32 years ago, Ozzy committed ‘The Ultimate Sin!’
The Prince of Darkness released The Ultimate Sin, his fourth solo studio album on Feb. 22, 1986. It marks the final appearance of lead guitarist Jake E. Lee and is the first and only Ozzy album to feature bassist Phil Soussan, who co-wrote the album’s only hit single “Shot in the Dark”. Drummer Randy Castillo, who previously played in Lita Ford’s band, also makes his recording debut on this one.
Upon returning from the Betty Ford Center in ’85 where he had once again undergone treatment for substance abuse, Ozzy was presented with a substantial amount of music already written by Jake. After having been cheated out of writing and publishing rights for Ozzy’s previous album, ’83’s Bark At The Moon, Lee says this time he refused to contribute anything until he had a contract in front of him guaranteeing his writing credit and publishing rights. Much of this music would form the basis of the album. The album’s lyrics were largely written by long-time Ozzy bassist and lyricist Bob Daisley. Daisley left the band prior to recording after having a disagreement with Ozzy, prompting the hiring of Soussan as his replacement. Daisley was not credited for his songwriting contributions on the initial 1986 pressing of the album, though this was corrected on subsequent pressings.
At the time of its release, The Ultimate Sin was Ozzy’s highest charting studio album, as heavy metal was enjoying a surge in popularity during the mid-1980’s.
“The Ultimate Sin” is the opening track on Ozzy’s fourth studio album of the same name. Originally, future Y&T and Megadeth drummer Jimmy DeGrasso worked with Lee and Daisley on demos for the album, but this version of the band fell apart due to Ozzy’s commitment to the Black Sabbath 1985 summer reunion concert at Live Aid. Castillo and Soussan ultimately replaced DeGrasso and Daisley once recording commenced.
The original working title for the album was Killer of Giants, after the album’s song of the same name. Ozzy however, opted to change the title to The Ultimate Sin at the last minute. On April 1, 1986, a live performance promoting the album in Kansas City, Missouri was filmed and released later that year as the home video The Ultimate Ozzy. In 1987, after various tours in support of the album had concluded, guitarist Jake E. Lee was unexpectedly fired via a telegram by Ozzy’s wife and manager Sharon. The specific justification for Lee’s dismissal remains unknown. Bassist Soussan also departed, as Bob Daisley once again entered the fold.
“Shot in the Dark” is the final track on Ozzy’s ’86 album The Ultimate Sin. It was a top-ten hit on Mainstream rock radio and the song also became his most successful single on the Billboard Hot 100 at the time, peaking at number 68.
While the song is commonly credited to Ozzy, the writing of the song originated with bassist Phil Soussan, who was part of the band Wildlife in the early ’80’s and composed the tune’s melody. Fellow bandmates wrote the original lyrics and arrangement and demoed a derivative version of the song. Several years later when Soussan joined Ozzy’s band they re-worked it. This authorship issue has become a source of contention over the years, and in spite of its success, the song has rarely appeared on any of Ozzy’s greatest hits compilations as a result. One exception was the original release of The Ozzman Cometh; however, the song was omitted from the 2002 re-mastered re-release of this compilation and replaced with “Miracle Man.”
The Ultimate Sin has since been deleted from Ozzy’s catalog and was not reissued or remastered along with the rest of his albums in 2002. Rumours circulated that the continuing legal battle between Ozzy and Phil Soussan over the song “Shot in the Dark” was responsible for the album’s failure to be re-issued. However, that was said to have been resolved in the early ’90’s.
Universally depicted as Ozzy’s weakest effort and hated by most critics upon its initial release, The Ultimate Sin was also considered to be a mainstream, predictable, uninspired, slickly produced radio-friendly album by hardcore fans. Even I myself, have had a love/hate relationship with it. (But now, in my honest opinion, it is easily one of his best albums, and features some amazing guitar work by the extremely underrated Jake E. Lee! It deserves to be dug out and dusted off from you collection and given an extra listen or two!)