By: Steven Rosen
Photo Credit: Randi Anglin
Ritchie Blackmore had left Deep Purple (he would return many years later) with an eye towards forming his own band. It was 1975 and the guitarist rounded up ex-Elf singer and various other players to create Rainbow, a Purple-sounding ensemble that mixed elements of Medieval and classical music.
The band recorded Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and though the album never made much chart noise, it did establish the Man in Black with his new outfit. This interview, conducted at Blackmore’s house in Oxnard, California, was one of the first interviews he undertook to promote the record.
Check Out the Deep Purple Collection at Amazon.com
[Editor’s Note: The Rainbow lineup with which Blackmore recorded Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, consisted of former Elf members Ronnie James Dio (vocals), Gary Driscoll (drums), Micky Lee Soule (keyboards), and Craig Gruber (bass), with Blackmore on guitar. Shoshana Feinstein also appears on the album performing background vocals.
After the recording, Driscoll, Gruber, and Soule were replaced by Cozy Powell (drums), Jimmy Bain (bass) and Tony Carey (keyboards), who played with Dio and Blackmore during the tour in support of the album (and most likely the reason Blackmore says in the interview below, “But Elf aren’t really involved. It’s a new band with different members and the whole bit.”).
By 1974, Deep Purple consisted of Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), David Coverdale (vocals, who had replaced Ian Gillan), Jon Lord (keyboard), Glenn Hughes (bass, who had replaced Roger Glover), and, Ian Paice (drums). Late 1974 saw the release of the Deep Purple album, Stormbringer, featuring songs like “Lady Double Dealer”, “The Gypsy”, and “Soldier Of Fortune”.
The Man in Black left Deep Purple in 1975 and was replaced by American guitarist Tommy Bolin. In October of 1975, Deep Purple released Come Taste the Band with Bolin. Deep Purple disbanded in 1976 and reunited in 1984 for the release of Perfect Strangers, once again featuring Blackmore, Gillan, Lord, Glover and Paice. Blackmore left Deep Purple permanently in 1993.]
Can you start with how you learned about Elf and why you left Deep Purple?
Ritchie Blackmore: It started first of all with Roger Glover, or Clover, that’s what we used to call him. He was a bass player with us in Deep Purple. He and Ian Paice had recorded and produced Elf and they told me they [the group] could use help. So it started with that. I had never heard the LP, but Roger and Ian both kept saying, you know, how good the band were. Then they were signed to Purple Records and it [Elf] came out soon after.
Then we met them on the tour in America about three and half years ago, and they used to support us a lot on the American tours and we got to be friendly. I noticed in particularly the singer. It was his style and the way he was singing. The rest of the band was very good, too. We got to be friends. But it wasn’t really brought home to me how good a singer he [Ronnie James Dio] was until Barry St. John…I don’t know if you know Barry St. John, he sings a lot on Pink Floyd and does sessions for all the big groups…said what a great voice he’s got. And then I thought, “Yeah.” Because I hadn’t really taken 100% interest. I had been like casually listening.
I started listening and I said, “Yeah, that’s really good.” I heard the song “Black Sheep of the Family”, which is the single from the new Rainbow album, and I asked Purple if they wanted to do it on the next LP and they said they didn’t want to do anybody else’s songs. I really wanted to do this song. I had wanted to do it for the last two years.
So, I said to Ronnie – I got him around one night and I got him drunk – “Do you fancy doing it?” and he said, “Yeah, I might sing it.” He got the song off in about a half an hour. Then we went into the studio and we put it down. It sounded great except for some of the musicians involved who weren’t really musicians.
That was what started it. Once I heard that, I thought, “Well, we’re gonna need a B-side.” I just wanted to put it out as a single. No big deal. I just wanted to be involved in the song ‘cause I loved the song so much. And we put a B-side down, which we wrote in a hotel when we were on tour. The song turned out so well, we didn’t know which to put on the other side. So I thought, “Well.” We were all thinking the same thing at the same time. “When are we going to make an LP then?” So we said, “Okay.”
I had about six weeks off from Deep Purple before we started touring so I said, “Let’s get together now.” We rushed about and rehearsed in two weeks, and we put the LP [Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow] down in a month. And it all came together and it’s come out. I’m being modest in saying it’s kind of brilliant. It came out very well.
After I did the LP and during making the LP, I was thinking about Purple and thinking it was so refreshing to be able to work with new musicians and to have a rapport that I didn’t have with Deep Purple. It was just professionalism with Deep Purple rather than a rapport. Our drummer would be good enough to back anything, but not really to put any of his ideas forward, to make a song. It was, “Whatever’s there I’m gonna play and play very well.”
With this particular setup [Rainbow], everybody listened to everybody else and would listen to ideas, whereas, Purple got – myself included – got very blasé about other people’s ideas. It was a case of, “Well, let’s just shove down, you know, more or less anything.” And it’s a bit about money to a degree. It was getting to that stage where I was dreading to go into the studio.
We finished the LP [Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow] and I was really crazy about it. Then we had a tour with Deep Purple and after that first gig I realized I had been spoiled. During making this LP, I enjoyed it so much that now Deep Purple was becoming a hardship because everybody was egotistical, including myself.
So, about halfway through the tour, I knew that we hardly spoke to each other. Not because everybody hated each other, but just because we had known each other so bloody long. It was really getting very hard to put together an LP. Nobody really had that many ideas. And what ideas were going around, I didn’t particularly like. Most of the band was going towards funk and shoeshine music and I wanted to get back to rock. I had been very into classical the last few years, Medieval music, very light music really.
Two tracks on Stormbringer (Warner Bros./WEA, 1974) were so hard to put together just because certain people in the band wanted to play funk. It was a real hardship to get across to them, “Let’s just put a melody down. We’re not gonna have the kind of brilliant solos from anybody.” You know, kind of, what’s the word? Virtuoso kind of parts, no organ solos, just a good song.
But it was always the old story of, “There must be an organ solo, a guitar solo, drum beat must be pretty good and this and that,” which detracted from a good song. One song I’m thinking of in particular, “Soldier of Fortune,” I really had to twist a couple of the band’s arms to kind of get the song down, which is one of my favorites. But because it’s so laid back and it’s very melodic and there’s not a lot of funk there, it was getting to the point where I thought, you know, we’re moving apart.
So, anyway, I got about halfway through the tour and I decided to tell the band [Deep Purple], I said, “Look, I don’t want to go into the studio.” And they took it well. They had a holiday and got another guitarist. They tried someone else out. And I hope it worked for them because they didn’t know whether to break up or whether to carry on. And they decided to carry on, but they won’t be on the road till January, February . They’ll be in the studio in, I think, it’s next month with Tommy Bolin. He’s very good, one of my favorite American guitarists.
Did “Lady Double Dealer” not come out the way you wanted it to?
Ritchie Blackmore: No. I think it came out too clean. It was more of a rock ‘n’ roll song. It should be rough and edgy. It came out too clean in my opinion. It should be more distorted and I think the vocal was too outstanding. It was too up front. What else is on the LP? There’s about four, three, four tracks that I was…there was one track on the album I despise. I forget what it’s even called. It was a track they always picked up on the radio. They played it all the bloody time. It’s a typical rock ‘n’ roll nothing. We wrote it on the spot. I don’t even know what it’s called. Doesn’t matter.
Bolin’s approach to the guitar is different than what you bring to the instrument.
Ritchie Blackmore: I know Tommy Bolin, so I hope that he’s going to take the band in a different direction because it was getting a bit stale, very stale. The main reason why I left Deep Purple is I didn’t like the pressure from some of the record companies. We had signed a contract saying that we’d make three LPs a year and that just became too much for me. I come up with ideas once every two months or so, and I like to lay back for a year – make one good LP a year, which we were doing, if you follow Purple.
To me, it was nonsense because we had no time to put it together. It was just strung together. Machine Head we had six weeks before, so it was a good LP. Then there was Burn, which was a good LP because we had six months before that. But the ones that came in between were thrown together and it was being dishonest to ourselves and the public. It was just like a product. It wasn’t music anymore.
The record company wanted a product on the market for kids to buy. Of course, the kids will buy it because they liked us on stage and liked the other LPs. But, in my opinion, they got a raw deal because they’d buy a good LP and then they’d buy a lot of padding. Then they’d be worried about the next LP, which was good instead of bad. And then the next LP after that was bad. I just wanted to lay back.
One thing, in this business, it’s a pity, but you’ve got to keep very consistent and musicians sometimes can’t be consistent. To be creative, that doesn’t mean you can be consistent all the time. You’re searching for things. You try new songs. You can’t just keep churning them out like a sausage factory. That’s what we were becoming. And I didn’t like it at all.
A few of the other members were getting a bit fed up with it, too. I don’t know if they’ve changed. I don’t think they have because Purple songs will always have to sell a certain amount of records, whether I like it or not. There’s nothing against Warner [Brothers Records] because we knew what we were signing when we signed it.
But, it takes a couple of years to sink in. When you’re touring, it becomes too much. And I wanted to get away from the high pressure of Deep Purple. So, getting away from the high pressure of turning out these bloody sausages to being in a band that is more in control, where we just put out music when we felt like it, that’s what I’m trying to do now.
But, mainly these days, I was really enjoying it because of his [Ronnie James Dio] voice. When I played the songs to him, the way he interpreted them was he sings exactly where I would like to sing, if I could sing. The feeling is mutual as a guitar player. And he’s got a really incredible way of getting a song across. I think his lyrics are brilliant. I think his timing is fantastic, his intonation, everything.
And it’s so hard to find a very good singer that can do that. It was always a hardship for me, not so much with Dave [Coverdale] and Glenn [Hughes], but there was always a barrier between the guitar and the vocal. I could never get across really what I wanted. They’d always interpret it their own way. And I thought, “Yeah, that’s good.” We’d put it down and I’d go, “Yeah, it’s okay.” But it was never, “Ah, that was great!” Whereas some of the songs on the [Rainbow] LP, most of them, have turned out exactly how I wanted them. He has an uncanny knack of knowing exactly what I want for some reason. I don’t know how. So at the moment, I’m really pleased with what’s going down.
But it’s not Elf as a lot of people know Elf. It’s really Rainbow. It’s another band because the music we’re making is so different. The people wouldn’t even know it was Elf. There’s a few members of Elf involved. That’s why they [the press] always keep saying Elf. But Elf aren’t really involved. It’s a new band completely with different members and the whole bit. But it’s not my band. It’s a band that I got together with Ronnie.
I put my name to the first LP as being Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow to get people to know that I’ve left Deep Purple. More to kind of say, “If you like that kind of music, this is where I’m at.” I hope to drop that later because I couldn’t handle the responsibility of doing all the interviews and all that bullshit, which I’m doing now, that goes with having your own group. Plus, I don’t want to have my own group. This group, they’re so good. You know, I’m part of the group. It’s not me and the group, no way. I don’t want to have that scene at all.
Ritchie Blackmore: Yeah, at first, and that’s why at first it’s gonna be called that. But, within six months, people will be coming to see the other people in the band. That’s how good they are. I’m very pleased with the whole thing. The LP worked out really well.
But it’s definitely a new band, same as like Purple was. It’s not me and the band. To start, I don’t consider myself that good to front the band and I don’t want to front the band. I’ll only do my flash business on stage, which I like doing. But I just don’t like being known as a leader of the band. I’d like to be a pusher, obviously, of the band. Nobody can be a leader of a band if they’re really truthful. And if you’re someone like Rory Gallagher, well Rory’s good, but everybody else is his side band, kind of playing to back him up – this is not that kind of band.
With Rainbow, they’re all stars in their own right, especially the singer. He’ll prove himself, you know. But at first, it’s gonna be slanted my way because of being with Purple. But it’s good in a way because people will take a listen to what else we’ve got to offer, whereas maybe if we were a completely unknown band, they wouldn’t take time.
I was surprised that Ian didn’t come with you.
Ritchie Blackmore: Ian Paice?
You worked so well together.
Ritchie Blackmore: I had to get away from Ian for a time because Ian was partly going in a different direction. Ian is not into my Medieval influences, pretty songs, sometimes songs with no rhythm to them. There must be rhythm as far as Ian’s concerned. And he is the best drummer as far as rhythm goes. But, when you don’t want rhythm, he’s not prepared to put the song first. If there’s no proper rhythm there, then there’s nothing for him to do so he’s not interested, not looking as it like, “Well, this is a valid song whether I’m playing or not.” That is why Ian is not with me.
You didn’t want to simply leave Deep Purple for say, six months, do a solo album, and then return?
Ritchie Blackmore: No. Originally I was, but then I thought, well, this is silly because there is such a difference between when I was back with Purple than when I’m working with this lot. There’s a community thing. We understand each other’s humor, each other’s jokes. And basically the guys are quiet. I’m quiet, maybe moody.
With Purple, they had a different sense of humor than what I liked. I was more into the practical jokes, a very dry sense of humor. They were more into verbal, witty jokes, and you’d be surprised how that can destroy a relationship in a way because I never laughed when they did and vice versa. Also, I think I got to a stage where I was thinking, “I still haven’t proved myself yet. I still want to be more and more and more.” But I got the impression sometimes that they were quite happy to sit back and let things ride a bit.
And I never got very much emotion out of Deep Purple music, though I did when I was onstage. Except for Machine Head and In Rock, there wasn’t a lot that moved me about what we did and I could never figure out why. It was just misinterpretation between the guitar and the vocalist most of the time, which wasn’t their fault. I just had a very bad way of explaining myself, of what I wanted put over the top. Plus, it got to the stage where I couldn’t really say, I couldn’t tell a singer what to sing. I didn’t want to. He’s the singer. He should sing whatever he feels. That’s why it’s different in this band. Everybody’s thinking together. Nobody’s got big egos.
So, when Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale came into Deep Purple, it wasn’t a big enough change for you?
Ritchie Blackmore: It was. But that change only seemed to last about one year. It was great, then it just went to pieces again.
Before it fell apart, as you say, the band did manage to turn in a pretty legendary performance at the California Jam concert . And yet you seemed rather angry that night [Ritchie destroyed a guitar, amplifier, and television camera].
Ritchie Blackmore: The main reason I was uptight that particular night was because the people were behind the second wire fence. The first fence, there was this enclosure, was especially for the press, which made me very uptight because they can go backstage or they can go anywhere they want, and they don’t really want to hear half the bands. Yet the kids that paid $15 that night were about 200 yards away. I complained all day. I just bitched to the agent, my agent. I said, “They’ve got to at least let like 500 people in to mingle with the press to get some atmosphere.
Those kids have paid to get in and they’re behind the second wire fence rather than being where they should be. The press should be behind the second wire fence. They’re really not that interested anyway.” All right, so the press had their job to do and they should have their special pass, but their special enclosure was so big it could have held about a million press people, and I thought that was disgusting. And then there were the cameras being in the way.
So smashing the camera wasn’t a part of your original stage show plan?
Ritchie Blackmore: No, that was more or less to keep him out of the way. After that, he gave up moving about with his camera, kept out of my way, and people could see more of what was going on.
You almost really hit that cameraman who was on stage.
Ritchie Blackmore: Well, I was after another person who was in the organization, but he didn’t show up. I was looking for him. He was the guy that threatened to kill me because I wouldn’t go on. I wouldn’t go on until they got these kids in.
Was it also because you wouldn’t play until sundown?
Ritchie Blackmore: Yeah, that was in our contract, that we were going on at 7 o’clock, I think. And it was about a quarter past six. And I really wasn’t ready; none of my guitars were in tune. I had no clothes to wear. They were back at the hotel, I’d left them. And I thought, “Well, we’re in no hurry to go onstage because we’ve three-quarters of an hour yet.” Then I was told if I’m not on the stage in 30 seconds, the whole show would be canceled. And I said, “Well, you fuck off.” There’s lawyers fighting and managers fighting; it was quite funny.
Would you have been put off if Deep Purple had broken up after you left the group?
Ritchie Blackmore: No, I don’t have any feeling toward Purple. I wish them the best of luck and I like them as people. We all still get along very well. They are all very intelligent, very nice people. But the only reason I cared was for their sake. I didn’t want to bust up the whole works, which I didn’t. So I’m glad. I’m glad they are playing on, really.
Do you think Deep Purple’s audience will stay with them?
Ritchie Blackmore: I don’t know. I really don’t know. That’s up to Purple’s audience. It’s up to the people. I’m just playing the music I want to play, the music I believe in. Whereas, with Purple, toward the end, I wasn’t believing in the music. And as soon as you start disbelieving, really, people are gonna stop coming to see it. And I wasn’t going to just sit through because it was another day, another dollar. This decision could lead me to be, in a way, out of pocket. I mean, I was making a lot of money with Purple. Money is useless for giving value once you’ve reached a certain stage of music.
You’ve just gotta take that chance. Say, “Well, it’s a chance and I’ve been without money before. I’ll live without it again. I’m playing music I want,” or sit back and wine and dine and have a good time. I’m having a good time in this. I’m playing the music I want to play. I don’t get off particularly on all the side effects that go with being successful. That’s why I live quite simply. There are certain extravagances I like, which I won’t mention because they’re rude. There are some things I spend a lot of money on. But obviously I don’t make much ado about money, and if it came to music or money – I’d take the music.
Did they take the money?
Ritchie Blackmore: Who?
The rest of the band?
Ritchie Blackmore: I don’t know. They can answer that.
Will you start off playing smaller places?
Ritchie Blackmore: Yeah. We will have to start in quite small places. Not too small, I hope. But small, and then start building up from there. Yeah, I’m just happy playing music that I’m really getting off on hearing.
When you left Purple, were there any people with whom you would have liked to play?
Ritchie Blackmore: No, if I’d have liked to, I would have asked them to come along. No, it was either all or nothing. I had to make a break. It would have been very easy to say, “Come along and help me out,” but I didn’t want that. I wanted it to be on my own fault. I just wanted to prove a point to myself, that the music that I liked is what the people want. I think it is, but I might be wrong. I wasn’t getting off on the music toward the end of what Purple was doing, which was still my music. But it was distorted a lot, at no fault of the band. It was just their interpretation.
You have mentioned elsewhere that when Deep Purple went on tour, they didn’t necessarily sell out. People said it was the economy, but you said that Zeppelin would sell out tours.
Ritchie Blackmore: Yeah, they [tours] would come in like once every two years. We had several personnel changes, so that doesn’t help. I think there was about four or five places where we didn’t sell out, I think. The rest of the places were very good. I think in general, all audiences are going down. I think there’s only a few gigs that can really pack out the real big halls now. And that’s Zeppelin and the Stones; Jethro Tull in big towns.
Ritchie Blackmore: No, they’re not selling out. In L.A. and New York, they’re not selling out. They’re half full. But that’s because they haven’t caught on to them yet. They will be soon. I went to see Paul Rodgers and he was good, but the rest were zombies. I think Free was better. I’ve got off them a bit. I still like them.
The first Bad Company album was good.
Ritchie Blackmore: Yeah, I haven’t heard much of the second one. I like them both. I’ve always liked Paul Rodgers’ voice. It’s very good.
We were talking about touring and attracting audiences.
Ritchie Blackmore: There’s only about four groups that could pull packed houses at the moment, for the last year. I know that Stevie Wonder didn’t sell out Madison Square Garden and that’s his hometown. I mean, if he can’t do that, it’s getting silly. So, I’m not too worried about that because all the groups are getting hit hard. People are getting more passive, really passive.
When you told people you were leaving Deep Purple, did it come as a surprise to them?
Ritchie Blackmore: It did, actually. I didn’t think it would, but it did. Because Ian Paice, after the third gig, had to tell me, he said that he was fed up with the touring from the first gig and we had another 20 to do. I was surprised because he used to like working on the road, but he doesn’t so much anymore.
Were there any guitar players that you thought might fit in with Deep Purple after you left?
Ritchie Blackmore: As musicians, yeah, but not in the direction we were going. The direction I wanted to go in, I don’t really know, it’s hard to say. There are a lot of very good guitarists about. I don’t listen to guitar players too much anymore. I haven’t done it for about a year-and-a-half. I can appreciate good guitarists, but I don’t really get off on them anymore. I listen to violinists, cellists, singers.
Do you listen to classical music a lot?
Ritchie Blackmore: Oh, yeah. About three-quarters of the time.
Do you ever go and see it live?
Ritchie Blackmore: Yeah, I should have gone to the Hollywood Bowl tonight to see a Bach concert. The trouble with that is, once you get hung up on that, it’s hard to relate that to rock. In one respect, you must not forget the roots, which is rock. Obviously, I could never be that good to play classical, but I like to incorporate it. I’m inspired by famous pieces. I mean, I listen very carefully to the patterns that Bach plays. I pick up on certain chord progressions that he uses and I like to use those, which is what we’ve done on the LP a lot.
Ritchie Blackmore: That’s right. That’s a Bach progression.
Were you fulfilled when Deep Purple performed with the classical orchestra?
Ritchie Blackmore: No, I didn’t like that. I didn’t like the way it was written. It was like rock band meets orchestra and it was more of a battle instead of being integrated. It wasn’t integrated one bit as far as I was concerned. The orchestra played badly, too. They didn’t particularly excel themselves. And, I like an orchestra playing orchestral works, not playing rock n’ roll.
Would you like to do anything with an orchestra?
Ritchie Blackmore: With an orchestra, maybe. If I ever got to the stage where they could play what I thought. But I can’t write it down too well. Jon [Lord] was very clever in the way he could score for a whole orchestra, very clever. But see, I wasn’t into that. I like to hear what a real classical composer writes, not what someone who just treats it as a hobby does.
What did you think of “Gemini Suite”? Did you listen to it at all?
Ritchie Blackmore: My first impression of that was I thought the orchestra was playing it wrong. Then I found out they were playing it right. I thought the concerto of the group and the orchestra wasn’t bad. It had a theme. I didn’t want any part of it, but I was obligated to play. I didn’t want to let Jon down because I’d said I’d play on it. But right up until the day, I played it once and that was it. I never wanted to play any of that music again.
I told Jon, “You know, there’s no art. I don’t like the way you write orchestras in group, so I’ll leave it out from now on.” I really disliked doing the “Gemini Suite”. The concerto wasn’t bad, but the “Gemini Suite” was horrible for me. It was disjointed, very disjointed. I like themes. I like music that… I like direct, dramatic music. That’s why I like Bach. He’s my favorite composer. Pachelbel, and people like Buxtehude, Telemann, they’re all German composers, very direct. They’re dramatic, no-nonsense.
What about Wagner, Stravinsky and people like that?
Ritchie Blackmore: No, not much. I don’t like big symphonies. I like chamber music, though I do love big symphonies that make sense. But some composers just like to use orchestras because there are 90 people playing. They could play any five notes at random and it’s gonna sound reasonable with that many people playing. But, if you get a 90-piece orchestra playing five fantastic notes, then it’s gonna sound great.
I feel that the latest Moody Blues thing, I think called Blue Jays, is a bit that way. I thought it lacked a lot of content and was covered up with musical orchestrations. It’s somewhat cheating, just to get someone to write orchestrations. You get a bit of a melody and then write orchestrations. Ian Anderson [Jethro Tull], on the other hand, is direct, but he’s also very complicated in his parts, which makes it twice as hard to be direct and competent. With people like him around, it keeps me healthy. I get a bit despondent about the whole business sometimes, when I hear some bands.
Does that make you want to go out and try harder?
Ritchie Blackmore: No. Somehow I think it’s all been done. I revert to classical music to get my sanity back, and Jethro Tull and a few other groups.
Ritchie Blackmore: No. I don’t really admire them. Bonham, the drummer’s good. And John Paul Jones is a very good string arranger. I admire anybody that can be that big, like The Stones. I don’t like The Stones’ music, but I admire them because Jagger’s kept them together for that long. And to keep coming back and still blowing everybody off popularity-wise is an art in itself. It might not be music, but it’s…
Deep Purple was pretty big and you kept it together how long?
Ritchie Blackmore: Not ten years. The Stones have kept it together for 10 years. We’ve been big for like three years, really. But together and have been big – they’ve been together like 12 years and been big for 10. And to keep it together that long and keep coming up with new tricks is hard. That’s what it boils down to, is tricks. You resort to laser beams and God knows what else.
Do you have any kind of stage show that you would like to see with the new band?
Ritchie Blackmore: Yeah. Yeah, we’ve got some ideas.
Ritchie Blackmore: Hugh McDowell, he played on one of the tracks. And a good friend of mine is teaching me cello. I think unfortunately the track that he was on got wiped off because he was playing in America. But we have to do it again. He is brilliant and if I ever got a cellist in the band it would be him, if he was available. Hugh, I used to watch him every night.
Do you ever think about what you’ll be doing in 10 years?
Ritchie Blackmore: I don’t know, honestly. But, I know where I’ll be in six months. I think the life span of people today, in the last 10 years, 20 years, is getting shorter. In a way, they want it to get shorter. People don’t seem to want to reach 50 anymore. The people I know anyway, rock musicians.
Luckily for me, there are people – not that I am in the same class – like your McCartneys and Lennons that are just going on the journey, doing their best and getting older. And to me, there’s no one coming along that’s young that can overtake the older people. There’s one band I like, Queen. They’re young. They’re all right. And they live right, which means a lot to a lot of people. I tell you who’s also not bad, Robin Trower. I like him.
Do you think he’s a good guitar player?
Ritchie Blackmore: Yeah, I think he’s all right. He’s a three-dimensional guitarist. He just doesn’t come on playing fast and technically brilliant. It comes on as a sound, which is another way. It’s different. It’s very easy to sit back and criticize other guitarists. Say, “Oh, he’s not good.” And he’s coming into the limelight now where people are gonna start shooting him down. But he’s all right.
Did you like Hendrix?
Ritchie Blackmore: Yeah, I liked him because he had a sort of weird thing going, really weird.
Sort of like Bob Fripp from Crimson?
Ritchie Blackmore: No. King Crimson’s first LP completely slaughtered me when it came out. I thought it was incredible. I got Jon to listen to it and I was like, “This is the end.” When I heard that first one I thought, “God, we’ve got to compete with that?” And then it got worse. And in my opinion, it just got ridiculous. And I saw him once and I thought, “I have to leave the club.” I didn’t like it at all.
What about Clapton?
Ritchie Blackmore: I’ve never been a Clapton freak. I like Cream a lot, but because of Jack Bruce mainly. Clapton played his best stuff with them and John Mayall. He’s since become a singer and I think his voice is good. Not so keen on the guitar playing.
Would you ever want to play with another guitar player?
Ritchie Blackmore: No, not particularly. No, a lot of guitarists have asked me to do that and I don’t see the sense in that. I’m too… I always want to be on my own. Not for egotistical reasons, but because to work with another guitarist you have to work something out and play the same. But I could never do what Jeff Beck did with John McLaughlin during the same show. To me, I’d find it kind of competitive. They’ve had two hours of guitar solos, now I’m gonna have an hour of guitar solos.
Is it hard for you to come up with guitar solos?
Ritchie Blackmore: No, solos are the easiest thing. Songs, I mean to write songs, that’s the hard thing.
Have you ever been one to indulge heavily in the drug and drink aspects of rock ‘n’ roll?
Ritchie Blackmore: You’ve gotta be straight. I mean, once you’ve done your music then you can go and get smashed, you know, which is what I’ll do. But you won’t get me smashed while I’m making music. It’s the guys that are really full of themselves, they think “Oh, I’m gonna get smacked out.” I think it’s an inferiority complex really. They can’t keep up with the pace. So, they revert to drugs and then it catches them up. And then they’re onstage. I know so many people like that now.
What about people like Mick Taylor or Peter Green?
Ritchie Blackmore: Great. Taylor is really great; Peter Green is a very nice guy.
Do you listen to other music much?
Ritchie Blackmore: I don’t hear much. I tend to play my own six or seven favorite records, which are classical. I put on the radio every now and then, and I get so sick of hearing all the Joni Mitchells and people like that. It’s water music. It’s rubbish. I’d soon as have silence and think about music than hear most of that.
Will you do any Purple songs with the new band?
Ritchie Blackmore: No. Not that I know of. I might slip in stuff. I’m lazy.
Returning to the first Rainbow album, is all the material new and specifically written for this band?
Ritchie Blackmore: There’s one three-quarters of a riff that I put to Purple, which they didn’t like, otherwise, the songs are so different. That was just part of a riff. I mean, a riff is like five seconds long. That was the only one I think. The rest is what we’ve written since then. There’s “Still I’m Sad,” which is an old Yardbird’s song.
How did that come about?
Ritchie Blackmore: I’ve always liked the song. I used to play it on my ReVox as a joke. We used to play it much faster. And it’s good for playing guitar. I was really pleased with it. It came out very well.
That’s the only instrumental on the album?
Ritchie Blackmore: Yeah.
Would you ever do an all-instrumental album?
Ritchie Blackmore: No. I couldn’t handle that.
Ritchie Blackmore: I don’t like to hear just a guitarist banging away. I think the only guy who could pull it off is Jeff Beck.
Do you like his album?
Ritchie Blackmore: I like his playing. I don’t like funk, but he’s the only guy that’s kind of made me listen to funk. And his playing is still rock, that’s what I like about it. It’s rock and funk. It’s not just funk. And his playing is so good on it. That’s why I liked it. I don’t play it that much though.
How has your playing changed?
Ritchie Blackmore: Not a lot for some reason, maybe because I was much more enthusiastic about the vocals that were coming out. It inspired me to play much more because they were giving me ideas in which to extemporize with. With Purple, I would play a guitar solo and play to the best of my ability. But with this band, I hear the vocals – the vocals are all put down before the guitar solos are. And that gives me a lot of ideas to come up with because the actual melodies are there that I wouldn’t have used if I hadn’t heard them before.
Purple didn’t work that way?
Ritchie Blackmore: No, no they didn’t. It was always a backing track guitar solo and then the vocals were added later. With Rainbow, we usually do backing track, vocals, and then guitar.
Ritchie Blackmore: Yeah, I think there’s an extension. I think it’s the perfect extension really, as far as I’m concerned, because it’s not just Medieval music. It’s using modes and things, but in a rock context. Some of the songs could have been done by Deep Purple, but there’s this sort of Bach influence in there, too. Maybe some Hendrix influence in there. But it’s funny, it would have been a natural progression for Deep Purple in my opinion, but it wasn’t. We went off on a tangent with funk, which didn’t agree with me. It’s not my thing, not my bag, man.
Does the band use a lot of keyboards?
Ritchie Blackmore: No. There’s only one piano solo on the whole thing, and the rest of it is just songs and guitar solos.
I thought you were having trouble getting keyboards and things together.
Ritchie Blackmore: No, on the stage we are going to incorporate a lot more keyboard work than we do on the LP. On the LP, it’s basically vocal, guitar, and obviously rhythm section. I think there’s one organ solo. There’s a Mellotron in there.
I’m an extremist. I like really hard rock, Medieval music, or out-and-out ballads. I don’t like this in between cool, laid-back, so-called music that people like. What most of the Americans are putting out these days I don’t like. I can’t stand it. It’s also music to talk over. It doesn’t grab you at all. I just get real irritable in most clubs and walk out. I like music that demands your attention and this certainly does demand you to either say, “Great,” or, “It’s terrible.” It’s the same way as Deep Purple’s In Rock and Machine Head [made you feel]. And Burn to an extent. “Mistreated” was good on Burn.
“Mistreated” was an extraordinary example of you playing a slow blues and using the ReVox for that slow repeat delay.
Ritchie Blackmore: Yeah, it was good.
Have you subsequently changed to an Echoplex?
Ritchie Blackmore: I don’t use an Echoplex. I use my own thing. I made like my own tape recorder up as an echo. It gives me an echo when it’s played back. It’s hard to explain. I just overload the input side and I can get my sustain as well. It doesn’t thin out my sound like all the echoes do. Echoes always thin the sound. The way I’ve got this built is to give me the exact same sound that I’ve had if I was actually plugged straight into an amp without all that bloody extra circuit.
Have you heard the bootleg of your California Jam performance of “Mistreated”?
Ritchie Blackmore: I haven’t heard it, no. I saw it on television about three times while I was here.
What did you think?
Ritchie Blackmore: I liked it because I know what to expect with televisions and I’m always disappointed. When someone said, “Oh, you’re on tonight,” I went, “Oh, no,” and I thought, “I’d rather go out.” But I didn’t. I saw it. A friend with me wanted to watch it, so I said, “All right, I’ll watch it.” I began to enjoy it. I thought, “Yeah, the sound’s not bad.” I expected to be disgusted because usually televisions are always disgusting, and radio shows. It came out quite well so I was pleased with it. The jumping around looked a bit silly in places, I thought, personally. I usually do it a bit better than that, but that night I was in a different frame of mind. But I really didn’t know what I was doing that night.
As far as breaking things up, I was very mad at somebody in the organization and it was disturbing me a lot. And I didn’t have my mind on the concert too much. I had it more on killing this guy. And I was really annoyed because the cameras had it all set up for a TV show rather than a concert. There were 200,000 people and all they could see was TV cameras.
So, I kept my foot at such an angle that the camera couldn’t get past me. Otherwise, they [those at the concert] wouldn’t have seen anything at the show. I kept the camera at the side of me and in the end he gave up and stayed there. Every time he’d try to go past me, I’d put my foot out. If he moved back and tried to go around the back of me, I’d move back so that he’d stay there. But he wanted to keep coming across. There were feeds [cables] coming from these cameras. I mean, it was disgusting.
About Steven Rosen
Steven Rosen has been writing about the denizens of rock ‘n’ roll for the past 25 years. During this period, his work has appeared in a number of publications including Guitar Player, Guitar World, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Creem, Circus, Musician, Classic Rock, Q/Mojo, and a host of others. Long recognized as an authority in the field of electric rock guitar journalism and the culture surrounding it, Rosen has written seminal pieces on a number of musicians including: Edward Van Halen, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Frank Zappa, Billy Gibbons, Ritchie Blackmore, and Zakk Wylde. Rosen has authored five rock biographies: The Artist Formerly Known As Prince; Bruce Springsteen; The Beck Book (Jeff Beck); Free At Last; and, Black Sabbath (currently in a third printing).
About Randi Anglin
Nashville photographer Randi Anglin (website) has twenty years experience in photojournalism covering the American landscape, nature, and music. His work includes coverage of such music icons as Ray Charles, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Billy Gibbons, Doc Watson, Bruce Springsteen and a full tilt boogie of others. His CD credits include work with the Dixie Dregs, Steve Morse, Phil Keaggy, Arlen Roth, C.J. Chenier, Tinsely Ellis and more.