Why Ozzy Turned Down Randy Rhoads’ Favorite Guitarist as His Replacement
Michael Schenker has enjoyed a prolific career, one that's seen him emerge from Scorpions and UFO to forming his own self-titled band, but there have been opportunities that could have put him on a bigger stage musically. In a new career-spanning interview with Classic Rock, he explains why he eventually opted against the biggest of them all, a chance to step in for Ozzy Osbourne after the death of guitarist Randy Rhoads.
Where Was Michael Schenker's Career At When He Received the Call From Ozzy?
Setting the stage, Michael Schenker was still relatively early into his run with the Michael Schenker Group, with a lot of moving parts still taking place at the time that the Osbourne phone call arrived.
Reflecting on that period, Schenker recalled that they were just settling in with their sophomore set. "The songs were very good, Gary and I wrote them in [rehearsal studio] John Henry’s in London when we were completely straight, but we got less focused in the studio," said Schenker. "Things were happening so fast. Suddenly we’d a live album to record, [1982’s One Night At Budokan] and by the time it was released Graham Bonnett was in the band, and he was autographing album sleeves for a record he wasn’t on! It was all a bit confusing. And then I got a phone call from Ozzy Osbourne in the middle of the night, stuttering, asking me to help him out because Randy Rhoads had died in that plane crash."
MSG's self-titled sophomore set arrived in September 1981, with the One Night at Budokan live album following in February 1982 and Rhoads' plane crash taking place on March 19, 1982, so there was plenty on Schenker's plate over a short period of time.
Why Michael Schenker Passed on Joining Ozzy Osbourne's Band?
"I loved Sabbath, and I should have been delighted to join," he explained. "I instantly had visions of Ozzy dragging me across the stage by my hair, but a voice in my head said, 'Michael, follow your vision.'"
"I'd left UFO and Scorpions because I didn't want to go any further with the fame thing, and I wanted freedom and peace, so I felt it would be crazy to join," he adds. "Ozzy knew that I was Randy's favorite guitar player, so he thought I'd be the perfect fit, but it wasn't the right time. We were already rehearsing the Assault Attack album with Graham Bonnett."
How Michael Schenker Got Out of Joining Ozzy's Band
Admittedly, Schenker knew this was an opportunity that would be hard to pass up. So he didn't, exactly, choosing a less direct way of having to turn it down. As he explains it, "The only way I could think of getting out of the Ozzy gig was by making outrageous demands, so that’s what I did. In his book ["I Am Ozzy"] Ozzy said I asked for a private jet, and that’s true, but it was only so that he’d turn me down."
What Else Did Michael Schenker Pass On?
The Ozzy Osbourne gig wasn't the first offer that Schenker passed on. In 1979, he received offers from both Thin Lizzy and Aerosmith prior to starting up the Michael Schenker Group. Of Thin Lizzy, he noted, "I was friends with Phil Lynott, but I didn’t want to join Lizzy."
As for Aerosmith, he recalled, "I got as far as rehearsing with Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton in Boston [after Joe Perry's exit]. At the time, Steven Tyler was in hospital, and I remember Brad Whitford coming into the room, being shocked at seeing me, and running out again, saying, 'Fuck!' I think he went to see Tyler in the hospital and said, 'Michael Schenker is trying to steal our rhythm section! You need to do something!' So they decided to carry on Aerosmith without me."
He also revealed that at one point he was recruited by Lemmy Kilmister to join his original version of Motorhead. "Yes, when he first put Motorhead together, Lemmy asked me to be the guitarist," Schenker admitted previously in an interview with Metal Talk. "It was many years ago, but we toured together when he was in Hawkwind and I was with UFO. We toured the States together, and I saw Lemmy every day, but later when he started to put Motorhead together, he approached me to be his lead guitarist but I wasn't interested." Without auditioning, Schenker turned down the offer, stating, "I couldn't see that it would be something for me. I declined. I just couldn't see how it would work."
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Gallery Credit: Loudwire Staff