11.26.2006

10 days with Brenda




Ronnie Dio & the Prophets 10 days with Brenda 45 (Parkway, 1967)

Like many of you, my first hearing of Ronnie James Dio's voice was on Rainbow's Man on the Silver Mountain. An early heavy metal classic, Man on the Silver Mountain shows former Deep Purple guitarist Richie Blackmore running on fumes. At the time I first heard Rainbow, I thought they were a solid okay, which is a pretty damning assessment from a noise thirsty 14 year old. Because Rainbow never clicked for me, I really had no opinion of Dio. He was just the guy who sang for Rainbow. When he joined Black Sabbath - the favorite band of the teenage pre-punk me - my thoughts were, "No Ozzie = No Sabbath," though I have to admit that Heaven & Hell is a fine record, much better than the Ozzie-fronted Sabbath's last two. By the time Dio abandoned Sabbath for Dio, the group that would make him a mega-star, I was too into punk rock to give a shit about Ronnie James.

While punk rock closed me off to commercial heavy metal, it opened me up to 60s garage/beat, bubblegum, and 50s rockabilly. At 14, I would have snarfed at Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, and the Everly Brothers. The Yardbirds were only important because that was the band Jimmy Page came from before he was in Led Zeppelin. I didn't know the Them, Pretty Things, Troggs, Small Faces, etc. and only knew the Kinks, Who, & Rolling Stones because they were still making records in the mid to late 70s. Blame this ignorance on me having no older sibling and the wretched state of Sacramento FM radio. Like many stations across the country, the late 70s saw Sacramento's KZAP go from an exciting freeform community station to album rock radio, pretty much playing what today we would consider classic rock. Gone were dejays who got to play the Stooges' LA Blues as an 8 am wake up track, in were the slick commercial hucksters playing whatever major label A&R folks told them to play (for an excellent read on that time check out Frederic Dannen's Hit Men, as damning a work on the music industry as has ever been written. I am surprised that the guy wasn't assassinated by the majors for writing it. I also recommend Fred Goodman's Mansion on the Hill as a great read on the issues and events that lead to the total commercialization of rock & roll and the rise of classic rock. So important was this issue that it got run in the movies [FM] and television [WKRP], weak treatments for sure, but striking because the mainstream felt a need to attack the mainstream). Thus my early musical education was one of curiosity and chance. By chance I was introduced to the Sex Pistols. My curiosity lead me to look for more.

One of the great things about late Seventies punk rock was that it beat back the commercial, the music industry, and the dinosaur bands, while championing forgotten icons from the past. Through the Sex Pistols, I was to discover the Small Faces. And the Small Faces lead to the Troggs, Pretty Things, etc. Sid Vicious made me check out Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. The Cramps, along with the "cat" infested (Stray Cats, Rockats, Pole Cats, etc.) punk inspired rockabilly revival, turned me on to Link Wray, the Burnette Brothers, and obscurities like Charlie Feathers. And then there was Lenny Kaye's Nuggets comp, something listed on every early punk band's influences, along with the Stooges, Velvet Underground, Fugs, and Modern Lovers. All of this music is the real classic rock.

So where do Ronnie Dio & the Prophets come in. Simple, had someone slipped Ronnie Dio in with the Standells, the Lemon Pipers, and the Shangra-La's when I was a newly minted punkeroo, I would have gone wild! And had the powers that controlled radio pushed what was good rather than what the music industry wanted to sell, I'd have heard 10 Days with Brenda before I was introduced to Man on the Silver Mountain.

10 Days... comes at the tail end of the pre-acid rock/heavy metal career of Ronnie Dio. In 1957, he made his first single with Ronnie & the Redcaps. They existed from 1957 to 1959 and had two 45s to show for it. In 1960, Ronnie Dio & the Prophets formed. They started off doing a bit of dowop and R&B and ended up with some great 60s pop. In 1967, they did their last single, the fantastic 10 Days with Brenda. After the Prophets, Dio fronted the acid rock band the Elves, who later became ELF. ELF was followed by Rainbow and the rest of his years are pretty much Classic Rock 101.

10 Days with Brenda is great for a number of reasons. First is the intro. Guitar flourish, haunting backing vocals, and a throbbing bass. Second, the vocal melody. I tried to get together a band a few months ago and this was one of the songs we tried to cover. With me as singer we were doomed to one practice but I did have fun trying to sing 10 Days... Third, the lyrics. 10 Days... is one of the most heartless songs ever. Dio wants to leave Brenda. Despite the fact that he doesn't love her, he will giver her 10 more days of his time. That is the very least he can do for her. While there is the chance that Dio is singing about his impending death (which would make this one of rock's great morbid songs), I am gonna go with Brenda's dumping. Four, when the song kicks in with full drums in the second verse it is one of the best transitions of the time, the only fault being that the song ends soon after. (If you want one of the best rhythmic shift/transitions check out Sade's Smooth Operator. I know you've heard it a million times before but the next time you listen to it listen to the rhythm shift. It is as effective and artful as it comes. That said, the best rhythm shift in rock & roll is a very very lucky mistake, the shift in Crime's Hot Wire My Heart.) Add those up and you get five. You also get a great song.


Comments:
damn dude,

i enjoyed your prose even more than the record, which was great.
you make some great points about the sadsack shit radio world we live in, including college radio, even worse than the rest, yuck and yeech.

Did i mention it was a great song?
 
Interesting the parallel between your journey of musical knowledge and the career of Ronnie God.

This journey is the same of mine too.

Do you have this Ronnie & the Redcaps?
I loved to hear them.
 
Very cool! I always wondered what his 60's stuff sounded like. He must be like 75, right?
 
the melody is beautiful
 
Ronnies 63, what happened to david Feinstein (his guitar player) and Sticks the drummer? Elf's keyboardist was the first French canadian I ever partied with. Long ago, another planet....
 
"Walking in Different Circles" was a big hit c.1967 on WNDR Syracuse. I lived next door to him in Cortland for a while. There's no plaque there but there is a street named after him.
 
David "Rock" Feinstein was in an 80s metal band called the rods, you might be able to find more info on therods.com or carl-caned.com. I have one album of theirs, the cover art is an airbrushed painting of a womn with bruises on her face holding a gold dildo in a banana peel.

RJD wrote the Hear'n Aid single too, if I'm not mistaken. My roomate at the time bet that the first line would include "the night", glad I didn't take that bet.

Good track, thanks!
 
Great posting. Especially dug how you exposited the evolution of your listening habits. Gives me a kick from time to time to learn how one starts at A and winds up at X. Keep up the quality job here.

-P
 
i think you can still get ronnie and the red caps on http://www.51mpc.com/share.htm
ronnie is great WE ROCK!!
 
Hot Wire My Heart, yes, indeed. (Saw Crime in L.A. c.1980 with the Screamers.) Sade's knack is for making songs out of one note. I never noticed that any of 'em even had "rhythm," let alone "shift."
 
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