Back in early 1982 (or was it Christmas 1981 – I don’t remember now), I was leafing through the pages of one of the rock rags at the time (either Circus or Creem), and saw the cover art for the Mob Rules album in a magazine. I wondered what kind of music would go with that kind of artwork. So I headed down the record store, and bought a pre-recorded cassette tape of “The Mob Rules”. Brought it home, stuck it in, and heard the opening riffs of “Turn up the Night”. I was stinkin’ blown away. That was my introduction to the world of Black Sabbath at all. It was my first Black Sabbath album, so the Dio era has a special significance to me. The Ozzy era is what it is, and we wouldn’t have the Dio era without that. But the Dio era seemed much stronger musically to me on a ton of levels. Whether it was the writing or the lyrics or what, I don’t know. But Ronnie James Dio had a big part in the music I listened to.
Sadly, Black Sabbath had just left Philadelphia (where I was living at the time) – they played there in early December 1981 (although Joe K saw ’em!), and as such I had to wait quite awhile to see Black Sabbath with Dio (slightly over a decade). Sadly, the Dio era of Black Sabbath was to fold before too long, and I was pretty sad about that. The first thing Black Sabbath released after I got into the band was the Live Evil album. At the time, I thought it was pretty cool, but over time it seems flat. It was supplanted by the Live at Hammersmith album, but enough of the history of Sabbath. It’s supposed to be about my thoughts.
When it was announced that Ronnie was coming back to Black Sabbath in 1991, I was rather overjoyed. I was looking forward to seeing him with Black Sabbath finally. I’d seen Ronnie several times with Dio inbetween his first two Black Sabbath stints (5 times), and enjoyed the heck out of the show in August 1992. Sadly, that broke up again not long after that. I continued to follow Dio through the various Dio incarnations, and his third stint in Black Sabbath (more commonly known as Heaven & Hell).
I finally met Ronnie for the first time face to face in 2007 when I was backstage after the Dallas concert on that tour. I had been talking to Tony & Geezer before that, partially about a practical joke I ran back in April of 2007 about Dio quitting the band yet again. When Ronnie came out, he was in part of his stage garb, and was carrying a glass of wine. I waited my turn, and introduced myself, leading off with a story about how I crossed his wife and was sorry about that. Ronnie replied, “Well, we’ve all been there, no worries on that.” We chatted about some of his pre Elf material, I talked about my Sabbath website, we exchanged pleseantries. Nothing in the conversation that in and of itself was anything totally epic in scope. Just the fact of WHO I was talking to. I also joked with him a bit about George W. Bush (someone he strongly did not like), and referred to him as “your buddy”. Ronnie replied with “He’s not MY buddy – fuck you too!” We had a laugh about it, and shook hands and parted on nice terms. I didn’t have a stopwatch with me, but we talked probably for about 10 minutes, which is an eternity to talk to any one person backstage, let alone a fan like myself.
I saw Ronnie face to face one other time on the Metal Masters tour in 2008. For me personally, that wasn’t nearly as good as the 2007 gig, because I had to spend most of my time hanging around backstage at the Starplex in Dallas. I got to see most of the bands at point blank range, and after the Heaven & Hell gig (which I watched from the stage) I went back to my spot. The band showered off, changed, and went to a meet & greet with the fans. They didn’t spend any time with me save for the few minutes that they spent walking from one side to the other passing me. Ronnie did make me feel cool even in that micro amount of time, as when he walked by he waved, and said “Hi Joe”, which was surprising. Since Ronnie’s death, I’ve read a lot about him and his memory. That he remembered me from that 10 minute chat the year before was a surprise, given how many people he runs into in his life. Tony too had something to say, but that’s a story for another time. Ronnie made me feel cool – which I’m told is a common thing.
Sadly, I never ran into him face to face other than those two times. Of course, if you want to count concerts, that’s different. I’ve seen Ronnie a bunch of times. Not nearly as many times as someone like Tapio, but I’ve seen Ronnie live more than any other artist. Here’s my list of Ronnie gigs.
- 1983 – Dio / Holy Diver
- 1983 – Dio / Holy Diver (a second time)
- 1984 – Dio / The Last in Line
- 1985 – Dio / Sacred Heart
- 1986 – Dio / Intermission
- 1992 – Black Sabbath / Dehumanizer
- 1994 – Dio / Strange Highways
- 1996 – Dio / Angry Machines
- 2000 – Dio / Magica
- 2002 – Dio / Killing the Dragon
- 2002 – Dio / Killing the Dragon (a second time)
- 2004 – Dio / Master of the Moon
- 2007 – Black Sabbath – Heaven & Hell Tour
- 2008 – Black Sabbath – Metal Masters Tour
So that’s a bunch there. I retrospect, I wish I would have seen him in Rainbow too, but that was before my concert going lifetime. Before picking up Mob Rules originally, I wasn’t listening to much in the way of rock music. I had AC/DC’s Back in Black and their For Those About to Rock albums, but not much else in the way of rock music. Certainly not metal. The Mob Rules album cemented my foothold in the genre of hard rock/heavy metal/whatever you want to call it music. If it wasn’t for Ronnie being there, I wonder where I would have been musically.
Ronnie’s records always stood for something. They stood for quality. Even if you didn’t like the songs, they had a production value that was sometimes missing on other bands and their records. All these years later, I still have the original cassette tape I bought in 1981 for “Mob Rules”. It’s beat to hell, and I’m not sure if it’s even playable anymore, but I still have the thing. It’s emeant a lot to me over the years, and even more so now that Ronnie’s gone.
As a “goodbye” present from myself and Damian here at black-sabbath.com I wante to present this piece of video. It’s something shot on the final gig of the 2009 “The Devil You Know” tour. I had tried to do this for the Metal Masters tour, and it couldn’t be put together in time, so it was for the TDYK tour. At the time, Damian and his cameraman John thought they were just filming the band, did some interviews, and that would be it. Little did they know they’d be filming Ronnie’s last live concert ever. I was finally given permission to use this video today. I wanted to make sure that Ralph Baker, Gloria Butler, & Wendy Dio were all on board with me using it. The band itself did not film the concert, nor did they record it. This video stands as the only recorded footage of Ronnie from his last ever concert. Oh, there’s a few fans who put iPhone videos on Youtube and all that, but the quality there is dubious at best. I’m happy to present this video for you to see as part of my tribute, and again, a huge thanks to Damian, John, Ralph, Gloria, and most especially Wendy for letting me bring this to you. I hope you enjoy it. Below the video is some cool behind the scenes stuff from Damian on his experiences filming in Atlantic City that day.
I started this website in July of 1995, and 15 years later I still get a kick out of it. It’s been my pleasure to help bring Ronnie’s music (both in Sabbath or Dio) to the attention of fans worldwide. That I gained a small amount of notoriety from doing so is unimportant to me. Some won’t believe me, but it’s the truth. Ronnie was a great guy and didn’t nearly get the credit for certain parts of his life like he should have (like his involvement with Children of the Night for one). But it was a blast bringing his music to the world. Just sad I won’t get to do it anymore.
God Bless Ronnie, and especially his family who has been left behind.
Enjoy the video,
Webmaster – black-sabbath.com
P.S. As one final personal little tribute to Ronnie, when I put together the tribute image that’s on the front page of the site (at least right now), and in use in this tribute, I wondered what font I should use in the Rainbow lyrics there. The font I settled on for the picture seemed to fit Ronnie. It was called “Dragonmaster“. ;)
From Damian: Me and my cameraman were stoked. We were in Atlantic City, NJ on August 29, 2009, at the last show of the current Heaven and Hell tour, representing Joe Siegler on behalf of Black-Sabbath.com. We had just filmed the band Halestorm (Heaven and Hell’s warm-up act) with two cameras while they performed and then checked our work backstage, and the footage looked GREAT. We had all-access passes, so we had stationed ourselves on opposite sides in front of the stage, in that gap area between the stage and the front-row fans, where the still photographers and security guys hang out. We had just pulled off a dry-run with the opening band, literally two feet away from them, and were now ready to get awesome up-close footage of Heaven and Hell’s entire set.
After Halestorm finished, we ducked backstage with our cameras to check our batteries and white-balance levels one more time, when I noticed Ralph Baker, Tony Iommi’s manager and probably the most important person in almost any room he enters, motioning for me to come over. “How long were you planning to film for?” He asked. I replied, “Well, we were just going to film until we ran out of tape”. He smiled and slowly shook his head. “Media is only allowed to take pictures for three songs, but we can’t let you stay out there that long. You can stay and film one song”. I was so disappointed. But then I thought, well, we’ll shoot the opener, The Mob Rules, and it will be really up close and cool-looking and that’s still a great thing, so fine.
We headed back into the venue and made our way to our stage-front spots. Heaven and Hell was about three minutes away from beginning their set. My cell phone rang. Its Ralph Baker. “Damian, the boys don’t want to see any video cameras, you can’t film from under their noses like that.” I could barely hear him because the crowd was getting raucous now, so I just said “OK, Ralph, but I’m already set up and the show is about to start, where are we supposed to go?” He replied with “I don’t care where you go, but you can’t film from the front of the stage and don’t let them see the cameras!”. Click.
The place was packed, and we had less than two minutes to go find somewhere to set up two video cameras. I told my cameraman to go find a clear spot on the floor way in the back of the House of Blues, and then I took my Canon GL1 and ran up the stairs to the balcony, found an empty luxury box to the extreme right side of the stage and sat down. Immediately the lights dimmed and E5150 was weaving its way through the speakers. A security guard came rushing at me from the aisle and at the last second I saw him and flashed my all-access pass, which he grabbed and took a very hard look at before leaving me alone and walking away. Lights, Camera, Action!
So this is why the two camera angles might look strange, and bootleg-gy in nature, but in a way it worked out, and the exchange between Ronnie and the idiot who threw a shirt at him was captured nicely. I remarked to myself while filming it that Ronnie still had cat-like reflexes and in light of what he was beginning to go through it makes it look even more amazing.
Such a crazy night, and one that ended up being historic, for the most tragic of reasons. This is a gift from Joe and I, to everyone who was moved by Ronnie’s music. May he live on in our hearts and minds forever.