Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith recalled not wanting to appear on the 1986 charity single “Stars” with his bandmate Dave Murray and that Ronnie James Dio told them he’d been “dreading” what the duo might bring to the song.
The all-star effort in support of the Hear ’n Aid foundation started out as a Dio song; Smith was roped in because he became friends with the Dio band’s bassist, Jimmy Bain.
“He asked us to do it, and it was a charity, so we couldn’t say no,” Smith recently told Rocksverige. “To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it. There were all these shredders there, and in those days, everyone was trying to outdo each other and play faster and play louder, and I just wasn’t interested in it.”
He added that “Dave and I went there, and I said to Dave, ‘I don’t really wanna try and compete with these shredders. … Let’s do something melodic.’ We just played a melodic line on this chorus.” He recalled that guitarists including Vivian Campbell and Yngwie Malmsteen were contributing busy tracks, but Dio was “really surprised” at what Smith and Murray laid down. “He said, ‘Thank God! I was dreading for you coming in and playing, like, a hundred notes per second over everyone else. I’m glad you did something musical.’”
Smith said the recording studio felt like “a scene out of a movie.” “There must’ve been about 30 people in the control room while we were trying to work, which I hated,” he recalled. “Chicks, people smoking joints … it was real old-school.”
Despite that, he liked “Stars” itself. “I actually said to Jimmy, ‘It’s a really good song you’ve got here,'” he noted. “And he said, ‘Yeah, I know. We should’ve put it on our album.’ And he sort of regretted it a little bit that they didn’t put it on their latest album, but it went out for charity.”
Recorded during the mid-‘80s explosion of charity singles, “Stars” and the Hear ’n Aid album were an attempt by Dio, Campbell and Bain to help deal with famine in Africa, but it also tried to avoid some of the political issues that had limited the effect of similar efforts by other nonprofit organizations. The lead track, “Stars,” was recorded in May 1985, but it took several months to resolve contractual problems presented by more than 40 artists from different labels all working together.