This song is about Aleister Crowley, a British practitioner of black magic in the early 1900s. Known as "The Wickedest Man Alive," Jimmy Page based some of the Led Zeppelin album covers on his work.
The song helped Ozzy play up his mock-Satanic image, which he often did for effect. This his something he did in his band Black Sabbath, who likened their music to horror movies.
Ozzy mispronounces Crowley's last name. It is in fact pronounced with the first syllable sounding like "crow" in English.
Bob Daisley, who was the bass player on the album, wrote some of the lyric for this song. In our interview with Daisley
, he explained: "I wanted to look at the darkness and question Aleister Crowley. 'Aleister, what were you thinking?' You know. All this darkness and negativity. So that was a snag that I put on it."
When Crowley was born they scattered the afterbirth because he had a birthmark shaped like a swastika. Ozzy sings about it in the line "They scattered the afterbirth."
In the liner notes for The Ozzman Cometh
, Ozzy wrote, "I'd read several books about Aleister Crowley. He was a very weird guy and I always wanted to write a song about him. While we were recording the Blizzard of Ozz
album there was a pack of tarot cards he had designed lying around the studio. Well one thing lead to another and the song 'Mr. Crowley' was born."
A live version of this song was released as the second single from the album, following "Crazy Train
." This version was taken from a performance on October 2, 1980 when Ozzy and his band played the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton on their first UK tour. In the UK, the single was backed with the song "You Said It All," (taken from the same performance) which was not available on the album. In America, the single was released as an EP which also included a performance of "Suicide Solution
" from that show.
Randy Rhoads played guitar on this track and co-wrote it with Ozzy and Bob Daisley. "Mr. Crowley" is a great example of both his striking guitar technique and creative riff-making, skills that helped Ozzy escape the long shadow of Black Sabbath and establish a solo career. Rhoads worked on two albums with Ozzy before his untimely death in 1982 at age 25. Rhoads died during a tour stop when he went up in a small plane and the pilot started buzzing the tour bus, trying to get a rise out of Osbourne, who was in it. The plane lost control and crashed, killing Rhoads, the pilot, and the tour hairdresser.
The line, "Won't you ride my white horse" is a drug reference. Crowley was a known user of opium.
Aleister Crowley would sometimes sign books and autographs, "Polemically Yours, Aleister Crowley," which inspired Bob Daisley to wrote the line "was it polemically sent?," which appears near the end of the song. "Polemically" means generating controversy.
Like the "Crazy Train" single, this one was credited to "Ozzy Osbourne Blizzard of Ozz" on the cover. Blizzard of Ozz was supposed to be the name of the band, but Jet Records turned it into an Ozzy Osbourne solo album when they released the album, which featured just Ozzy on the cover and his name in big letters.
Ion Vein covered this for the 1999 compilation Land of the Wizard: A Tribute to Ozzy Osbourne.
At least two Ozzy Osbourne tribute bands (one German, one American) have used the name Mr. Crowley.
This was included on Ozzy's 1987 album Tribute, which contained live tracks featuring Randy Rhoads.
Aleister Crowley was also the topic of the Bruce Dickinson (formerly and presently of Iron Maiden) song "Man of Sorrows" on the album Accident of Birth. The title of the song was a quote of Isaiah 53, supposedly a description of Jesus, whom Crowley hated; Dickinson is somewhat anti-Christian, and was not above assigning a title of Christ to the self-appointed antichrist.