Diary of a Madman (or ‘a few gigs short of a tour’)

In The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera tells the tale of a Communist leader “who is so thoroughly erased from history that nothing is left of him but his hat”. In recent days I’ve had cause to worry that an important event in my gigging history has also been erased – albeit less intentionally. Let me explain.

I’m currently reading Joel McIver’s excellent Randy Rhoads biography Crazy Train: The High Life and Tragic Death of Randy Rhoads. As Joel gets into full flow, I find myself greatly anticipating the comments he would surely make on the wonderful Ozzy Osbourne/Blizzard of Ozz gig I saw at Sophia Gardens Pavillion, Cardiff on 30 November 1981. This was the Diary of a Madman tour, and it was the one and only time I saw Randy in the flesh. Four months later Randy was dead. Those of us who saw him play live know how lucky we are and we tend to cherish the memory.

Imagine my surprise then, when, on p.140 of Joel’s book, I found the following: “Randy managed to avoid the delights of British cuisine when the proposed tour between November 29 and December 26 was cancelled at the last minute.” Joel goes on to quote the explanation and apology to fans placed by Ozzy in the now defunct British music weekly Sounds.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt that some or even most of the tour was cancelled, but the gig that I attended certainly was not!

I do have my own written records – as I used to keep a list of all the gigs I went to. They show that I went to this particular gig with a friend called Nigel, and that the support act was Girl. They also suggest that at that point in time the touring band consisted of Ozzy, Randy, Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridge and Lyndsey Bridgewater. I also still have an official button badge that I bought at the merch stall that night. (What kind of anorak keeps these things?!) There is more on this gig in Words and Music, so despite the reassurance of my own records, I figured it would be nice to find some external validation of my personal records and memories.

It’s a benefit of the modern age that we can now look up information like this on the internet. Half an hour’s research would surely verify my recollections, wouldn’t it? Actually, no! An hour or so later I was still scratching around in disbelief.

The official Ozzy site doesn’t seem to have a tour archive – not that I could find, anyway. I did, however, find a site call Ozzyhead,which has an extensive and very impressive archive of Ozzy gigs – solo and in Sabbath. It does have the Cardiff gig listed, but surprisingly it too suggests that the entire UK tour, including the Cardiff gig, was cancelled. (It also lists the support band as Saxon – who I’d seen headlining the same venue just a month or so earlier, and lists the October 1980 Blizzard tour date at the same venue as having taken place in “Cardiff, Wales, England”!)

I keep searching. A site called atthatgig.com lists the Cardiff gig – but doesn’t yet have anyone  claiming to have been there. Another site I find, has ‘Wales’ spelt ‘Whales’! The venue itself can be of no help, as it collapsed under weight of heavy snow in January 1982 (just before a Sabbath gig for which I had a ticket, believe it or not) and was subsequently demolished.

Then I discovered the Ultimate Rhoads website, which contains a review of a gig said to be on 2 December 1981 at the Royal Court, Liverpool. That at least suggests that the tour did actually start. There is speculation that the author of the review is the former Sounds journo Garry Bushell. That sparked another memory. I went to my bookcase and pulled out Mick Wall’s Diary of a Madman biography.  Mick’s book also confirms that the tour started, but curiously, suggests that the Liverpool gig was cancelled. He writes: “The UK tour had started well, to all intents and purposes, Ozzy coming back for an unheard of two encores at the Colston Hall, Bristol, appearing jovial and juiced at the end, in his underwear and nothing else save a smile. The following night, in Cardiff, fans showered the stage with dead crows, waiting to find out if Ozzy would be tempted to scoff one maybe, between verses, you know? And then Leicester was cancelled, and then Liverpool, and then Ozzy pulled the bloody lot.” (p.93)

I searched the Ultimate Rhoads site again – and somewhere within its extensive Forum, I finally found a list of live dates played by Randy between 1973 and 1982. This list suggests that three of the planned UK gigs did in fact take place: Bristol on the 29 November, Cardiff on 30 November and Liverpool on 2 December. According to this list, the other 11 gigs were either cancelled or rescheduled. In a different thread, there are even some photos (mainly close-ups) purporting to be from the Cardiff gig. Certainly there is one photo of Randy that shows the Sophia Gardens stage very much as I remember it, and there is a photo of Ozzy leaving the venue by the backstage door that also has an air of familiarity about it.

More searching. Songkick lists the Cardiff gig and has one person who claims to have been there. A website called Rockin CD claims to have a live CD of the gig. Then I find that You Tube also seems to have live audio of the gig, again courtesy of the Ultimate Rhoads website (though I currently lack the required permissions to access audio on the latter).

So perhaps, I can be assured after all that, largely through the dilligence of those who work tirelessly to keep Randy’s memory alive at Ultimate Rhoads, the Sophia Gardens gig of 30 November 1981 has not, after all, been erased from human history. And lest anyone doubt it ever again, I’ll make sure I keep my button badge to prove it.

Randy Rhoads: Diary of a Madman tour, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff

ps. I don’t remember the dead crows.

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23 Comments

  1. Michael, you never cease to amaze me! You must be the most tenacious rock fan in the world! Reading your blog, I know I’m going to really enjoy your book! On the subject of tenacity (and – dare I say it – anorakdom) I would like to recommend a couple of books to you. Both are about Dylan, but so ridiculous they are readable. Firstly, ” ‘Do you, Mr Jones?’ Bob Dylan with the Poets and Professors” The copy I have is an uncorrected proof from Chatto and Windus, so I don’t know if it was ever published. It’s a series of articles by a variety of poets and professors! Need I say more? Secondly, “Invisible Republic. Bob Dylan’s basement tapes” by Greil Marcus. On the cover of my edition there is the following quote: ‘This book is terminal, goes deeply into the subconscious and plows through that period of time like a rake. Greil Marcus has done it again’ BOB DYLAN. If he actually said this, which I doubt, he must surely have been on some sort of stimulant, or else taking the piss. I’m not saying the book has nothing to say, only that it says it in a ridiculous way. It’s from Picador.

    Reply
  2. Brendan Eley

     /  April 18, 2012

    Remember what Gary Brace taught us… For Wales, see England.

    Reply
  3. Gary Brace, Vigilante drummer and history teacher extraordinaire, taught us lots of other things too. For example:
    i) that “the Greeks were revolting” (meaning “in revolt”, for my numerous Greek and Greek-Cypriot readers, though a play on words that amused us at the time);
    ii) that ‘hedgehog’ is not spelt ‘ejog’; and
    iii) that most of what he taught us at ‘O-Level’ was not, strictly speaking, true.

    Reply
  4. Brendan Eley

     /  April 20, 2012

    They were the factual elements of Gary Brace’s teaching methods. Let us not forget the less tangible, but no less important life skills that he passed on… the agelessness of the mullet for example; the… um… well the mullet thing was quite important. Although it turned out to be not that ageless. Ahh… best days of our lives…

    Reply
  5. Phil Morris

     /  April 23, 2012

    I presume the question “What kind of anorak…?” to be rhetorical.

    And “a band called Girl”? I don’t get the irony.

    Reply
  6. Hi Phil, yes, it was intended to be rhetorical – though feel free to proffer an answer!
    Regarding the “band called Girl” … no irony intended – though note it was Girl not Saxon as reported elsewhere.
    Michael

    Reply
  7. Sorry for the error Michael, and thanks for getting in touch. Getting this particular fact established was, as you prove above, a tricky task. We’re all lucky that guys like you keep the correct information archived. Cheers! Joel McIver

    Reply
  8. Roy Davies

     /  September 26, 2012

    Nice article Mike, and one on a subject very close to my own heart; as I’ve been collating all the Rainbow gigs 1975-83 ( the band, not the TV programme….) for a few years now and have still yet to find the exact July 1981 date they played Sophia Gardens……Don’t suppose you have any idea…….?

    Reply
    • Thanks Roy!
      ‘Difficult to Cure’ tour? I’ll do some digging.
      I was going to suggest you asked Jerry Bloom (and that might still be a good idea). The ‘More Black Than Purple’ gig archive lists the venue (and others besides) but has no date: http://www.moreblackthanpurple.co.uk/arc3VII_tab.htm
      Bloom’s recent Blackmore biography refers only to “two nights at the Hammersmith Odeon and two at the Rainbow Theatre” when discussing the UK leg of the tour.

      I don’t remember them playing Sophia Gardens on that tour. I’d started going to gigs by then and Rainbow were one of my favourite bands. Though my lack of memory means nothing really – there might well have been a good reason why I couldn’t go, and with one or two notable exceptions I tend to remember the gigs I went to, rather than the ones I didn’t! (I know they played SG on the ‘Down To Earth’ tour as a friend went and raved about it for months.)

      Reply
  9. facebook.com

     /  January 19, 2013

    hi mike
    how are you dude, just come across this site i hope you enjoyed the magnum gig.
    im just looking for info on ozzy tour diary of a madman . i was one of the lucky ones to see him 3 times blizzard,diary, in cardiff and port vale HMH. i have a few photos of the diary tour
    if you are interested using them and still have the 3 shirts from the gig they are thread bear and never where them just keep them as a reminder how great the concert was.
    next time your on facebook leave a note to say you had the letter

    Reply
  10. mark Churchill

     /  September 23, 2013

    I was at the ozzy concert on 30 nov 1981 I took my sister as a xmas present to see her hero and ozzy touched her hand she never washed it for weeks

    Reply
    • Hi Mark,
      Great to hear from someone else who was at the gig! I don’t recall seeing any official figures for Sophia Gardens capacity, and I don’t remember the venue being packed to capacity, but I’m guessing that the attendance that night was around the 1,500 mark.
      Nice anecdote about your sister!
      Best wishes,
      Michael

      Reply
  11. Joseph Green

     /  November 27, 2013

    Hi funny enough I just left a comment on Facebook about that night in Cardiff.Seems my memory is not as bad as I thought as I DO remember the dead Crows and thier wobbly heads.Here is the copied version maybe it will jog some more memories .greenexportsltd@yahoo.com

    Joseph Green: I was there that night.Just before Ozzy came on stage it was pitch black the crowd was restless and impatient and you could feel the atmosphere getting thicker with anticipation, then a light shone on a huge chromed cross that Ozzy was holding.Then all hell went loose as Randy Rhoads broke into Over the Mountain(might be wrong but almost sure it was).The Welsh are crazy anyway but that night as they threw a dead crow onstage and some other animal parts,I knew that we would rock as good as anywhere.Randy rose to the occasion and played impeccably.I looked in a awe as his fingers slipped easily through riff after riff his eyes going from the crowd to his guitar as if trying to see the faces and I knew that I was witnessing something very special.All too soon came the words” Thank you good night, we love you all”and it was over,leaving a wanting for more.I am priveliged to have been part of that looney crew 32 years come Saturday.its all getting a bit fuzzier now but thanfully Randys face is still clear.R.I.P You are sorely missed.

    Reply
  12. Martin.

     /  March 25, 2014

    I can assure that the Liverpool Royal Court DID take place, I was there. Support band was girl, lineup was Ozzy, Randy, Rudy and possibly Tommy Aldridge. I always thought the (hidden) keyboard player was Don Airey… Memorable in that it was a tremendous night, (Girl were on fire!) as was Ozzy and co, but when the band hit the first track “Over the mountain”, the main rig went down, so they had to start again!

    Reply
  13. I had a ticket for the gig in Edinburgh on 4th December 1981. I’ll never forget it because it was my 16th birthday. I remember arriving at the venue to find the gig had been cancelled at the last minute. As a result I never got to see Randy Rhoads playing live, something I regret to this day.

    Reply
  14. Hi Jezza – what a shame! Thanks for your recollections though – another piece of the jigsaw! Best wishes, Michael

    Reply
  15. Gary

     /  April 23, 2015

    Hi Michael, just stumbled across your site. Your memory isn’t playing tricks on you, I was at the Colston Hall gig in Bristol. My recollections are a bit hazy (it was over 30 years ago after all), but I do remember Ozzy coming back on in just his pants. Not your gold -lame rock star pants mind but a pair of grubby y-fronts like your grandad would wear. I’d just turned 20 at the time, and had also seen him at the Heavy Metal Holocaust at Port Vale, three months earlier, so I was lucky enough to have seen Randy Rhoads twice in a matter of months. Sabbath were supposed to have played Port Vale but pulled out and Ozzy stepped into the breach. Ozzy and Sabbath weren’t on particulary good terms at the time, and I remember Ozzy saying they’d changed their name to Geezer Butler and the four Italians (Carmine Appice was Sabs drummer at the time). The only other things I remember about Port Vale were being so impressed by Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush that I bought an album from a stall, that I’ve subsequently probably only ever played twice, and Motorhead being really fucking loud, at the time the backline was supposed to have been the biggest ever assembled in the country.

    Reply
    • Hi Gary, many thanks for the ‘corroborating’ reflections! I remember jealously wishing I’d been able to go to Port Vale at the time. (Though it always struck me as an odd location for a ‘Heavy Metal Holocaust’!) Cheers! Michael

      Reply
  16. Andy

     /  September 2, 2015

    I was at the concert at Sophia Gardens 30/11/81 with Randy Rhoads on guitar …. The support act was a band called Girl fronted by Phil Lewis with a certain Phil Collen on guitar ( later of Def Leppard) fame . That was a Monday night, followed by Thin Lizzy with Sweet Savage ( Vivian Campbell …Dio,Whitesnake,Def Leppard) at same venue on Tuesday night 01/12/81 then Gillan with Budgie and Nightwing at Cardiff Top Rank 02/12/81 !!!
    I had the week off work !!! What a great week!!!

    Reply
  17. Hi Andy, thanks for your comments – and bang on about Girl. I heard a rumour that Ozzy walked through the crowd when they were playing with a beany hat as a disguise. Always thought that was unlikely to be true! I used to curse Top Rank gigs, by the way. I was always too young and too small to get in! But Gillan and Budgie – killer combination! Cheers!

    Reply
  18. Bill

     /  May 12, 2016

    Hi Michael. I’m a little late to this party but I’ve only just stumbled across this article while in the process of putting together a definitive list of all the gigs I’ve attended since my first (Deep Purple & Elf at Cardiff Capitol) in 1974. I encountered the same problem as you with that Ozzy gig – it seemed to have been expunged from history. I know with absolute certainty that it happened. I was working in Spiller’s Records at the time and scored free access passes (not including backstage access unfortunately) for the show. The pass took the form of a silk sticker that is still firmly stuck to my guitar case. I’ll take a photo of it and see if I can upload it here. I also did the Lizzy and Gillan gigs on the following two nights as mentioned by Andy above. As far as Roy’s Rainbow query is concerned, they did not play Sophia Gardens in 1981. My mates and I had to travel to Stafford Bingley Hall on that particular tour. We would not have made that trek if the band had been playing here in Cardiff. He must be thinking of the 1980 DTE gig.

    Reply

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