ALTHOUGH HE’S PLAYED WITH LOTS OF
great guitarists, bassist Rudy Sarzo still gets the most questions
about what it was like to play with the late Randy
Rhoads. “That’s why I wrote the book,” says Sarzo,
referring to Off the Rails, a fascinating glimpse into
his time with Rhoads. He spoke to GP about that
time, now nearly 30 years ago. —Matt Blackett
You wrote that when you auditioned for Ozzy, Randy’s
tone and his playing had changed a lot since your Quiet Riot days.
His tone had totally changed. With Quiet Riot he had a Peavey amp. It was
some late-’70s solid-state model and he had a cabinet with six JBLs. He ran his
MXR distortion box in the front. With Ozzy he was using Marshalls, but to
me one of the most important parts of his sound was the wah. He would
keep the wah-wah on during his rhythm lines. I think he started using the
wah with his Marshalls because they were giving him a wider tone than
the Peavey. He wanted to cut down those lower frequencies. His tone was
more shelved than the average guitar player’s. He specifically chose the
right frequencies to make his rhythms sound articulate.
His style was obviously totally different with Ozzy.
Well, you’re only as good or as eclectic as the songs on your list. When he
was composing for Ozzy, Randy could go from “Revelation Mother Earth” to
“Flying High Again” to “No Bone Movies.” Remember, when Randy got together
with Ozzy, the ’80s hadn’t been invented yet as we know them. Record companies
and MTV hadn’t started dictating what you could and could not play. I
called producers “reducers” because they were going with these
very narrow ideas of what a rock song could be. When a band
had some success, they replicated that sound for the rest of their
career and that became the formula for ’80s bands. Randy wrote
his best stuff before all that and so he had a lot of freedom.
What else can you say about his playing?
The first thing I noticed about him was he listened. A lot of guitarists
don’t consider themselves part of the rhythm section. With Randy, I could
always count on him to come up with great rhythm guitar parts. He always
listened to the drums and locked in. That really came together when he
started playing with Tommy Aldridge. Tommy had played a lot of arenas
with Pat Travers and Black Oak Arkansas, and he’s got a tendency to lean
forward, which doesn’t mean that you’re rushing, but you’re on top of the
beat in a real driving way. Randy naturally leaned forward in his timing
too. That was one of the things that gave Quiet Riot an arena sound even
when we were playing in clubs. He played big. He projected.
Randy mentioned some players that he admired, like Michael Schenker, Gary
Moore, and Leslie West. Who else did he talk about?
Mick Ronson. If you listen to the end of “You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll,”
it’s basically an homage to Mick Ronson’s playing on the Bowie tune “Moonage
Footage of Randy shortly before he passed makes it seem like he had already
gotten a lot better than even what was on the recordings.
Yeah, I can totally vouch for that. He never stopped studying and trying
to get better. That’s what he lived for.