Editor’s Note: We’re launching some new discussions and debates this winter in dialogue with the new fiction publishing company Liberty Island. See the previous installments: David S. Bernstein on November 19: “5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture,” and Dave Swindle on November 25: “7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook,” and December 2: “My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors.” Learn more about Liberty Island contributor Mark Ellis in an interview with him and read an excerpt from his short story “Temblor” here.
If there is an inherent bipolarity between hard rock and heavy metal and the dissemination of the conservative message, social issues–in particular substance abuse–are at the bottom of that dissonance.
It’s a question about how art and politics intersect, and it becomes a question about how readily conservatives will embrace transgressive and even regressive artists in their quest to more integrally impact popular culture.
Whatever our politics, it is human nature to make special exceptions in the name of art. If conservatives want to impact the entire culture, we’re going to need some bad boys, antiheros, lost souls, dark heralds, and musical provocateurs.
I nominate Ozzy Osbourne for inclusion in the conservative counterculture– although I would never want to do anything to hurt his career or jeopardize his sobriety. I contend that if you peel back all the layers of substance abuse, all the layers it takes to survive being a superstar, you’ll find that rock’s Prince of Darkness is essentially a man with core conservative values.
VH-1 recently announced that The Osbournes reality show will be returning in January for a slate of episodes. The scuttlebutt is that unlike last time, Ozzy wants the show and Sharon does not.
Ozzy claims (and who would doubt) that he was both stoned and inebriated throughout the filming of the show’s original iteration. He’s down with the new episodes because he wants to show the world how he functions without the drugs and alcohol.
And I recommend that conservatives watch the show, which premieres in January, with an eye to claiming rock’s Prince of Darkness for the center-right.
Before The Osbournes premiered in 2002, fans’ only context for Ozzy was the stage, and reports about the wild life he lived on the road. As a fan, I accepted that he probably didn’t remember much about the many Black Sabbath and solo-Ozzy concerts I attended. I was bummed like other metal-heads when Sabbath ultimately gave up the ghost and let him go, but I’d seen so much drug-related carnage in the music business that it all seemed like standard operating procedure.
As long as Ozzy was producing killer tracks like “Suicide Solution” with his new band (a song that got him dragged into court by parents who claimed their son took the lyrics too literally), I was content to remain die-hard even as I reckoned that any day the “master of reality” might bite the dust.
Unlike some purist metal-heads, I hung in for Ozzy’s reality show. I liked Pat Boone’s lounge-act rendition of “Crazy Train,” and was bemusedly edified by the spectacle of Ozzy doing his zombie-fied stage walk around an upscale kitchen. I liked his kids, and Sharon too, whom I viewed as a media and business-savvy version of Yoko Ono. Though Mrs. Osbourne occasionally came across as shrill and dominating, I never forgot how she scraped Ozzy off the floor of a Hollywood cottage post-Sabbath and reinvigorated his career.
A pivotal indication of Ozzy’s conservative good sense was his raccoon grasp of the inherent goodness of Sharon.
Sharon strikes me as an unreservedly capitalist woman, a trait which can be extrapolated to suggest possible indications of other conservative values. It was likely a combination of Sharon’s capitalist and traditionalistic instincts that compelled her to save the rock stars she had fallen in love with. Had Ozzy fallen into the wrong female hands at his nadir, we’d likely have been writing a story reminiscent of John Belushi’s sad end.
Another second way that Ozzy’s conservatism is manifest is through his religious belief system. For all the dark imagery associated with his musical legacy, Ozzy believes in God, fears God, and wants to be looked down upon from God in a positive light. Indeed, Black Sabbath’s first hit, “Black Sabbath,” contained the memorable lyric, “Oh no, no, please God help me”
Finally, Ozzy’s desire to overcome addiction—clean since March 2013– can be seen as a conservative calculation, if you include for the sake of discussion the conservation of self.
Hopefully his rehabilitation will serve as a wake-up to those who may rationalize their addictions by gleaning justification from the glamorous lives of their idols. For others the message will simply be, “Ozzy did it, so can I.”
Once so menacing to society, Ozzy became a lovable curmudgeon without ever delegitimizing his claim to a part in the invention of the heaviest rock genre of all. I suggest we make him an honorary conservative, and watch his story of redemption.
In Ozzy’s solo mega-hit “Mama, I’m Coming Home” he sings:
Times have changed, and times are strange, here I come but I ain’t the same…”
The lyric sprang from Ozzy’s intoxicated apotheosis, but hopefully presaged a clean and sober future for one of rock history’s foundational figures.
The future of cultural interface between evolving conservatism and socially transgressive artistry remains to be sounded out.
image illustration via shutterstock / s_bukley