During a recent interview with UG’s David Slavković, guitarist Jake E. Lee discussed the firings he witnessed during his ’83-’87 tenure in Ozzy Osbourne’s band, ultimately touching on his own dismissal.
You joined Ozzy’s band back in the late ’82 or early ’83. You were actually the first guy to play on Ozzy’s studio albums after Randy Rhoads. How did that cooperation start and what it felt like to be the first guy in the studio after Randy?
“After Brad [Gillis] said that he was going to go back to Night Ranger [after briefly joining Ozzy’s band following Rhoads’ death in 1982], Ozzy was looking for a guitar player. And he went back to [bassist and longtime friend] Dana Strum. Dana Strum, from what I understand, was the original bassist in Ozzy’s band. Ozzy was living in LA at the time and Dana would bring him guitar players on to try out. That’s how he found Randy.
“So when he decided to find another guitar player, he went back to Dana Strum. And Dana basically got 10 guys that were supposed to be the best guys in LA at the time. We all went into the studio and he gave us like five minutes to record whatever we wanted to record.
“Then he took a photo of us and he sent the tapes and photos to Ozzy. Other than me, there was also George Lynch [of Dokken fame]. I guess George was his first choice because from what I understand, from what everybody tells me from back in those days, George was offered first to be Ozzy’s guitar player – before Randy.
“And George didn’t take it because Dokken had just gotten signed, I think in Germany, and he thought that it looked like a better opportunity. And, you know, Ozzy was a mess back then. So he decided to stick with Dokken rather than join Ozzy, and that’s when Randy got the gig.
“So George got a shot at it the second time around and he went out on tour with him. He didn’t play any shows but he would do soundtracks and stuff like that. And apparently, Ozzy wasn’t really happy with the way George sounded during the soundchecks. So he wanted to hear somebody else. And I got a call one night that Ozzy was going to be in town and he wanted to hear me play, and it would be with the band.
“The very next day I was supposed to show up at the studio. And I didn’t know the songs, I didn’t think I was going to get a callback. So I had to go out. I borrowed the record from somebody – the first Ozzy album – and I learned ‘Crazy Train‘ and ‘I Don’t Know’ and I showed up for the audition the next day. [Laughs]
“And I remember because I didn’t know the songs and they are actually pretty similar. You know, they’re both in A, they’re both about the same tempo, and they have the 16th note lower A string predominating through it. When I did the audition, I would kind of mix the parts up. [Laughs] You know, I go into a different part…
“And I thought the audition was terrible because I was messing up the songs. I played fine. It’s not like I couldn’t play, but I obviously didn’t know the songs. And I was sure I didn’t have it.
“But at the end, as I was packing my gear up, actually George walked in. It was the first time I ever met him. He walked in and he said, ‘How’d it go?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, I don’t think I got it.’
“And then Ozzy walked up and he looked at me and said, ‘Do you want it?’ I said, ‘Do I want it?’ And he says, ‘Yeah. Do you want the fuckin’ gig?’ I said, ‘Yeeees…’ [Laughs] And he turned to George and he said, ‘It’s his. You lost it.’ And then he walked away. [Laughs] And that was the first time I saw Ozzy fire somebody. Never a pretty sight.
“I hadn’t even met George. It was after Ozzy walked away, I turned to George and said, ‘Hi, my name’s Jake, by the way.’ It was a very awkward introduction for me and George. I like George, we get along. Every time I see him, it’s a good time. So I’m glad he didn’t hold that against me.”