Complete Guide to Ozzy Osbourne 'Mr. Crowley'

Everything you need to know about the story behind the song, amp and pedal settings as well as used guitar techniques.

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Complete Guide to Ozzy Osbourne 'Mr. Crowley'
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Today we'll dissect Mr. Crowley by Ozzy Osbourne. Enjoy!

 

Ozzy Osbourne "Mr. Crowley"

Writers: Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads, Bob Daisley
Producers: Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads, Bob Daisley, Lee Kerslake
Album: Blizzard of Ozz (UG Score 9.6)
Recorded: 22 March – 19 April 1980
Released: 20 September 1980
Label: Epic
Genre: Heavy metal, Doom metal
Length: 4:55

Story behind the song

The song was inspired by a book about Aleister Crowley which Osbourne had read and a deck of tarot cards that were found in the studio as the recording of the album was commencing. Crowley was an English occultist and ceremonial magician who had founded the Thelemite religion in the early 20th century. Aleister Crowley was an infamous poet, writer, mountain climber, and Adept. Also known as the Master Therion and the Great Beast 666, he is widely considered to be the most influential Occultist of all time, he gained widespread notoriety during his lifetime, and was denounced in the popular press of the day as "the wickedest man in the world."

The song helped Ozzy play up his mock-Satanic image, which he often did for effect. This his something he did in his band Black Sabbath, who likened their music to horror movies. Ozzy mispronounces Crowley's last name. It is in fact pronounced with the first syllable sounding like "crow" in English. When Crowley was born they scattered the afterbirth because he had a birthmark shaped like a swastika. Ozzy sings about it in the line "They scattered the afterbirth."

In the liner notes for The Ozzman Cometh, Ozzy wrote:

I'd read several books about Aleister Crowley. He was a very weird guy and I always wanted to write a song about him. While we were recording the Blizzard of Ozz album there was a pack of tarot cards he had designed lying around the studio. Well one thing lead to another and the song 'Mr. Crowley' was born.

A live version of this song was released as the second single from the album, following "Crazy Train." This version was taken from a performance on October 2, 1980 when Ozzy and his band played the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton on their first UK tour. In the UK, the single was backed with the song "You Said It All" (taken from the same performance), which was not available on the album. In America, the single was released as an EP which also included a performance of "Suicide Solution" from that show.

Randy Rhoads played guitar on this track and co-wrote it with Ozzy and Bob Daisley. "Mr. Crowley" is a great example of both his striking guitar technique and creative riff-making, skills that helped Ozzy escape the long shadow of Black Sabbath and establish a solo career. Rhoads worked on two albums with Ozzy before his untimely death in 1982 at age 25. Rhoads died during a tour stop when he went up in a small plane and the pilot started buzzing the tour bus, trying to get a rise out of Osbourne, who was in it. The plane lost control and crashed, killing Rhoads, the pilot, and the tour hairdresser.

Music Videos

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Live version

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Live performance in 1981.

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Live at the O2 Arena, London, UK in 2010.

Notable covers

Yngwie Malmsteen and Tim Owens - "Mr. Crowley"

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Cradle of Filth - "Mr. Crowley"

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Gear and settings

Guitars

Randy Rhoads

1979 Karl Sandoval Flying V

Few month before the break-up of the Quiet Riot, Randy visited Karl Sandoval's guitar workshop and ordered a custom built guitar based on his own ideas and sketches. The guitar was finished in September 1979, and Randy paid a total of $740 for it.

The KS Flying V was finished in black with white polka-dots all over the body and neck. The hardware was originally chrome from Fender, but it was replaced with black, and the guitar was equipped with a DiMarzio Distortion Plus in the bridge position and a DiMarzio PAF in the neck.

Shortly after Randy received the guitar, the unusually-shaped headstock broke after the guitar fell on the ground accidentally, but it was soon replaced and re-painted. The whole neck was supposedly originally taken from a ’60s Danelectro guitar and didn’t have a truss rod, so Randy struggled to keep it in tune. Nonetheless, he played this guitar very often live, and, according to Max Norman, who produced the album, Randy used a polka-dot Charvel on pretty much all the guitar tracks, but Karl Sandoval V was the only polka-dot guitar that Randy owned at that time, so Max was probably talking about this guitar.

Bob Daisley

Bob Daisley used white Gibson EB-3 (UG Score 8.6) during the recording of the album "Blizzard of Ozz."

Amps and effects

After joining Ozzy, Randy switched to Marshall. On stage he would use up to three amps, each played through a set of 1960A and 1960B cabinets, both painted white.

Yeah, a straight 100, a real nice sound, actually. Both cabinets plugged in and stacked up too. We tried it a number of different ways. I prefer the Marshalls with both cabinets, and stacked. They have a somewhat different sound than if there’s just one sitting on the floor, - Max Norman.

Marshall 1959 Super Lead Plexi 100W Head (with the "Cascade" mod)

Marshall 4x12 Cabinets loaded with Altec 417-8H speakers

He was definitely a Marshall man when it came time to plug in and while he didn’t use too many pedals, MXR seemed to be his choice for chorus and distortion.

Randy Rhoads told on a seminar in 1982:

I have a pedalboard that’s got an MXR Distortion +, an MXR 10-band equalizer, a chorus, an MXR stereo chorus, an MXR flanger, a Crybaby wah pedal and a Roland volume pedal. I used them much more in the past than I do nowadays, but now our sound man is starting to add a lot more up front. Sometimes I use them more for quiet rhythm parts, just to enhance the sound. I never use echoes or anything for leads.

MXR Distortion Plus (UG Score 9.4)

The MXR Distortion Plus is the only gadget I use a lot, - Randy Rhoads.


There some misconceptions about using chorus and flanger pedals for the recording, but it's known that Randy used double or even triple-tracking anything he played, for maximum sonic density.

For live performances Rhoads used more complex rig:



Randy Rhoads live rig in 1981. Image via Guitar.com (View larger image).

Bob Daisley used the same set of amps for the recording of the album:

For the Blizzard album, I used one of Randy's 100-watt Marshall amps through a 4x12 cab...

Amp settings

  • Gain 7
  • Bass 7
  • Mids 7
  • Treble 7
  • Reverb 0

Tablature

These are top tabs rated by the UG community:

Chords version: Mr. Crowley chords
Tab version: Mr. Crowley Tab, Mr. Crowley Bass Tab
Interactive versions: Guitar Pro, Tab Pro

Tuning

Guitars: Standard tuning (E A D G B E)
Bass: Standard tuning (E A D G)

Song key

The song is in D Minor key.

Techniques

Randy Rhoads was one of the most groundbreaking rock guitarists. His mother was a music teacher, so Randy received a proper musical education before turning that knowledge to his own purposes within the framework of heavy rock.

Rhoads helped Ozzy create a new style of heavy metal that took much of its inspiration from his interest in classical guitar, fusing classical modes with an aggressive rock sensibility and advanced technical ability. The result sounded like Eddie Van Halen and Niccolo Paganini rolled into one.

The main solo features series of lightning-fast runs that combine precise pick articulation with hammer-pull combinations for a fluid, yet measured feel that sounds like a classical violinist playing rock music. The outro solo engages trills and more crazy rapid picking, culminating with a series of impressive runs that demonstrate Rhoads’ effortlessly flawless command of tone, phrasing, and technique.

Song breakdown

Intro: 0:00 - 0:54

The intro is played on an organ-sounded synthesizer but can be transcribed for guitar.

Verse 1: 0:54 - 2:07

Main riff of verses is played with power chords, hammer-ons and pull-offs, and half-step bends, adding few dead notes.

And for a little fill, that goes before the guitar solo you need to use slides.

Guitar solo 1: 2:07 - 2:42

Randy Rhoads recalled:

I'd have to say that "Mr. Crowley" is my most memorable solo.
I had spent hours trying to figure out a solo for the song, but wasn't getting anywhere.
I finally put something down. Then Ozzy came in and said, "It's crap—everything you're playing is crap." He told me to get in there and just play how I felt. He made me really nervous, so I just played anything. When I came back to listen to it, he said it was great, and I had to agree.

This solo starts with a repetitive 5-note blues lick with a whole-step bend and pull-off, then followed by D-minor pentatonic triplets. Then there goes an ascending pattern ending with whole-step bends and releases.

The next section is a long lick, which is played with a lot of hammer-ons and pull-offs, and powered with a vibrato and bends at its end.

The next phrase is repetitive and close to the start of the second section of this solo and followed by the descending lick with slow bends at the end of the phrase.

The last part of the solo is also played with a lot of legato and ending with series of vibratos and a dive bar on the open A string.

Verse 2: 2:42 - 3:19

The second verse is pretty close to the first one except for the fill at the end, which is played mostly with a lot of pull-offs.

Bridge: 3:19 - 3:54

The bridge consists of 2 guitar parts: both parts are played with slides and vibrato.

Guitar solo 2: 3:54 - 4:55

This solo starts with fast arpeggios, then goes to the short part played with power chords, hammer-ons and slides, and followed by tremolo picking.

Then goes a section with a half-step trills.

The rest of the solo varies in album and live versions, and presented by series of outstanding runs, which is a true example of Randy Rhoads' legacy.

Recommended lessons

Verse riffs

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The main solo

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Bridge

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Outro solo

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Bridge and outro solo played at full and slow speed

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Bass line

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23 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Khetag
    I'm soooo not gonna be able to play the solos with my current skill:/ 
    anders.jorgense
    Bob Daisley wrote the lyrics for both albums and more + shaped the music with Randy, Lee Kerslake and Ozzy who was mostly a drunken slob and providing much at all except vocal lines.
    Circumstances23
    I was thinking the same thing. I have always been a huge ozzy fan, but this makes me lose any respect for him. He shamelessly LIES about writing multiple songs and tells a bullshit story on how he came up with the story. How can you trust someone who takes credit for songs they didn't write a single line of. Can't blame this one on Sharon.
    eatfresh1736
    My favorite Crowley related Ozzy story is when Ozzy went to check out Zakk Wylde's newly built Black Vatican (his home recording studio). Zakk had all sorts of cool pictures and art, even in the bathroom. Ozzy went in the bathroom, pointed to a picture, and asked him "Who the hell is this guy?" Zakk told him "This guy? C'mon, you know him! Blank stare. Zakk: "He's THE man! Crowley! You know!" Ozzy: "Crowley?"
    Iceman10129
    Ozzy's face at the end of the 1981 Live video is just great.  You can just see the fun in his smile.
    kill it
    Randy Rhoads was one of the best ever. Not just a unique player for the time period but a guitarist with great technical skill that could compose great songs and solos. No mindless wanking, just great musical ideas. Yesterday marked the 35th year since he passed away. I sure wish he was still around.
    cmvideo
    That Yngwie cover of this song is horrendous.  What was he thinking with those solos?  I guess Yngwie just can't help himself.
    jimmyslashpage
    It might not be as bad as the Cradle of Filth version. It sounds like Dethklok satire without the fun or good music. 
    MrKRB64
    I thought Alexi did a decent job combining both Randys licks and his own unlike Yngwie:
    KingV911
    The live version on the Ozzy "Tribute" album is my favorite.  That whole album sounds better than the studio versions.  
    SWIFTERS
    No mention of Don Airey's classic keyboard intro, one of the greatest of all time? Seriously?
    hamiltr
    Nearly vomited listening to wanksteens version.  No melody what's so ever.