David Lee Roth Almost Killed Ozzy In A Cocaine Battle

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Revista Pelo nº 237, 1985, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons Ted Van Pelt, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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Few characters in the pantheon of rock and roll excess invoke the same level of reverence and horror as Ozzy Osbourne and David Lee Roth.

When notorious heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath and Los Angeles party rock gods Van Halen teamed up for a tour in 1978, it was destined to be one for the history books.

Although the debaucherous antics of both bands have become the stuff of legend, it’s important to note where each respective camp were in their careers at this point. Having released their debut album earlier in the year, Van Halen were on a meteoric ascent like none other.

Having cut their teeth in the voracious LA party scene, by the time the band embarked on their first world tour they were the kind of well-oiled machine that was guaranteed to wipe the stage with any group dumb enough to take them on the road as a support act.

At the same time, Black Sabbath were having a particularly rough year. While non-stop substance abuse had taken its toll on the whole band, Ozzy in particular was in such a bad state that he briefly quit the band, forcing Sabbath to replace him with Fleetwood Mac’s Dave Walker for several shows. Ozzy returned in short order, and the tour carried on.

On the evening before their gig in Nashville, Tennessee, Roth and Ozzy decided to compete in one of the most terrifying games of chicken conceivable.

As David Lee Roth tells in his autobiography Crazy From The Heat Having nicknamed cocaine “Krell” after the characters in the ‘50s sci-fi film Forbidden Planet, the two men had a night long “Krell War” to see who could do the most blow before collapsing. David Lee Roth won, waking up the catatonic Osbourne at 9:30am to get ready for the night’s gig.

While DLR made it to the venue without incident, Ozzy didn’t show up for soundcheck. As the tour manager had never given the Sabbath frontman the key to his room, anxieties escalated quickly. Ozzy was lost in the wind.

As time ticked away, the touring party began to fear for the worst. Trying not to cancel the gig, Roth was asked if he could cover vocal duties for the Black Sabbath set that evening but couldn’t oblige because he didn’t know the lyrics. 

A massive search to find Osbourne was put into motion, with local police and FBI investigating as a possible kidnapping. As the atmosphere came to its grim crescendo at 6:30am the next morning, Ozzy came walking out of the hotel elevator.

As it turns out, an incredibly wasted Ozzy went to room #616, which was his room number from the hotel the night before. As #616 was in the process of being picked up by housekeeping, he simply told the cleaning staff to leave and promptly went to bed.

When Ozzy woke up, he realized he was in the wrong room. Upon finding his actual room, he received a call from a Nashville detective informing him of the situation. The bands returned to Tennessee a few days later and performed a makeup gig.