Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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One Moment in Time: Putting A Hear’n Aid on a Bleeding Wound

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 29, 2007

They are calling you, calling you

If you watch half as much VH1 Classic as I do, you’re probably intimately familiar with this PSA–you know, the one with all the past and present metal stars (mostly past, naturally) talking about what a problem Autism is, and vaguely spurring audiences on to do something about it. I’m still not sure what the funniest part of it is–how impassioned Tommy Lee seems, how utterly bored Gene Simmons sounds (and how Ace Frehley doesn’t do anything but lend emotional support), how charismatic Dee Snider thinks he’s being, or how weird Ronnie James Dio still looks. Everyone looks either too serious, not serious enough, or just looks like they have no idea what they’re doing there in the first place.

Point is, nothing makes metal guys look more ridiculous–and metal guys spend a lot of time looking ridiculous–than attempting to appear charitable. No genre of music has as little a place for altruism as classic metal–I mean yeah, maybe Iron Maiden sang about the plight of Indians every now and then, and Dave Mustaine probably thinks that there’s a message to his music beyond “singing with your teeth clenched makes you sound kind of insane,” but otherwise, it’s almost all about me, me, me. There’s a reason why the version of “Rock and Roll All Night” you hear on the radio cuts out the lines about “taking out the garbage, but not before sorting it into recycling and non-recycling”. Unless caring about others is going to directly lead to more money, drugs, sex and pyrotechnics, it just doesn’t seem feasible for metal dudes.

Take “Stars.” In 1985, Jimmy Bain, Vivian Chamberlain and Ronnie James Dio (all of Dio’s eponymous band) combined to write a metal equivalent to “We are the World” or “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” with a similarly all-star cast to back it up, to raise money for Africa relief. And to be fair, for an all-metal cast before the real height of hair metal, they got a lot of big names–dudes from Quiet Riot, Iron Maiden, Journey, Queensryche, Judas Priest, Blue Oyster Cult, Twisted Sister, W.A.S.P., Night Ranger, and too many others to name here among them–to play on the single. The supergroup was called Hear ‘n Aid, and the song was called “Stars.”

The song is a bizarre concoction. Despite being a hefty seven minutes long, “Stars” is so overstuffed with singers and guitarists that no one gets more than a couple bars at a time to themselves, making room for nine lead vocalists and 10 soloists (and I’ve only ever heard of two of ’em–how the guy from Dokken negotiated his way into a solo is quite a story, I’m sure). What’s odd about this, though, is how little you notice the staggering number of people involved–everyone ends up kinda sounding interchangeable, which I guess is what happens when you do a super-supergroup charity single with contributions only from artists of one genre.

The really strange thing about “Stars,” however, is how little it sounds like a charity single. There’s a short intro of lamentation from Ronnie (“Who cries for the children? / I do!“), but aside from that, it just sounds like your average early-mid 80s metal song–no “there comes a time where we heed a certain call,” no “tonight thank God it’s them instead of you,” nothing. The sum total of the chorus? “WE’RE STAAAARS!!!” Meaning what, exactly? “We’re stars, and we can help you”? “We’re stars, and you can be too, by buying our single and helping Africa”? “We’re stars, and we will shine the light towards the end of world hunger”?

Evidently, the public was similarly confused by the song’s message, since according to Wikipedia, it only raised about one million in a year. One million dollars? How many copies did this thing sell, 12? There were about 50 “stars” involved in this thing, so that comes out to what, 20k a piece? Most of these dudes probably spent that much on mascara, hairpsray and leather a month. Still, apparently it was enough to warrant a sequel, as Wikipedia says that it is rumored that “as of spring 2005, Dio is planning a second Hear’n Aid, and is currently writing the new song.” Maybe he’s waiting for the studio GnR’s using for Chinese Democracy to free up.

The first time I ever heard about “Stars” was when it topped VH1’s list of the 100 Most Metal Moments–still one of my all-time favorite VH1 countdowns. And though I wondered how the hell a charity single could be considered metal, I realize now that it wasn’t actually such a bad choice–“Stars” was a glorious demonstration about how not even the plight of Africa was a big enough cause to truly eclipse the personalities and egos of metallers.


2 Responses to “One Moment in Time: Putting A Hear’n Aid on a Bleeding Wound”

  1. Ry said

    This was funny.

    However, its Viv Campbell not Chamberlain
    Dokken guitarist George Lynch does a perfectly tastey solo

  2. Dave said

    This must have been a junior high paper by a chess nerd.

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