DEF LEPPARD guitarist Vivian Campbell, who had an acrimonious split with Ronnie James Dio in the mid-1980s when the two worked together in the first incarnation of Dio‘s solo band, has once again claimed that he and his DIO bandmates were earning “less than the crew.”
Ronnie, Vivian, drummer Vinny Appice and bassist Jimmy Bain collaborated on the first three DIO albums — 1983’s “Holy Diver”, 1984’s “The Last In Line” and 1985’s “Sacred Heart” — before Irishman Campbell left to join WHITESNAKE in 1987. Vivian later publicly took issue with Ronnie‘s need for total control of the band, claiming that finances played a major part in the bad blood that preceded his exit. Specifically, Campbell said that “it had become increasingly clear” to him that Ronnie‘s wife and manager Wendy “was determined to separate Ronnie from the band. She didn’t see DIO as one creative unit. Ronnie knew better, but I suspect that in an effort to win back Wendy‘s love” after the couple split, “he was willing to bend to her whims. Thus began the beginning of the end for the original DIO band.”
Asked in a new interview with the “Let There Be Talk” podcast with rock and roll comedian Dean Delray about the DIO financial situation while he was a member of the band, Vivian said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “The money was pretty grim. That was the whole reason why I got fired from DIO — because I was a squeaky wheel. That night in London in that rehearsal room [after the DIO band was formed] when Ronnie sat us down and said, ‘Here’s the plan. This is what we’re gonna do,’ he had promised us all that by the third record, it would be an equity situation, because, basically, we had to work for next to nothing for the earlier records. And the only reason I bought a Ferrari was three reasons: number one, it was a garden-variety [production Ferrari], the cheapest one; number two, the exchange rate when I bought it… I was getting paid in dollars, and the exchange rate was very, very favorable to buy sterling at that time. And number three, I ate crew meal for years; I didn’t spend a penny. Anything I earned, my per diems or whatever, went right into a bank account and [I said], ‘I’m gonna buy a car.’ ‘Cause at the time, I was still living with my parents in Ireland, so when I wasn’t working with DIO, I’d fly home. I’d be, like, ‘Hey, mom. Hey, dad. I’m back.’ So I didn’t have any overhead; I had no bills. So I kept everything. It was the same [as] years earlier when I was saving up to buy a Gibson Les Paul; I just focused on it. I wanted a 308 GTB Ferrari, so I saved up for a few years and got it.
“But the money situation in DIO was really bleak,” Campbell reiterated. “We earned less than the crew. So we didn’t get any of those records — we got none of the t-shirts, we got none of the ticket sales, we got none of the record sales. But we were working towards that promise which was by the third album it would be an equity situation. And when we started working on the third record, that’s when I started going, ‘Hey, Ronnie, you got a moment?’ And he kept pushing it off and pushing it off. And then eventually they fired me. But I was a squeaky wheel. And it was less a matter of the money. I mean, yeah, it would have been nice to get paid for that, but it’s more principle. I’m big on principle. When somebody looks me in the eye and shakes my hand and we have a gentlemen’s agreement, I uphold my end of the deal and I expect the same of people. Maybe I’m an idealist or an idiot for expecting that of human beings, but that’s what I put out and that’s what I give and that’s what I expect from people. And so it was a question of principle much, much more so than it was a question of dollars. With me, the promise was made, and the rest of us toiled for several years in the belief that that contract would be fulfilled, and it never was. ‘Cause ultimately Ronnie never told Wendy, and Wendy was his estranged wife but his manager, and therefore, by default, the band’s manager. But she never saw it as being a band; he never kind of explained that aspect to her. She always saw Ronnie Dio kind of like Ozzy Osbourne; it didn’t matter who was behind him. But Ronnie should have known better. The magic of that original band, that’s where I really had a beef with Ronnie. He knew how good that band was, and for him to be so fearful of Wendy that he wouldn’t even have the balls to tell her that, ‘This is what I want. This is what I promised the guys. This is what we’re gonna do.’ She just kind of went, ‘No, no. You’re the star. You don’t need them. Get somebody else to play guitar.'”
Last summer, Wendy said that it was important for her to detail Ronnie‘s falling out with Vivian in the singer’s memoir, “Rainbow In The Dark: The Autobiography”, which she, along with writer Mick Wall, completed after Ronnie‘s death. “I wanted to, because I am so sick to death of hearing Vivian saying things like, ‘Ronnie paid me a hundred dollars a week.’ Well, how did he buy a Ferrari with a hundred dollars a week?” she told Ultimate Classic Rock. “Ronnie was always fair to his people. It costs a lot of money to put that show on. All of the time, we paid for everything — buses, trucks, hotels, per diems, lighting, sound and everything else. I think he treated the band very fairly. The problem is Vivian, for some reason, decided he wanted to be Ronnie. Well, you know, the band was called DIO. But the fact was that Ronnie had already been in RAINBOW and paid his dues and then in BLACK SABBATH and paid his dues. He wasn’t just off the street and a nobody. I got really upset. I get really upset when I hear him saying all of the things about Ronnie. Ronnie isn’t here to defend himself. I will. I have all of the paperwork to prove that. How much he did get paid. That just kind of upsets me that people will say, ‘Oh, Ronnie was cheap.’ Well, Ronnie was never ever cheap at all.”
Asked if she thought there would have been a chance to build any sort of bridge between Ronnie and Vivian, Wendy said: “No. I don’t think so, because there was too many nasty things by both of them said in the press, and I think you can’t undo those things.”
Campbell, Appice and Bain reunited in 2012 alongside singer Andrew Freeman to form LAST IN LINE. The band’s initial intent was to celebrate Ronnie James Dio‘s early work by reuniting the members of the original DIO lineup. After playing shows that featured a setlist composed exclusively of material from the first three DIO albums, the band decided to move forward and create new music in a similar vein.
In a 2019 interview with Ultimate Guitar, Vivian said that getting fired from DIO left a bad taste in his mouth “for so, so many years. I was so hurt by the whole process that after that, I did make a mistake of saying very hurtful things about Ronnie in the press, as indeed he said the same about me,” he said. “I think that was a mistake for both of us to do that. But it was a very painful thing for me because I never wanted to leave that band. I was fully invested in it, I enjoyed it immensely, I believed in it, and I gave blood, sweat, and tears on everything over the course of three albums to build that band. And then to be unceremoniously dumped like that was very, very painful for me. So it took me a long time to come full circle. To be honest, I think it also took Ronnie‘s passing [in 2010] to be able to look at that in a different light and realize that it was as much Jimmy Bain‘s heritage and Vinny Appice‘s heritage and my heritage as it was Ronnie‘s — we all owned those records and that history. So now I’ve come to fully embrace it, whereas for many, many years it was too painful for me to listen to it. If it came on the radio, I would turn the radio off. I didn’t own any of the records, I wanted nothing to do with it. And now I see it in an entirely different light. I realize that we owned it as much as Ronnie and that it’s a joyous thing to embrace. It makes me incredibly happy to be on the stage with Vinny, and with Jimmy while he was alive, and to play that music again. It’s something I’m very proud of. But it took me a long time to get here, and that’s the reason why.”
In a May 2011 interview with Brazil’s Roadie Crew magazine, Wendy stated about the controversy surrounding Ronnie‘s relationship with Campbell (in 2003, Vivian called Ronnie “an awful businessman and, way more importantly, one of the vilest people in the industry.”): “[Vivian] always said that he hated all the albums that he played on with Ronnie, and that was very hurtful to Ronnie. Very hurtful. Would you like someone who said something like that about your albums? He said a lot of things in the press that I don’t wanna get into, because it really wasn’t Ronnie‘s feud at all. Ronnie didn’t fire him. I fired [Vivian]. He wanted as much money as Ronnie wanted. He thought he was as important as Ronnie was, and that was just wrong. But I don’t wanna get into that. It’s water under the bridge. It doesn’t matter.”
A video clip of Ronnie James Dio calling Campbell “a fucking asshole” and saying that “I hope he fucking dies” in reference to his former bandmate was posted on YouTube in October 2007. The two-minute clip was shot on March 30, 2007 while Ronnie was signing autographs for fans after HEAVEN & HELL‘s show at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City. “He’s a piece of shit,” Dio said. “You ever heard the things he ever said about me? He called me the most despicable human being that ever lived. I went, ‘I thought I gave you a chance and made you somebody. And now you’re playing with who? DEF fucking who?’ There’s a fucking rock band for you to fucking have diarrhea with.”