In a recent interview with Meltdown of Detroit’s WRIF radio station, former QUEENSRŸCHE singer Geoff Tate looked back on his involvement with “Stars”, the 1985 charity single for famine relief released under the HEAR ‘N AID banner.
On May 20 and May 21, 1985, 40 artists from the metal community gathered at A&M Records Studios in Hollywood, California to participate in the making of a record called “Stars” as a part of a very special fundraising project spearheaded by Ronnie James Dio known as HEAR ‘N AID. The “Stars” single and a video documentary on the making of the record was used to raise money for famine relief efforts in Africa and around the world. These 40 artists — including members of MÖTLEY CRÜE, JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, QUIET RIOT, TWISTED SISTER, BLUE ÖYSTER CULT and even SPINAL TAP — along with hundreds of other volunteers, donated their time and talent over four months to make HEAR ‘N AID a reality. “Stars” was a plea for unity in the fight against world hunger.
Speaking about his experience recording “Stars”, Tate told WRIF (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “I had just finished a tour with Ronnie, opening for him. And he called me up on the phone and said, ‘You wanna get involved with this project I’m doing?’ And I dropped everything and said, ‘Of course.’ And he flew me down to A&M Records, into the studio there. I walked in at my appointed time and the place was just packed full of people. There was more people that were in that studio than I’d ever seen in any studio in my life. There must have been — I don’t know — 50, 60 people hanging out there. And all of ’em were famous — people in the music scene. And I walked in to the microphone, put my headphones on. I looked through the glass into the control room and Ronnie‘s in there and Rob Halford‘s in there, Ted Nugent‘s in there, Eric Bloom is in there, Neil Schon is in there, and I was, like, freaking out. I’m a very young man — I think I’m 24 years old — and I’m performing in front of these famous people with a lot of accomplishments. And I was so petrified I couldn’t take my sunglasses off. I had to wear ’em throughout the whole day, ’cause I couldn’t look at anybody. I just had to look at myself and feel myself and get into the the song. But it was a wonderful experience and I’m so glad to be a part of it.”
Tate went on to say that being “starstruck” in the presence of all the other great musicians made it that much harder for him to deliver the goods in the studio. “Because of the situation, where you’re expected to perform something that maybe you haven’t really spent a lot of time thinking about or doing, and then to do it in front of these amazing accomplished musicians is so unnerving, I tell ya,” he explained.
According to Geoff, Dio assisted him through the process and ultimately helped him lay down his parts on what still stands as one of the biggest fundraising projects in hard rock and heavy metal history.
“I was petrified. Absolutely petrified,” Geoff repeated. “And Ronnie was such a good sport about everything and he definitely understood my situation and coached me through, encouraged me to keep going and do what it was I was doing. And actually, he was an incredible mentor throughout my career. At various times we connected throughout the years, and he sang a lead part on the ‘Operation: Mindcrime II’ album. And we toured with him extensively. In fact, we did the last tour that he did with HEAVEN & HELL. QUEENSRŸCHE opened for him at the time. He was wonderful. What a wonderful man he was. May he rest in peace.”
Due to contract differences with the labels, the “Stars” song and album weren’t released until New Year’s Day, 1986, and were only ever made available on vinyl and cassette. But Ronnie‘s wife and manager Wendy Dio has said in recent years that she is continuing her efforts to correct that.
Wendy previously revealed that one of the reasons the HEAR ‘N AID reissue was taking so long to come out was the “legal stuff” that needed to be taken care of. “You can always get the bands to do something, but it’s the legal licensing of talking with the record labels they’re on and the management and so on, to get something off the ground,” she said. “So we’re hoping to do that.”
Geoff previously discussed his involvement with “Stars” in a 2021 interview with Dr. Music. At the time, he said: “Ronnie was very special. And he actually gave QUEENSRŸCHE its first start touring in Europe — invited us as special guests on his tour. He was an incredibly giving individual — especially when he liked a person or a group or somebody’s music, he was very supportive. And we had just finished our first European tour with them, and he called and asked if I’d be part of this project that he was doing. And I, of course, immediately said yes. I always said yes to Ronnie, whenever he wanted something. I had so much respect for him and his wonderful career; he was just a wonderful person.
“Anyway, I flew down to L.A. and walked into A&M Studios, and it was just a zoo — a madhouse,” he continued. “It was the most people I’d ever seen crammed in one building — hundreds and hundreds of people in the lobby and outside. It was pandemonium, actually. I got in somehow; I had the credentials — I picked them up at the front desk at the hotel. I got in there, and Ronnie met me at the door. He gave me a big hug and ushered me in. He said, ‘Okay, I’m glad you’re here. You’re just on time. We’re ready to have you do your vocal tracks. Are you ready? Or do you wanna warm up? Do you want something to drink?’ I walked into the recording studio part, and he showed me the microphone. And there was a chair and a table, and some water glasses. And the lyrics to the song were up there and headphones. And he goes, ‘Okay, sit here. We’ll do a couple of playbacks so you kind of get used to it and get your headphone volumes.’ He goes, ‘I’ll just be on the other side of the glass.’ I look over, and in the control room are all those people [that are featured in the photo on the cover]. I mean, Ted Nugent‘s in there, and Rob Halford‘s in there, and Neal Schon is in there, Jonathan Cain… The list goes on and on. Everybody that’s basically on the record is standing there. And I am just, like, petrified. This is my third time I’ve been in the studio in my life. I’m 25 years old, and it was really early on in my career. And I was so scared. And now I have to perform in front of these amazing, accomplished musicians who’ve done more in their life than I could ever dream of doing. Oh, God. I couldn’t even take off my sunglasses. You see every photo of me on that day, and I had my sunglasses on. I couldn’t live without ’em. I was hiding in my own scene, inside my own head. And then I hear Ronnie coming over the headphones: ‘Geoff, are you there? Are you there?’ [Laughs] I really wanted to take those headphones off and run away; I was so nervous. But he talked me through it and got me calmed down. He was the kind of guy that could always sense what was going on around him; he was pretty intuitive. And I think he was probably hip to the fact that I was scared shitless, as they say. But that’s the way I felt — just scared shitless.
“But it turned out okay, and everybody was cool,” Tate added. “We had a good time. And the record was great. So different and weird and strange, with all those guitar solos. What a way to make a song. But it was cool and different. And I was really proud to be a part of it. And I was really proud that [Ronnie] asked me to do it.
“And honestly, even though it was a monumental experience for me at the time, I didn’t really completely appreciate it till much later, and looking back on it and realizing, oh, this was a pretty incredible record. And what it did — it raised so much money and so much awareness from a whole different segment of society, which was really important.”
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