Song Writing

Ozzy and the Abattoir

by Jeff Suwak

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"I grew to like the slaughterhouse. I got used to the smell, and once I'd proved myself as puke remover they promoted me to cow killer." – I am Ozzy (p. 34)
Yep, Ozzy Osbourne worked in a slaughterhouse for 18 months. It's one of those things that seems to go without saying, once you've heard it for the first time. Of course Ozzy worked in a slaughterhouse for 18 months. How could he possibly not have?

It was 1964 and the job was in Digbeth, Birmingham, England. Ozzy was only 16 years old at the time, but he was already a veritable veteran of the blue collar working world. He'd worked as a plumber, car-horn tuner (yes, that was an actual job), and laborer. The slaughterhouse gig was, however, the first job he excelled at, and the first one he enjoyed.

He didn't like it at first. Shockingly, removing puke from sheep's stomachs is a task that takes a while to warm up to. Ozzy powered through those first weeks, though, and was promoted to cow killer. The job wasn't quite as messy as puke remover, but was more dangerous. "I can't tell you how many man-on-cow death matches I had in the Digbeth slaughterhouse," Ozzy recounts. "I had to shoot one bull five or six times before it went down. Fuck me, he was pissed off." Ozzy survived those perilous encounters, and eventually went on to specialize in cutting out cow's stomachs for overnight soaking, pulling off hoofs, and killing pigs.

Payday was on Thursday, which meant high times at the pub. On these occasions Ozzy would sneak cow eyeballs out by the dozens and drop them in people's drinks. "The best thing was to find a young sensitive-looking chick, and when she went to the bog, put an eyeball on top of her can of Coke," he writes. "They would go crazy when they saw that shit."

Alas, Ozzy's slaughterhouse career was not to last. One of his coworkers' running gags was to secretly cut his apron strings so that the blood-and-gut stuff would get all over his clothes. After putting up with this for a while, Ozzy finally lost his cool and beat an offending string-cutter with one of the poles used to move stuff around in the meat vats. His attack put the man in the hospital and lost Ozzy his Thursday paydays at the pub. It also happened to be the last straw that sent him into the brief criminal career that landed him in jail, but that's a story for another time.

Ozzy recounts his time at the slaughterhouse in much gorier detail in I am Ozzy. Most of it's not stuff for polite conversation, but absolutely hilarious to those with a certain mental bent. In terms of sheer humor and entertainment, it's one of the best rock biographies out there.

February 2, 2016
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