Guitar World


An all-star panel of six-string — superstars including Dave Mustaine, Kirk Hammett, Zakk Wylde, Nita Strauss, Mark Morton, Tom Morello, Doug Aldrich — and many more explain why Randy Rhoads is still so relevant 40 years after his tragic death

- by Nick Bowcott

Forty years after his tragic death at age 25 — and one year after his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — GW pulls out all the stops to honor the legendary Randy Rhoads. We’ve got exclusive input from our all-star panel, including Zakk Wylde, Dave Mustaine, Kirk Hammett, Tom Morello, Nita Strauss, Paul Gilbert, Richie Faulkner, Rudy Sarzo, Courtney Cox, Doug Aldrich, Phil X and many more, plus a deluxe lesson with video, pedalboard facts, rare photos, an interview with Ozzy producer Max Norman, plus an update on Rhoads’ “lost” Jackson RR3 — and the results of our “What’s Randy’s greatest guitar solo?” poll, featuring bonus input from Zakk, Kirk, Dave, Nita and more

may seem, it was 40 years ago that STAGGERING AS IT a heart-wrenching tragedy claimed one of rock’s finest guitarists. His name? Randy Rhoads, Ozzy Osbourne’s brilliant guitarist, who was killed in a plane crash in Leesburg, Florida, on March 19, 1982, at age 25. In the space of a mere two studio albums with Ozzy (and two with Quiet Riot), this diminutive man with a giant talent made a massive, indelible impact on rock that was immediate and profound. Rhoads was a rarity; he was a game-changer in the truest sense of the term. The fact that four decades later his breathtaki­ng riffs, licks, solos and compositio­ns continue to inspire new generation­s of rock guitarists speaks volumes as to the enormity of his influence.

I’ve written numerous articles about Rhoads over the past four decades — and I was fortunate enough to meet him in the U.K. in 1981. What was he like, you ask? Humble and charming. I also got to work with Randy’s family on the Marshall 1959RR Randy Rhoads Signature Super Lead 100W Head (2007) and the Jackson Limited Edition Randy Rhoads Tribute Concorde (2010). I don’t mind admitting that being able to hold Randy’s legendary Concorde guitar as his dear mother, Delores (Dee), taught at her music school in 2009 was, without doubt, a priceless highlight of my life.

I could easily wax lyrical for several pages about Rhoads’ talent. Instead, I’m gonna turn things over to the likes of Zakk Wylde, Kirk Hammett, Nita Strauss, Rudy Sarzo, Tom Morello, Ozzy producer Max Norman, Dave Mustaine, Paul Gilbert, George Lynch, John 5 and many more talented guitarists, as their insightful words are far more interestin­g than mine.

The question I put to all of them was a simple one. Well, simple to ask, but not necessaril­y simple to answer: Why — after recording only two studio albums with Ozzy Osbourne — has Rhoads managed to stay relevant and influentia­l a whopping 40 years after his tragic death?

TOM MORELLO: I think Randy’s small body of work just speaks for itself. The limited videos we have of Randy playing are transcende­nt. Anyone who picks up a guitar with ambitions of playing rock ’n’ roll — now until forever — is going to be blown away by those Ozzy records and those short video clips. I first heard Randy on a Chicago radio station [that was] debuting “Crazy Train.” I was in the car with friends; I told them all to shut up because I could tell something incredible was coming through the speakers. From the opening riff to the solo, I had no idea what was going on, but I knew I had

to find out! I didn’t pick up the guitar until about a year and a half after hearing Randy, but I had a Randy poster on my wall when I was practicing eight hours a day. The fact that he was a musician first and a rock star second very much appealed to me. I wanted to dedicate myself to the art and craft of playing guitar, and Randy was a huge inspiratio­n in that regard.*

My son Roman, who’s 10, and my oldest son, Rhoads (who I named after Randy), continue to be in awe of what a special musician he was.

(*Editor’s Note: Tom is such a huge Randy fan that he lobbied — for many years — the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to induct the late, great guitarist. Morello’s efforts finally paid off in 2021. Morello gave the inductance speech — with some reverently enthusiast­ic help from Messrs. Hammett and Wylde. Speaking of whom…)

KIRK HAMMETT (Metallica): Randy was more than just a guitar player. He was a lion! He represente­d the hardworkin­g musician whose dedication to his instrument brought him all the success he deserved without compromisi­ng his attitude and vision via his riffs, songs, solos and tone. He also laid down the blueprint that shows us how to follow our own vision as well.

ZAKK WYLDE (BLS, Ozzy): We’re still talking about Randy today because of his compositio­ns. The reason the music of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart is still being listened to and played at places like the Hollywood Bowl is because of what they wrote, not because it was fast or flashy. That’s why people are still talking about them hundreds of years later. Randy’s relevance is the same as Bach’s, Beethoven’s or Mozart’s. It’s just a timeless thing — because it’s good. [Laughs] Just like the Eagles, Led

Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, there’s no “best before date.” It’s timeless. And it’s pretty mind-blowing that Randy was so young and creating such incredibly mature stuff. God bless him.

If he’d never passed away and just quit rock music [instead], the impact of those two Ozzy records would be just as devastatin­g. We’d still be celebratin­g them today, saying, “Oh man, I hope Randy goes back to playing heavy again one day.” I think those two albums were like a blueprint, just like when Henry Ford built the first car and now all cars are derivative­s of that car. Between Eddie and Randy, there was a changing of the guard. You had pointy guitars, guitars with paint jobs — like stripes and polkadots, all types of stuff. It was a new culture; a new breed of player, and Randy was at the forefront.

RICHIE FAULKNER (Judas Priest): There’s a lot to learn from Mr. Rhoads, whatever generation you’re from. From his classicall­y infused, unorthodox scales and note choices to the balls-out catchy, heavy-rock riffs and fantastic songwritin­g, he’ll never fail to inspire. Randy was and still is a pioneer of heavy rock guitar, and I think he will continue to be an inspiratio­n and an influence to generation­s of guitarists for many years to come.

PHIL X (Bon Jovi, the Drills): The main reason guitar players stay inspiratio­nal and relevant for decades is that they stand out from the herd. Why do you think kids start playing guitar and want to learn “Crazy Train”? It’s got teeth. From the tone to the licks to the solo, it’s unbridled energy ripping into your face with a guitar. That’s infectious and powerful. That’s Randy


PAUL GILBERT: He brought a classical influence and heavy metal guitar together in a really melodic way. He would include elements that were musically sophistica­ted and daring. He also rocked, and he never sounded too “prog.” If that’s not enough, he wrote “Crazy Train”! What a riff! Every guitar player wants to get their fingers into that

one. And that’s just the simple one. Long live Randy! MAX NORMAN (Producer, Blizzard of Ozz, Diary of a Madman and Tribute): Randy was an old-school player who had the ability to balance taste, speed, agility and feel to create something better than 100 percent. There’s a lot of expression and a lot of emotion in his playing, and those qualities are essential because they make all the difference. That’s why someone else could play the exact same thing and it would sound totally different — like something is missing. Randy had the musicality inside him that would enable him to play these things correctly and drag you into them. He always played with enthusiasm and a sense of occasion, tact and fire. He never phoned it in.

Randy just seems to leapfrog the generation­s. People hear him and realize he’s a truly great guitar player as opposed to just a technical monstrosit­y — and that’s what sets him apart from a lot of the modern players. There’s a million YouTube players who are astonishin­gly technicall­y good, but they leave me cold. I look at them and go, “How lovely and fast you are!” Randy wasn’t interested in how fast it was. He’d play slow if he felt that’s the right place to go; he knew when to leave holes and gaps, when to have a long note, when to have a short note. He didn’t over play. He played with taste and musicality. That’s what music is about; otherwise it’s not really music, it’s just some form of exercise. It might be impressive­ly hyper-accurate, but it leaves me cold.

NITA STRAUSS (Alice Cooper, solo):

Randy was not afraid to meld different genres and playing styles. He also processed some incredible shredding techniques but realized it wasn’t lame to do a beautiful acoustic piece as well. He was fearlessly, unapologet­ically and joyfully himself as an artist. I think that’s something to look up to, and also something that will never get old.

ALEX SKOLNICK (Testament):

Randy seemed like someone who was very genuine as a person and devoted as a musician. He was a refreshing break from the type who’d destroy hotel rooms and engage in other anti-social behavior. He studied with classical guitar teachers while on tour and planned to eventually return to school to study music at a higher level. He was the catalyst for my own decision to become a university-educated musician — although it was jazz in my case. He brought to heavy metal a much-needed dose of class and dignity, despite being in a band with Ozzy, someone who was as famous for his shock

 ?? ?? Randy Rhoads at the Oakland Coliseum with his 1974 Gibson Les Paul Custom, July 4, 1981
Randy Rhoads at the Oakland Coliseum with his 1974 Gibson Les Paul Custom, July 4, 1981
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