In this song, Ozzy asks when we can all learn to love in a world gone mad. Ozzy wrote the song with guitarist Randy Rhoads and bass player Bob Daisley. In our interview with Daisley
, he explained how it came together:
"Randy had the basic riff, the signature riff. Then we worked on music together. He needed something to solo on so I came up with a chord pattern and the section for him to solo over.
Before it was called 'Crazy Train,' before we even had a title, Randy and I were working on the music. He had his effects pedals, and coming through his amp was a weird kind of chugging sound. It was a phase-y kind of psychedelic effect, this chugging sound that was coming through his amp from his effects pedal.
Randy was into trains - he used to collect model trains and so did I. I've always been a train buff and so was Randy. So I said, 'Randy, that sounds like a train. But it sounds nuts.' And I said, 'A crazy train.'
Well, that's when the title first was born. And then Ozzy was singing melodies and he was phrasing exactly how it ended up. And I started writing lyrics to it."
While many believe that this is yet another Ozzy song about insanity, it's actually about the Cold War. Evidence in the lyrics: "Millions of people living as foes," "One person conditioned to rule and control; The media sells it and you live the role," "Heirs of a cold war, that's what we've become. Inheriting troubles I'm mentally numb." The relevant acronym was "M.A.D." (Mutually Assured Destruction), a doctrine which basically amounts to "if they shoot their nukes at us, we'll shoot ours right back, and that would be the end of the world that nobody wants, so it won't happen... as long as we keep pointing nukes at each other." Hence, "crazy" is another word for "mad."
The M.A.D. logic actually extends from "Nash equilibrium", a concept of zero-sum strategy first theorized by game theory mathematician John Nash. You'll remember him as a character from the 2001 film A Beautiful Mind. The acronym M.A.D. was formulated by computer science pioneer John von Neumann, who had a taste for satirical humor. In fact, this concept, and the "Doomsday Device" idea behind it (coined by war strategist Herman Kahn), forms the entire basis for Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The real-life version of the device is the "Dead Hand" control system deployed by the Soviets. Cold-War paranoia extended from the 1950s until the famous end to it in 1991. By the way, the actual term "Cold War" was coined by one George Orwell, in his essay "You and the Atomic Bomb."
Randy Rhoads was Ozzy's guitarist on this song - he was in Quiet Riot before joining Osbourne. Like most of the guitar solos he recorded with Ozzy, Rhoads had to "double" all his guitar parts. This means he had to play every note of this very difficult solo exactly the same way, twice. This is one reason why the solo on the recording sounds so unique. Rhoads was a very proficient and influential guitar player. (thanks, Dave - Marieta, GA)
This was the first single Ozzy Osbourne released after leaving Black Sabbath in 1978. He left the band after a particularly heated dispute with guitarist Tony Iommi, at which time Ozzy was painted as a substance-abusing layabout by his former bandmates. "Crazy Train" was a triumph for Ozzy in that he proved that he could succeed outside of the Sabbath shelter, albeit with lots of help.
Osbourne got his riffs from Randy Rhoads and his lyrics from Bob Daisley on Blizzard of Ozz, which was formed as a band, not a solo effort. The trio wrote the songs together, later adding drummer Lee Kerslake to complete the band. Their label, Jet Records (owned by Don Arden, Ozzy's future father-in-law), made the project look like a solo effort by putting Ozzy alone on the album cover and his name in big letters on top of the words "Blizzard of Ozz." The "Crazy Train" single had the band name in large print with Ozzy's name above it. This was as close as they would get to being billed as a band on their releases, even though promotional photos and reviews from the time show that Blizzard of Ozz was supposed to be the band name.
This appropriation was a sticking point for Rhoads, Daisley and Kerslake, but they stayed with Ozzy for his next album, Diary of a Madman, which when issued in 1981 was not just listed as an Ozzy solo album, but listed Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge on bass and drums instead of Daisley and Kerslake. Legal entanglement followed, and Rhoads died in 1982. In the end, Osbourne's post-Sabbath output was disproportionately attributed to Ozzy, and "Crazy Train" is generally considered his first solo single.
The 1987 live double-album Tribute contains a version of this which is a tribute to Randy Rhoads. Rhoads played on Ozzy's first two solo albums before he died in a plane crash while the band was touring in Florida in 1982. He was 25.
The sound at the end is a studio engineer saying "An Egg" through an oscillator. Ozzy had asked him what he had for breakfast that morning.
In America, "Crazy Train" bubbled under on the Hot 100, spending one week at #106. It's influence is far greater than its chart showing, as it became one of Ozzy's signature songs and helped the Blizzard of Ozz album sell over one million copies in the US over the next two years. It eventually would sell over 3 million in the US and launch Ozzy toward media domination in America, where with the help of his wife, Sharon, he would start a successful festival (Ozzfest) and get his own reality show on MTV. Not bad for a British Heavy Metal singer.
In 1999, this was used in Mitsubishi car commercials.
This was covered by Pat Boone, former gospel singer and Ozzy's old neighbor, for the album In a Metal Mood. His cover used a whistle and backup singers cooing "Choo, choo" as he sang it in a lazy, Las Vegas style. It gained popularity when it was used as the theme song for MTV's smash hit The Osbournes, and it was included on The Osbourne Family Album with a recording of Jack describing what a great neighbor Pat was. According to Jack, he dealt with everything you see on the show and more - logs flying through the window, constant yelling from the next house, etc.- and never complained once. Pictures exist showing Ozzy at Pat's house, in his garden, by his pool, etc. (thanks, Brett - Edmonton, Canada)
The instrumental of this song provided the beat to the Trick Daddy w/ Twista & Lil Jon track "Let's Go," which made #7 US in 2004. It was also interpolated on the Hollywood Undead song "Undead," which made #104 in 2009.