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Nuno Bettencourt Turned Down Ozzy Osbourne Guitarist Gig, Then Extreme Broke Up Three Weeks Later

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I’m not sure the extent to which this is common knowledge in Ozzy lore, but guitarist Nuno Bettencourt — best known for his work with Extreme — was offered the vaunted guitarist slot in the Prince of Darkness’s band when Zakk Wylde left (the first time) in 1994. But it’s the story of how it happened — and Nuno’s historical obsession with the Ozzy gig — that will surely be new info for all.

On the recent Oh Say Can You Stream livestream/livechat, hosted by Thom Hazaert and Megadeth’s David Ellefson [and transcribed by Ultimate Guitar], Nuno told the story about how he first applied for the job as a 16-year-old after Randy Rhoads’ death in 1982, then finally got the call over a decade later… and turned it down, only for Extreme to break up a few weeks later:

“I remember reading Circus or maybe Hit Parader and there was an ad – a little ad that said, ‘Ozzy looking for a guitarist,’ and, ‘Send your demo here.’ Like, learn a couple of tracks and send them. I just quit high school, I don’t know how fucking old I was [he was turning 16 that year] – and I’m like, ‘This is my gig! I’m getting this gig!’ [Chuckles] You know, you believe it at 15 years old.

“So I literally borrowed an Eventide Harmonizer from one of my producer friends to get that Randy [Rhoads] sound – I put it in my bedroom, locked the door so nobody would come in, and thought I was nailing ‘Crazy Train.’ I was like, ‘I’m gonna send this bad boy with a letter, put it in the mail, and I’m just gonna wait ’cause this gig is mine!’ [Laughs] And I wanted, and I waited… ‘What do you mean it didn’t come in?! That’s impossible!’

“So, years go by, everything went on, and then years later – we’re talking… That was in ’82; now, cut to 1994 and, on tour, in London, opening for Aerosmith [with Extreme], and [agent] Rod MacSween comes over. He comes to the gig, pulls me over to the van, really seriously, and, ‘Hey, I need to talk to you…’ And this is when Zakk [Wylde], I believe, had split. So, he says, ‘I just got a call from Sharon [Osbourne]’ – and he’s telling me this in a hallway, it’s just me and him. ‘I just got a call from Sharon on the way here. She said, ‘Talk to Nuno; if he wants, there will be a jet somewhere at London Heathrow. If he leaves right now, he can go straight on tour. No audition.’

“And he’s telling me all this, I haven’t said a word, he’s going on, he’s giving me all the details… And you know how when somebody talks in movies and their voice disappears and it’s just silence? When he finally finished, all the sound came back, and all I could muster when I looked at him was, ‘They heard the cassette? They finally heard the cassette?!’ And he’s like, ‘What cassette…?’ ‘Never mind, never mind!’ This was torturing me for 12 years.

“And what did I say? ‘No, I can’t do it. I’m in my band’ and whatever. Which was a stupid mistake because then my band broke up, like, three weeks later.”

We can only imagine what Ozzy’s band would’ve been like with Nuno as axeman — phenomenal, I’m sure! In that alternate timeline only DLR superfans would know who Joe Holmes is, it would’ve been Nuno on Ozzmosis instead of Zakk Wylde briefly returning to the fold and then leaving again, and who knows what delicious fruit would have been born of that collaboration! Looking further ahead, in that scenario maybe Zakk would never have returned in 2001, and Nuno likely would never have joined Rihanna’s band, and… we could make ourselves crazy with conjecture here, so I’m gonna stop. But man, crazy shit, eh?

Mark Weiss, one of the chat’s hosts, has a new book out, The Decade That Rocked. Pick it up here.

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