30 Years Ago: Dio Release ‘The Last in Line’
For Ronnie James Dio, the title of Dio‘s second album, ‘The Last in Line’ — which dropped into record stores on July 2, 1984 — could very well have referenced the legendary singer’s lengthy wait for much-deserved solo stardom after decades served as perhaps the ultimate team player.
After all, the previous year’s hit ‘Holy Diver’ was a debut album in name only. Between his recent exploits with Black Sabbath (whose career he helped save from oblivion), prior service with Ritchie Blackmore‘s Rainbow, the band Elf, and countless, oft-forgotten groups dating all the way back to the late ’50s, Mr. Ronald James Padavona had been preparing for his close up for a long, long time.
As with ‘Holy Diver,’ Dio produced ‘The Last in Line, which had been recorded in the early months of 1984 at the same Caribou Ranch Studio made famous by Elton John‘s LP of that name. It welcomed back the same core trio of musicians — guitarist Vivian Campbell, bassist Jimmy Bain and drummer Vinnie Appice — that so competently backed up Ronnie on ‘Holy Diver,’ contributing excellent song ideas, as well as their talents. The addition of former Rough Cutt keyboard player, Claude Schnell, gave their efforts new dimensions, and the end results were, as Ronnie himself might have put it, magic.
‘We Rock’ ensured that ‘The Last in Line’ would storm out of the gates at full power and breakneck speed, thus paving the way for the anthemic title track and rockers like ‘Breathless,’ ‘One Night in the City’ and ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ that were as heavy as they were hook-filled. Sprinkled among these were further samples of pedal-to-the metal head-banging (‘I Speed at Night,’ the excellent ‘Evil Eyes’), ‘Mystery’ and an epic closer rife with mystery and grandeur in ‘Egypt (The Chains are On).’
An instant success story around the world, ‘The Last in Line’ hit No. 4 in the U.K. charts and No. 24 in the U.S. (very impressive, considering its heralded predecessor had peaked at No. 56) on its way to earning a Gold certification within two months of its release, and powering through to Platinum sales by the following year (thus becoming the first Dio LP to earn that distinction).
By then, Dio — the band — had become a touring machine, criss-crossing the U.S., U.K. and Europe, in turn, beginning in June until the end of ’84, before returning to America for a final leg, ending Jan. 27. Over that span, the quintet performed over 100 shows with the likes of Whitesnake, Twisted Sister, Queensryche, and Dokken as support acts.
All in all, the tour signified perhaps the height of the group’s popularity and helped make ‘The Last in Line’ first among Dio albums for many, many fans.