Guitarist BERNIE TORME On Replacing RANDY RHOADS: 'It Was Absolutely Awful'

March 2, 2007

In a brand new Rock N Roll Universe interview with guitarist Bernie Torme (GILLAN, OZZY OSBOURNE, DESPERADO) and larger-than-life bassist John McCoy (GILLAN, SAMSON) the legendary Irish axeman discusses his days in GILLAN, his stint as the original replacement for the late Randy Rhoads in BLIZZARD OF OZZ in 1982, Dee Snider's DESPERADO, the possibilities of a GILLAN reunion as well as the the new album with GUY MCCOY TORME, "Bitter & Twisted", which sees him reunited in a band with McCoy for the first time since the disbanding of GILLAN almost 25 years ago. An excerpt from the interview follows below:

Rock N Roll Universe: Bernie, around a year later after you left GILLAN, in '82, you were called upon by Ozzy Osbourne to fill in on very short notice when Randy Rhoads was tragically killed, playing several dates on the tour before finding it wasn't working for you, and you left, with Ozzy bringing in Brad Gillis. Brad has stated that doing that tour was the most depressing situation he's ever been involved with. What was the mood when you stepped in, and what do you recall about those shows?

Bernie: It was absolutely awful. To put you in the picture, at the beginning, I'd just come out of Ian's band, and I thought, "I'm going to go and form a band, tour and record an album." It was at the part of recording at that stage. That was the project I was involved in. I got the call, and it was like, "Can you go out to L.A. tomorrow and play with Ozzy?" I said, "Well, no I can't. I'm sorry what's happened, I'd love to help, but I can't." So they called again, and they said, "Please, please, please, there isn't anyone else." I said, "Look, you're telling me I don't have to audition?" They said, "No, there's nobody else, just you." I said, "Well, I CAN'T." So they called up again and said, "It's 2,000 pounds a week." I was absolutely fucking penniless at the time. I hadn't got a penny. So, I said, "It's 2,000 pounds a week? I'll think about it. I'm not auditioning, right?" They said, "No, you're not auditioning, it's 2,000 pounds a week, and it's only a month." So I said okay, I'll have a think about it. So I put down the phone, and I thought, "2,000 pounds a week... that's an awful lot of fucking money." This was 1982. I called back and said, "Okay, if I'm not auditioning, and if you pay me a week's pay up front." That sounds awfully mercenary, but the thing is, I'd been on Jet Records, with the Ardens, prior to joining Ian. So there was this feeling of I really didn't trust what I'd been told. They then said, "Yeah, okay." The money never arrived, so I never went out. Then, it did arrive, and I went out. And there were 3 other people auditioning. (Laughs) So I was thinking, "Well, at least I'm probably the only one who's been paid up front." (Laughs)

So I auditioned, then Sharon says, "Bernie, are you able to come 'round to the back of the amps?" Then she said, "You've got the gig." I said, "Oh great!" She said, "But the pay isn't 2,000 pounds a week, it's 500 dollars a week." So then… David Arden, who's her brother, whom I'd spoken to, I said, "David said it was 2,000 POUNDS a week." Sharon said, "Bernie, David doesn't know what he's talking about, he's on drugs, it's 500 dollars a week." So I'm standing there thinking I've been paid 2,000 pounds, I'm not going to be paid again. (Laughs) (2000 pounds worked out to being about $3000 at that time.) So anyway, I liked Ozzy, and it was a great band, so I figured I'm already here I might as well try it. Because at that time I thought it's only a month. Then it started to turn into gigs in Hawaii, and Alaska... three months away, and I'm kind of saying, "Well hold on, I wasn't told about any of this. I have an album coming out, I have a band, and a tour. I have a project to do. I can't let people down." But to return to your question, I went out of the rehearsal rooms, Ozzy's crying, and it was just absolutely not the kind of situation that anyone would enjoy being in. I have to say, both Ozzy and Sharon were great, really nice to me. But it was chaos. Because they'd had all of this drop on them, and Sharon, I think, was just trying to have it carry on, because if Ozzy stopped he'd never do anything again. I was going around at the beginning, staying in hotel rooms that had been booked as "Roy Rogers," which was Randy's hotel name. It was so depressing, just so depressing.

Rock N Roll Universe: Were you aware of Randy's playing before getting the call, and how daunting of a task was it for you to learn the set list in such a short time?

Bernie: I hadn't actually heard much of anything. I'd heard "Mr. Crowley" on the radio, once, and I thought wow, he's great. I hadn't actually taken it in at all. So I'm asked, and being an arrogant guitarist, I thought yeah, of course I can handle it. I got the albums just before I left to go to the U.S., and it was just like, "Shit! What a player!" He was incredible.

Rock N Roll Universe: Was there ever a sense for you after hearing the albums of "What the hell have I gotten myself into here?"

Bernie: Definitely, oh definitely. Because the difference between his style of playing and mine was that he was basically a classical player, and I was not. So it was such a struggle. We were playing almost an hour and a half, and the only song I knew on it was "Paranoid", basically. To take it in, in terms of arrangements, licks and subtleties was completely utterly impossible. I just wasn't able to. I was jet lagged, tired, and scared, because also I hadn't any idea of how it was going to be. I didn't even know if Ozzy was playing clubs.

Rock N Roll Universe: Well, these weren't club dates, we're talking about playing Madison Square Garden...

Bernie: Yeah. And I go out, and it's like, "Shit!" It was this big stage production, and one of the problems was that you couldn't fucking hear anything on stage. Tommy Aldridge is on top of a pyramid, to actually hear the high hats, or toms, was completely impossible. All I had was 2 wedges down there I wasn't able to hear anything at all. It was just so hard. Having done a few gigs, I remember thinking, "I'm not enjoying this AT ALL." I just thought I can't hack it. But, in retrospect, hearing the bootlegs of me with Ozzy, I was amazed it was as okay as it was. Because my memories of it... the first gig, I had a hired guitar, and I had Randy's pedals because mine hadn't arrived. I really didn't want to use his pedals. I mean, his pedals turned on and off, and I wasn't even close to them. Everyone's saying, "Oh, it's damp." Well, I've never had a pedal turn on and off because of dampness. I'm looking at the lights, and I could see the chorus pedal turning on and off. And I remember t hinking I really do not want to be here. It wasn't as if the wrong pedal was going off at the wrong time, it was the right pedal but it was a raw situation in terms of emotions. In all honesty, all the way along, I was thinking, "Well hold on...if this had happened... If I had been in GILLAN, and I had died, would I have wanted the band to carry on?" And I don't know how I would answer that. It was a problem I personally had with all of it. I can see Sharon and Ozzy's point of view that it HAS to carry on. There wasn't any point in stopping. But being Irish, we pay a lot of attention to the dead, probably too much. So it was a problem for me personally.

The entire interview can be found at this location.

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