Remember When: Ozzy Osbourne Bit the Head Off a Bat

While there are many headline-making moments in rock music history, there are none quite as notorious as Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off a bat. The scene is set at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 20, 1982. At that point, the former lead singer of Black Sabbath had well-earned his nickname “Prince of Darkness,” as evidenced by his solo studio albums Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman and his wild stage presence. He also had a history of animal torment, going so far as eating part of a live dove during a business meeting with CBS Records and was known to snort ants like cocaine on tour. 

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So when he took the stage at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, it should come as no surprise that all hell broke loose when a then-17-year-old fan, Mark Neal, threw a bat onstage. Tapping into his wild man instincts, the rock star proceeded to bite the head off. Neal later claimed that he and his brother brought the bat home from school when it was alive, but it died two weeks before the concert. “It really freaked me out,” Neal told the Des Moines Register in 1982 about the Osbourne incident. 

The singer then had to be rushed to a local hospital to get 24 rabies shots. “I get a lot of weird people at my concerts, it’s kind of rock and roll,” Osbourne told David Letterman about how he thought it was a toy bat. He then did the unthinkable and bit the head off. “Suddenly, everybody’s freaking out because it’s a real bat,” he described. “I can assure you the rabies shots that I went through afterward are not fun. Very painful.” 

He echoed this statement in another 1982 interview. “All I did was get up there and make a mistake of biting the head off a bat, and I’ll tell you what guys, it ain’t fun when you get them rabies shots,” he asserted. “Them shots hurt. It’s heavy duty.” Despite the intense medical procedure, Osbourne said with a smile that he wasn’t deterred from doing something like that again in the future.

“The name of the town of Des Moines is embossed in my head!” Osbourne said to the Register in 2001. “I’ve had some mileage from Des Moines.”

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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  1. Along with his talent, his over the top actions solidified him into forever stardom for the fairly new sub genre, of that time, of shock rock.

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