‘Classic Rainbow line-up were going to reunite in 1998′ – Bob Daisley
Bob Daisley looks back over a career that saw stints with Ozzy, death threats from Don Arden and a tragically thwarted attempt to reunite the classic Rainbow line-up
Interview: DAVE LING
Australian-born Bob Daisley has played bass with some of the biggest acts in rock music, including Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne, Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack, Widowmaker and the Hoochie Coochie Men. Daisley recently released an autobiography called For Facts Sake, which, among other things, provides his version of the controversial removal of his bass parts from Ozzy’s Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman albums. Classic Rock gets the lowdown on the book, discusses some career highlights and sheds light on a feud that saw the notorious Don Arden threaten his life.
You were 20 years old when your first real recording band Kahvas Jute released an album called Wide Open in 1970.
That was a real heavy rock band. Although we did all-original material, we were very influenced by Led Zeppelin, the Jeff Beck Group, Cream and some Jethro Tull.
After moving to London you joined Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack. The book tells a great story about the night you both got wasted and tried to drive home without knowing how to work a manual car, so you handled the gears and Stan steered from over your shoulder.
That was hilarious. Stan lived in Kidderminster and there were few cars on the road back then. Nowadays you wouldn’t do it, of course, but I still talk to Stan and we often giggle about that incident. I loved working with Stan. He’s still one funny bugger.
After joining Mungo Jerry you played on the huge hit Alright, Alright, Alright in 1973.
They’d already had a big hit all round the world with In The Summertime when they were a sort of a jug band. Ray Dorset [singer] wanted to turn it into more of a rock band and I enjoyed my time with them but it wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing.
After a two-album spell as a co-founder of Widowmaker (along with various ex-Spooky Tooth, Mott The Hoople, Hawkwind alumni), you accepted an offer to succeed Jimmy Bain in Rainbow, recording and touring the Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll album.
Yeah, I signed a two-year contract which eventually expired and Ritchie formed a new line-up. Everyone but Cozy Powell was let go.
A criticism of the book is its lack of insight on Blackmore. You paint some nice pictures of Ozzy, Ronnie and others but we don’t learn a whole lot more than we already knew about Richie. Is that fair comment?
Maybe. Ritchie has a reputation for being a bit cantankerous and moody but I always found him very friendly. We socialised outside of the band. I suppose people were waiting to hear what an awful prick he was, and… ultimately he wasn’t.
Your life changed when you co-founded Blizzard Of Ozz with Ozzy Osbourne, who was a low ebb having been sacked by Black Sabbath. One of the book’s most eerie moments relates the tale of a séance that informed Randy Rhoads: “You are going to die”.
That really happened. It was Ozzy, Randy, myself and a guy named Spencer who was roadying and playing drums for us till we found Lee [Kerslake]. It was quite a scary vibe, which is why we burned the bits of paper with the numbers and letters on, and poured salt on the table.
The book relates how, in an unlikely twist, Sharon Arden, during her days as a Jet Records employee, tried to get Blizzard Of Ozz dropped from the roster (“Let’s get rid of that wanker Ozzy Osbourne”).
That came from her brother David. I asked whether I could quote him [in the book] and he said, ‘Yeah, that’s what she said’. She wasn’t with Ozzy at that stage.
No, he was happily married to Thelma. Well, maybe not happily married.
Yeah, I don’t know how happy or unhappy they were. I wasn’t in bed with Ozzy and Thelma. Had I have been, it would’ve been in the book!
Later on, after the lawsuit against Jet Records in which you sought unpaid royalties and full credit for your work with Blizzard Of Ozz, the book claims that Don Arden threatened to have the two of you killed.
I remember those words very well, even though he woke me at two-thirty am. ‘You want a war with me, you can have one. Tell that sack o’shit Kerslake that I’ll have him stuffed back up his mother’s cunt, and if either of you set foot on American soil, I’ll have you shot’.
Did you take his words seriously?
Well, Don had a reputation so of course I had to. The following morning I called my lawyer and informed him of the threat. As I mention later on in the book, though, Don actually had some finesse. He was very gentlemanly when I phoned him about Randy’s death. Everything was put behind us, and I respected him for that.
Several times you express the opinion that, pre-Sharon at least, Ozzy’s word really was his bond – “Here’s my hand, here’s my heart” – though you later came to regret that viewpoint?
I did believe that at the time, yeah. When the band first started there was a definite sense of camaraderie. They were happy times.
There’s a further shocking eyewitness allegation that Ozzy allegedly whacked Randy Rhoads around the face and called him “an ungrateful little shit”. You didn’t see it firsthand but obviously believe it to be true?
I was in Uriah Heep at the time but I know people – Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo [Daisley and Kerslake’s replacements] – who were there and swear that it happened. Randy had had enough of the whole thing [of being in Osbourne’s band]. He just wanted out. He did want to pursue his classical guitar playing and studies. When Ozzy found that out, he lost it.
In stark contrast, post-Ozzy yourself and Lee joined Uriah Heep, or in Kerslake’s case re-joined, and had a fine old time.
Yeah, I loved my time in Heep. Everybody enjoyed a beer and it felt like being part of a family. Those two albums I did with them [Abominog and Head First, from 1982 and ’83 respectively] were great and I have no regrets about being in that band.
So why did you leave? Not to speak ill of the dead, the book hints you were dissatisfied by the fact that Gerry Bron – who was juggling a lot of balls at the time, including management and record label – didn’t do enough.
Yeah, I felt we should have had a lot more success but it needed a bigger push and that didn’t happen. Had it done so, I probably would’ve stayed with the Heep.
It’s been rumoured many times but the book confirms that a reunion of the classic Rainbow line-up was in motion before Cozy Powell’s tragic death in 1998.
Yeah, that was going to happen. We hadn’t decided whether David Stone, Tony Carey or Don Airey would play the keyboards, but the four of us were getting serious. I hadn’t spoken to Richie but Ronnie had. And then, bang!, Cozy was taken out and everyone agreed it was no longer possible. It would’ve been disrespectful.
You were the man that planted the thought of making a blues record in Gary Moore’s head with Still Got The Blues in 1990.
Yeah, he’s given me credit for that. We would sit around playing songs from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and, to me, it seemed like a logical step. I meant for that particular line-up to play some blues songs, but after he’d thought about it he brought in all sorts of guests and the thing took on a life of its own. He phoned me one New Year’s Eve and said I had been right in predicting that it could be the biggest record of his career, saying it had sold three million copies and was still selling.
The Osbournes famously removed the contributions of yourself and Lee from Ozzy’s first two albums and your case against them was eventually denied due to the Statute Of Limitations. Though those performances were later returned to the music, you state that you have been airbrushed out of the band’s history. “The Osbournes know the price of everything but the value of nothing” says the book. It’s not nasty but it sums up your feelings?
They have tried to rewrite history. They haven’t lied; they’ve just omitted important facts, which to me is just as bad.
And yet, surprisingly, the book ends with you wishing Ozzy well…?
That’s right. I wrote the lyric in the song Revelation (Mother Earth) [from the first album], which says: ‘We must fight all the hate’. I don’t hate Ozzy. I don’t hate anyone – not even her [Sharon]. I hope he reads that.
Have you heard from anyone’s solicitors since the book came out?
Not so far, no. But I think I refrained from name-calling and digging the dirt. I believe I told the truth without dressing it up, and indeed dressing it down [laughs]. I consider it factual because I kept diaries, so the timelines are reliable.
Did getting it all down on paper provide some closure?
Yeah, I suppose it was therapeutic. I do hate some of the things that were done to Lee and myself but I didn’t want to sound bitter, and I hope that I didn’t.
For Facts Sake is available from www.bobdaisley.com.