December 6, 2009
You suffer from severe anterograde amnesia; you are trapped, forever, at the end of 1955. Your memory of the events up to that point is coherent and complete, and yet you can’t remember anything that has happened since. So how would I go about describing RANDY RHOADS (1956-82) to you? “You know James Dean, who died a few months ago in a car smash-up? Start with everything you know about the trajectory of his life, and his status as a cultural icon. Take away his pompadour and replace it with a long, shaggy mop of highlights. Replace his teen-idol pout with a gaping, perma-screaming maw. Strip off his white t-shirt and slip him into a leather vest. Make him stand there, legs akimbo, and put in his hands a polka-dotted, vee-shaped guitar. Encourage him to make intricate, classically-inspired dwiddling noises on it.” Rhoads gave the world, via two albums with Ozzy Osbourne (1980’s Blizzard of Ozz, and 1981’s Diary of a Madman), a glimpse of guitaring magnificence. He produced sequences and sounds on his instrument that awed stadia full of fans. But like James Dean, a misadventure with machinery (in this case, an airplane) whisked him away — which has only increased his legend among subsequent axe-wielders.
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