Some wore sleeveless T-shirts with such messages as "Shout at the Devil," "Burrn!" and "Immoral Minority." Others sported dark sunglasses, black leather gloves, earrings and pants with tiger stripes. The hair on most of the people was long.
It was a typical heavy-metal crowd, seemingly prepared for an ear-shattering concert. The tone, though, was sedate; the mood, somber. These bad boys from the wild side of pop music were gathered to discuss world hunger and, specifically, the song "Stars," heavy metal's answer to the mainstream hit "We Are the World."
"Stars," expected to be released in August, is the product of Hear 'N Aid, a pedigree of hard rock's finest: Ted Nugent, Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot, Rob Halford of Judas Priest and Mick Mars of Motley Crue, to name just a few. In all, 38 favorites of the head-banging throng contributed to Monday's and Tuesday's recording sessions at A&M Records Studios of the "Stars" single. Even Harry Shearer and Michael McKean of the heavy-metal parody group Spinal Tap pitched in. Additional artists are expected to add solos in the next few weeks.
Hear 'N Aid organizers discussed the venture at a press conference on Wednesday. "For me," explained "Stars" co-writer Ronnie James Dio, "the most important thing is to turn one person's head around. Only one . If only one life, one mind or one attitude is changed, then I've done what I set out to do."
Which isn't to say that Dio doesn't think that the effort won't generate millions of dollars for famine relief and agricultural aid in Africa and the United States. "We want to make as much money as possible," he said.
His hopes are shared by Marty Rogol, executive director of USA for Africa, which produced the No. 1 hit "We Are the World" and will manage and distribute all income generated from "Stars." When comparing the money-making ability of "Stars" with "We Are the World," Rogol said he felt the heavy-metal single could do as well as its pop predecessor. "I don't see why there isn't that potential," he said.
Dio acknowledged that "Stars" will be light-ish heavy metal, so that it would appeal to a larger audience. He added that if a planned "Stars" album is produced, it will contain a few "driving," harder-rocking cuts.
Asked about the turnout (all-male) of celebrated screamers, electric guitarists and booming drummers for the Hear 'N Aid recording session, Dio said he was "surprised." "We asked a lot of people," he said, "and almost all were at our doorstop. There were some no-shows, but that's their loss.
"When you're in that (recording) room," Dio continued, "with those people who've busted their gut for other people, the caring sweeps over you."
"Stars" is just the latest entry into the Ethiopia record derby. Previous efforts have been conducted by notables from British rock, reggae, gospel, country, Canadian pop and Latino music.
Dio believes, however, that "Stars" is not a retread of everything that's come before it. "The idea was to take all that's been done before and take it one step further," he said. "We didn't want to jump on the bandwagon. We wanted to make it slightly different."
Frankie Banali, from the group Quiet Riot, quietly added that "there's a lot of money to be made out there from heavy-metal audiences" who weren't attracted to the other relief songs.
Vivian Campbell, a co-organizer of the Hear 'N Aid project, was asked if the heavy metalists were late with their song, if the timing for such was work was now lost. "I don't think that charity begins or stops at any certain date," he said. "I think it's an ongoing thing."