It’s early 1984 and I have returned to my college dorm room after Christmas break during my freshman year of college at Ball State University. Shorty after getting unpacked, I get a phone call from my marimba professor, Richard Paul.
I had started studying drums with Richard Paul around 1978-79, at the Paul Mueller Studio in Indianapolis, a music teaching venture that he co-owned with Dr. Erwin Mueller, a music professor at Ball State who specialized in bass. Dr. Mueller was my upright string bass instructor at BSU.
Mr. Paul was one of the people who had encouraged me to go to college to study Percussion Arts.
The purpose of his call was to let me know that Carmine Appice, then the touring drummer for Ozzy, was going to be holding a drum clinic at his facility before the concert at Market Square Arena on February 4, 1984.
It was my first-ever drum clinic. It was also the ONLY drum clinic where I paid to attend. The price for a ticket to the clinic was $35, which was more than double the concert ticket price at the time. Almost triple.
He threw in a big incentive. “Carmine will be giving away a backstage pass to the Ozzy show.”
Whoa! I’m in.
THIS WASN’T MY FIRST OZZY/PAUL CONVERSATION
It was three years earlier, in 1981, when I told Mr. Paul that I wanted to skip a lesson because I had a ticket for Ozzy. He wasn’t too happy about that, as was evidenced in his response.
“Ah, you want to skip your lesson for a show? You DO have a choice to make. You can be in the audience, or you can be on the stage. Totally up to you.”
What a jerk! He didn’t even consider my perspective, which was that attending shows like this was a lesson in performance on a big stage.
I relented and decided to take my lesson and then change for the show. This experience is a great example of why he was known as “King Richard” by his students.
But after my lesson, I went into the bathroom to change, and I saw none other than Randy Rhoads in the restroom. We talked for a bit. He told me he was taking guitar lessons, partly because it’s a great pre-show warm-up, but also because, as he put it, “There is always something to learn from someone else.”
I asked him if he had any dreams, now that he was a huge guitar god. He said that his big dream was to perform at Madison Square Garden.
He would die in that horrible plane crash two weeks before a scheduled show at that venue.
BACK TO CARMINE
After I bought my $35 drum clinic ticket [I already had a show ticket], money was tight. I put most of what I had in the gas tank. I had some money for a t-shirt, which I ended up not buying because it cost more than I had. I also had a camera with only a few photos left on it.
Back in this day, we had to use film. We’d take a bunch of pictures, forget what we had photographed, take the film to a drug store, pay for it to be developed, and wait a few days to get the photos back. Then you find out if your picture was good, or if it was a waste of money.
As it turned out, I only had two photos left on this camera. Below is one of the photos I took. The other one, which I cannot find, was taken from the ride cymbal side. It had the body of the cymbal in the lower half, with the drum stick in the middle pointing at me, and Carmine making a menacing face at the top. I hope to find that picture one day.
Carmine talked about a number of things. For example, he pointed to a pink streak in his hair. He told us that it was wash-out coloring, and that rock stars don’t walk around dressed up like rock stars all the time. He also got into more substance, like polyrhythms, or how to put on a show behind a kit.
At the end, Mr. Paul told everyone to look underneath their metal folding chairs, for an envelope that contained a backstage pass to go see Ozzy. I carefully flipped my chair over.
Oh well, I got to meet Carmine, and I had a ticket to the show. I got an autographed headshot of Carmine and then headed out to Market Square Arena. It was a VERY cold winter day in the early afternoon. I let my 1972 Pontiac LeMans warm up before I start carefully driving out of the parking lot.
CARMINE’S TICKET TO RIDE
As I got closer to the parking exit, I see a car with the hood up. When I make it to that car, I see Mr. Paul AND Carmine, standing outside of the front of the car, with the hood up. Carmine was wearing a full-length fur coat, probably a mink.
So I roll down my window and ask what’s going on.
Mr. Paul replied, “For some reason, my car won’t start. I need to get Carmine to Market Square. You’re going that way, so can you take him?
Can I take him?
Can I… me… a lowly freshman Percussion Arts student at Ball State University… take THE Carmine Appice to his gig with OZZY? Can I?
Fuck yea, I can!
Carmine got into the front seat of my car, carefully pulling his mink coat into the vehicle before closing the door.
Okay, so now I’m driving to the Ozzy show with his drummer, Carmine Appice, in my car. My writing style is most likely conveying the giddy feelings I was having about this experience.
I didn’t know what to do or say, so I said nothing for a while.
Carmine broke the ice. “Hey, I really appreciate you giving me a ride to the gig. I have an extra backstage pass if you’re interested.
I play it cool. “Ah, really? I’m in. Thank you.”
He gives me the pass. I glance over every so often, trying to not be noticed.
He probably noticed.
As we get closer to the venue, he tells me that I can park in an area that is reserved for limos and other vehicles that are delivering talent to the venue. We pull into this odd place on the side of the venue, and a guy puts a special mark on my windshield with something that looked like soap; like what they write on your windshield with at the car wash.
I don’t even use my ticket that I bought. I walk right into the backstage area with Carmine. I feel like I’m on tour.
There are people buzzing around everywhere. Some of them I noticed. Motley Crue was the second opening act [after Waysted], and they were already on the stage performing when we got there.
Yea, I would have liked to have seen them. But my experience driving Carmine to the venue was more than slightly better.
I was on top of the world. NOTHING was going to dampen my spirits. NOTHING!
THE PARTY’S OVER
Carmine is showing me the backstage area, when I notice Ozzy in the distance. He sees us and starts walking toward us. Except, it’s a faster paced walk and he doesn’t look all that happy.
Ozzy stops in front of us. He points at me.
“What the FUCK is THIS?!”
Oh, shit. Something was happening and I had no idea. Ozzy laid into Carmine about how he’d told him before that he doesn’t want ANYONE backstage BEFORE the show.
What I guessed was happening was that Carmine was giving away backstage passes for every date, and was inviting people backstage, and for some reason this annoyed Ozzy.
“You and him, get the bloody fuck outta here. NOW!”
I’m more than a little stunned. We do a semi-fast walk out of the backstage area, and to the side of the stage. We stand there and watch Motley Crue perform for a few minutes.
Carmine looks at me. He says, “It’s a young man’s game.”
And then he put his head down and walked away.
I don’t remember much about the show, beyond me NOT being into it. I left the backstage area, and wormed my way into the crowd off to the side of the stage.
Everybody was kicking ass. Carmine even had a drum solo. There was one part where a weird synth sound would happen every time he’d hit a cymbal. Then he’s stand up and grab the cymbal like a steering wheel, and the pitch would go up and down depending on how he turned the cymbal.
After the drum solo, I decided to leave.
I worked my way through the crowd to a merch stand. It was cold, so I had original had my heart set on a hoodie. But a “Bark at the Moon” hoodie was selling for $60. No fucking way. Besides, WHY would I want anything to remind me of this night?
So I went back to the side of the stage, flashed my backstage pass, and walked by myself around the backstage area, until I found where I was parked, with the concert sound in the background, fading lower and lower and being replaced by the sounds of people talking, gear containers being moved, and traffic that could be heard through the loading dock.
I remember thinking that this must be what it feels like to die. The entire universe just fades from perception until you’re alone.
Yes, I left an Ozzy show early. It’s the only show I left early as a young person. Based on what I have found about the tour, I missed 3 songs, and a 2-song encore. [Flying High Again/Iron Man/Crazy Train, and encore performances of Paranoid and Goodbye To Romance.]
I drove all the way back to the dorm. Straight there, about 80 miles. I didn’t even stop for a customary White Castle, as was tradition. When I got back, I went to bed. I was still upset about the whole thing.
A few weeks later, a bunch of kids were in the dormitory lobby watching the news so I joined them. There was a report that Ozzy had played his next gig the next night at another city. They showed some footage.
Tommy Aldridge was drumming.
That means that Carmine got fired from the gig. And considering how things went down, I did feel a bit of responsibility for that. I mean, the actual backstage pass winner wasn’t even back there. The only reason I was back there was because I drove him to the venue.
I have NO problem with Tommy Aldridge drumming. I’d seen Ozzy with Tommy at least 2-3 times before. My problem was with Carmine getting let go.
I went back up to my room. I found the backstage pass. I cut it up into little pieces and threw it away.
To a degree, I never really did recover. After that experience, I stopped listening to Ozzy completely. I stopped buying his records.
My feelings about Ozzy only got worse when I learned that he and Sharon were screwing Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake out of their rightful pay and credit for their contributions to those TWO big albums, “Blizzard of Oz.” and “Diary of a Madman.”
They even went so far as to RE-RECORD THE DRUMS AND BASS on the albums for a re-release, so they could avoid paying royalties.
And the stupid reality television show didn’t help matters much.
ALMOST RE-CONNECTED WITH CARMINE
On December 9, 2006, I went to the Sandy West Memorial show at The Knitting Factory in Hollywood, California. Sandy was the drummer, writer, and founding member of the legendary break-out girl rock band, The Runaways.
Both Carmine and his brother Vinnie were there, performing a dueling drum solo. While this was going on, I was backstage, bouncing around between backstage space for The Donnas, and The Bangles. I got to meet Cherie Currie, Joan Jett, and others. I didn’t take many pictures.
This was back when I worked at MySpace, and I was getting invited to lots of shows, on top of playing lots of shows.
I went and looked all over, but could not find Carmine. It was a chance to talk with him about it, and it just didn’t happen. For all I know, he performed and then left. I hope to run into him again one day.
Around 2011, I was in Burbank, CA, when a “record van” came to the area and parked near where I was eating. I got on the record van and found original vinyl pressings for the first two Ozzy albums, as well as a live picture album. I had previously owned all three of these when I was younger.
I confirmed their quality, AND that Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake were credited.
I still have these vinyl pressings, but have not yet listened to them.
I had also gone to Atomic Records in Burbank and found “Blizzard of Ozz” and “Diary of a Madman” in CD format. Again, these are CDs that were made from the original pressings, so that I could get that original sound with Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake.
I’m sure the replacement musicians did a great job, since it was Robert Trujillo on bass and Mike Bordin on drums. Still, it’s not the original performances on the original recordings that I grew up appreciating.
THE AUTISM ANGLE
As I have written previously, I was tested and properly diagnosed as having Stage 1 Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, also known as ASD, formerly known as “High-Functioning Autism,” formerly known as “Asperger’s Syndrome,” and known in my day as, “Stop fucking around and do your homework.”
Pick a name, already!
As an Autistic person, one of the things I have learned about Autistic people is that we have a VERY difficult time letting go of the past. If you wronged an Autistic person in 1969, you can bet that they’ll still be thinking about it on their deathbed.
Anyone who ever said anything negative to me, as well as anyone who ever did anything bad to me, would be spinning in my noggin, rotting in the synapses that struggle to bring an end to the mental torment.
In this regard, Wellbutrin is a hell of a drug, and I highly recommend it. I couldn’t ruminate right now if I was going to get paid to do it.
It’s also helping me to let go of some of the older traumas or general negative situations that stayed alive in my brain forever.
This can be a painful process, because letting go of these old bad memories actually allows for growth.
The other thing that helps me put these old memories in their place is writing about them while on Wellbutrin. It’s like I’m letting it go, and then I can watch it run away.
Go on, li’l guy. Run for your life, before I crush you beneath the sole of my steel-toed slip-ons.
I’ve only recently started listening again. I also picked up my acoustic the other day and played “Dee.” I’m really surprised that I remembered it, as I’d not really played it since high school. The same goes for that guitar solo in “Goodbye to Romance.”
Pop Rock music isn’t exactly rocket surgery.
Hearing these recordings, and really actively listening to them after roughly 37 years, takes me back to my teenage days. It moves me back to those times before the Ozzy/Appice incident. It takes me back to a time when I had a bad-ass car and Randy Rhoads was still alive.
It feels good. At the same time, it’s also not where I will stay. The past is a place to visit, not to live. Remember to set and maintain boundaries for time travel.
I may end up putting those albums on while I go for a walk today. Give both of them a front-to-back listen.
IN THE END
It’s fine to remember some of these less-palatable experiences from the past. The difficulty comes when the emotions that are attached to those experiences hang around as if the event in question had just happened.
As I write this, I’m reminded of a phrase that really fits this story well.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
If any of my life’s experiences fit that phrase, it was this one. It is hard to think of another time where I soared so high and then sunk so low so quickly. Manic memories like this can get sticky.
In a way, this is a great experiment for me. If I can listen to this music again after decades of hard feelings about events directly related to the music, then I might be able to overcome other hard feelings that I have about the past.
There are other things to do. One important thing is to forgive myself, as I wrongly blamed myself for Carmine’s situation that evening. The hard truth is that I had no idea that I wasn’t wanted backstage by Ozzy before the show. I have to let go and realize that this was on him, not me.
Another important thing, which is something I’ve been working on for a long time, is discarding the concepts of “good” and “bad” as they apply to things that happen in life. Because it’s really up to me how I’m going to feel about all of this.
In the grand scheme of things, as life goes, this particular experience is so very unimportant. It has no bearing on my life. All it really did was majorly mess up what I expected to be a great experience.
The relative unimportance of this experience is precisely what makes this memory and situation amazing, on top of the fact that it’s paired with music.
If I can let go of the negative aspects of that experience, AND if I can start listening to these albums again, then it will be a proof of concept moment for me; evidence that I can work through old pain and find success in healing and growth.
Should this work, then I might be able to get over some bigger things, like the utter contempt that I feel for Indiana in general, and big negative feelings that I have about certain people who have not been relevant to my life for almost four decades.
The lighter the baggage, the easier the travels.
It seems appropriate to end this entry with a clip. This is from shortly before the European leg of the tour, before they came to America, with Carmine drumming. The American show had a bigger stage with giant steps and the drums at the top. This is a more traditional band stage setup.
Oh, and one more thing. I know now that Carmine’s termination had nothing to do with me directly. It was that crazy b*tch, Sharon. You can read about it HERE.
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