The Japanese word ‘natsukashii’ essentially means ‘nostalgic’ – eg something you remember fondly..and readers – the song ‘Stars’ by Hear n Aid sends me back in time with a big wide grin – as I crank the volume and play my invisible BC Rich. Just over 25 years back, the world was putting their hands in their pockets – digging deep to help feed the starving folks in Africa…..the mainstream music world all joined hands to help the cause…USA for Africa and Band Aid were the two notables….yet there was nothing about those two recordings to hold my interest back then. Seemingly ignored, the hard rock and metal fraternity – essentially under the leadership of Ronnie James Dio, gathered in L.A under the name Hear n Aid and recorded the tune ‘Stars’. What a song. Make no mistake, this is undiluted – hard rock of the highest caliber. If you are 20 years old and reading this – you’d have no idea what I am raving on about – bless your dumb ass. Read and learn…it’s why we do this blog. I can remember reading about this recording in 1986 in the local Sydney street press and being as keen as hell to hear it. It was essentially a who’s who of the hard rock and metal world (from that era) – all gathered in the one location to do their bit for famine relief. What they came away with, was a bonafide heavy metal classic. It was written by the sorely missed Dio, Viv Campbell (who let’s face it – has been a side-man in Whitesnake and Leppard since leaving Dio not long after this single) and Jimmy Bain who were all hitting a creative peak – though Ronnie seemed to be on a peak for most of his career, penning memorable tunes with effortless ease. I walked into a record store in suburban Sydney – after punching out from my mundane factory job and began scouring the racks. I quickly found the 7″ single and I recall the ever-helpful store owner saying to me “the 12″ version has all the guitar solo’s on it” and then played it over the store’s speakers nice and loud (anyone remember when record store owners actually dug music ? Go find someone in your large K-Mart styled music super stores in 2012 like that guy!)…and it blew me away.
Looking back, this song possibly defines who I was as a heavy metal kid of the early-mid 1980’s – and to this day, I believe it was only released on vinyl and cassette. Fine by me. The tune has a heavy – infectious riff which hammers away until song’s end and a memorable chorus. I am fortunate to say that I saw Dio encore with this in Sydney in September of 86. All vocalists on this tune do a fine job – but it’s Dave Meniketti and Geoff Tate who were my stand-outs.Thankfully Ronnie did not let Vince Neil near the mike – his scalded cat-like vocals were not required on this offering. The blazing guitar solo’s are all lightning quick and were laid down by some of rock and metal’s hardest hitters like Neil Schon, George Lynch, Buck Dharma and Craig Goldy. Former Ozzy and Night Ranger axe man Brad Gillis’ whammy bar antics had me spellbound back then, and the signature Yngwie sound stands out from the rest. Maiden’s Smithy and Murray broke away from the World Slavery tour to lend their talents as well. The tune is an anthem. It is as catch as all hell. It also represents an era in loud rock n roll which no longer exists. Guns n Roses were still playing to no one at the nearby Troubador. Metallica were still underground, long-haired lager louts and pushing their Ride Tthe Lightning album. Bon Jovi meanwhile were busy recording Slippery When Wet. These three bands would – in three or four short years – be the new rock heavyweights.
Yet in the mid-80’s my friends, this record had heavy rotation on the Rockbrat stereo – a time when metal was still underground – when we really all were ‘stars’.