Michael Anthony has detailed a memorable – and bizarre – early touring experience, when he watched Ozzy Osbourne light his Black Sabbath bandmate Bill Ward on fire.

It was 1978 when Van Halen, then one of rock’s fastest rising acts, was touring with Black Sabbath. “We had the best time opening up for Black Sabbath,” Anthony recalled during a recent conversation with Sirius XM’s Eddie Trunk. “We came out like gangbusters every night.”

By all accounts, Osbourne’s group was in rough shape at the time due to alcohol and drug abuse, but Anthony noted that the metal legends “still knew how to have fun offstage.”

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“Ozzy, Bill Ward and myself would be sitting at the bar at the hotel after the show having a beer,” the bassist recalled, detailing one of his favorite memories from the tour. “Ozzy would elbow me and go, ‘Hey, Michael. Check this out.’ And he’d just turn over and pick up a lighter and light Bill Ward's beard on fire.”

To Anthony’s shock, Ward didn’t seem fazed by the spontaneous ignition

“He just snuffed it out,” Anthony remembered, “and didn't even skip a beat.”

The Van Halen bassist soon deduced that Ward was used to these kinds of shenanigans, even if such an act seemed wild to everyone else.

“[Ward] didn't even flinch,” Anthony noted. “He just kept drinking his beer.”

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While Black Sabbath seemed to enjoy fire play, Anthony revealed his own prank of choice was quite the opposite.

“My forte was fire extinguishers. Just kind of shooting them off where I shouldn't be,” the bassist confessed. “I've cleared a couple of hotels out my time. Had to pay the police off, stuff like that.”

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As Anthony explained, trashing hotels was seen as a rite of passage for rock bands at the time.

“We'd read what like Led Zeppelin would do, what Sabbath would do, what all these people would do on tour,” he recalled, before admitting “there was a lot of shenanigans that went down” on Van Halen’s early tours.

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Gallery Credit: Matthew Wilkening

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