Sunday, May 16, 2010

RIP Ronnie James Dio

One of the first big rock concerts that I went to was Ronnie James Dio, who just died of cancer, fronting Black Sabbath on the Mob Rules tour back in the early 1980's. I'm not exactly sure how young I was, but I went with my father, which says something. We had a bit of a mixup outside - he thought I was going to meet him in front of the Hastings Park racetrack entrance - he'd been betting on the horses - but I was distressed and crying and wandering around in front of the Coliseum, having forgotten where he'd told me to go. Eventually he found me. My memories of that stressful moment are more vivid than the show itself. I also remember him complaining about how loud the opening band, The Outlaws, were, and perhaps remarking on Dio's relative lack of height once Sabbath took the stage, but that's about it. He didn't get the show much, but he enjoyed my enjoyment of it and indulged me and bought me a Mob Rules t-shirt, which was the first ever t-shirt I completely wore out, wearing it on occasions for days on end, until it finally stank so bad I had no choice but to put in the laundry.

I remember very little else from the show - vague memories of the band in black, dry ice fogging the stage, a long-haired, biker-looking audience that I found vaguely scary, and this strange sweet smell in the air after the lights went out that I'm sure my father had to explain to me (it was quite possibly my first actual encounter with marijuana smoke and perhaps even with the idea of marijuana). I listened to that album quite a bit, too, and Heaven And Hell (which I actually liked less) and some of the Rainbow stuff, poring over the lyrics to "The Man On The Silver Mountain" and trying to figure out what they meant (I still don't know). Before my recent re-discovery of metal, I'd tried spinning the Dio-fronted Sabbath albums again and found them unlistenably cliched, though suddenly, now that I can "speak metal" again, Mob Rules fills me with warmth and nostalgia. And of course, I greatly enjoyed Dio's appearances in the Sam Dunn movies, especially Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, where he seems charming, funny and intelligent and completely without pretention. Suddenly I feel sad that I missed out on seeing Heaven And Hell when last they played here.

I don't believe much in heaven or hell, mind you - but I strongly suspect Dio was one of the good guys. RIP, Ronnie.

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