By Patrick Prince
It took years of research for Randy Rhoads fan/collector Andrew Klein to produce a biography that would perfectly detail the late guitarist’s life.
The fruits of Klein’s labor are visible in Velocity Publishing Group’s “Randy Rhoads,” an extensive, 420-page, 10-by-13-inch coffee-table book packed with rare photos and personal stories from those who knew Rhoads best, told through the smooth narrative of authors Klein and Steven Rosen. When it comes down to it, this may be the most intimate, comprehensive study of the man behind the great guitar licks.
The outcome is as straightfoward as its simple title suggests. Here it is. This is all you need to know about Randy Rhoads. And the stark, behind-the-scenes cover photo is a hint of how inside-the-life of Rhoads this bio really is, covering everything from his rise to fame to his untimely death by plane crash on March 19, 1982 in Leesburg, Fla.
The following is a Goldmine interview with Klein:
How did you and Steven Rosen come together?
Andrew Klein: Steven Rosen and I were introduced by a mutual friend. I had been working on my book for about three years and I’m not a seasoned writer like Steven. I’m a huge fan of Randy’s. I don’t aspire to be a writer but I wanted to create this book for Randy. We were done. We thought we had a book that was pretty good, and we knew it could be better. Steven had the time and availability and then he worked with me to bring the book up to another level. His level, of course, and I just think he did a brilliant job with it.
Were you a big Randy Rhoads collector as well as a fan? Is that why you decided to include memorabilia in the book?
Klein: Yeah, I was a collector of all things Randy since 1981. I was actually twelve years old when he died. But I’m a guitar player and he was my idol and I just bought everything I could find. I used to go into New York City and there was a store there called It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll [in Greenwich Village] and spend $20 for a 5×7 photograph, if it was a photo of Randy that I didn’t have Unfortunately, none of those things that I had in my collection are in my book. All of the things that I had were put into scrapbooks and photo albums and donated to the Musonia School of Music [in North Hollywood, CA] which is Randy’s mom’s school. If you walk into that school today, you’ll see a countertop in the main room where there’s all this stuff from fans, that they gave the Rhoads family — gifts and drawings and collages and things like that. My photo albums are still there on those countertops. All the memorabilia that is in the book came from Randy’s friends and his fiance Jodi [Raskin] and his bandmates and people like that.
Is there a favorite piece of memorabilia that’s in the book?
Klein: When you say “memorabilia,” one thing that’s really cool are the track sheets that Max Norman, Ozzy’s producer, let us use, and it’s got Randy’s handwriting on the track sheets, giving Max instructions what to do with his sound and levels, things like that. Another thing that’s cool about that is the song titles that changed — for example, “Flying High Again” says “Mean Machine” because it didn’t have lyrics yet.
The photo on the cover … it’s an interesting cover for a book. It’s kind of a photo you never really think of when you imagine Randy Rhoads. You usually see him playing live in concert … and I forgot that he smoked cigarettes, too. Why did you choose that particular photo for the cover?
Klein: There are several reasons. First and foremost, we wanted a photograph that had never been seen from anybody. It’s really hard to find a great picture that nobody has ever seen because they’ve been published. I was very fortunate that when I would go meet with these photographers who shot Randy — Neil Zlozower and Neal Preston and Ross Halfin — all these guys who are very prominent in their field, and they would allow me into their homes and their studios and literally let me sit there and go through everything that they had. And some of these guys had photos that no one had ever seen before and they said, “You know, we only get requests for photos once or twice a year and it’s for one or two photos. When I knew I was going to do this book I was going to search for the cover photo, that was my first priority and I just couldn’t find it. And one day I was at Neal Preston’s house and I was going through his photos and there was one, it was very very dark but it could see that it was Randy’s silhouette. And I said ‘What is this one? Can I see this one? Can I put a light under it?’ And he said, ‘You can’t use that one it’s too dark.’ And I said, ” I just want to see it. Can I see it? Just let me see it.’ And he lit it up and there it was and that’s the image that’s on the cover. I looked at it and I said to my editor ‘That’s the one. That’s our cover photo. I want this one.’ And Neal said ‘Let me see what I can do.’ And he put it in Photoshop and he played with the contrast and the brightness and all this stuff and it gave it a very grainy look but it’s got something. There’s something cool about it. I showed it to Lori Hollan and Jodi Vigier, who are Randy’s best friend and fiance respectively and they said it’s a really good picture of who he was. His personality is very apparent, like this is very Randy, this picture.
Why do you think they said that?
Klein: Because I think he’s being himself. There’s no stage persona. And he’s got a guitar in his hands but yet he’s not performing. And that picture was taken while he was standing around at a sound check. And as far as the cigarette, you know, I have to say, I showed that photograph to Bob Daisley and Bob Daisley said, ‘I think you should Photoshop the cigarette out of the picture. It’s not politically correct’ and I said,’This picture was taken in 1982. It’s not politically correct now but in 1982 it was a different world.’ For me, that’s like taking cigarettes out of photographs of James Dean. I’m not a fan of rewriting history. And that’s who he was. If the first thing I’m gonna do when writing a book about Randy Rhoads is to rewrite history and change who he was, I’m doing a terrible disservice to him. He wasn’t ashamed to be a smoker nor should he have been. He was a chain smoker, by the way. If he didn’t have a guitar in his hand, he had a cigarette in his hand. Or sometimes if he had a chance he had both, as you can see in that photograph. I don’t think for a second that an impressionable teenager is going to look at this book cover and pick up a cigarette because Randy’s smoking a cigarette. That was one of the arguments Bob was making and I don’t think we live in that world anymore. I guess you can say, it’s my first step in showing people who this guy was, good or bad. We all have flaws — not to say Randy was flawed because he was a smoker but I don’t want to give any false impressions as to who he was.
Since you interviewed so many close to Randy, does anyone express a lot of anger that he get on that plane? And why were they doing tricks in the air?
Klein: Well, I don’t think there was anger as much as there was bewilderment. I’m sure that those who were closest to him have had those nights following his passing where they were very angry that he was gone and made that decision to get on that airplane. I’m sure it angers them, absolutely. Anger was not expressed to us. It was more like ‘He hated flying so I can’t understand why on earth he would get on that airplane.’ But based on my research, and the interviews I’ve conducted, I think it was the big commercial jets that Randy had grown to be scared of. There was a really bad crash right before he died that scared the hell out of him. And it was really at that moment that he decided that he didn’t really want to fly anymore. But, you know, on March 16, he got on an airplane and flew from LAX to Atlanta and they played on the 17th in Atlanta and then they played on the 18th in Knoxville, Tennessee. He did what he had to do. He flew to Fort Lauderdale two weeks before he died, he took some time off and then he flew a week before he died down to Cancun with his fiance for a week. He also got on a helicopter and flew over New York City to go sightseeing. As I said before, if that plane would have landed safely, nobody would have said ‘Why did Randy get on that airplane?’ We say that because it crashed. And, by the way, they weren’t doing tricks …
Not tricks but flying close to the top of the tour bus.
Klein: They were. They were flying at treetop level which is very irresponsible of the pilot. But I believe — and I have nothing to back this up, it’s just my assumption — that the reason why they were flying at treetop level was because they were scared. Rachel Youngblood, who was a passenger in the airplane, she had a heart condition, and Don Airey, the keyboard player, said to Andrew Aycock, the pilot, ‘Do me a favor, don’t do any stunts. Don’t do anything crazy. Rachel has a heart condition. Just go up, fly them around, and come back down. Make it a nice little flight. So I think he was flying at treetop level to comfort them rather than mess around. Tommy Aldridge has said, they were coming close over the bus, and they had flown over the bus three times but I’m not sure they were buzzing — the art of buzzing that people talk about all the time. I’m not convinced that that’s what the pilot was doing.
But the third time he went over the bus, it hit …
Klein: The tip of the wing clipped the bus just below the window. All of this is documented in the book. They just came too close. Unfortunately.
Now, do you think there’s any misinformation or things about Randy’s life, that has been seen as common knowledge, that is straightened out in the book?
Klein: Nothing that comes to mind. Randy’s life has been documented by Ozzy and Sharon and Rudy Sarzo. And there was another guy, Joel McIver, who wrote a book. I’m not sure how much research he did. I think a lot of that information came from the public domain and I think he had interviewed a few people but I don’t know if anyone had ever done the research that we have done. and conducted the amount of interviews that we have done. So I don’t know if there are any misconceptions, if you will. I think that what’s been out there on Randy has been pretty much accurate. I’ll say this: A lot of people speculate as to what Randy would have done with his life in the future — and I don’t think we’ll ever know the answers to those questions — but I think he wanted to do everything that people thought he was gonna do. Somebody might say ‘Oh, he was gonna rejoin Quiet Riot.’ Somebody might say, ‘He wanted to go to UCLA and get a Masters in classical guitar. Or do a solo record. And so on and so forth. I think he wanted to do it all. I think he might have done something with Kevin DuBrow again — but something more on the lines of what “Metal Health” was, rather than what the first two albums that they did for Japan were like. I think he did want to go to UCLA and get a Masters. I think he would have done a solo record. I think he would have played on other people’s records. He had a world of opportunities available to him. It was just a horrible, horrible thing to have lost his life at a time when there was so much promise.
Do you think he still would have been playing with Ozzy? Ozzy went through many guitar players since the death of Randy.
Klein: Yeah, I think he’s still searching for his replacement, to be honest, thirty years later. You know, Jake [E. Lee] had a good run for five years. Even Zakk [Wylde}, look how long he was in the band. But there’s only one Randy Rhoads and, you know, you can’t replace a guy like that. There’s a million great guitar players out there but there’s only one Randy. And I do think he was out, meaning he was quitting the band at the end of the “Diary of a Madman” tour. He had a contractual obligation for one more studio record. And Ozzy and Shron had brought this idea of “Speak of the Devil” to Randy and Randy said I am absolutely not going to do it. And they said, we are going to do it, and you’re going to do it, and he said no I’m not. And they had a big fight over it. So, after dealing with this, an agreement was reached where Randy would be relieved of his obligations to do another studio record if he would agree to do this “Speak of the Devil” record. And that’s what they agreed. He would have been on the “Speak of the Devil” album and then there would not have been another studio record. And he would have been out of the band. But it never got that far because right after they made the agreement he was gone.
So do you think that his relationship with Ozzy was really that close? Is that a misconception? Ozzy makes it sound like they were brothers almost.
Klein: Everybody that I’ve spoken with said the exact same thing, which is that Randy really liked Ozzy. They were good friends and Randy had a lot of respect for him. And Randy had a lot of appreciation for the opportunity he was given. He had no bad feelings toward Ozzy, even through the legalities. I mean, he wasn’t happy in the band. His problem was that he signed up to be in a band. And when Sharon’s brother, David, stopped managing the band and she took over, it was no longer a band called the Blizzard of Ozz. It turned into the Ozzy Osbourne solo project. Randy was no longer an equal member. And that’s what bothered him the most. I mean, he said a week before he died to Don Airey, ‘I signed up to be in a band, in an equal band and I’m not an equal member any longer. And this is in the book, by the way, Ozzy had fired everybody in the band. And Sharon had said, ‘He’s drunk, don’t listen to him, just ignore him. Here are some plane tickets. Meet us at the next show.’ And they were literally kicked off the bus on the side of the road with their luggage. And Randy and Rudy and Tommy and Don Airey were all standing there on the side of the road, trying to find transportation to the airport so they can meet Ozzy and Sharon in the next town. And that’s when Randy just said to them, “This is not what I wanted. I wanted nothing to do with any of this.’ It was that kind of stuff. But as a person, he liked him and they were friends.
Interesting that you say that because would Randy have been as noticed, or as popular, if he remained in Quiet Riot — instead of taking the opportunity to play with Ozzy? Obviously, Ozzy did help his career.
Klein: I don’t think that incarnation of Quiet Riot was going anywhere. If Ozzy didn’t come along, somebody else would have. Other opportunities would have presented themselves to Randy, if not before Quiet Riot fizzled out. I mean, on the Sunset Strip in 1979, punk, new wave and disco had taken over and it was really the end whether he was going to leave the band or not. Back then he didn’t have a healthy writing relationship with Kevin DuBrow — they didn’t see eye to eye musically. I do think that after he quit Ozzy’s band he would have done something with Kevin and I think it would have been successful. But what they were doing in 1979, when Ozzy came along, I don’t think that was going much further than it did.
The first two Ozzy albums are the best, and a lot of that has to do with the Blizzard of Ozz band. The songwriting, the lyrics, the music, the guitar, everything. After that it’s never been the same.
Klein: I agree. Bob and Lee were major contributors and I don’t think people to this day realize how much they did. You know, Bob wrote every one of those lyrics and he continued to write all of Ozzy’s lyrics for years after Randy passed. And Lee Kerslake, he was responsible for developing the vocal melodies and those two guys sang all the vocal harmonies. I’ve heard all of Bob’s rehearsal tapes, the writing sessions and the recording sessions, all of that stuff and Ozzy’s not there 90 percent of the time. And Lee, he’s got a mic, and he’s behind his drums and he’s singing the vocal melodies. And they’re basically a three-piece and then Bob would take the tapes back to his room and write the lyrics around what Lee was doing and when it would all be finished, they’d present it to Ozzy. He would read the lyrics and they would teach him the melodies and it would go like that.
Yeah, those guys got a raw deal and it’s shame, because they need to be recognized more than they are. And, speaking of that, sometimes I think Randy’s name should be even more recognized than it is. Do you feel that way sometimes?
Klein: I do. First of all, I don’t understand how we can compare guitar players. I mean, isn’t it all really apples and oranges? How do you say Randy Rhoads is better than Eddie Van Halen or Yngwie Malmsteen is better than Jimi Hendrix? They all brought something incredible to the table and they all deserve to be recognized as great guitar players. I was reading this poll and it came down to ‘Who do you think is better, Eddie Van Halen or Alex Lifeson?’ And it’s like, how do you that? Who could be better for Rush than Alex Lifeson? Nobody could ever be better for that band. And, you know what? Mick Mars is not the greatest guitar player in the world but nobody is better for Motley Crue. They would never have been the same band. I agree with you that I don’t know if Randy is regarded as well or as high as he should be. But go to any NFL stadium this Sunday and you will hear “Crazy Train.” And walk into any Guitar Center in the United States and there will be a fourteen year old kid sitting in front of an amp, playing “Crazy Train.” I think Randy has his place. You know, Eddie came out and he shocked the world, and then Randy followed. They were in L.A. at the same time. Everybody who was here going to see bands play knew that Eddie and Randy were the greatest guitar players. Eddie got out there first. It doesn’t mean Randy copied him. I think they were very, very different guitar players. They had very different styles. They’re both great and I think it’s impossible to say who’s better than who. But I do wish that Randy got more respect, if you will. I mean, there was a Rolling Stone thing that came out recently and they had people like Kurt Cobain listed like 25 players ahead of Randy as the greatest guitar players. Really?! Seriously. I don’t know, it looked more like a popularity contest.
That’s exactly what it was (laughs).
Final question: fans mourn musicians in unique ways. Speaking of Cobain, there’s a park bench [in Viretta Park] in Washington State that is a memorial for his fans. There’s Morrison’s grave in Paris, France and so on. Is there some place for Randy that people are not aware of? Is there some place where fans get together for Randy?
Klein: Since he passed, they’ve been gathering at his grave every year. You could always expect that Randy’s mom would be there on March 19 and December 6 every year since he died. His mother, his brother, his sister and her kids, they would all be there to welcome the fans at the grave. Randy’s mom doesn’t do that anymore. She’s getting up there in age. I think fans still go to the cemetery but they’ve also been gathering at his sister’s wine room in Burbank. I think the fans have been gathering there the last couple of years. In my opinion, the Musonia School of Music is where Randy grew up. He learned to play there and he taught there. They had that school since the mid-40s and Randy was born in 1956 – he was there his whole life. Randy has a very strong presence at Musonia and not just because his pictures are there. You walk in and it looks like a shrine to him and his family will welcome you, they’ll give you a tour of the school. I think, even though it still functions as a school, I don’t think it’s what it was and should be converted into a Randy Rhoads museum filled with his personal belongings and memorabilia. Fans could go there to honor him twice per year and be given an opportunity to feel closer to him.