by Keavin Wiggins
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I of the special
Dio’s fortunes would not change with their next effort. While the “Sacred
Heart” album sales were disappointing, Dio remained a big concert draw.
So the idea was hatched for a live EP that would feature one new studio
But there were some internal tension brewing
between Vivian Campbell and Ronnie. Rumors abound that Vivian claimed much
of the credit for the group’s success, saying he wrote half of the “Holy
Diver” album and it was his guitars that helped put the group on the map.
That didn’t sit well with the other members of the group and he was eventually
fired by Ronnie.
The band needed a new axeman to record the song “Time to Burn” for the
live EP and they brought in Craig Goldie. Ronnie initially wanted to release
a full blown live album but the record company passed on the idea, instead
they opted for an EP. There was some speculation that Ronnie and the group
were not very happy with the final product and they showed that disdain
when they titled the EP, “Intermission”. The six song EP hit stores in
1986 but didn’t create much of a stir in metal circles.
The changes within the group and the lagging
sales seemed to reinvigorate Ronnie. When it came time to write music for
a new studio album, he had a lot to prove and needed to reestablish the
band as a group on the rise. The songs on 1987’s “Dream Evil” seemed
much more focused in their metal roots than “Sacred Heart”. Although the
album was not a huge commercial success, Dio managed to win back fans with
the skillfully crafted songs that showcased Goldie’s guitar hero credentials,
as well as Ronnie’s penchant for melody and thought evoking lyrics.
The single, “I Could Have Been A Dreamer”
also found success on radio, landing in the mainstream rock Top 40.
When it came time to tour behind the album, Dio pulled out all the stops
with their biggest stage production to date. But the tour was plagued with
misfortune from the very start. A broken down equipment truck led to a
six car pileup on a German highway. Roadies accidentally dropped
a $100,000 synthesizer while unloading gear for the European tour.
The band seemed to disintegrate following
the world tour. Goldie exited the band, followed shortly after by bassist
Jimmy Bain and keyboard player Claude Schnell.
Ronnie conducted a massive search for a new guitarist. Over 500 audition
demos were sent in and whittled down to 20 candidates. One candidate
was a young guitarist by the name of Rowan Robertson. Robertson actually
attempted to audition for the band before they officially launched the
guitarist search. His audition tape was rejected but he really wanted
the gig so he managed to get a demo tape to Dio through the group’s fan
club and ultimately won the gig.
Dio got a lot of attention out of their
new guitarist because he was only 19 when the group began recording their
new album. But there were more shakeups in the making as drummer Vinny
Appice decided to leave the group at the end of 1989.
When the band entered the studio, Ronnie
was the only original member of his namesake group that now featured Simon
Wright(drums), Rowan Robertson(guitar) Jens Johansson(keys), and Teddy
When “Lock up the Wolves” hit stores in 1990, diehard fans were relieved
that despite the personnel change, Dio hadn’t changed that much musically.
One night on the supporting tour would
prove fateful for Ronnie. When the “Throw 'em To The Wolves Tour” hit Minneapolis
on August 28th, 1990, little did fans know that the seed of a Black Sabbath
reunion would be planted when Geezer Butler joined Dio on stage for a jam
of “Neon Knights”.
The old chemistry between Ronnie and Geezer
seemed to be there and with one thing leading to another, Ronnie reunited
with Black Sabbath in early 1991 and put Dio on ice.
It took a few months for the band to fully
regroup. Original Sabbath drummer Bill Ward was not to be part of the project;
a project that the members emphatically told the press would be for only
one album and one tour.
Initially Cozy Powell was brought in as the drummer but following a motorcycle
accident he was replaced by Vinny Appice in late 1991. With keyboardist
Geoff Nicholls rounding out the group, they entered the studio to record
a new album that was codenamed “Heaven and Hell II”. Before the actual
album shipped, dubbed “Dehumanizer” the group contributed one song, “Time
Machine,” to the Wayne’s World soundtrack and that lit the fire of expectations
in diehard fans.
“Dehumanizer,” seemed to pick up where
“Mob Rules” left off, just a bit heavier. But it wasn’t the blockbuster
that was expected. It went on to sell a little over half a million copies
worldwide over the next few years.
More importantly, the personality divide
between the members with Ronnie and Vinnie on one side and Tony and Geezer
on the other doomed any plans for the group to continue on after the supporting
tour. It appeared that nothing had really changed during the decade they
had been apart and that divide would soon spell the end of the Black Sabbath
The final nail in the coffin came when Black Sabbath was invited to open
for Ozzy Osbourne for two dates in California. Ronnie reportedly didn’t
want to act as an opener for anyone, let alone the group’s original frontman
and told the other members of Sabbath that they were free to do whatever
they wanted but he would not perform at those shows.
Ronnie’s contract with the band expired
on November 13th, 1992; the day before the first scheduled Ozzy date. Ronnie
took the opportunity to leave Sabbath and refocus his energy on Dio, taking
Vinnie along with him.
Dio reformed with bassist Jimmy Bain for a short time but he would ultimately
be replaced by Dokken’s Jeff Pilson. The band still had to fill that ever
important lead guitarist slot. Ads were place in Los Angeles area newspapers
and after a six month search, guitarist Tracy G was hired in time for the
band to record “Strange Highways”.
Before the group headed out on tour to
support their new album, Ronnie wanted to fill the vacant keyboardist slot.
Warrant’s Scott Warren would ultimately land the gig and has been a member
There would continue to be musical chairs in the bassplayer, drummer and
guitarist department over the next few years. Shortly after the “Strange
Highways” tour, Jeff Pilson left the group to rejoined Dokken and was replaced
by Jerry Best. Ironically, Best was only with the group a short time before
being replaced by Pilson, who rejoined the group to record a new album,
“Angry Machines”, which was produced by Ronnie.
Due to his commitments to Dokken, Pilson
left the group prior to the “Angry Machines” tour and was replaced by Larry
In February of 1998, Dio released “Inferno: Live In Line”, a double live
concert album that was hailed by critics as the definite live Dio experience.
The group managed to capture the extra energy they put forth in concert
and the album became the next best thing to seeing the group in person.
In May of 1998, Vinnie left the group to
rejoin Black Sabbath. Ronnie brought back Simon Wright, who has been with
the band ever since.
It would take two years before fans would get their hands on a new studio
album from Dio. In that time, Craig Goldie and Jimmy Bain returned to the
Dio fold. The resulting album was the critically acclaimed “Magica”; a
dark concept album that revisited many of Ronnie’s medieval themes.
Before the group returned to the studio
to record the follow up to “Magica”, Craig Goldie once again exited the
scene. Doug Aldrich stepped into his shoes and proved a powerhouse on the
2002 album, “Killing the Dragon”. That album showed that unlike many of
his contemporaries, Ronnie wasn’t about to kowtow to trends within the
heavy metal world. Through his entire career he has built up a certain
persona and style, and each subsequent album was built upon that foundation.
“Magica” and “Killing The Dragon” both proved that Ronnie hadn’t ran out
of steam and in fact continues to evolve as an artist, never letting his
long term fans down but also offering up compelling music for a new generation
whose contemporary metal heroes can’t begin to compare to the magic, music
and mystique of Dio.
Fans both old and new were able to witness
that magic in action when Dio hit the road in support of Killing the Dragon
in 2002. Ronnie and crew blew away audiences at every stop on their headlining
tour in late 2002. And were also a force to be reckoned with a supporting
position on the joint Dio / Scorpions / Deep Purple tour during the summer
During the summer of 2003, Dio took part in a “metal dream tour” that included
Motorhead and Iron Maiden. Three legendary bands that put metal on the
map assaulted North America all summer long and was a raging success, becoming
one of the busy summer concert season’s top draws.
It’s been over 30 years since Ronnie set
out on his rock n roll odyssey. During that time he has rocked generations
of metal heads with his patented voice and style. More importantly, he
has laid down a musical testament that most artists would have a hard time
topping. 50 years from now, rock historians will look at the metal
years of the late 20th century and early 21st century and Dio will stand
tall in their telling; not merely a footnote but a Legend in his own time…
click on cd title to
hear samples and purchase online
Last In Line
Up The Wolves
Live In Line
Anthology: Stand Up And Shout
Live Rock 'N' Roll
Ronnie James Dio's official website for the latest plus lots more
to samples and purchase "Stand Up and Shout"
Live Photos by Keavin Wiggins
Copyright 2003 - All