Did Ozzy Osbourne ever really bite a bat's head off?

13 March 2024, 14:13

Did Ozzy Osbourne actually bite a bat's head off? (Photo: mpi09 / MediaPunch)
Did Ozzy Osbourne actually bite a bat's head off? (Photo: mpi09 / MediaPunch). Picture: Alamy

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

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It's an incident that he's never lived down.

Ozzy Osbourne, the 'Prince Of Darkness', was a renowned hell-raiser and prankster, one that comes with the territory of helping to invent heavy metal music with Black Sabbath.

On one particular night in 1982, Ozzy was performing on stage in a concert that would come back to haunt him for the remainder of his career.

Like many rock 'n' roll myths, you can never really confirm what episodes were fact, or a drug-induced fictionalised account of uncanny or downright bizarre events unfolding.

Well, during the eighties, anything associated with heavy metal music and its fandom was cause for concern by the conservative public.

Just imagine the uproar when the news broke that the music genre's masthead Ozzy Osbourne was partaking in rituals which were quickly perceived to be satanic.

But was it true? Did Ozzy Osbourne actually bite the head off of a live bat? Yes. Yes, he did.

Ozzy Osbourne on stage in 1982. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)
Ozzy Osbourne on stage in 1982. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

By the time Ozzy had performed at the Des Moines Veterans Memorial Auditorium on 20th January 1982, Ozzy had already been on tour for approximately a year.

Throughout that time, his stage antics got to the point where he'd throw raw meat at the audience, expecting them to launch various oddities back at him.

"I always liked old movies that used to have these custard-pie fights," Ozzy explained in the documentary The Nine Lives of Ozzy Osbourne.

"It gave me this idea to throw, instead of pie, bits of meat and animal parts into the audience. I thought it was hilarious. [They’d throw back] sheep testicles, live snakes, dead rats, all kinds of things. Someone once threw a live frog onto onstage. It was the biggest frog I’d ever seen, and it landed on its back."

During the concert in Des Moines however, Ozzy got more than he bargained for, as someone threw a living bat at him.

"I thought it was a rubber bat," Osbourne said. "I picked it up, put it in my mouth, crunched down, bit into it, being the clown that I am."

Ozzy Osbourne Bit The Head Off A Bat | Letterman

With the crowd gawping at him in horror as his mouth filled with blood, Ozzy realised he'd made a major error.

"Bats are the biggest carriers of rabies in the world, and I had to go to the hospital afterwards and they started giving me rabies shots. I had one one each rear and I had to have that every night."

The bat-biting incident garnered Ozzy the most attention he'd had in a decade, if ever, resulting in an appearance on Letterman.

From then onwards, the bat imagery loomed large over the raucous rocker: "It got to the point where people expected me to do crazier and crazier things," he said. "I'll tell you what guys - it ain’t fun when you get them rabies shots."

Things did get crazier - only weeks later he was arrested and banned from Texas for pissing on the Alamo, and his virtuoso guitarist Randy Rhoads tragically died in a plane crash, who was integral to Ozzy's resurgence.

"The taste of bats is very salty," Ozzy explained. (Photo by Eddie Sanderson/Getty Images)
"The taste of bats is very salty," Ozzy explained. (Photo by Eddie Sanderson/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

After divulging in his bat-eating exploits on Letterman, the Des Moines Veterans Memorial Auditorium changed their rules "to prohibit concert performers from using, presenting or in any way making live animals a part of a program at Vets without the consent of management."

When Ozzy returned to the fabled venue in 2007, the concert poster read: "No more bats. Love, Ozzy Osbourne".

Even to this day, bats are synonymous with Ozzy Osbourne, and have even become part of his brand identity.

However, if you ever get the chance to meet him, don't ask him "What do bats taste like?" after he said it was his least favourite question to answer.

The bats got their revenge of sorts in 2014, when Ozzy and his wife Sharon Osbourne were denied permission to convert a barn on their grounds due to it becoming the habitat of brown long-eared bats.

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