doing time with Ratt and then Rough Cutt he was contacted to audition for Ozzy’s band. This is how Jake E Lee summed it up in the November 86, Guitar World interview;
“I went down there anyway and I think there was a list of 25 guitar players and we all spent 15 minutes in the studio, each doing whatever we wanted to do. We had our pictures taken and they were given to Ozzy and he picked three of us: George (Lynch-Dokken) was one of them and he was flown to England and given first crack at it. And there was me and Mitch Perry left in L.A. Ozzy came down and we auditioned at S.I.R. and I got it. And I was 45 minutes late! The guy who found the guitar players (Dana Strum) said that Ozzy almost walked out the door; he said, “”f**k it, if this guy doesn’t care enough to show up on time and he’s going to be this kind of problem, forget it. I don’t care how good he is.” But the guy kept him there.”
The Phil Soussan Origin Story
Phil got his first big break playing with Simon Kirke’s Wildlife project that was signed to Led Zeppelin’s boutique record label. Record Label politics and members moving on more or less put an end to this project; however “Shot In The Dark” was born during this process. YouTube has a demo version up and various forums put up arguments for Steve Overland to be given a song writing credit.
In a 2006 interview with the dmme.net website, this is what Soussan had to say about working with Simon Kirke;
“Simon was great to play with. He really educated me in the style of “back-beat” playing. Knowing how to place your bass notes just behind the beats separates “feel” players from the masses and I credit Simon for that. Sure we felt as though we were going to be part of the big time but it was not meant to be. After the politics between our label, Swan Song and Atlantic, caused the fall apart of our deal, Simon left and we continued for a while. I suggested that we take our brand of American AOR rock to the USA and try to finance our own visit and tour, but the rest of the band disagreed. We eventually split up and went our separate ways.”
After Wildlife, Soussan began working with Jimmy Page. This is how Soussan explained this part of his career in an interview with Noisecreep;
“From the get go, and from when Jimmy started playing again after his long hiatus (following the sad passing of John Bonham, RIP), the plan was always to start playing and to put a band together that would feature Paul Rodgers as the singer. We formed a band that we initially called The McGregors around Jimmy, Chris Slade and myself. When Chris went out to tour with David Gilmour we brought in Rat Scabies to fill in. Jimmy loved Rat’s playing; he said that if Bonham had been a punk he would have sounded like Rat! Eventually we began to refer to the band as “The Firm.”
“Eventually I got asked to audition for Ozzy and when I was offered the gig I had the dilemma of if whether I wanted to stay with Jimmy or go out with Ozzy. I discussed with Jimmy and he told me that they were still not going out for another year and I decided to go with Ozzy. Jimmy had started to use Tony Franklin on bass and we parted as great friends. In a way I had mixed emotions as I was so fond of Jimmy, but we still speak and it is always great to see him.”
Where Are They Now? Bassist Phil Soussan of Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol, Beggars & Thieves – http://noisecreep.com/phil-soussan/
RON NEVISON, PART 1 – http://crappyindiemusic.blogspot.com.au/2010/02/jess-interviews-ron-nevison-part-1.html?m=1
Interview with PHIL SOUSSAN – http://dmme.net/interviews/soussan1.html