As a tribute to the recent passing of Ronnie James Dio (RIP RJD), I thought it would be good to take a look back at the gear a young and fiery Vivian Campbell used on the classic early ’80s Dio albums Holy Diver and The Last in Line. Tone-wise not the greatest – also not the worst, compared to some modern metal stuff – but classic metallic hard rock nonetheless. Great tunes, great drumming and some great playing by Vivian, who was 20 at the time.
Let’s start with a quote from Viv’s website: “When I joined Dio in 1982, I had a very direct setup of a Les Paul through an overdrive pedal into a Marshall.” For tone-heads, that’s only marginally helpful. So with further investigation, here’s what he appears to have used:
> 1977 Les Paul Deluxe (purchased new in Belfast in ’77), wine red, sanded down and painted black (by Viv), jumbo frets, brass nut and DiMarzio pickups. The guitar meant so much to him he memorized the serial number, which I won’t put here in case some Far East LP-replicating troll runs across it.
> Re: pickups, it appears Viv never specified exactly what was in the guitar during the sessions. The DiMarzios were black with 12 shiny pole pieces, which likely means they were Dual Sounds (four-wire version of the Super Distortion) – Super Distortions were only available in cream. He then apparently changed to a Dimarzio X2N and then to a Seymour Duncan Full Shred – obviously he was into higher-output pickups.
> A few years on in his Dio stint, Viv got “LA”d and used Charvels with Floyd Rose bridges. Presumably he stuck with higher-output pickups.
> Boss Super Overdrive SD-1 or a Boss GE-7 7-band graphic EQ (either, not both, to boost his signal) into a stock Marschall JCM800 (not sure if 2203/100w or 2204/50w), bought for him by Ronnie. No info on the speakers/cab, but a safe bet is that it was a stock JCM800 cab which I believe likely had Celestion G12T-75s – 75w speakers.
> One user on the Harmony Central forums quoted an old interview in which Viv apparently said his Marshall(s) had Groove Tubes rated at #1, for quickest break-up.
> Passed on from Viv to his guitar tech to a poster on a forum is that at the time Viv also had “fast-as-f*ck fingers, Marlboros and a lot of coffee.” [What, no booze?!]
And there you have it. Another mostly successful tonal investigation.
Dio, Rainbow in the Dark, Rock Palace, 1983
> Here Viv has an X2N in the neck position and an unknown one in the bridge.
> Later in his career he used Randall solid-state heads (end of Dio), Marshall JCM900s, and for many years now has been using a Marshall JMP1 preamp into power amps/rack setup. On his website he said: “My setup with Def Leppard has remained basically unchanged for the last several years and consists of Marshall JMP preamps, various rackmount effects units, and Marshall and Mesa/Boogie power amps all being united though a Bradshaw switching system. This amount of equipment and the versatility of a midi-programmable switching system is very necessary in a band like Leppard, as our music is multi-layered with many delay-dependent program changes…” Lots of info about his current rig on the web.
> Re: his Dio work, he said: “Although I was unconvinced at the time, upon listening to my early work on the first two Dio albums recently, I can finally appreciate the fire that I played with. I didn’t have a lot of technique compared to most of my peers, but that’s not what music always calls for. Try telling me that at the time, however!” He added: “I didn’t get the chance to record with Whitesnake, with the exception of one guitar solo on “Give Me All Your Love Tonight.” I did have my favorite spots during the live show and one of those was playing the solo on “Is This Love,” which was a particularly melodic solo as recorded by John Sykes.
Dio, The Last in Line, Philadelphia Spectrum, 1984
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