During his most radical days as a raucous rock star, Ozzy Osbourne had a personal dwarf, orally decapitated not only a bat but also two doves, nearly poisoned his drummer’s penis to death, snorted a line of ants, went missing on tour after a cocaine duel and was presumed dead, and a slew of other absurdities, all while releasing albums like Diary of a Madman. The rock ‘n’ roll mockumentary This is Spinal Tap is not about people like Ozzy, he ‘is’ Spinal Tap.
Somewhere in amongst Ozzy’s meshuga, is a trailblazing musical legacy. But no matter how revolutionary he proved to be with Black Sabbath, it’s not hard to imagine him writing off a bad show with the following Spinal Tap quote: “I do not, for one, think that the problem was that the band was down. I think that the problem may have been that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf.”
So, when the film was released in 1984, Ozzy sat in a cackling movie theatre and didn’t laugh once. He simply thought that it was a real documentary about a real band. He claims to have been able to relate to just about every detail. There was one scene, however, that he related to more than any other: the act of getting lost in confusing backstage hallways while trying to find the damn stage.
Ozzy wasn’t alone in not laughing, Steve Tyler also “didn’t see any humour in it” the first time he watched it. And U2’s The Edge talk a more spiritual approach to things, obviously, saying, “I didn’t laugh, I wept” at the brainless swamp big-label rock had become. The whole thing really was a living comedy.
And while The Edge might be right, that Spinal Tap really did capture the vacuous nature of a vapid era, it was also thrilling and funny. The movie like the music of the time, might not have pushed boundaries or paired Plato with punk, but it was affirming. As Tony Hendra admits in his memoir, Father Joe, he attempted suicide on the night before filming began, and he credits the joy of the experience as the impetus that brough him back from depression.
Thus, Ozzy might not have laughed but he did look on fondly at the antics. Ozzy’s approach to the film was a bit like Glen Danzig’s—the former Misfits frontman said: “When I first saw Spinal Tap, I was like, ‘Hey, this is my old band’.” The only difference with Ozzy at the time was that he truly couldn’t be certain that it was his band.