Monday, May 17, 2010

Ronnie James Dio: R.I.P.

Ordinarily I try to keep this blog focused on 1966 or earlier, but today I'm going to make an exception and revisit my early metal-head days (the 80's) to pay respect to a true metal legend, Mr. Ronnie James Dio, who passed away at the age of 67 early Sunday morning after a 6 month battle with stomach cancer. Before forming his namesake band, DIO, he was the front man for a couple of metal icons, Rainbow, featuring Ritchie Blackmore, and of course, he replaced Ozzy Osbourne as the singer for Black Sabbath, in which he helped re-create their sound and sang on two of their best studio albums, Heaven & Hell and Mob Rules. I went to a lot of concerts back in the day, but I regret that I only got a chance to see him live one time, at the Portland Memorial Coliseum in July of 1984 with Whitesnake (before they went all poofy) and Portland's own Black & Blue. My sincere condolences go out  to his wife and best friend, Wendy Dio as well as the rest of his family and friends. Rest in peace, Mr. Dio, and thank you for all the great music.

This is a great version of the first DIO song I ever heard, Rainbow in the Dark, recorded for a late night TV show in 1983. So, it must have been from the first tour when the Holy Diver album was brand new.

This is Neon Knights from back in his Black Sabbath days.

This is a more recent version of DIO (2002) perfoming a song he originally recorded in his Rainbow days, Man on the Silver Mountain.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hooray for Hollywood!

In case you haven't heard the news,  Hugh Hefner stepped up to the plate and kicked in the final $900,000 needed to help save the iconic Hollywood sign from the greedy plans of Chicago developers. The plan, as I understand it, was to build upscale homes behind the sign. Of course, there were other celebrities involved, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, I believe, but ordinary citizens also joined the cause, and through bake sales and cash donations, raised the money to purchase the land behind the sign—$12.5 million was the asking price, which certainly ain't hay. It really is fantastic that so many people cared and came together for the common good. At the same time, I'm rather disheartened that the sign was ever in peril in the first place. Seriously?! What kind of filthy douchbag would ever consider it okay to desecrate a national icon—nay, a World icon like that? How much better can they, or do they need to live? Perhaps the weasels from Goldman Sachs and their ilk have the answer. I really don't understand people like that, and I'm not sure I even want to.

I think it would be best for me to move on, and focus on the history of the sign before I go off on one of my legendary tirades about greed and evil. The original lighted sign read: HOLLYWOODLAND, and was erected in 1923 to advertise a new housing development of the same name. It was never intended to be permanent, but in time, the district became known as Hollywood, the movie capital of the World. The first refurbishment came in 1949 when the LAND part was removed to reflect the district instead of the housing development, and the lights were also removed at this time. By the late 70's the sign had again crumbled into such a terrible state of disrepair, that it actually looked as though it said: HULLYWO D. A new sturdier version was financed by celebrities, such as Alice Copper and Hugh Hefner, sponsoring individual letters, which is what we see today. You can read more about the history of the sign here on Wikipedia.

In closing, I found this neat little video clip, which  appears to be from a tourist on vacation in 1932, and features the original version of the sign. It isn't anything mind blowing or spectacular, but it is a small glimpse of life in a simpler time.