Published September 26 2023 at 19:06
Today September 26th in 1982 saw the first of 2 gigs by OZZY OSBOURNE that was recorded at The Ritz in New York City for the 'Speak Of The Devil' live album.
'Speak Of The Devil' hit the shelves in November of 1982. This is a double album comprising exclusively of live interpretations of songs initially recorded by Ozzy's former band, Black Sabbath (the record was titled 'Talk Of The Devil' in the United Kingdom, as that idiom was more frequently used there).
For Ozzy, as an independent performer, releasing an album of Black Sabbath tracks was somewhat contentious. However, there were 3 primary reasons for this:
1. Sabbath's music publishing contract with their previous management had recently terminated. By re-recording the material, all of the songwriters (including Osbourne) would enjoy the resulting publishing royalties.
2. Ozzy's label Jet Records had negotiated a distribution contract with CBS Records, which meant the small label stood to make substantial gains from this release.
3. Black Sabbath was also gearing up to release their own live album ('Live Evil'), and Ozzy wanted his album to hit the shelves first.
The idea of creating an album of Black Sabbath covers was not met with enthusiasm by Osbourne's band. Guitarist Randy Rhoads and drummer Tommy Aldridge declined to take part, feeling that they had established themselves as recording artists and such an album would be a professional setback. They conveyed their sentiments to bassist Rudy Sarzo. Although Sarzo was not entirely comfortable refusing to participate, he opted to side with his bandmates, and the trio informed manager Sharon Arden of this choice. Though Sharon took the news relatively well, Ozzy was furious. He responded by embarking on what Sarzo described as "the most intense drinking binges I had ever witnessed", and his rapport with Rhoads never fully recovered. It was during this tumultuous period that Osbourne was infamously apprehended for drunkenly urinating on the Alamo Fort in Texas. Several hours before the Alamo incident, he inebriatedly dismissed the entire band (including Rhoads), even though he later had no recollection of actually doing so.
Ultimately, Rhoads reluctantly consented to perform on the live album but made it clear that he would depart after fulfilling his contractual obligations to Jet Records, which included one more studio album and an ensuing tour.
Originally, the plan was to record the album at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. However, these plans all crumbled following Rhoads' untimely death in a plane crash a few weeks later, on March 19th 1982.
In April of 1982, Brad Gillis joined Ozzy's band as Randy's replacement.
On September 19th 1982, the band and crew arrived in New York City to begin rehearsals for the two shows that would be recorded to comprise the 'Speak of the Devil' album. Over the following few days, Gillis, Sarzo, and Aldridge would rehearse in what Sarzo described as a "gloomy midtown Manhattan studio" while Ozzy himself was nowhere to be found. The band was given only 5 days to learn all the material.
Ozzy, who had not rehearsed the songs with the band at all, finally showed up for soundcheck on the day of the first show on September 26th and had tremendous difficulty remembering the lyrics to many of the songs. During the shows, he placed a folding chair with a desk lamp on top of it at center stage, and placed a notebook with handwritten lyrics to the songs on the chair (see image below). Throughout the shows, he often stood by this chair, singing as he read the lyrics from the notebook.
When "Iron Man", "Children of the Grave", and "Paranoid" emerged in the setlist, the band played more freely, with less emphasis on precision, as they had been informed by management that these performances would not be included on the album. Previously recorded live versions of those songs featuring Randy Rhoads on guitar were slated for use instead. Subsequently it turned out that a decision was made to save the Rhoads versions for a future live release. Therefore, versions of those songs that ultimately appeared on 'Speak Of The Devil' were in fact extracted from one of the performances at The Ritz.
Album producer Max Norman revealed in an interview in 2007 that, due to budget constraints, he had Osbourne and the band stage an additional complete performance without any audience in the afternoon on either September 26th or 27th. Norman recorded this show in case the actual live shows did not meet the quality requirements for release. He remarked, "At least we've got a choice, and we'll have more material to draw from." Although Norman did not specify which tracks he was referring to, he mentioned that "If you got nothing to do for a couple of days you could just lie there and listen to them in the headphones and figure out which songs had the real audience and which ones didn't".
Circulating soundboard recordings of both performances appear to confirm that all tracks featured on the album (with the exception
of "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath") were sourced from the September 27th show. "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" was not performed at either of the Ritz concerts, and the recorded version included on 'Speak Of The Devil' is believed to have been taken from the afternoon no-audience recording mentioned by Norman.
When finally released in November, the album saw strong sales worldwide. It reached #10 in Canada, #14 in the U.S. and #14 in the U.K.