Sunday, May 16, 2010

Like Rainbows In The Dark

What a terrible day for Old Metal... Ronnie James Dio AND Debbie Abono moved on to the next level within hours of each other earlier today.

The First Ever Dio Performance
(From the Umlaut Archives)

All told, Umlaut saw Dio perform 11x over the years with Dio and Black Sabbath / Heaven And Hell. For those who are interested here are some Dio rants from past postings on this site:
  • Sweet Savage: Dio's first ever performance up in Antioch in that barn in the middle of nowhere.
  • 22 Years Ago Today: Dio at the San Jose Civic.
  • Neon Knights: Umlaut's Music Geek memories about Dio with Black Sabbath.
I met Dio once... It was backstage at The Forum in Los Angeles at an Iron Maiden show in 2008. As I entered the hospitality room backstage my companion said "Hey, there's Dio!"... There were maybe only 5 other people in the room... I was completely starstruck and although I was introduced to him I completely blanked on asking to have my picture taken with him. Regrets... but I'm thankful I at least met him after all these years.

Debbie Abono is one of the great unsung heroes of the Bay Area Metal Scene. Her story is one that kidz today probably can't comprehend: A grandmother who came to manage local Metal bands like Possessed, Exodus, and Vio-lence and who brought her grandmotherly charm and kindness to shows at rough venues like Ruthies Inn and The Omni. It was people like Debbie who made that original Bay Area Metal Scene so special and maybe even unique in the history of Metal.

Debbie with Larz and Krk
(Photo by Harald O.)

Last week at a show in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Metallica dedicated 'Nothing Else Matters' to Debbie. Nicely done, lads.

Dedication at the 0:50 minute mark...

A couple of years ago I saw a mutual friend who now lives back East and he said Debbie would love to get together with me while he was in town... lunch... coffee.. whatever.... Just to catch up and chat about The Old Metal Days. Unfortunately, that reunion didn't happen because of scheduling and life here in the 21st Century. Huge regrets now.... HUGE.

Rest in Peace, Old Heroes; one who was onstage and one who was backstage. Both of them affected and changed my life in their own profound ways. Both Debbie and Dio also reinforced my philosophy that age is only a number and simply a state of mind. Once you start thinking you're old you become old.. So live for today, tomorrow never comes... DIE YOUNG.

Submitted by Tour Manager Doug:

Debbie Abono

One of my favorite people on the planet.

Like Maria Ferrero, Gary Holt, Craig Locicero, and the others who have had comments on Blabbermouth and in other places, words can't express the love that was felt for Debbie by everybody who she ever crossed paths with.

I laughed at a comment posted somewhere that referred to her as Mrs. Abono. I never, ever, heard her called that. To anybody she met, it was Debbie. I know that the person who posted meant it with all due respect, and I know that Debbie would have smiled and said "Oh dear, just call me Debbie".

She was involved, behind the scenes, with one of my earliest tour manager gigs, for Death Angel in August 1987.

I have so many fond memories of Debbie, but there is one that I think captures her essence.

I handled a tour for her in 1992. Her band Obituary were headlining, the support acts were Cannibal Corpse, Agnostic Front and Malevolent Creation. Debbie wanted all the bands treated as if they were the headliner, food, drinks, etc, no special treatment. She said, "because we're all in this together".

While the crowd was mostly metal, Agnostic's fans added another dimension. I'll never figure out how Nazi skinheads can be fans of Puerto Rican punks, but I suppose the same question could be asked about a lot of our favorite bands whose members are of not quite white heritage (Slayer?).

The first two shows of the tour were festivals. In Milwaukee, Debbie was a bit annoyed when some of us took the time to pee in the shower meant for Dogstar (only Dogstar), but she appreciated the intended point. The third show was the first with only "our" four bands, it was at a club called the Marquee in Detroit.

Detroit has long been known as a great city for rock, and that generation of metal was no exception. Big Mick, legendary soundman for a little ol' band called Metallica, was at the show that night. He came not necessarily because he cared to see a bunch of loud bands on his off day, he came so that he could spend time with Debbie. He ended up running lights. Because she asked him to.

At some point in the night, probably during Agnostic Front's set, the combination of metalheads, and punks, and skins became to volatile and a full scale brawl broke out. There were peacemakers on both sides, trying to bring calm to the storm but to no avail. Then, in an instant, it all stopped.

"You boys stop that!" she yelled as she waded into the middle of it. I think she would have been 62, maybe 63 years old.

She was practically in tears, actually, I think she was crying, they were the tears of a mother who couldn't stand her siblings fighting.

Everybody. Metalhead. Punk. Skin. Everybody stopped. Heads bowed in embarrassment. Sorry Debbie. The aim of everybody in the room was no longer to beat the crap out of somebody, it was to make sure that Debbie was ok, and not mad at them. Sorry Debbie. Even the ones who had never met her until that moment. Sorry Debbie. Everybody felt that they had disappointed her, and that was way worse than anything else.

We were all her kids, she loved us.

And we all love her.

Click HERE for Tour Manager Doug's remembrance of Ronnie James Dio...