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The last remaining original member of Quiet Riot is hell bent to keep the band’s music alive

Dec. 8, 2022 Updated Thu., Dec. 8, 2022 at 12:58 p.m.

Quiet Riot will perform Sunday at Northern Quest Resort and Casino.  (Courtesy of Alex Grossi)
Quiet Riot will perform Sunday at Northern Quest Resort and Casino. (Courtesy of Alex Grossi)
By Ed Condran For The Spokesman-Review

Even though Rudy Sarzo has played with such icons as Ozzy Osborne, the late Ronnie James Dio and Blue Oyster Cult, his favorite experience has been playing bass with Quiet Riot.

“There is no question about that,” Sarzo said while calling from his Los Angeles home. “For proof, there’s the fact that I decided to leave one of the biggest bands in the world, Ozzy Osborne, after I got a call in September of 1982, to be in a band with an unknown future because there was so much joy in Quiet Riot.”

Sarzo, 72, was part of the first incarnation of Quiet Riot in 1978, which included guitar hero Randy Rhoads and vocalist Kevin DuBrow.

“We were like every other band in L.A. in that we were looking for a record deal,” Sarzo said. “But it was so much more than that since it was fun being with Randy and Kevin.”

Rhoads left to write, record and tour with Osborne in 1980. Thanks to Rhoads, Sarzo joined Osborne’s band the following year. However, after Rhoads died in a crash in 1982, Sarzo was in disarray. While he was recovering he received a call from DuBrow inviting him back to Quiet Riot.

“I was leaving an incredible gig to be with this band that had uncertainty written all over it,” Sarzo said. “But when you’re a musician, it’s got to be what you’re most excited about. I hoped that things would work out with Quiet Riot and we would find some success.”

Quiet Riot, which will perform Sunday at Northern Quest Resort & Casino, scored a major label deal and wrote and recorded “Metal Health” in 1982. The album was buoyed by the infectious cover of Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize,” and the title track, which became a metal anthem.

“The song ‘Metal Health’ was inspired by what I told Kevin was happening at shows in the UK when I was playing with Ozzy,” Sarzo said. “There was no internet then so nobody knew what was going on unless you told them. I told Kevin how metal fans were literally banging their heads on the stage when we played. I could see the wheels turning in Kevin’s head and he wrote the lyrics to ‘Metal Health,’ which was huge for us.”

“Metal Health” displaced the final Police studio release, “Synchronicity,” at number 1 on the Billboard album chart in 1983.

“It was unreal,” Sarzo said. “What I experienced was a lesson in chasing your dream and doing what you’re most passionate about. I had the greatest time with Kevin and (drummer) Frankie (Banalli). It was an experience that people dream about.”

DuBrow passed away in 2007 due to a cocaine overdose and Banali succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2020. The lone original member of Quiet Riot believes he is on a mission while on tour.

“I’m compelled to keep this band alive since I’m out there to celebrate the memory of Frankie, Kevin and Randy,” Sarzo said. “It’s about keeping the legacy of Quiet Riot going. This band gives me a purpose. Before Quiet Riot, it would just be about playing some music. Now there is a truckload of emotion when I perform.”

Quiet Riot, which also includes vocalist Jizzy Pearl, guitarist Alex Grossi and drummer Johnny Kelly, has an old school approach.

“When you see us it’s not about a big production,” Sarzo said. “It’s about overwhelming productions for some bands these days. There are bands out there I see with big productions and I don’t know who the members of the bands are, which is strange. The biggest production I was part of was with Ozzy when we had a castle behind us and there was a midget running around the stage. But we realized that the fans were distracted by all that was going on around us and not focusing on the music. But today bands play in front of castles on the stage and it’s designed so fans don’t focus on the band.”

Sarzo plans to keep Quiet Riot, which will co-headline with Queensryche on Sunday at Northern Quest Resort and Casino, for as long as he can. “I’m going to focus on this band and do all that I can to keep the music alive,” Sarzo said. “The guys who passed on would love it.”

Sarzo sighed when speaking of Rhoads. “Randy is this larger than life figure in death and it’s interesting to me since I think back to the days with Ozzy during the ‘80s and Randy still lived at home with his mother,” Sarzo recalled. “For some musicians playing music is about attracting girls. But for Randy music was like food. It kept him going. He came from a musical family. His mother and father were music teachers. I learned so much from him.”

Sarzo and Osbourne were asleep when the prop plane clipped Osbourne’s tour bus killing Rhoads. “That’s what I woke up to and it was beyond awful,” Sarzo said. “Just thinking about it puts me into a funk.”

Sarzo recalls what it was like toward Dio’s last days. “I remember seeing him in Atlantic City before his final show with Heaven and Hell,” Sarzo said. “Ronnie was nursing a beer and he said, ‘I have bad heartburn.’ ”

Shortly after that 2009 show Dio learned that he had stomach cancer. The diminutive Dio, who possessed a massive set of pipes, died in May of 2010. “I learned so much from Dio, who was incredible,” Sarzo said. “Too many of these amazing musicians are leaving us. The job for us remaining is to carry on their legacy. The good thing is that it’s a labor of love.”

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