written by Mike Gamms
Those well versed in the world of hard rock and heavy metal are undoubtedly familiar with the legacy of Randy Rhoads, Ozzy Osbourne’s first guitarist after Ozzy left Black Sabbath. Although his untimely death in 1982 limited his time with Ozzy to only two albums, Rhoads’ contribution was extremely significant. His incredible guitar work on “Crazy Train” has been used to energize sports arenas across the country for decades, and even recently used to sell Hondas. Other Ozzy/Rhoads songs of note include classics such as “Mr. Crowley” and “Flying High Again.”
The legacy of Quiet Riot is also not easily ignored. Their biggest hit, “Cum on Feel the Noize” is as popular of a stadium anthem as Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” and their second biggest hit “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” is a staple of classic rock radio.
As interesting as it may be, the success of both Quiet Riot and Randy Rhoads is not the subject of Ron Sobol’s new documentary “Randy Rhoads : The Quiet Years.” Sobol’s film takes place almost entirely before the success, the 5 year period from 1974 to 1979 when Randy Rhoads and his first real band, Quiet Riot, were unable to get a major record deal, despite the fact that they continually sold out every venue on the Sunset Strip. This is what makes it such a fascinating film. This is not a film about giant egotistical rockstars on top of the world. It’s about a couple of kids from the Valley doing whatever it takes to accomplish their dreams.
It is also a very intimate film. Unlike most Rock-Docs, “Randy Rhoads: The Quiet Riot Years” isn’t directed by Martin Scorcese or narrated by Johnny Depp. Both of these roles are filled by Ron Sobol, who was not only a childhood friend of both Randy Rhoads and Quiet Riot singer Kevin Dubrow, he was also an aspiring photographer and film maker. When he wasn’t busy studying film and photography at LA Valley College, he was taking pictures and videos of his bestfriends’ band. These photos and videos, most of which had never been shown to the public, along with the interviews of Randy and Kevin’s bandmates, friends, girlfriends, and even mothers, tell an incredible story.
Anyone who has ever been in a band, or had any artistic dreams is sure to relate to the determination of Quiet Riot. They were willing to do whatever it took to get the attention of a major record label. From the original sketches of Quiet Riot’s ridiculous attention grabbing stage costumes to footage of the protests urging record labels to “Sign Quiet Riot,” Sobol’s film is an extremely in depth look at the struggles of the young rock band.
While “Randy Rhoads: The Quiet Riot Years” brings a lot of attention to the band’s lack of attention, it also brings a lot of attention to their talent, particularly that of Rhoads. After watching the band struggle for the better part of the film, it wouldn’t be out of line to start believing that the record labels might have been ignoring the band for a reason. Just when these thoughts started creeping into my brain, the film cuts to a scene worth the price of admission on it’s own: never before seen concert footage of a Randy Rhoads guitar solo at the Starwood in 1979. This performance, narrated by Rhoads longtime guitar tech and roadie, runs the gauntlet of electric guitar. From ferociously fast finger tapping to blues to classical guitar, Rhoads shows not only his versatility and mastery of the guitar, but also his charisma and ability to captivate an audience.
Fans of Rhoads, Quiet Riot, and rock in general will love “Randy Rhoads: The Quiet Riot Years”. Those that were there will be filled with enough nostalgia to make them feel like it is the late 1970s all over again, even if only for 2 hours. And for younger viewers like myself, the film is comparable to “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” or “Dazed and Confused,” a time capsule of an era we were not fortunate enough to experience ourselves.
For evidence of Rhoads’ influence and importance to rock and roll history, look no further than the attendance at the Los Angeles premiere of the film, held at the Skirball Center on December 12, 2012. Many of Rock and Roll’s best talents made it to show their support. I was able to speak with some of them about the film, and the legacy of Randy Rhoads.
Original Quiet Riot drummer, Drew Forsyth, Forsyth joked, “It really takes me back to that era. But I don’t know that I want to go back to that era.” He also added that the film “really pays respect to Randy.”
Quiet Riot/current Dokken bassist Sean McNabb shared Forsyth’s enthusiasm. McNabb added that “Everyone knows Randy was an extraordinary talent and I think he was just scratching the surface. I wish he could have been around longer. He really changed how rock and roll guitar is played.” McNabb also mentioned how he felt Rhoads absence during his tenure in Quiet Riot. “[Quiet Riot lead singer] Kevin Dubrow always measured every guitar player to Randy. He always made everyone else feel inadequate. Rightfully so.”
Rhoads not only influenced his peers, but also the younger generation of musicians that followed. Black Label Society founder Zakk Wylde, who played guitar for Ozzy years after Rhoads’ death, spoke highly of Randy. “Randy was just the complete package. It was an honor to follow in his footsteps. Just an honor.”
Derek Sherinian, one time Dream Theater keyboardist, and founder of That Metal Show favorite, Black Country Communion, also joined in admiration for Randy, stating “Randy was really important in my early years growing up.”
311 guitarist Tim Mahoney was also impressed with the film. “I think it was great. A lot of people just know Randy from Ozzy, so I’m glad [this story] was documented. And Kevin DuBrow is another guy we lost too soon. So it was great to pay to tribute to both of them.”
Chris Traynor, guitarist for Bush also expressed his admiration for Rhoads. Traynor said, “What he did with Ozzy, still moves me to this day. His sound is very signature. You can turn on an old record for a second and know it is him. You turn on the radio today and [it’s not like that].”
Also in attendance were Quiet Riot/Ozzy Osbourne bassist Rudy Sarzo, LA Guns guitarist Tracii Guns, Vampires Everywhere! guitarist Aaron Martin, Holy Grain guitarist Alex Lee and KLOS host Tony Scott.