I recently finished reading the impressive coffee table worthy book Randy Rhoads. If, by the end of reading this, you don’t wish that you had known him or seen him live, something must be wrong with you. This book will give hardcore fans a complete picture of this rock star that went away much to soon. Ozzy’s solo work was some of the first metal music I got into- and the first artist I saw multiple times. Those two albums Rhoads played on are special to me. I ask some questions of the book’s author, Andrew Klein.
HardRockChick: When did you first get the idea for this book?
Andrew Klein: As a lifelong fan, writing a book about Randy Rhoads is something I’ve always dreamed of doing. It’s something I knew I could do, given the chance. Peter M. Margolis, our senior editor, was a friend and guitar student of Randy’s. Peter and I were working on another project and we decided to create this book together. I would write it, Peter would edit it. Along with our Graphic Designer, Denny Anderson, the three of us built it from the ground up. As we neared completion, we knew we had something that was pretty good, but we wanted it to be great. We brought Steven Rosen in to help us elevate the book to another level; his level. Steven is a brilliant writer who seemingly receives his inspiration from somewhere beyond. He’s a truly gifted writer. The book is great and has exceeded my expectations due to Steven’s contribution.
HRC: Beyond honoring Randy’s memory, what was your intention for this book?
AK: The intention was to create something special for Randy that hadn’t been done before. There were a few paperbacks released prior to ours that skimmed the surface or rehashed information that had already been out there for years. We wanted to include those who knew him best and we wanted to incorporate their memories and photos, which had never been made public until they contributed to our book.
HRC: Did the structure or anything you had planned for the book change as you put it together?
AK: We originally considered releasing the book as an oral history. That all changed when we met Steven Rosen. While it’s great to read quotes in the first person, it’s also refreshing to read a third person narrative, especially when it’s written as poetic, free flowing, and intelligent as what Steven has given us.
We were grateful to have an opportunity to include rare photos, but unfortunately, there are so many more that could not be included. They were not included for many reasons; mainly because the rights holders refused to participate and allow us to license their images.
HRC: Everyone’s memories of Randy are almost overwhelmingly positive…it almost felt like when I was reading some parts it was too good to be true. How did this- if at all- affect constructing the story of Randy’s life?
AK: Well, we knew that’s what we were going to get as we began. Not everyone’s memories were positive. Drew Forsyth for example, was Randy’s close friend since childhood. But when Randy quit Quiet Riot to join Ozzy, he left for England without telling Drew, nor did he call to say goodbye. That left a bitter taste in Drew’s mouth and they never had an opportunity to repair the damage. Randy didn’t do that because he was cold-hearted. He did it because he cared too much. He couldn’t face confrontation and he couldn’t live with hurting someone else, especially a close friend. It was easier for Randy to say nothing than to say goodbye.
George Lynch felt a bitter rivalry with Randy that began in the mid 70s and lasted for years beyond when Randy passed away. George was candid in saying that the first thing he thought when Randy died was, maybe this would create new opportunities for his own career. Sad but true. From 1979 until 1988, George auditioned for Ozzy every time he needed a new guitar player. The Osbournes declined his services in favor of Randy Rhoads, Bernie Torme, Brad Gillis, Jake E. Lee, and Zakk Wylde. In fact, when Randy left for England in 1979, he asked George to take over his teaching responsibilities. George gave it a shot, but most of the students left because his teaching style was not what they had grown accustomed to with Randy.
We wanted to write a true and honest story about who Randy really was. By doing that, 99% of what’s in the book is positive. But he was a human being. He was flawed as we all are. So, we also included stories about some affairs he had behind Jodi’s back. We did so because all of those components, good or bad, contribute to who he was. Jodi was comfortable with us telling those stories because they are true. She wanted to help us tell Randy’s story, even if parts of it were less than positive.
HRC: Was there any one thing or person you wanted to include but couldn’t?
AK: We definitely had to tone down some of the business between Randy and the Osbournes. We had no interest in discussing some of the things Sharon wrote about in her own book. Some of the problems Randy had with them emotionally and financially were better left unsaid.
Eddie Van Halen was the one that got away. I had numerous conversations with his wife, Janie, who mediated between us. They placed several demands on us, most of which made an agreement impossible. I desperately wanted to speak with Eddie about Randy, but for reasons that are still unclear to me, Eddie doesn’t want to talk about him. I guess the rivalry still continues in his own mind.
Another one was Jake Duncan. Jake was Ozzy’s tour manager, and also a witness of the plane accident. Jake and keyboardist Don Airey had gone up in the plane for a ride. They landed safely, and then the plane went up again with Randy and Rachel Youngblood on board. As the plane circled the property, Jake and Don stood on the grass and watched. When the plane clipped the tour bus and careened into the house, Jake fell to his knees and began pulling all of his hair out of his head and screaming. Sharon stumbled out of the bus and approached Jake first. She took her shoe off and proceeded to hit him over the head and blamed him for everything. Jake was someone we really wanted to speak with. But he has never shared his memories publicly and I’m convinced he never will. He was very cordial to us. I was surprised he talked to me at all. He was very polite about his decision to remain silent and I was courteous in return, accepting and understanding of his position. The loss is still very painful for those who were close to Randy, and especially for those who witnessed the accident.
HRC: The “voice” that is interspersed throughout the portion of the book that covers the plane crash is really haunting…can you give some back story on that part?
AK: It’s the greatest part of the book, in my humble opinion. When people say to me, “The book is great, I’m on chapter 6.” I’ll always respond with, “Wait until you read chapter 10.” Not because it chronicles Randy’s death. It’s because it was so brilliantly written by Steven Rosen. Steven called me one day with this idea. He said, “I want to try something different. I want to create another voice, or a separate narrative that could intertwine with the story. It would be like a cosmic or spiritual voice.” He made it very clear that he wouldn’t try and give the impression it was the voice of God. We agreed that it could be seen as crossing the line by some people. He asked if I was okay with it, and I told him I thought it was a brilliant idea that would add something the chapter needed. An emotion. A voice of reason. An authoritative voice that could attempt to explain what happened to Randy on that day. I had a feeling it would be hard to sell the idea to Peter who ultimately would make the final decision. He is more about science than spirituality. I knew that the only way to get him on board would be for him to read it before sharing the idea with him. I asked Steven to draft it and then after I worked on it some more, we sent it to Peter. Peter ultimately loved it too. He loved it as much as we did after he spent some time adding, omitting and editing to his liking. That’s why I always say it took a village. We all worked together in a very professional and positive way. We rarely disagreed, and we all shared a common goal, which was to create something that would chronicle Randy’s life, career, death, aftermath, and legacy. I truly believe that Steven will one day win awards for this book and be recognized for creating something beyond brilliant. I also believe that this book will be the definitive guide, resource, and reference tool for future generations.
HRC: What was the hardest part about creating this book?
AK: I’d like to keep it positive and not go to the dark side as Peter always says. Anything worth doing comes with its own set of challenges. We had more than our fair share, believe me. There were times that we felt cursed. There were road blocks at every turn. I know now why no one else attempted to create something like this for Randy. I don’t regret it, but the years we spent working on this book were the most stressful and challenging of my life. I’ll never get those years back. My family made a greater sacrifice than mine. At times, they probably felt like second in line. I regret that. I tried to only work on the book in my spare time; meaning when my kids would go to bed, I would sit down to write until 2 or 3 A.M. I would get up the next day, go to work, and continue the cycle. This went on for two years. But when it came time to lay out the design and graphics, I had to leave my family and travel to Denny’s studio. We worked together nearly every night after work from 7 P.M. until 1 A.M. This went on for another two and a half years. There were many times it felt like it would never end. It was increasingly difficult revisiting the same pages over and over trying to get it right and adhere to Peter’s edits. He was relentless. He didn’t care how much work had to go into something in order to get it right. I’m glad he pushed us, but at the time it felt like I was stuck in a prison. It was a nightmare at times, but we never gave up because we knew we were doing something great for someone special that we all love. After the book was completed, it sat in the drawer for a year until we decided it was time to release it.
HRC: What was the most important thing you learned through this project?
AK: Randy Rhoads had a very soft, sensitive side to his personality. He was incredibly kind to his friends. He was extremely affectionate and loving to Jodi, and he had a lot of spiritual depth. He was religious and had strong faith in God and his religion. His faith was important to him. He once told his dear friend, Lori Hollen that the more antics Ozzy created, the more Randy turned to his bible. Yes, Randy traveled with his bible. When he was awake on the tour bus, he was in his bunk either playing his guitar, writing a letter to Jodi, or reading his bible. It brought him peace and comfort.
HRC: If you could point out one thing that people walk away with from this book, what is it?
AK: I want people to know who Randy was. Anyone who will consider reading the book, already knows what an incredible guitar player he was. But I believe that he was an incredible guitar player because he was an incredible human being. He was one in a billion. There is no one like him and there never will be. There are people who were sent here to deliver a message and then they were gone. James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, and John Lennon were extraordinary human beings that changed the world. Randy Rhoads should be included on this list not because he was charismatic or talented. He served a similar purpose. He appeared out of nowhere, dazzled us, inspired us, changed our lives, and then left us. He left us wanting so much more. He left us with so little. He recorded 19 songs with Ozzy and left behind virtually no video. He forever changed the way the guitar will be played and he did it all by the time he turned 24 years old. We are still saddened by his loss. The impact of his death on his loved ones is massive and incomprehendable. More than 30 years later, we are all still trying to make sense of a senseless death. We will never be able to do that. The questions will never be answered. All we can do is remember him, listen to his music, look at his pictures, and continue to learn from his influence. Hopefully our book honors him in a way that he so greatly deserves, and I consider myself the luckiest person in the world for having been given the chance to do this for him.
You can find more info on Andrew Klein’s book, Randy Rhoads, here.