Hear Ronnie James Dio Sing ‘War Pigs’ Seven Years Before Joining Black Sabbath
Yes, such a thing does exist and, for the sake of revisionist history, it offers a brilliant glimpse into just how fit Dio, who would go on to link up with Ritchie Blackmore in Rainbow before his first Sabbath stint, was to front the godfathers of heavy metal in the early '80s.
After the singer replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath in 1979, the band's sound took a dramatic turn — Tony Iommi's heaving riffs were still plentiful, but the group now had a mystic vibe thanks to the lyrical genius of Dio and the songwriting palette had widened with his more dynamic (and technically proficient) singing abilities.
Still, when it came to the live show, Ronnie was tasked with taking on a number of Ozzy-era Sabbath tracks, best evidenced on the 1982 live record Live Evil. As the legend goes, the mixing phase for this release led to tensions between the singer and band leader Iommi, prompting Dio's ouster from the lineup after just two studio albums.
Ten years earlier, the singer was gigging with Elf, which also starred his cousin Dave Feinstein (later of The Rods). As detailed by Classic Rock, recordings from The Bank in the group's home town of Cortland, New York have circulated online for years in various capacities.
The set featured a mix of original songs and a healthy amount of covers, including "Cross-Eyed Mary" and "Aqualung" (Jethro Tull), "An Old Raincoat Will Never Let You Down" (Rod Stewart), "Four Day Creep" (Humble Pie), "Black Dog" (Led Zeppelin), "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Baba O'Riley" (The Who). The most historically significant cover from the show, however, was the band's performance of "War Pigs," the legendary song off Sabbath's second album, 1970's Paranoid, which was released in early 1971 in the United States.
Take a listen below.