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This song is about the dangers of alcohol. The "suicide solution" is drinking yourself to death, and the song is a warning against it: "Suicide is slow with liquor..."
There is some controversy over both who wrote the words to this song, and who they're about. Ozzy has stated that he wrote the lyric about AC/DC's lead singer Bon Scott, who was found dead after a night of drinking. Bassist Bob Daisley, however, maintains that he wrote the lyric about Ozzy, who was struggling with his own alcohol problems at the time. Evidence is in Daisley's favor, as he was the lyricist for the project.
After leaving Black Sabbath (whose lyricist was Geezer Butler), Ozzy formed a new band with Daisley and guitarist Randy Rhoads, which was called the Blizzard of Ozz. The trio wrote most of the songs for their debut album before drummer Lee Kerslake joined, including this one. Ozzy's contribution was vocal melodies. In our interview with Bob Daisley
, he explained:
"Usually the music came first, Ozzy would sing a melody, and then I would take a tape away into my room and write lyrics by myself to Ozzy's phrasing and melodies that would fit with what he was comfortable with. He wasn't a lyricist and neither was Randy, so I had to wear the lyricist hat."
When the album was released, it looked like an Ozzy Osbourne solo effort, with just the singer pictured and his name in big letters above the phrase "Blizzard of Ozz." The record company (Don Arden's Jet Records) had decided to turn the band into Ozzy's solo project, and that's how it stood, even though early promotional materials clearly indicate Blizzard of Ozz as the name of the group.
On October 26, 1984, a 19-year-old American named John McCullom shot himself in his bedroom while listening to Osbourne's Speak of the Devil album on his headphones. McCullom had been listening to Osbourne's Diary of a Madman and Blizzard of Ozz earlier in the evening on the living room stereo, and his parents singled out "Suicide Solution" as a song that encouraged him to kill himself. In October, 1985, they sued Ozzy and his record company on grounds of negligence, product liability, and intentional misconduct. The case was dismissed in August, 1986, but McCullom's parents filed an appeal that brought even more attention to the case, which had become a first amendment litmus test. In the appeal, the plaintiffs made a case that Ozzy's songs contained themes of devil worship and death, and quoted the lyrics "suicide is the only way out" from "Suicide Solution" as evidence that it contributed to their son's death. Additionally, they argued that the song contained "masked" lyrics that weren't printed on the album: "why try, why try, get the gun and try it, shoot, shoot, shoot."
The court took a good, hard look before dismissing the case in 1988, ruling that the lyrics did not explicitly encourage suicide, and that music is protected by the first amendment. How a song about the dangers of alcohol abuse could be put on trail was baffling and frightening to many musicians, who feared legal ramifications over misinterpretations of their songs. The case was especially bewildering in Ozzy's home country of England, where the idea of blaming a song for someone's death was laughable. Osbourne told Mojo magazine Aug 2010: "Listen, it'd be a pretty bad career move for me to write a song saying 'Grab a gun and kill yourself.' I wouldn't have many fans left.
Anyhow, that track was about me drinking myself to death. Look at the lyrics. 'Wine is fine but whiskey's quicker/ Suicide is slow with liquor/ Take a bottle drown your sorrows.' I knew even then I had an alcohol problem."
While this case was going on, two others were filed by families convinced that this song compelled their kids to commit suicide. They were also dismissed.
In the mid-'80s, song lyrics became a political issue as advocates pushed for a rating system on albums (which led to warning stickers for albums with explicit songs). "Suicide Solution" became a talking point because of its misinterpreted title and controversy over the lawsuit. In a 1986 forum on the Tom Snyder talk show, Don Arden, whose record company released this song, was a guest. When this song was brought up, he said: "I would be doubtful as to whether Mr. Osbourne knew the meaning of the lyrics - if there was a meaning - because his command of the English language is minimal anyway, so I wouldn't think there was any evil intent there."
The lawsuit over this song claimed that it contained subliminal messages saying: "Get the gun, shoot, shoot, shoot." Acoustic analysis showed that there were some sub-audible words, but it was not clear what they were. On the album Tribute, the line is listed as "Get the flaps out," which is a reference to the private part of the female anatomy.
The word "Solution" in this song is meant as a mixture, meaning a drink containing alcohol. The alternate interpretation is "Solution" as the answer to a problem, but the song is in no way suggesting that suicide is ever the answer, just that heavy drinking can kill you.
Ozzy was going to appear in an episode of Miami Vice, but was dropped because of the controversy this song generated.
The 1999 compilation Land of the Wizard: A Tribute to Ozzy Osbourne featured a cover of this song by the band Coffin Texts. (thanks, Brett - Edmonton, Canada)
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