VIVIAN CAMPBELL Says RONNIE JAMES DIO Initially Had 'No Interest' In Doing HEAR 'N AID Project
September 20, 2023
In a recent interview with Guitar Interactive magazine, former DIO and current DEF LEPPARD guitarist Vivian Campbell looked back on his involvement with "Stars", the 1985 charity single for famine relief released under the HEAR 'N AID banner.
On May 20 and May 21, 1985, 40 artists from the metal community gathered at A&M Records Studios in Hollywood, California to participate in the making of a record called "Stars" as a part of a very special fundraising project spearheaded by Ronnie James Dio known as HEAR 'N AID. The "Stars" single and a video documentary on the making of the record was used to raise money for famine relief efforts in Africa and around the world. These 40 artists — including members of MÖTLEY CRÜE, JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, QUIET RIOT, TWISTED SISTER, BLUE ÖYSTER CULT and even SPINAL TAP — along with hundreds of other volunteers, donated their time and talent over four months to make HEAR 'N AID a reality. "Stars" was a plea for unity in the fight against world hunger.
Speaking about his experience recording "Stars", Campbell told Guitar Interactive (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "When we did that, we were at Rumbo Recorders in L.A. recording the [DIO] 'Sacred Heart' album. And it was a really dark time for Ronnie and for the band. I mean, nobody wanted to be around Ronnie. Ronnie and [his wife and manager] Wendy had split up. They weren't getting divorced, but they were living separate lives. And Ronnie's mood was really, really dark. And the big difference between the 'Sacred Heart' album and [the first two DIO albums] 'Holy Diver' and 'The Last In Line' is that when we did 'Holy Diver' and 'The Last In Line', everyone was in the studio all the time. We were all there offering encouragement. There was a really good vibe. And then nobody went home early. Everyone was waiting for everything and excited by every little development in those records. When we were doing the 'Sacred Heart' album, nobody wanted to hang around. We cut the tracks and it was, like, 'Oh, okay. I'm gonna go. You done with me?' And it was just left Ronnie and Angelo [Arcuri], our engineer, and it was because of that energy, that vibe that was coming from Ronnie at that time. So it was really, really difficult to make. I'm not saying it's a bad record, but it was really difficult for [then-DIO drummer] Vinny [Appice] and [then-DIO bassist] Jimmy [Bain] and myself, and obviously for Ronnie, to make it."
He continued: "So, at that time, that 'We Are The World' thing had come out, with Michael Jackson and all the pop stars that made this great record. And Jimmy and I, who were roommates at the time — we were living in an apartment together — we happened to do an interview for a station called KLOS in Los Angeles, and the DJ asked us, he said, 'How come nobody from the hard rock world was invited to participate in that?' And we thought, 'You know, you're absolutely right.' And this was an era when hard rock was really sort of shunned. I mean, it never got nominated for a Grammy or anything. There was no real industry recognition, even though it was a very, very popular cultural force and sold in multi-millions. But the industry was yet to really fully recognize it as being legit. And so anyway, we were joking about this, and it was Jimmy who — he was a funny guy — and Jimmy right off the bat said, 'Yeah, we should do one. We should call it HEAR 'N AID.' We were all, like, 'Hahaha'; we fell off our stools. And then we went back to our apartment and Jimmy said, 'Well, do you wanna actually do this?' [And I said] 'Really? I mean, do we have time for this?' And he said, 'Yeah.' So Jimmy and I wrote the song. We didn't write the lyrics. We put the music together. We thought, 'We're not gonna get this off the ground without Ronnie. We need some clout. We need the name.' So we went in the studio the next day As I said, we're in the middle of doing the 'Sacred Heart' album. Ronnie's in a real dark spot. We offer it, and we say, 'Ronnie, what about this?' He immediately shuts it down. No interest. So, we keep pushing it on him for a couple of weeks, and then eventually he came back to us and said, 'You know what? Yeah. I'll get on board with this.' So he wrote the lyric for it."
Regarding how they ended up recruiting so many big names for the project, Vivian said: "I, with the help of a publicist we were working with at the time, went to the office every day with a publicist. She let me go through her Rolodex — this is how old school this is; her Rolodex — and look up names. I'd go, 'Oh, Jon Bon Jovi.' I'd literally be cold calling people that I didn't know… [I was] trying to explain, 'We're making this charity record. And we'll cover expenses. We'll get some sponsorship.' So that was my life for weeks, every day going into a whole different world for me, just getting on the phone and calling people. 'Hi, Neal Schon. Love your JOURNEY stuff. Is there any chance you could…?' 'Who else is doing it?' And the same old thing — nobody wants to commit until [other big names are involved]. But I was able to throw Ronnie's name there. I said, 'Well, Ronnie's doing it.' 'Oh, okay.' And calling up studios, like A&M studios, 'Hey, is it possible we can get a day free in the studio? It's for charity.' 'Hey, American Airlines, is there any way we can…?' 'Hey, Holiday Inn, can you…?' It was something I'd never done before, but I spent weeks and weeks and weeks doing it. And so it all came together, and it was just bonkers that it did.
"I remember the day we were doing it at A&M, with a film crew in there, and the guys from SPINAL TAP even showed up. And that made it great because that brought a little much-needed humor to the whole situation. And all these great guitar players — we had Yngwie [Malmsteen] there and George Lynch and Neal Schon, guys who were blazing guitar [players]. And I just remember I was so busy making sure that everyone had a limo ride, had a flight, had a hotel room, had something to eat. And then, at the end of the day, it's, like, 'Okay, now you've gotta play guitar.' It's, like, 'What?'"
Due to contract differences with the labels, the "Stars" song and album weren't released until New Year's Day, 1986, and were only ever made available on vinyl and cassette. But Ronnie's wife and manager Wendy Dio has said in recent years that she is continuing her efforts to correct that.
Wendy previously revealed that one of the reasons the HEAR 'N AID reissue was taking so long to come out was the "legal stuff" that needed to be taken care of. "You can always get the bands to do something, but it's the legal licensing of talking with the record labels they're on and the management and so on, to get something off the ground," she said. "So we're hoping to do that."
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