Friday, March 23, 2012

Dio -- "Rainbow in the Dark" (1983)

No sign of the morning comin'
You've been left on your own
Like a rainbow in the dark
2 or 3 lines has been blessed by serendipity many, many times.  What I like best about doing this blog is discovering new music (or rediscovering old music that I had forgotten) and meeting interesting characters and fellow music aficionados like Michelle "Mickie" Mills.  I hope this isn't the last time Mickie writes for 2 or 3 lines -- I plan to pester her mercilessly until she agrees to produce another guest post.

A few weeks ago, I was researching some random musical topic and stumbled across Mickie's blog, which is titled "Mickie's Zoo."  Here's a link to "Mickie's Zoo."   (To follow her on Twitter, go to @mickieszoo.)  If you live in southern California, you need to visit "Mickie's Zoo" regularly -- you're missing a lot if you don't.  

Michelle Mills
What impressed me most about Mickie's blog was how prolific a blogger she is.  I made a big deal of doing "29 Posts in 29 Days" this past February.  Compare my one-post-a-day output to that of Mickie, who put up 290 posts in February -- an average of ten per day!

Mickie is a staff writer for the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group, which publishes several newspapers in southern California.  She is also the editor and a staff writer for DaBelly, an online arts and entertainment monthly magazine based in Los Angeles.  

Mickie has hosted entertainment shows on television and radio and has appeared in film, on stage and in music videos.  Most impressive to me is the fact that she has been in a number of bands, including the hard rock/heavy metal band, Morpheus.  (2 or 3 lines will be featuring a Morpheus song later.  They weren't quite in the same league as the Rogues, of course -- few bands are -- but they weren't bad.)

Among her other accomplishments, Mickie was the Queen of the 31st "Pasadena Doo Dah Parade" in 2008.  (I can't begin to do justice to this event -- click here if you'd like to know more about it.).  Here's a Terry Miller photo of "Queen Naughty Mickie":

And here's Queen Mickie reigning over the parade:

Mickie is also a professional belly dancer (specializing in sword work), a student of Polynesian/Tahitian dance, and dances and plays percussion with the Ad Hoc Consort/Danse Macabre, a traditional Elizabethan band.  

After I checked out Mickie's blog, I commented on one of her posts and invited her to be a guest writer for 2 or 3 lines.  (I'm always looking for free content.  I'm also always looking for my readers to click on my ads, of course.)  Mickie is kind of a big deal, but she graciously agreed to write for my modest little (albeit wildly popular) blog.  

As you'll see below, I got more than my money's worth out of Mickie -- she knows how to tell a story, and the story she tells below is a compelling one.  It's about a performer I didn't know much about, and a song I don't think I'd ever heard.

Before I turn it over to Mickie, here are a few words about the performer she chose to write about -- Ronnie James Dio, whose musical career began in 1957, when he was only 15 years old. 

Dio got a big break in 1975 when he was invited to be the lead vocalist for Rainbow, the band formed by ex-Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore when Deep Purple broke up. 

A Rainbow eight-track tape
In 1979, Dio joined Black Sabbath, replacing Ozzy Osbourne.  In 1982, Dio and Black Sabbath's drummer,  Vinny Appice (whose brother, Carmen Appice, was Vanilla Fudge's drummer), formed the band Dio, which released ten albums over the next 20-plus years.

I'll let Mickie take it from here . . .

As an entertainment writer and music journalist for more than 15 years, I have had the opportunity to experience many magical moments with artists that most fans can only dream about. Yet the most meaningful and memorable of those moments occurred when I was just a fan.
Back in the 1980s, as I was walking through the living room of my then-boyfriend's house in Syracuse, New York, a music video was blaring on MTV.  It stopped me in my tracks.  The singer had one of the best voices ever to grace my ears and, like the Pied Piper, his music drew me to the television and kept me entranced until the last note.
I waited until the title and performer information came up on the screen and learned it was Ronnie James Dio performing "Rainbow in the Dark" from his 1983 album, Holy Diver.

Ronnie James Dio in performance
(photo by Keith Durflinger)
Although I liked metal, I certainly wasn't a metalhead in those days, but that one song quickly changed my life.  Today, my ever-growing music collection must be at least half-filled by metal and related genres.
"Rainbow in the Dark" spoke to me in other ways as well.  I had had a pretty hard life up to this point and music was my place to find solace. Music gave me a release for my anger, tears and occasional rejoicing.  I had long felt very alone and had worked very hard to overcome the obstacles in my life and so "Rainbow in the Dark" became my anthem -- a song of standing up for yourself, embracing your differences and hardships, persevering and shining through.
The years went by and either I was in the wrong part of the country or didn't have the money to buy a ticket and catch Dio whenever he and his band were on tour. But I kept up with their albums, and when I fronted my own heavy metal/hard rock band, I emulated his style -- opting to utilize my good vocal range instead of screaming, and inking lyrics with fantasy and poetry at their core.
Finally in the late 1990s Dio was coming to the Riverside Auditorium in Riverside, California. It wasn't too far of a drive and I could afford the ticket.  The only snag was the concert was on a weeknight and I couldn't find anyone to go with me. But I was undeterred. I dressed in the "metal uniform"-- black t-shirt, jeans, studded leather belt and sneakers -- and was good to go.
Great White opened the show. I stayed in the back of the room, letting the "chicks" fight their way to the front of the stage for a better position to scream at and flirt with the band. I was prepared to make my own struggle through the crowd for Dio, but when Great White finished, most of the women left or went to the back of the room.

Dio concert poster
With many an "excuse me," I made my way through the sea of black shirts. The men let me go all the way to the front until I was standing at stage right. The stage was raised, so it was up to my shoulders (I'm only five feet tall), but I would be able to see my first Dio concert clearly.
The big moment arrived: the band came out and launched into their set. Lead singer Ronnie James Dio interacted quite a bit with the audience. He would walk the edge of the stage giving high fives and shaking hands with the first few rows of fans, but he kept missing me. I must be too short for him to notice me, I thought.  Knowing there couldn't be many more songs left, I resigned myself to my fate -- I was not going to get any closer to my idol than I already was.
Dio launched into my favorite song, "Rainbow in the Dark." I was ecstatic that I would get to hear "my song" live. Partway through the first verse, Ronnie walked from center stage straight to me, leaned over and grasped my wrist. He held me firmly, yet gently as he looked into my eyes and sang the rest of the verse and the chorus. Releasing me with a grin, he returned to his center stage spot.
During those few short minutes, I felt as if somehow Ronnie knew what I had been through and was giving me the message that everything would eventually be OK. Of course, he didn't really know anything about me and was merely doing what he did best. Dio and I did make a connection that night, not just as fan and rock star, but as two people with a shared love of music.
A few years later, I began writing for a small music magazine, which helped launch my journalism career. I was privileged to interview Ronnie several times and to also get to know him on a personal level. During one of our interviews, I asked him about the song, "I Am" from the 2004 album, Master of the Moon.  Like the words of  "Rainbow in the Dark," the lyrics of "I Am" talk about personal strength.

Mickie and Ronnie in 2007
(photo by Daniel Narvaiz)
"That really speaks a lot about what I've always tried to do in how the songs are written, again write about people," Dio said. "I've always been really angry about people who don't fit the mold that is supposed to be the one that we all fit, beautiful and trim and gracing the cover of magazines and if we're not that, we're some kind of secondary citizen of this world. Again, I've written about that subject a lot and in the case of 'I Am,' that's what it's supposed to speak about. It doesn't matter what you look like, it doesn't matter what the package looks like, it's what's inside and you can survive; you can succeed because you are, you are someone. You should be proud of what you are inside and therefore 'I Am' is meant to be a flag raised for people who think they are less than everyone else and to tell them that I can succeed so therefore you can as well.''
Ronnie had this to say about his success: "The other thing I can do very well is relate to people because all the songs I've ever written, I've written for people. That's why Dio's been successful, because people who like Dio, or like me perhaps, realize that I'm doing these things for them, I am what they are, I am them. I'm just a regular person. Some people think I'm this wonderful person-- I'm not. I just happen to sing a bit better than most. And I've got conviction . . . I want to hear, 'Thank you Ronnie, you've given us the album we wanted to hear.'''
Ronnie James Dio died in 2010. "Rainbow in the Dark" remains my favorite song and he remains my favorite vocalist. Thank you, Ronnie -- you gave me the music I wanted . . . no, the music I needed to hear.

And thank you, Mickie, for sharing this very personal story with 2 or 3 lines. Everyone who cares about music can appreciate how thrilled you must have been when Ronnie took your hand and sang "Rainbow in the Dark" just to you.

In 2006, "Rainbow in the Dark" was selected as number 13 of VH1's "Top
40 Greatest Metal Songs." It is featured in the video game Rock Band 3 and in the films Bad Teacher and Ricky 6.

Here's the scene from Bad Teacher that features "Rainbow in the Dark":

Here's "Rainbow in the Dark":

Here's video of a 1983 live performance of "Rainbow in the Dark" by Dio on the television show, "Rock Palace":

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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