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Ozzy Osbourne signs copies of his autobiography in Las Vegas, Feb. 18, 2010.

Ethan Miller/2010 Getty Images

Has he lost his mind, can he see or is he blind? Can he walk at all, or if he moves will he fall? Is he alive or dead, has he thoughts within his head? We'll just pass him there - why should we even care?

These Dr. Seuss-like wonderings, first posed on the lumbering 1971 Black Sabbath horror-song Iron Man, could now refer to Ozzy Osbourne. He's the intoning voice of that monstrous ditty and the subject of a new autobiography, I Am Ozzy.

The book, the second-most popular memoir in Canada last week behind Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage, is another garish float in the recent parade of rock-star tell-alls. It's an entertaining read, with the ghost-authored Osbourne coming off as a willing but often apologetic driver of his own spill-a-minute crazy train.

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About his wild antics, the singer of "finished with my woman cause she couldn't help me with my mind" is forthcoming, but not in a sensational way. He's regretful, without resorting to maudlin self-service.

That's all people think I did, was biting the head off animals. I mean, I could still probably bite the head off something, but what's the point?

Talking on the phone from his Los Angeles home (he also lives part-time in England), the madman in his dotage is lucid and garrulous. He stammers a bit and drops F-bombs like a drunken sailor at an F-bomb convention, but he's willing to talk about anything, including his own epitaph.

"I don't have a choice," says the avuncular overlord of devil-and-doom music, about his gravestone message. "It's whatever they want to put - I'm not so bigheaded enough to say 'Ozzy Osbourne was a great human being.' "

It's doubtful anyone else will say anything like that either. But if he wasn't/isn't a great human being, the native of Birmingham, England points out that among other things he "entertained a lot of people and kept people going for another day." (Except for the teenager who shot himself in 1985 while listening to Osbourne's live album Speak of the Devil. That story, involving a lawsuit, is fully retold in I Am Ozzy).

Epicurus (the philosopher, not the stripper) said that "Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist." That may or may not be Greek to Osbourne, who closes his book with a passage he worries will mark his tombstone: "Ozzy Osbourne, born 1948. Died, whenever. He bit the head off a bat."

Yes, the infamous man-bites-bat episode, Jan. 20, 1982, on stage at the Veterans Auditorium in Des Moines, Iowa. (This is a different incident than the record-label meeting where Osbourne munched a dove). In Des Moines, thinking the stunned myotis lucifugus was a rubber toy, the wailing singer chomped it good. Immediately he realized his mistake: "For a start, my mouth was instantly full of this warm, gloopy liquid, with the worst aftertaste you could ever imagine," Osbourne recounts in chapter seven. "I could felt it staining my teeth and running down my chin. Then the head in my mouth twitched."

As you might imagine it would. But if the bat didn't fare so well in this macabre bit of showmanship, neither has Osbourne - he's never lived the incident down. "That's all people think I did, was biting the head off animals," says the exasperated so-called Prince of Darkness. "I mean, I could still probably bite the head off something, but what's the point?"

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Surprisingly, the formerly avid druggie and drinker is able to recount all the stories. "My long-term memory is okay, but not my short-term memory," says the absent-minded star of the MTV reality show The Osbournes from 2002 to 2005. "I walk up and down stairs, forgetting what I was walking up the stairs for. Readers benefit from his still functioning lobes, as the 391-page book is chock full of alcohol-related anecdotes and tawdry tidbits.

It's not all sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, though. "There's a human side to me," the often outrageous Osbourne insists. Asked about regrets, he mentions a few things, particularly the way he failed to help his parents financially after he hit the big time with Black Sabbath in 1970. "When you come from the backstreets of Birmingham, all of a sudden you've got a car, you've got a house, you can buy a drink and you can buy good drugs. You suddenly think you're up-market."

In many ways, he is indeed up-market - to the surprise of many, including Osbourne himself. "I still think I'm that bum from the street," admits the former plumber and slaughterhouse worker. "People are freaking out at my book signings, and I still think I'm not worthy of it all.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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