Bookended by Cats was named after Milo and Otis. They are the short, orange, and furry brothers who, upon entering our lives in 2003, often bookended us on our couch. And who are we? We're a geek couple living in PA. We love music, movies, TV, comics, books, and comic cons. And, from time to time, we'll share our thoughts on these nerdy things.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Friday 80s Flashback for May 26, 2023

[Holy Diving] -- Thirteen years ago this month – on May 16, 2010 – the heavy metal world lost an icon when Ronnie James Dio succumbed to stomach cancer. His 53-year career included stints with signature metal bands like Black Sabbath (mainly 1979–1982) and Rainbow (1975–1979), as well as Elf (1967-1975) and his eponymous band, Dio (1982–2010). And that latter band is the subject of this week's Flashback. 

Forty years ago this very week (May 25, 1983), Dio released their debut album, Holy Diver. The band's namesake was, of course, the vocalist and lyricist. For the most part, the music on this release was a collaboration between Ronnie James Dio and the other members of the band: Vinny Appice (drums), Jimmy Bain (bass, keyboards), and Vivian Campbell (guitar). Holy Diver charted well, but not great, reaching #13 on the UK Albums and #56 on US Billboard 200 charts. It also reached the top 50 or top 100 of some other countries, and it has been certified Gold (September 1984) and platinum (March 1989) in the US. The album also garnered positive critical acclaim, including being ranked at #8 on IGN's 2007 listing of the "Top 25 Metal Albums."

And while singles are not typically a hallmark of heavy metal success, we can include some of t .... The title track, "Holy Diver," peaked at #40 on the US Mainstream Rock (Billboard) chart. And it came in at #43 on VH1's Top 100 Hard Rock Songs (2009). What exactly is a Holy Diver? Well, Dio himself said the song is about a Christ-like figure working to redeem his people; this all takes place on some other planet, and when the people learn that the figure intends to leave them to save people on other planets, they try to get him to stay (source: this 2004 interview). The second single was "Rainbow in the Dark." This song peaked at #12 on US Billboard Album Rock Tracks and #14 on the US Mainstream Rock charts. "Rainbow," with its catchy hooks and dominant keyboard riff, is probably the closest Dio ever came to pop success. Both singles were featured on K-Tel compilations: "Rainbow in the Dark" was on Masters of Metal (1984), while "Holy Diver" appeared on White Hot: Masters of Metal (1987). 

Holy Diver' s cover art, illustrated by Randy Berrett based on a concept by Dio's then-wife, Wendy, was somewhat controversial at the time. It depicts a devil-beast standing over a chained priest who appears to have either just landed in the waters or has been thrashing about to avoid drowning. The devil beast is known affectionately as Murray and he became something of a mascot for the band, appearing on subsequent album covers and merchandise. Now, in regards to this particular album cover: Is this a case of a monster drowning a priest, or a priest drowning a monster? This was, perhaps, the epitome of Ronnie James Dio urging us to not simply judge a book by its cover (2018 interview with Wendy Dio).

Ronnie James Dio was a consummate storyteller, and that comes through in a number of Dio's songs on this and later records. However, I'm not certain that always came across in the band's music videos. This week's embedded playlist does feature concept videos for "Holy Diver" and "Rainbow in the Dark," and ... well ... they are pretty much a product of their time and the genre. The music video for the lead-off track, "Stand Up and Shout," is remastered concert footage, in case you're curious what a Dio show was like. 

So, tell me, music fans. Do you cry out for magic, and do your demons ever let you go? Let me know after you sample this week's Flashback.

FlashbackHoly Diver (May 25, 1983)

Once again, I remind you that the rule of three applies when doing Flashbacks. As I've made my three offerings, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the Prophet or Madman archives or via Bookended's 80s Flashback tag. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

I'll see you in seven!

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