Here is an interview that appeared in the German ROCKS magazine in October 2009. Krusher was happy to do this interview and provide photos and a unique insight and only asked for one thing in return - a mention for this site. The interviewer agreed to that but he didn't keep his word. Just thought we'd mention it...

How do you remember coming up with the idea for the “Diary Of A Madman” record sleeve –  the spooky setting, the details, Ozzy’s dressing, the kid in the background etc.

I was first asked if I’d be interested in working on the project by legendary photographer Fin Costello, who’d previously worked for DEEP PURPLE, RUSH and KISS. We’d met in Motorhead’s management office, went for a drink and the rest is history.

Fin had already had a meeting with Jet Records (Ozzy’s label) about doing the cover and was now looking for ideas to turn his phenomenal photographic skills towards. When we first discussed it several ideas were mentioned, but we both agreed that there had to be an element of Hammer Horror humour and the occult about it, hence the upside down cross and the poster with the strange magic alphabet on the wall.

I designed the poster and it uses the Theban Alphabet, which I’d seen in a magazine I used to buy as a teenager called ‘Man, Myth, and Magic’. It actually says ‘OZZY OSBOURNE THE BAND’. The rest are just scribbles.

My original idea for the cover was to have Ozzy very much in the foreground, in fact more of a head and shoulders shot, with him laughing madly in front of his diary, which was to be one of those big, old leather bound books, with the head of a dove lying on it.

The background for the shot was to be a semi-derelict castle interior, with the heavy oak door broken from its hinges, where Ozzy had knocked it down when entering the room and through the door there was a dark landscape with a full moon visible in the sky.

But Fin had other ideas, although the full moon appeared on a later sleeve.

Who is the kid in the background actually? Was it a legal problem to show a kid on record sleeve back then?

The young boy in the background was Ozzy’s six year old son John, from his first marriage to Thelma. Thelma also designed and made the costumes worn on the cover.

There was absolutely no thought at all that putting a young boy on the cover would be a problem. Nowadays I guess it’s a whole different ballgame.

But in this case it was part of the concept that Fin had come up with for the album.

On the front Ozzy is represented as a clothes torn, blood splattered, crazy eyed, leering madman. John is supposed to represent a young Ozzy reading the diary of what he’d become, with a dead bird lying on the table, a possible gift from the cat arching it’s back in the window.

On the back John is replaced by the Ozzy from the front, a burnt out shell, draped across the table, like the bird, whilst in the background the new Ozzy emerges, clean of blood, his arms raised in as if in a crucifixion pose, dressed in a fresh and more bold costume. The upside down cross almost looks like it’s stuck into his skull.

What it all means I have no fucking idea!!! But it still brings a smile to my face, but what brings a bigger smile is that after the photo shoot was finished, someone thought it would be funny to ask young John what Daddy did with dead birds, referring to the stuffed one that had been lying on the table. Without any hesitation John picked up the bird and bit its head off! That cost us £200!!

How detailed was the “mental” image of the final artwork you had in mind and did you have to make compromises finalising the artwork?

I had a very definite idea of what I wanted to see on the cover, but I’d never worked with a photographer of Fin’s calibre and never with a decent budget to spend on props and scenery. I guess I didn’t really have the confidence to push for what I wanted and so I certainly had to make compromises, but I’m glad that I did.

Please tell us about the runes and letters on the inner sleeve. There used to be a lot of talk about “satanic” messages. How long did it take to draw that stuff and IS there ANY meaning?

Well I’ve already told you that I used the Theban Magic Alphabet on the poster, but I also used it on the black and white inner sleeve.

Above the picture of the band, it reads, THE OZZY OSBOURNE BAND and on the other side of the sleeve, which, was supposed to represent two pages from the madman’s diary, the word on the left says FRIDAY and the word on the right SATURDAY. The illustrations were my interpretation of some astronomical geographic illustrations that I’d found in a 1934 “Philips’ Universal Atlas”. Every home should have one.

I also hand lettered the lyrics, but as this was a time before computer technology I had to do them larger than they appeared on the sleeve and then have them reduced to drop into the space I’d left for them. However when the reduced lyrics were delivered to my flat I realised that I’d fucked up. They were actually smaller than the space that I’d wanted them to fill.

To make matters worse the phone rings and it’s Jet Records telling me that a cab was being sent to pick up the artwork. I realised that I had about forty minutes before it would get to my flat and I literally picked up a pen and started scribbling. There are NO hidden satanic messages. The only message in there is ‘PAM 4 Mr.S’. Pam was my girlfriend at the time, and Mr.S was my nickname.

However that wasn’t how the media saw it, especially in America where the indecipherable scrawls were picked up on, and according to them was the very hand of Satan himself. Fucking hilarious.

Was it difficult to convince Ozzy/Sharon/the label of your ideas? Did/do they like it?

No, once the idea had been put forward things moved very quickly. Did they like it? I hope so, it certainly brought them enough publicity that not even money could buy.

Have you been familiar with the music of the Ozzy back then? Did you know the material of the record when you started working on the sleeve?

I was very familiar with Ozzy’s work, especially his Black Sabbath output. I’d first seen Black Sabbath in concert at Malvern Winter Gardens on the 30th May, 1970 and they’d been a very important part of my wanting to work in the rock ‘n’ roll industry. I’d heard Ozzy’s ‘Blizzard Of Ozz’ and was suitably impressed as the stories circulating about him at the time were that he was completely out of control, was an alcoholic, drug addict and probably didn’t have long to live.

When I started work on ‘Diary...’ I was given an advance cassette copy to listen too. I’ve still got it, and that’s what I did whilst creating the artwork, and very inspiring it was too. On first listen I knew that I was privileged to be part of something that was going to be HUGE!!

How long did you actually work on the realization of the concept?

To be honest it was so long ago that I really don’t know, but I would imagine that from my first meeting with Fin Costello to actually sending finished artwork to the printers would have taken four to six weeks.

Was it easier to come up with this concept or with the ones for the following Ozzy records?
To be honest all the work that I did for Ozzy was relatively easy, but with ‘Speak Of The Devil’ a decision had been made that we would carry on using my supposed Satanic handwriting, but this time we’d actually put some real messages in there using Runes.

However I did put one message into the Satanic scribbles that read ‘NO HIDDEN MESSAGES’, and as for ‘Bark At The Moon’, well that was a very easy one for me to work on as all I had to do was design the logo and lettering for the front cover and then do a layout for the back cover and inner sleeve.

What are your thoughts regarding this artwork today?

‘Diary Of A Madman’ was my first BIG break as far as album covers were concerned; I’d done one for Hawkwind, ‘Live ’79’, and a few covers for small independent labels, but this was the first one where I knew that it was going to be seen by a far larger audience.

I’m still very proud that I was part of that project, and I’m still proud of the cover.

I also find it amazing that 28 years later people still ask me questions about it and tell me how much they still love it.

What was your first sleeve-work and how did it come you got in that kind of business?

The first cover that I ever did was for a live EP for a young punk band called called Eater. The EP was called 'Get Your Yo Yo's Out'.

This was back in the day when bands did different coloured sleeves, different coloured vinyls and any other marketing ploy to try and get it some attention. In fact, if my memory serves me well, their drummer went under the magnificent moniker of Dee Generate, and he was only 12!!!!

  But someone that I greatly admired was a designer called Barney Bubbles who'd done a lot of work for Hawkwind. That had made a very big impression on me, and also came up with the brilliant line 'If it ain't Stiff it ain't worth a fuck' for the much missed Stiff Records label.

Anyway I plucked up courage and phoned the great man to ask him if he would look at my portfolio, to which he kindly agreed and I went to see him in his studio. He was not only very complimentary about my work but asked me to join him and a few other unknown, young designers for brain storming meetings that he held every few weeks in a pub near his studio. Splendid times, very special and very magical!!

  One day I got a call from Barney asking me if I would like to design the ‘Parallel Lines’ tour programme for Blondie. I said yes, which subsequently led to designing tour programmes for Motorhead, Girlschool, Hawkwind, Sammy Hagar, Ted Nugent and Black Sabbath, to name a few.

I remember doing Hawkwind's 10th anniversary tour programme in 72 hours without sleep and handfuls of really good acid and on the strength of that I got asked to do the Hawkwind Live '79 album sleeve. And, as I said at the beginning of this interview, the rest is history!

Steve ‘KRUSHER’ Joule 19/09/09
  diary of a madman


ozzy osbourne


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