Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sweet Savage

Only around 5 or 6 readers will appreciate this post... However, what I'm about to tell you is a quintessential Music Geek incident that spans almost 25 years.

A quick history lesson: Vivian Campbell has been guitarist with Def Leppard since 1992 (long after they began to suck), but Old Metalheads still respect him for his 3 year stint with Dio in 1983-86 and for his first band Sweet Savage, who were part of the NWOBHM... What's that... Oh...oh yeah.. Click HERE to find out what the fuck Umlaut is talking about.

Sweet Savage only released one 7" single with Campbell before he left the band (the single featured the song Killing Time, which Metallica covered as a b-side in 1991). Old Metalheads also had the band's demo featuring Campbell, which included a song called Eye Of The Storm. The song was also featured on a 1981 BBC Records compilation album. Long story short, despite a very limited amount of recordings, Campbell was an underground Guitar God back in The Old Metal Days.

The Friday Rock Show compilation album (BBC Records REH426) featuring Vivian Campbell with Sweet Savage:

It's been in the Umlaut Archives since 1982...

Submitted by Tour Manager Doug (TMD):

Green Day went to the VH1 Big In 2005 show last night to win an award. As they were walking down the backstage stairs, Def Leppard were walking up.

Somebody off to the side asked the Leppard guys what they were going to play. Vivian Campbell kiddingly answered that he didn't know but he hoped somebody told him soon.

I told him they should play a Sweet Savage song, maybe Eye Of The Storm.

The look on his face was amazing. Complete shock. He went, "Oh wow! That's a good one" and pointed at me. Full on groupie moment. WE MADE EYE CONTACT. It reminded me of when he came out to the line in Antioch to sign autographs and was bombarded with Sweet Savage questions.

They looked pretty good. I don't know what they played, but I'm confident that it wasn't Eye Of The Storm.

Umlaut screamed like a little school girl upon reading about this Old Metal close encounter. I live vicariously through TMD's Rock 'N Roll Lifestyle.

The "Antioch" TMD referred to is the Dio show on July 23, 1983 in Antioch, CA. It was the very first show Dio ever played:

Vivian Campbell with Dio @ The Concert Barn
(From the Umlaut Archives)

In a 2003 interview, Ronnie James Dio recalled the Antioch show:

"The first show was at a place called the Concert Barn in Antioch, California," says Ronnie. "I had no idea what to expect. We got there, and it was actually a barn with a dirt floor where they would store cattle. We thought, ‘Oh my God, this is gonna be a nightmare, isn’t it?’ I think the place held 3,000 people and we put 5,000 people in it, broke all their records. It was almost a matter of, ‘So this is going to work.’ That was the first one, and it just went up from there."

Umlaut can name at least 5 or 6 regular readers of this blog who were at The Concert Barn with him, which makes TMD's close encounter with Vivian Campbell all the more awesome. Twenty-three years melted away for a split second there, didn't they? Oh.. sorry.. the rest of you can ignore us while we geek out.

"Reach out your hand, touch me if you can.. I'm running from the eye of the storm..."

Only around 5 or 6 readers will appreciate all of this babbling about "Vivian Campbell" and "Sweet Savage". Dio's world debut in Antioch was one of those watershed events for Umlaut and many of his friends and the camaraderie that exists is profound.. in a strangely Music Geek way. I love it.

10 bucks
(From the Umlaut Archives)

"No sign of the morning coming, you've been left on your own... like a rainbow in the dark."

Submitted by John Marshall:

Trivia meaningless to anyone but me: Not only was I at the Antioch shows, I
was a stagehand there for that whole Summer. So were my two good friends Dan Watson and Bill Peterson, who somehow got their band Paradox to open the Dio and Quiet Riot shows. (Paradox were hard rock with a chick singer, sort of like Pat Benatar. The band is no more, morphing into the thrash band Hexx,then to the rockabilly band The Tombstones.)

If you see an old Metal Church photo, you might see me playing a black
Gibson Les Paul. I bought it new in about 1990. The first thing I did when I bought it was remove the pick guard and the chrome pickup covers. Now look at the picture of Vivian Campbell at the Antioch concert.

'Nuff said.

Submitted by Tour Manager Doug:

You're right, 23 years did melt away for a minute (a day?) or two. Closer to 22, actually, but who's counting.

The thing about my little encounter that I enjoy the most, is a parallel to our encounter in Antioch in July 1983. By 'our' I mean Vivian and those of us in the front of the Concert Barn line, a few of whom read Umlaut.

Ronnie James Dio, Vinny Appice and Jimmy Bain who, along with Vivian Campbell, formed the band we were waiting for on that incredibly hot July day (remember the corrugated metal walls?) had more rock experience in their previous month than Vivian Campbell had in his whole life. After 20+ years of touring I think I now know exactly how it was in the dressing room for Vivian. He was completely the odd man out, as Dio, Appice and Bain sat around the deli tray bitching about the craziness of Richie Blackmore, Vivian thought better than to interject his stories about Raymond Haller. As far as the other 3 were concerned, Vivian was about a half a step above a crew guy, and they probably all spent more time drinking with their soundman and monitor guy.

The crew were probably even worse. Many of them being failed musicians who had many years of touring under their belts, not to mention that I'll bet at least a few of them had more music released on vinyl than the 19 or 20-year old guitar player.

So, Vivian wandered out to the line. Nobody in a big time Rock band does that. Maybe after the show, but NEVER before the show.

Remember the look on his face when he got asked about Sweet Savage? It was the same as last night. He lit up. He swaggered backstage in Antioch completely unable to share his experience with anybody, because none of them would have cared. He probably woke up his dad or his girlfriend back in Ireland from the pay phone (because Old Metal predates mobile phones) with a great big grin on his face.

Last night was similar for him, I'll bet. He's no longer the odd man out, completely. He is the new guy, in the same way that Jason Newsted was and Brian Johnson is and will be. His bandmates may, or may not, have heard Sweet Savage stories from him last night. Probably not. But I'll bet he told his wife when he got home, maybe even called her on the mobile. For just a minute, 22 or 23 years melted away for one of our guitar heroes, and that's why I'm grinning as I type this.

By the way, I know there was a pay phone backstage in Antioch because I leaned on it after the show for about an hour when I snuck back there trying to get Dio to sign my 'World Premier' poster, but that's a completely different story. And I'm sure all you Old Metal guys have similar stories.

Submitted by Lauraloha:

HOLD IT ONE MINUTE UMLAUT! Who can rightfully say that they were not only at the Concert Barn in Antioch, but were also born and raised in fucking shithole Antioch and even went on to work for our favorite Umlaut band, METALLICA. That's right baby - Lauraloha that's who. Now the coincidence quotient is getting out of hand here buddy. How many shows did we actually attend together but we had no idea the other existed?

For many years after the Antioch concert, this little ol' redneck metal head actually bragged about being from Antioch. I would actually run around asking people "Do you know the first place Dio every played solo?" just so I could tell them Antioch. Vivian Campbell was a babe, we Antioch girls LOVED him. But then again, we loved Rudy Sarzo. and Phil Kennemore. so who's to say....

Anyway, it's 20 years later and you'd be hard pressed to get the truth out of me anymore, I will not admit I'm from Antioch to just anyone. I say I'm a native San Franciscan. It fits me better. But when you start talking Dio at the Concert Barn, my heart belongs to the Delta.....

Waaaaay back then there was a feathered mullet and some parachute pants with my name on them. Not to mention the Firebird Formula 405.

They closed the Concert Barn not long after that because the drive up Deer Valley Road was a killer. Especially when you were drunk or tripping on acid.

Today Lauraloha lives on an island in the sea and she was visited this very evening by her good friend who wipes Ozzy Osbourne's ass. She makes a good living at it and she is here with the Eagles. The Eagles have never played Antioch, but I bet ya Ozzy would have.

Long live 94509!

Vivian Campbell & Jimmy Bain @ The Concert Barn
(Pic by Big Wayne)

Trivia: Jimmy Bain was in Rainbow and Dio with Ronnie James Dio. In 1978, Bain was also in a sideband with the members of Thin Lizzy and Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols called The Greedy Bastards (also called The Greedies). They played 1 or 2 shows and recorded a great Christmas song called A Merry Jingle. The song is available on the Rhino Records compilation Punk Rock Xmas.

Submitted by K.J.

It's amazing how these coincidences occur. But while you're on the subject of SWEET SAVAGE, I can't resist sending a pic of what I found in my garage "Metal Stash" earlier this week.

K.J.'s Sweet Savage 7" single autographed by Vivian Campbell in 1983!

Umlaut sent the 1983 photo to Vivian Campbell's web site and asked for his reaction to the encounter with Tour Manager Doug. Amazingly, Vivian responded!

VIVIAN: It certainly took me by surprise - not only did he mention Sweet Savage, but this guy actually knew the songs, too! It's an interesting picture of me with my original Les Paul, #72987537. I'm very flattered that people remember Sweet Savage after all these years.

Click HERE to visit Vivian's site and click on the "Ask Viv" section and scroll down. Very cool, innit?!!

You should now listen to Vivian's solo in Dio's Rainbow In The Dark and bang your head.

Submitted by Anthony.

Back around '90-'91(?) Vivian was in the awful band called Riverdogs. They were playing at Slims. Vivian was signing things for a bunch of fans that were lined up for him... a lot of Dio & Riverdogs stuff. As it was my turn, I shook his hand and told him I had something a little more interesting I wanted him to sign. I pulled out my Sweet Savage single and he went through the roof! He was so stoked! He ran around showing his bandmates "LOOK! I WAS ONLY 17". We ended up talking for awhile.

Vivian & Me with my homemade Angel Witch shirt

He kept saying that it sounded like Metallica, what he meant was, he heard they did a recording of a Sweet Savage song around '82 but he never heard it. As I had a copy of it, I told him I would send him one.

I bumped into Vivian again about a month later and he
told me Metallica had asked permission to use a Sweet Savage song as a b-side (Umlaut Music Geek Note: Metallica recorded the Sweet Savage song 'Killing Time'..).

In '99 I got word that Sweet Savage, Blitzkrieg, Raven and others would be playing in New Jersey for the March Metal Meltdown show. I couldn't miss that so I flew out for the show. Sam Kress had given me a letter to give to Brian Ross (Blitzkrieg). Brian was very happy to read it. I bumped into Dave & Ray (Sweet Savage) with Jess Cox (Tygers Of Pan Tang) a short time later. We all ended up hanging out for the next two days. I was in NWOBHM heaven! Hanging out with my Metal heroes!!!

The last night of the show we were in Blitzkrieg's
hotel room, I went down the hall to hang with Ray. I knocked on the door and it opened slightly, Ray reaches out, grabs me by my shirt, pulls me into the room and slams & locks the door behind me. I'm standing there looking at him going "WHAT THE HELL???"

He says "Sorry about that, we have food in here" and
proceeds to dish me out a plate (It was impossible to find any food to eat nearby, so food was like gold).

L. to R.: Dave, Simon (Sweet Savage), Jess Cox, Ray Haller, and Me

So now, not only was I hanging with my Metal heroes... I was getting fed by them too!