Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Before I heard that Ronnie James Dio had died, I'd already started on this post, inspired by the Awl's as-it-turns-out eerily-timed "listicle" of lesser-known Black Sabbath members (they included Dio, even though I would consider him one of the better-known Sabbath members).  As much as I enjoyed reading the names and resumes of the various Sabbath fill-ins and replacements (it was like a peek inside the heads of Scharpling and Wurster), the post was really just going to be an excuse to post a link to one of my all-time favorite album covers, and certainly my favorite cover of an album I haven't even heard, the Hipgnosis-designed Never Say Die!

While the Heaven and Hell cover was a familiar presence in my youth and adolescence—I remember it as something that was just around, on people's lighters, t-shirts, and in record store windows—I don't remember seeing Never Say Die! anywhere.  Were H&H's smoking angels easier to relate to (and thus, co-opt and recontextualize) than NSD!'s mysterious/menacing pilots, or was it just that H&H was a more popular, well-loved album?  Probably both.

As for Dio, my only real memory of him is from my college days.  I remember sitting in the window of a bar on the main college town drag wondering at the line of black t-shirt-clad townies stretching out the door, down the block, and around the corner from the local indie (or to be historically accurate, alternative) rock club across the street, a longer line than I'd ever seen there.  I found out from one of the black t-shirt wearers who came into the bar that Dio was in town.  Being summer (I was still around taking a class), the campus was mostly deserted, and this was my first glimpse of the town's summer music scene, an alternate (but not "alternative") reality in which "college rock" was temporarily-but-forcefully shoved to the side, metal was king, and Dio was a BIG F***ING DEAL.

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