The Misunderstood Meaning Behind “Suicide Solution” by Ozzy Osbourne

With its ominous title, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Suicide Solution” was destined to cause controversy. The brooding song emerged on his debut album Blizzard of Ozz, which came out in the UK in September 1980 and a few months later in America. The former Black Sabbath frontman had already developed a reputation for being a rock and roll madman through various antics, and the song itself got caught in the media glare when a fan committed suicide after listening to it. It was one of those dark metal tracks that would be misunderstood by parents and detractors alike.

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Bassist Bob Daisley, who played on the first three Osbourne solo albums (and two later ones), wrote many of the lyrics to Osbourne’s early solo material, including “Suicide Solution,” and the words were actually inspired by the singer’s erratic behavior. He had been booted out of Black Sabbath in 1979 for his drug and alcohol excesses. Sharon Levy, later to become his wife, took him under her managerial wing and fashioned a solo career for Osbourne that enabled him to eclipse what Sabbath would do in the 1980s.

Misconstrued Lyrics

“Suicide Solution” was about someone slowly killing themselves through alcoholism. As with many songs performed by Osbourne and other heavy metal rockers, the lyrics were misconstrued as being satanic, or in this case encouraging one to inflict self-harm. But the song had a more poignant turn as Daisley was making an observation about what he saw in his musical friend.

Wine is fine, but whiskey’s quicker
Suicide is slow with liquor
Take a bottle, drown your sorrows
Then it floods away tomorrows
Away tomorrows
Evil thoughts and evil doings
Cold, alone, you hang in ruins
Thought that you’d escape the reaper
You can’t escape the Master Keeper

Heavy metal has often elicited controversy because of its dark, sometimes horror-based imagery and lyrics that reflect macabre or intense takes on real-world subjects, like “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley” from the first Ozzy album, not to mention its dramatic cover.

Teen’s Suicide Prompts Lawsuit

A major mainstay of Osbourne’s live set throughout his long career, “Suicide Solution” stirred up media headlines in 1985 when the parents of 19-year-old John McCollum sued the singer and CBS Records after the young fan shot himself in the head following listening to the song. The case was dismissed on the grounds of First Amendment protection. In court, Osbourne reportedly made the point that writing a song about killing yourself would not be good for him as he would not have many fans left. Such a comment, however, was controversial for another reason—proper songwriting crediting. While that has since been properly given, Daisley later sued Osbourne over unpaid royalties from the first two albums.

In an interview from his own website (and something reiterated in other press he has done), Daisley stated, “Ozzy has often said that he wrote ‘Suicide Solution’ about Bon Scott, AC/DC’s singer, but first and foremost Ozzy didn’t write it, I did. Bon Scott was a good friend of mine. I would be the first to say if it had been written about him. I wrote the lyrics as a warning of drinking yourself to death, inspired by Ozzy’s heavy drinking at the time and that the ‘solution’—as in ‘liquid’—is not the solution to the problem. I would like to add that in no way were the lyrics meant to encourage the act of suicide; on the contrary, they meant the opposite.”

The “Suicide Solution” court case was not the last involving parents trying to hold bands accountable for fan tragedy based on music. In 1986, two Judas Priest fans committed suicide by gunshot (one immediately died, the other three years later), and their parents sued the band. The teens had listened repeatedly to the album Stained Class before deciding to end their lives, and their lawyers used the crafty argument that alleged backwards or subliminal messages on the album encouraged the kids to kill themselves. Priest and their label eventually prevailed in court in 1990 as singer Rob Halford proved that whatever messages they might think were on the album were pure coincidence as he found plenty of other backwards nonsense on it too.

Heavy metal has often shirked making safe social commentary. It is the antithesis of the Top 40 music that has always dominated the charts. And if one were to really pay attention to many of the lyrics, they would find that there is a deeper, darker truth to a song like “Suicide Solution.” For many people, listening to such tracks can be a cathartic and life-affirming listening experience. Releasing dark thoughts through music is better than acting on them.

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Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns

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