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33 Years Ago: Black Sabbath’s First Tour With Ronnie James Dio Begins

Fin Costello, Getty Images

Heavy metal overlords Black Sabbath began the second chapter of their storied career in April 1980, when they hit the road in Europe and U.K. for their first shows with Ozzy Osbourne’s replacement, Ronnie James Dio.

At the time, no one could really forecast what lay ahead – triumph or tragedy or anything in-between – for the reconfigured Sabbath, although Dio’s solid reputation fronting Rainbow and the underrated Elf obviously preceded him. In any case, there was also the generally accepted notion that the drug-damaged Osbourne was totally washed up.

How wrong he would eventually prove them all, with a little help from a ruthless manager/spouse, but that’s a story for another time and place…

As Sabbath confronted audiences with Dio at the helm (alternately supported by French rockers Shakin’ Street and up-and-coming New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands like Girlschool, Samson and Angel Witch), fans and critics alike saw little to complain about – both in terms of showmanship and the varied set-list mixing classics old (‘War Pigs,’ ‘Paranoid,’ ‘Sweet Leaf,’ ‘N.I.B.,’ etc.) and new (‘Children of the Sea,’ ‘Heaven and Hell,’ ‘Die Young,’ etc.).

And, once the band’s first album with Dio, ‘Heaven and Hell,’ dropped on April 25, you’d have to forgive anyone who said “good riddance” to lovable old Oz in the face of its spectacular musical bounty and the seemingly incontrovertible evidence that Sabbath had mad the right choice in moving on.

Perhaps most amazing of all, though, is the fact that the lucky fans who attended these historic U.K. shows had to shell out all of ₤4.50 for the honor!

Likewise the thousands of fans who witnessed Black Sabbath as they crisscrossed the U.K. and Europe through to the end of June, before bringing the ‘Heaven and Hell’ tour stateside, where it enjoyed similar acclaim all the way through November, at which point it was off to Japan and Australia.

In sum, the start of Black Sabbath’s Dio era got off to such an exceptionally positive start, it’s almost incomprehensible to conceive that it would come to such a miserable end within just a few years.

Next: Ronnie James Dio - Surprisingly Short Rockers

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