Editorial : Mike Starr Remembered

I remember when Layne Staley died.

I awoke to the earth moving, in a bed that was not my own. Some girl I met at work… details are fuzzy about her (I recall a birthday). But what got me up was, literally, an earthquake—a 5.1 in Au Sable Forks, NY, to be precise. I was motivated to return home and celebrate April 20 for its many lovely reasons (like Hitler’s birthday and the anniversary of Columbine). Well after no more than one exhale, Kurt Loder told me Staley was found dead, and my wind was fully knocked out.

Mike Starr is believed to be the last person to communicate with Layne, one of the things revealed on Celebrity Rehab, the last place most people saw Starr, back in 2009. Not me—I avoid that shit like the plague, but I heard he got clean through the program, and I share the sentiment of his former bandmates. I was bummed to hear of his recent arrest, then crushed about his death.

I had not heard from Mike Starr in years and I never knew about his next project, Sun Red Sun (the band was basically a no-starter), but I can barely quantify my love for Alice in Chains. Forgive us the Seattle adoration at MindOverMetal.org, but they’ve been a planned inductee in our ‘Archetypes’ for some time. Mike’s writing credits over the years included “It Ain’t Like That”, “Confusion” and “Rain When I Die” (skipping all segue attempts there)—but I actually have his heavy-lidded bedroom eyes burned in my memory above all else. They were strangely calming in the photo to the right, and for some reason, the place my 12-year-old eyes fell first (note: the vinyl back is displayed here, not the j-card from the tape to which I refer).

The cause of death for the 44-year-old Starr is still unknown; autopsy reports can take months sometimes. But I don’t wanna think about that right now. I just grabbed Facelift, Sap and Dirt off the racks… time to reacquaint. Hopefully he and Layne have both found peace. Rest easy, brothers.


Editorial : RONNIE JAMES DIO Fades Away

from facebook.com/OfficialRonnieJamesDio

This is probably the tenth time I’ve begun this today. As much as I would like to maintain a modicum of journalistic integrity, the fog in my glasses and the tears on my keyboard prevents me from doing so. There isn’t much I can say that you don’t already know about the legendary Ronnie James Dio. Here is the official statement from Wendy Dio found at www.ronniejamesdio.com:

“Today my heart is broken, Ronnie passed away at 7:45am 16th May. Many, many friends and family were able to say their private good-byes before he peacefully passed away. Ronnie knew how much he was loved by all. We so appreciate the love and support that you have all given us. Please give us a few days of privacy to deal with this terrible loss. Please know he loved you all and his music will live on forever.”

I haven’t cried this hard all year.  Without sounding callous, I’m trying to figure out why I’m so deeply moved.  I mean absolutely no disrespect by this statement; I’m honestly trying to tap my memory for the last time I reacted this deeply to a music artist passing.

Black Sabbath is basically the reason why I sought out heavy music.  They arrived a little late to the table, as glam and grunge were my technical introduction, but nary a band has superseded their rightful place at the top of my metal mountain.  My friend and I were at Ted Herbert’s Music Mart in Manchester, NH (circa 1993) checking out guitars when the guy working asked us what we were listening to lately.  I told him “Black Sabbath” and he asked which album.  I was really into Sabbath Bloody Sabbath at the time, in all of its proggy grandeur.  He handed me his Walkman, which had a tape of Heaven and Hell inside.  I checked it out and absolutely fucking hated it.  Who was this un-Ozzy?  Why did the band sound different?  Give me the Sabbath I know!

I was what you could call a ‘Sabbath Denier’. While the “classic six” remained in regular rotation for most of my life, I only heard Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die! in their entirety no more than one week ago, when my girlfriend bought me Black Box for my 30th birthday.  In similar fashion, the only other material I’ve paid attention to has been their work with Dio, and even that was only a few years ago.

Revisiting Dio-era Black Sabbath was like no other experience.  Approaching the material with fresh and willing ears, I heard an entirely different band, worthy of an altogether different level of appreciation.  This feeling was further strengthened when witnessing the band live.  Just as the Osbourne-Iommi-Butler-Ward lineup has a unique chemistry, so does the Dio-Iommi-Butler-Appice combination.  Having seen Ozzy five times and the classic Sabbath lineup twice before experiencing Heaven and Hell, I was anxious to see how they came across in concert.  While both Ozzy and Dio radiate unwavering love and sincerity, there is a classy quality to Ronnie’s delivery that I found absolutely transcendent.

I know he performed with many bands, including Rainbow, Elf, and his eponymous group, Dio.  This is a very Sabbath-centric viewpoint, but again, I gotta write what I know best. I’m happy that The Devil You Know made my Best of 2009 list on its own merits, ending on a career high-note.  By now, I’m sure he has already broken into heaven, and is currently changing the rules.

R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio, the first fallen godfather of heavy metal.