In 1994, I was invited to Christmas dinner at Ozzy Osbourne’s house. Rock’s enduring wild man was emerging from self-imposed retirement and his return to action had been marked by the launch of his official website. Ozzy’s wife and manager, Sharon, had arranged for the first 20 fans to visit it to meet their hero at the couple’s rambling estate in Berkshire.
The formidable Sharon hired a fleet of caterers to serve turkey and trimmings in a candlelit dining room adorned with a towering Christmas tree. I was dispatched by Kerrang! magazine to document the festive tidings and arrived to find Ozzy in a mutinous mood. Within minutes he had convinced himself I was a waiter and loudly demanded that I be put to work. “Ignore him,” Sharon soothed, adding: “He’s a daft old sod.”
A series of comic episodes ensued as soon as the over-enthusiastic American visitors pitched up. Gaggles of them roamed the house in search of souvenirs, with Ozzy stomping after them. “Sharon!” the Brummie boomed from a far-flung wing, “Someone’s nicked the bog roll.”
After dinner, I joined Ozzy in the library for our interview. Skittish at the best of times, he set off at once on a rambling and wholly libellous discourse meant to “out” a score of his fellow rock stars as gay. I asked him instead what he did for a hobby. His eyes widened and he leapt up. “I’ve a fan who is a colonel in the US Marines,” he enthused, throwing open a cupboard, “and he gave me these.” He showed me two pairs of infra-red, night-vision goggles.
And so it came to pass that on a frigid December’s night, Ozzy and I embarked upon a stroll around the woodland encircling his home. In the inky blackness we viewed each other in a luminous green glow. Rain had turned the ground into a thick, viscous bog and I suggested we might incur Sharon’s wrath by trailing mud across her carpets.
“Bollocks to that,” Ozzy trumpeted. He had a mission in mind. He meant for us to seek out his herd of fallow deer, which remained entirely elusive for the hour that we fumbled about. Finally, at 2am, as we stumbled around in a bog, Ozzy shrugged and concluded in a baleful voice: “Fuck ’em, let’s go home.” That was the real Ozzy: funny and bonkers.
When We Were Lions (£18.99, Aurum) by Paul Rees is out now. To order a copy for £15.57 go to bookshop.theguardian.com