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The recently published coffee table book Randy Rhoads, written by Steven Rosen and Andrew Klein (Velocity Publishing Group, is a fascinating look at the life of the late guitar star, who died in a tragic plane crash 30 years ago on 19 March 1982.
The following excerpt is from Chapter 9 of Randy Rhoads, along with an interview with co-author Rosen.
On June 27th, 1981, the tour pulled into the guitarist’s own backyard. The Long Beach Arena was the 39th date on the tour. Almost 10 years earlier to the day, on July 11th, 1971, Randy watched Alice Cooper perform there, his first concert and a turning point in his life. It couldn’t get any more perfect if you were writing the script. For Randy, this must have felt like he had climbed the highest mountain. Returning to his hometown as a conquering hero, a vanquisher of everything that stood before him. This must have been the true realization of his dream. All of his friends were there, and they finally got to see who he became.
“By the time we played the Long Beach Arena, Randy was already enjoying his success,” Rudy Sarzo explained. “Because he was a part of the process from the very beginning. We didn’t come back home thinking that we were rock stars, because we knew we were just players in Ozzy’s band. But Randy was getting a completely different level of attention than Tommy and me. He recorded and composed the songs on those great records, so it was fitting that he would draw more attention.”
Randy sent a limousine for his family. The guitarist rode with them, and for the 60-minute drive South from Burbank to Long Beach on the 405 Freeway, everybody would have been animated and excited. This was the first time any of them would see Randy play with Ozzy, and whatever they expected, their imaginations would fall far short of reality. Sitting in the corner of the expansive slick black interior, a seasoned pro by this time and accustomed to the lush splendor of the stretch, Randy’s smile would have lit up the darkened limo.
They arrived early for soundcheck where Randy noodled with his pedalboard to eliminate any stubborn ghosts or gremlins. Save for the crew and Long Beach Arena staff, the house was empty. Kelle remembered sitting out amongst the empty seats while his brother ran through the settings. It must have sounded like the very voice of God coming down from the ceiling, the mute of Randy’s strings shaking the rafters, and the thunder of his power chords vibrating the arena’s foundation.
If Randy turned it up a notch for the hometown crowd, no one would be surprised. When the lights dimmed and his family saw him first take the stage, they may have experienced a strange sensation of, “This is my son; this is my brother. I know him, but I don’t know that person up there.” They saw the spectacle of raised lighters, and experienced the adrenaline-fueled moment before the first note was struck. Randy knew his family was out in the crowd somewhere and he would have reached a little deeper inside himself, ripping through the deadliest arsenal of guitar riffs anyone had ever heard.