News Story

Rock legends don’t come more legendary than Birmingham’s most famous son; Ozzy Osbourne, frontman of Black Sabbath and heavy metal wildman extraordinaire.

As both a solo performer and Sabbath singer of 50-plus years, The Prince of Darkness has performed live to millions, enjoyed multi-platinum album sales and been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Many see him as one of rock’s craziest characters, notorious for eating a live bat on stage during a gig, stripping in public, finding himself on the wrong side of the law more often than a Peaky Blinder and living a lifestyle that redefines the very notion of what it means to raise hell.

Thankfully, for his corporate hosts, however, the day Ozzy returned home to unveil a Midland Metro tram named in his honour was a much more sedate, if slightly surreal, affair.

With Birmingham’s new fleet of trams being named after the great and good of the West Midlands it was only right Ozzy – described as the most famous Brummie in the world – should be considered for such an accolade.

Ozzy Osbourne standing in front of a Midland Metro tram. He has long hair and has sunglasses on. He is wearing a pinstriped grey jacket and a black and white scarf.

And so, on 26th May, 2016, large crowds turned out to welcome Ozzy back to Brum for an occasion that will live long in the memory. Perhaps not Ozzy’s memory, but the memory of those in attendance, me included.

As the superstar stepped out of a luxury car and approached his newly-branded, colourful tram (sadly, it wasn’t black) to perform the ceremonial duties on Corporation Street in Birmingham city centre, hundreds of fans cheered and chanted his name, clearly revelling in the sight of the Black Sabbath hero in town.

In my role as a writer and editor of various Birmingham publications and newsletters I was lucky to be invited to join the press pack to capture Ozzy’s big moment for local and national news.

Arriving early, I managed to get to the front of the enclosure to give myself a decent chance of chatting to the then 67-year-old to ask him what he thought about his name on the front of this shiny piece of public transport, his formative years in Birmingham and what life was like ‘being Ozzy’.

Before that, however, there were formalities to carry out and a noisy, chaotic ribbon-cutting ceremony, in which radio DJ Tom Ross, and the then Leader of the City Council, Cllr John Clancy, introduced a bewildered-looking Ozzy to the crowds and to his special tram.

Ozzy Osbourne posing in front of the Midland Metro tram. His left hand is extending out towards the tram.

Introductions over, Ozzy delicately peeled away the protective cover of his new tram insignia to even more cheers and applause from his fans.

Once the red-carpet duties were over, the press pack managed to get around 45 seconds of Ozzy’s time, before the rock legend was whisked away for more dignitary duties elsewhere in town and lunch with the great and the good from Birmingham City Council and Midland Metro, the company operating the city’s new trams.

As the ceremony drew to a close Ozzy’s tram trundled off with its new branding proudly on display and his name in lights on the front windscreen directions panel.

I still had work to do, so I went straight back to the office to play my recording of Ozzy’s interview to begin writing up my article.

And what a recording it was. If Ozzy ever considers a podcast I’ll be its first subscriber. What my dictaphone had captured was the star’s unique take on improving public transport in Birmingham, traffic jams in the 1960s and 70s, problems with diesel fumes in built up areas, all sprinkled with the occasional expletive in that unmistakable Brummie twang.

Ozzy’s thoughts on public transport should be a regular magazine column somewhere. I’m not sure where, but definitely somewhere!

I was only able to use a bit of Ozzy’s interview in the family-friendly feature I had in mind but his 45-second commentary still lives on my dictaphone and I plan to keep it there forever.

Birmingham has since had a new fleet of Metro trams but I do hope they’ve managed to repurpose Ozzy’s special logo on the new models to ferry people to and from work in rock and roll fashion.

We owe it to the Prince of Darkness, a one-of-a-kind Brummie superstar, who deserves to have a whole fleet of public transport vehicles named in his honour.

A close up of Ozzy Osbourne's name written on the side of a tram. The S letters are written as Z letters. The outline of the letters are in black and the inside of the letters are white. It is on a white background.