|Dio/Warlock - Newport Centre - 11th December 1987|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Tuesday, 18 May 2010 05:10|
I'm writing this minutes after learning that the rock world has lost one of its true leaders, Ronnie James Dio. Life is shitty, ain't it......
I was so excited that I was gonna be seeing Warlock and Dio at Newport Centre that my teen mullet almost stood to attention in the same way that my teen manhood had stood to attention upon that first stolen look at the glories of Swedish Erotica. This was a time when gig-going was the lifeblood, the Best. Thing. Ever. And, as if seeing this mega-metal rock show so close to home wasn't enough, Warlock were doing a signing session at the legendary Roxcene Records, the Lourdes of my generation; no matter what was wrong with your life, the rock on sale in that long-lost treasure trove of a store would cure you. Well, apart from when I bought that Holy Right album....
So, I was stood there, 'Triumph And Agony' artwork poster from Metal Hammer in my sweaty grasp, when the German über-metallers made their way from the back room of the shop to the counter. I was amazed at just how smart Doro Pesch was when she walked right by me! She had this reputation of being some kind of hard rock warrior but, in reality, at that time she was little more than a petite, beautiful woman. Stand to attention time again. I limped over to the counter and lined up alongside the scores of other rabid rock fans waiting to meet the band - this was a major event! I got my poster signed - Doro wanted me, I could tell - and also the back of my denim jacket. A few years later, in metal-denial, I bleached the bejesus out of that jacket to get rid of the signatures but, at that moment, it looked da fucking bomb!
The queue snaking its way up the side of Newport Centre looked like the cast of Heavy Metal Parking Lot; mullets, moustaches, metal. A couple of girls were walking the length of the line, checking out the rock pin-ups that Newport had to offer. One of them pulled me out of the crowd and started sucking my face! Why? Well, I was fresh-faced, cute, blessed with a highlighted mullet, wearing a jacket signed by Warlock; any combination of these fantastic factors got me necking with a stranger in front of strangers who, by way of the ultimate seal of approval, cheered like fuck as I lost my tongued-by-half-decent-bird-at-Dio-concert virginity. I'd met Warlock and been singled out from a legion of body odour blessed metal fans for snogging - could the day get any better? It could - they opened to the doors to rock heaven.....
A merch whore even then, it was a matter of seconds before I had a tour programme (remember them?) and a 'Dream Evil' baseball shirt (remember them??) for that was the record that Dio were touring to promote. Warlock were touring on the back of the 'Triumph And Agony' album which threatened to push them from promising metal band to commercial rock success - it kinda worked, I guess. They played, Doro was great and I remember thoroughly enjoying them. Not all of my friends would agree though; a gentleman who would later become world famous as Über Röck's Johnny H appeared between bands slagging off the German rock monsters like there was no tomorrow. Nothing to do with the music, of course; one of Warlock's guitarists had tried to chat up the mental girlfriend he had at the time. In fact, every review that he has written since is based on the good review/no chat up girlfriend - bad review/chat up girlfriend coda that he devised on that very night in Newport. Apparently.
I am going to tell you good people something now and I'm only doing so because I feel that we are tight, that I can trust you with my life; when I was still in school I had a serious love for the band Giuffria, parping AOR woofters formed by former Angel and future House Of Lords keyboard legend Gregg Giuffria. Maybe it was because I had spent too much time bothering with AOR loving cock rock tumbler (and current Tigertailz drummer) Matt Blakout, maybe it was the heart-tugging balladry ensconced in the grooves of the virginal vinyl, either way I was hooked on this most wimp-woven of bands.....whose guitarist was once Craig Goldie. Now of Dio. About to be stood about ten feet in front of me. Stood to attention again, though possibly the least memorable of times on that day.....
Some of my friends had seen Dio previously - with the dragon stage show, and Keel! - but this was my first time. The legend of the band's show was at the front of my mind as Vinny Appice's drums rose and some kick-ass state-of-the-eighties-art theatrics played out underneath. Gig on! Ronnie James Dio appeared and flicked what seemed to be a million horns as he proceeded to rock his way through a set that my teenage self thought was pretty damn good. The only disappointment was the stage show - no dragon, just a really crappy mechanical spider that crawled down from the rafters during Goldie's guitar solo (which I probably thought was the best thing ever at the time but, due to the development of my adult embarrassment gene, I cannot confirm at this time) and was duly shot at by a guitar-neck laser beam. Was a bit shit really. Someone threw a glove onstage which Goldie duly put on, then threw back into the crowd. At the end of the gig, with the fruitless floor search for plectrums underway, I spotted the glove, stinking and muck covered, and still thought about keeping it! I didn't bother though, I was happy with the thumbs up that Craig had given me which, until Glenn Tipton threw me the horns years later, was the best thing that had ever happened to me.
The spider might have been poor but the set list wasn't - it rocked. But, as if the Giuffria love wasn't shameful enough, I had a problem that was taking my mind off the rock show - worms! Seriously, these white anal terrorists came a-calling about 80% into the set and, shame on metal me, I was wishing the gig to end just so I could sort these arse bandits out. I don't think I'm allowed to say that......In fact, when I watched Machine Head at Newport Centre a few months ago with Johnny H and Darrel Sutton we stood in virtually the same place as I did on that December night in 1987 and, y'know what, my arse-neck gave out a sympathy itch....
But, back in '87, I wasn't going to let some back door bad boys ruin a good night. The morning after, with dirty girl still on my lips and dirty fingernails still on my hand, all I could think of, as I sat in my stonking new baseball shirt, was how fucking great the previous day was. A baseball shirt that I would wear around Pontypool College thinking I was in 'Trick Or Treat' or at least the 'Smokin' In The Boys Room' video. This was, of course, before the following years which would, like those of many of you readers I suspect, be spent in heavy metal denial. The horns and the dragons and the guitar solos and the warlocks all cast aside for the rewriting of my musical upbringing. Oh, the irony. Mullets, patches on jackets, how foolish these gumby heavy metal people were. Now that, brothers and sisters, is more shameful a thing to admit than AOR love or worms.
And, as I walked into the Cardiff International Arena in 2001 (nine years ago to this very week) ready to see Dio support Alice Cooper, I guess I kinda felt a little the same. This was gonna be as cheesy as hell; I'll throw the horns back at Ronnie, I'll chuckle, I'll ironically think it was great. Guess what? It was great, but for all the right reasons. Stood in front of me wasn't a man who I should laugh at, but a fucking legend of rock! A real frigging legend with one of the best rock voices in history. Ronnie James Dio seemed humbled by the reception he got that night and I felt humbled to be in his presence. From that moment on I ditched the denial and realised that my journey to that moment wasn't embarrassing at all, it was fun-filled and, quite frankly, awesome. And the people who made that journey possible were people like Ronnie James Dio. And now he is gone and I can't help but feel a little twinge of shame amidst the sadness. But RJD would have forgiven me, wouldn't he? He seemed to be such a great guy. He will be sadly missed at ÜRHQ.
Turn off your computer and turn on the stereo - listen to Sabbath, Dio, Rainbow, Elf, Heaven And Hell, Hear 'N' Aid even. Pay your respects to this legend.
Ronnie James Dio, I salute you \m/