Now, I’ll bet money that you’ve seen this image before. Even if you’re not a fan of Ozzy or metal music, you have seen this image before. It has appeared in many sizes on all types of collectible material. The cover art for the Ozzy Osbourne Randy Rhoads Tribute album, posters, t-shirts, even those cheap collectible mirrors you can win by popping a balloon with a dart at carnivals… they have all immortalized this image.
To this day, not many people know who captured this moment on stage. Now I’ve heard this story before, but this is the one that made Paul Natkin a legend behind the lens… and it almost didn’t happen. It bears repeating…
“On January 24th 1982, I was asked to photograph Don Airey, the keyboard player for Ozzy Osbourne. Don was not visible from the audience. Instead, he was stationed in a turret attached to a larger castle on stage. My only solution was to go to sound check earlier that day and climb up in the turret with him to take pictures. Fine with me, as it was Super Bowl Sunday and I wanted to get home to watch the game.
After I was done shooting, I went to say goodbye to the publicist. He asked me why I wasn’t staying for the show. I told him about the Super Bowl, and he invited me to come backstage and watch it with the band and crew. After the game, I went out to shoot Ozzy and the band. I remember Ozzy being a lot more active back then, running back and forth across the stage for the entire show. That night I captured some of the most amazing photos I have ever taken, including one that has appeared on t-shirts, posters, album covers, billboards, and the covers of every guitar magazine on the planet and every book written about Randy Rhoads, Ozzy’s guitar player. Randy Rhoads would die in a plane crash on March 19th 1982 at the age of 25.
As far as I can remember, I was the only photographer in the pit when Ozzy lifted Randy up… there may have been a few others with me when the show started, but they were asked to leave after the first three songs (we’ll get into that infamous rock-and-roll rule some other time). I look back on this moment now and think about how it almost didn’t happen. It makes me wonder what would have appeared on those t-shirts, album covers, billboards, magazines and books.”
About Paul Natkin
Paul Natkin learned photography in the trenches, working with his father, the team photographer of the Chicago Bulls. He shot sports in the Chicago area for five years before he discovered music photography in 1976.
Since then, he has photographed most of the major music stars of the last half of the 20th century, shooting album covers for artists such as Ozzy Osbourne and Johnny Winter and magazine covers for Newsweek (Bruce Springsteen), Ebony (Tina Turner), People (Prince), and music magazines around the world. See his work online at natkin.net.