This is an excerpt from the February 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus our "Van Halen 1984 Revisited" interview with Eddie Van Halen and features on Jake E. Lee, Tosin Abasi, Steel Panther, Five Finger Death Punch and John Petrucci's monthly column — check out the February 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.
Twenty-five years on, Ozzy Osbourne and Zakk Wylde recall the audition, rehearsals and recording sessions that resulted in their auspicious debut outing, 1988’s No Rest for the Wicked.
In the pantheon of Ozzy Osbourne solo albums, 1988’s No Rest for the Wicked is neither trailblazing like the Randy Rhoads–assisted Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman nor a high-water mark like the four-times-Platinum-selling No More Tears.
It hasn’t even stood the test of time all that well: although No Rest for the Wicked moved more than a million copies in its first six months of release and was Osbourne’s second-highest charting solo effort up to that point, its songs—including hit singles like “Crazy Babies” and “Miracle Man”—are rarely, if ever, played live by the man today (though in recent years he has resurrected the power ballad “Fire in the Sky” at select shows).
But No Rest for the Wicked will forever stand as an essential entry in the Ozzy Osbourne catalog for one very significant reason: it presented to the metal world the debut of a young guitar phenom by the name of Zakk Wylde. Just 21 years old at the time of the album’s release, Wylde would go on to serve as Osbourne’s right-hand man for many years to come and grow into one of the most dynamic, influential and respected guitar players in modern hard rock and metal.
“He’s a fucking absolutely amazing guitar player,” Osbourne says of Wylde today, speaking to Guitar World from his home in Los Angeles. “And from the word go, he was great. He don’t fuck around. He hits it right in the fucking gut.”
And yet, back in 1987, Wylde—or, make that, Jeffrey Wielandt—was merely one among thousands of big-haired, big-riffing metal guitarists honing their craft in small-town bars and clubs across the U.S. At the time, the New Jersey native spent his days pumping gas at a service station and giving guitar lessons, and his nights playing in a local act named Zyris that had built up a strong area following. Wylde was also, as he has attested often over the years, a huge Ozzy and Black Sabbath fan.
“I loved Sabbath, loved Randy, and I thought Jake [E. Lee] was great, too,” the guitarist, now 46, recalls. “And I remember around that time [in 1987] hearing Ozz on The Howard Stern Show. Jake was gone and he was looking for a new guy. And Barb [Wylde’s then-girlfriend, and now wife, Barbaranne] said to me, ‘If you could just get a tape to him…’ And it was like, ‘Yeah, sure. How am I gonna do that?’ ”
The answer to that question came just a few weeks later, after a Zyris performance at Close Encounters, a club in Sayreville, New Jersey. “It was a Saturday night gig, in front of, I don’t know, maybe 108 people,” Wylde says with a laugh. “Nothing too spectacular. And afterward, I’m loading up my gear and this guy named Dave Feld comes up to me and says, ‘Have you ever thought about auditioning for Ozzy?’ And I’m like, ‘Sure, whatever dude. You know the guys from Zeppelin, too?’ But he told me if I put together a demo tape and took some pictures he could get it to a friend of his, [photographer] Mark Weiss, who had just finished doing a shoot with Ozzy.”
Though Feld would later work for Atlantic Records—according to Wylde, he was responsible for pairing another New Jersey band, Skid Row, with singer Sebastian Bach—at the time he was merely a local acquaintance of the guitarist’s. “Dave said, ‘I can’t promise you anything, but it’s a shot,’ ” Wylde continues. “So I figured, Why the hell not?”
For his audition tape, which over the years has cropped up in various configurations online, Wylde compiled a few original riffs and solos, as well as some acoustic classical performances and his interpretations of Rhoads’ leads from the Blizzard of Ozz classic “Mr. Crowley” and Diary of a Madman’s“Flying High Again.” Even at this young age, Wylde’s playing, despite some era-appropriate pop-metal and neoclassical moments in the original material, sounds remarkably similar to his style today, full of incredibly speedy and precise alternate-picked passages and wide, vocal-like note vibrato.
The quality of the recording, however, did not match that of the playing. “I think I had two boomboxes going,” Wylde recalls. “I recorded myself doing the rhythms on one, then played that back and soloed along with it and recorded that on the other one. It was early multitracking.” But Feld did in fact make good on getting the tape, via Mark Weiss, to Ozzy’s camp. In time, Wylde received a call at his parents’ house from Osbourne’s wife and manager, Sharon, asking him to come out to L.A. “The running joke was that it was one of my jackoff friends putting his mom on the phone to fuck with me,” Wylde says. “But then they sent me a plane ticket.”
Wylde was one of several hopefuls, out of a pool of what has been reported to have been more than 400, to receive an invite to audition. He recalls arriving at an old rehearsal space off of Lankershim Boulevard in Los Angeles. “I walk into the room, and here I am, first time ever in L.A., and I’m meeting Ozzy Osbourne. And Ozz comes in and—I’ll never forget it—he goes, ‘Have I met you before?’ ”
For the rest of this story, plus our "Van Halen 1984 Revisited" interview with Eddie Van Halen and features on Jake E. Lee, Tosin Abasi, Steel Panther, Five Finger Death Punch and John Petrucci's monthly column — check out the February 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.
Photo: Neil Zlozower/AtlasIcons.com