Monday, January 20, 2014

32 years Ago Today Des Moines, Iowa Became a Part of Rock and Roll History

January 20, 1982 was a night that will go down in the historic annuals of rock and roll. That night Ozzy Osbourne escalated himself to the top of the heavy metal food chain after he bit the head off of what he thought was a rubber bat a fan had thrown onstage. 

Only thing is, it wasn't a toy. It was the real thing.

That event happened in Des Moines, Iowa at Veterans Memorial Auditorium. He was in town in support of his Diary Of A Madman tour, which apparently wasn't just a hyped up album name. Already known as one of the craziest front men in rock, Ozzy was at the height of his drug problem when he rolled through central Iowa.


Ozzy during the '80s, courtesy of the Associated Press
Almost 5000 fans braved the strong winter weather to attend this concert. One of them was a teenager named Mark Neal, who had smuggled a special "treat" in with him as an offering to the Prince of Darkness. It was the corpse of a bat that Neal's brother had brought home from school a couple of weeks prior - alive. According to Neal, he and his brother were unable to keep their pet from dying. Knowing of Osbourne's wild antics, Neal's friends convinced him to seal the rotting bat in a baggie and sneak it into the show.

Neal tossed the bat onto the stage and upon seeing it, Ozzy picked it up and bit it's head off. The rest is history. After the show, Ozzy - in his tour bus - was rushed to Broadlawns Medical Center to get shots for rabies.

In 2004 Rolling Stone magazine listed the incident as No. 2 on a list of "Rock's Wildest Myths." The article states that the bat was alive at the time of it's beheading, despite Neal's story to the contrary. In the booklet that accompanied the 2002 re-release of Diary of a Madman, Ozzy also claims that the bat was alive, and had even bitten him.

Some have called it, "The chomp heard 'round the world."


Ticket No. 1 printed for the concert, courtesy of
Matt Beaderstadt
Matt Beaderstadt, a teenager at the time from Newton, Iowa attended the concert. He actually owns the very first ticket (stub) printed for the show. "I was given general admission tickets 1-4," he explains. "My brother in law's dad was an executive with Dubinsky Theaters (now Carmike) and he use to trade movie passes with executives from Vets, Civic Center, Adventureland etc... I had the hook up for free tickets all the time in junior high and high school! It was great." 

"I don't know how many times I had the manager's seats to the Civic Center for a ton of rock concerts," he added. Although he says he doubts he would ever sell the ticket stub, he wonders about it's worth among memorabilia collectors.

The following is a brief recollection of the events of the night according to Matt and a few of his friends.

Matt: It says on my concert poster that UFO opened up for Ozzy. I've seen UFO several times but I didn't remember them being together?

Curt Buchmeier: Opening band, I believe, was called "After The Fire" from Australia. Someone in the band was related to the Youngs of ACDC, I heard. Lead singer mispronounced Des Moines and the crowd began yelling and throwing things onstage, which carried over into the Ozzy show. It was general seating yet somehow, the Newton crowd assembled in the balcony off stage-right. This was before cell phones. I do NOT recall anyone at or after the show saying that Ozzy bit a bat. That info wasn't common knowledge 'til it was in the Des Moines Register the next day. It was a school night also. Those days are gone - never will my kids attend a concert - Ozzy concert no less!, with a bunch of their friends on a school night, with a foot of snow on the ground and snowing without parental supervision. Far and away one of the best concert experiences of my youth. Randy Rhoads was amazing and I couldn't wait to get to my band's rehearsal the next evening. We learned "Crazy Train" and "Iron Man" that week.

Shannon Spiess: Ozzy had a great Gothic stage for that concert. Randy Rhodes was awesome. The midget stole the show. Buchmeier is right, the opening band was After the Fire.

Matt: I was right down front before joining Curt and everyone. A guy in the crowd had the bat and was holding it up to Ozzy. Ozzy either said "is that a bat I want to meet?" or perhaps it was "I want to eat that f'n bat!" The guy threw it on stage, Ozzy picked it up and bit the head off. We couldn't tell if it was real or rubber or dead or alive. Ozzy was also letting doves loose which I believe were all found dead later. All a little foggy. Ozzy was kicking the dwarf over and then hung him in effigy. Randy Rhoads was amazing. Crazy show!


Flyer handed out during the show.
Note different opening band
(Photo courtesy of Jim McNeer)
Curt: Absolutely crazy atmosphere, crowd was amped up and weed smoke filled Vets before the show even started. The crowd was beyond fired up, yet a sense of camaraderie prevailed; people from all over the state sharing contraband of all sorts and just a general sense of good will and anticipation. Then Rhoads was killed in a plane wreck a couple of months later and we all shared that sense of loss and pride that we had seen him live before he went.

Shannon: I'll never forget my old man saying, "In 20 years from now you'll never remember you went to this concert."

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1 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hash joints,LSD and Ozzy best birthday ever just wish I could have tried the vitamin A the little dude they hung as part of the show had for sale