Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Man on the Silver Mountain

Dio has rocked for a long, long time.
Now it's time for him to pass the torch. -- Tenacious D

I don't normally do the "read the whole thing" schtick if I can help it, but Mark Morford's appreciation on the passing of Ronnie James Dio was superb. Can't think of anything substantial to add really, I would just agree with Morford that Dio was kind of a man out of time at this point, an anachronism but in a good way.

Dio didn't have a coke habit, or a whore habit, or a seven-kids-by-five-women habit, or a branding-everything-that-moves habit,or a resting-on-his-laurels-for-$200-a-ticket habit. The guy just showed up for work, did it with competence and love for the work itself, and didn't abuse his career and his fans by turning his life into some retarded "reality" freak show. He respected his craft, his colleagues, his fans. That's something, especially for 35 years.

Yes, some of the theatrics and lyrics could be corny and cheesy at times, but even that was part of the fun. He knew exactly what he was doing. And it really wasn't all that cheesy -- look at any current Top 10 list, and tell me anything from Dream Evil wouldn't just smoke every song on there out of their AutoTuned buttholes. Ke$ha and Pee Diddly are cheesy. Katy Perry is fucking cheesy, but with huge cans. Dio could actually sing, and he worked with musicians who could -- get this -- actually play musical instruments.

People don't really sing much anymore, they either ProTool it to death, or take the opposite tack and sing through their noses like Bob Dylan. There are some good ones out there if you're willing to look, but they don't move much product. I had to crank up the live Sign of the Southern Cross when I heard the news Sunday afternoon, and remember how actual singers used to roll.

A little guy with a huge voice, and a huge passion for his music. Nicely done, Dio. R.I.P.


The Vile Scribbler said...

Adding to what Morford says, I was riffing on a somewhat related topic recently, and the thought occurred to me again how strange it is to see the old guard of metal getting, well, old. It's not exactly a genre that lends itself to aging gracefully. Other than Lemmy (or the much lesser-known Scott "Wino" Weinrich), I'm hard pressed to think of many elder statesmen who don't look like men out of time, trying to rehash their glory days. You look at guys like them, and it makes sense -- they're like old bluesmen, almost immortal, where time only adds experience and depth to them without making them look pathetic, like nostalgia-rockers looking for whatever paycheck they can get hold of.

If that makes any sense. You know what I'm getting at? I mean, do you think should metal be evolving as some of its legends get older, or should it proudly stick to the same old styles and themes as it did in its heyday?

Heywood J. said...

It does make sense, and having recently seen one-hour concert specials from Iron Maiden and Rush on DirecTV's house channel, I agree.

On the one hand, Rush, who were never explicitly "metal", are able to age a bit more gracefully, primarily because they were stylistically variable enough from album to album. They never really got pigeonholed or caught in a rut.

But still, nearly 30 years later, they are essentially obligated to play Tom Sawyer and Spirit of Radio at every show, whether they feel like it or not. This is a trap, albeit a presumably well-paying one.

I imagine at some point Neil Peart, who will turn 60 in 2012, will decide to retire rather than physically devolve into Charlie Watts. In the meantime, the fact that he can still set the demanding pace of most of the songs is pretty impressive.

Maiden find themselves in even more of a trap, with a handful of required classics they must intersperse with the new stuff. And the more aggressive musicality of most of their songs doesn't jibe as well, with the image of six graying Englishmen in spandex singing about war.

It's ironic, because metal has been one of the more quickly evolving genres of popular music. Mainstream pop just recycles itself constantly, and r&b/rap samples from itself so incestuously it never breaks any new ground at all. Country incorporated some southern rock themes and some chick pop singers, and called it good.

But metal expands in all directions, incorporating anything and everything, experimenting and moving forward. Yet performers of the genre are still just as prone to the sapping of true vitality that success almost inevitably brings.

Lemmy himself has said in interviews that Motorhead's lack of true mainstream success has kept them from falling into the trap of trying to replicate your greatest hit every time. There's something to that.