Ritchie Blackmore

Rainbow Rider

WHEN A BAND makes it big there's a lot of satisfaction and money for all concerned, especially those in the group. If they hung on to that band until it disintegrated no-one could really blame them - especially if the band turned out to be one of the most successful ever. Like Deep Purple for example.

That's why regret at Ritchie Blackmore's departure has been tinged with admiration by many people. For Ritchie alas ventured into a brand new group and in many ways is starting from scratch. The group currently bear his name - but even that is only temporary.

"For the first album the group will be called Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, but we hope after that to just be known as Rainbow," Ritchie explains. "The only reason for using my name in the first place is to attract people to the album who might otherwise have passed it by. No one will buy it just because of my name, but at least they might give it a listen.

`Anyway, why should my name be up front? After all I'm only the guitarist, and not a very accomplished one at that..."

Strangled laughter from his side greeted the latter remark. Ronnie Dio had accompanied his new colleague, and treated that statement with the contempt it deserved. The outburst drew a smile from Ritchie and the less refutable statement: "Well he's certainly a better singer than me."

Ronnie Dio was with Elf, a group who enjoyed Purple's patronage for some time and were signed to that band's record label. But now they are no more, and we have Rainbow.

"The name came from a club the band and I bad been known to frequent in Los Angeles for nights of booze and other naughty things," says Mr Blackmore, with what might be called an evil twinkle in his eye. "Anyway, it's a good name, so I borrowed it."

Then one night the project was born: "I took Ronnie out, got him drunk, and we decided to get an album together." However unlikely that story sounds, the album was made.

"It started off as a fun thing, and got very serious. You see I enjoyed recording it - and that was the first thing I'd done since `Machine Head' that I had enjoyed.

"I think it was 'Stormbringer' ironically which brought matters to a head. That was almost impossible to record - I hated it. And then when they wanted to start recording again it was the last straw. On stage they were great, but Purple in the studio could never really come up to the same standard.

"I thought for a long time that Purple were not being honest with their fans - as you must know, it's not so much how you play as how they think you play. They seemed to be trading on their reputation and I don't like that.

"Whatever happens I want to be honest with the people who buy the records even if it means that I have to start again right (or almost) from the beginning."

As it provides a vehicle for Ritchie's new found freedom many are surprised that there is so little solo guitar on the new album:
"I didn't want to make a solo guitar LP - that would have been boring. I think it's extremely difficult to sustain interest when you are concentrating on one specific instrument. Anyway, guitar solos are not the most exciting thing in the world on their own, even on stage."

So the first manifestations of this important project are embodied in a general rock 'n' roll album, to be released soon, but of which we were given a verbal review.

"Most of the tracks are numbers written by myself and Ronnie. There are only two tracks which aren't original: Still I'm Sad (an old Yardbirds number) and Black Sheep which was recorded by Quatermass.

"I suppose the latter symbolises myself with Purple: after all, I didn't socialise with them much so you could call me the Black Sheep. And as for the first one, apart from having thought it was great when the Yardbirds did it, Still I'd Sad says a lot about how I had felt in the studio."

However the rest of the material was a co-operative venture: "Ronnie writes all the melodies and the lyrics, I'm the guitar riff and instrumentals man. I'm into progressions, not whole numbers."

Now the epic is on the point of being unleashed on the world, Ronnie and Ritchie are preparing to depart for the States to promote the new group.

"We'll do some gigs: Boysey, Idaho, and places like that. Then - we'll probably tear the band apart and start again! Throw a few people out, you know the scene ... Seriously, I think it'll take about four months to settle down or die. And it'll be all the smaller gigs to begin with ...

"Whatever happens I think I've taken a valid chance which I had to try. What's more I respect all the material on the the album, whereas there was a lot of padding on Purple albums, especially the latter ones."

But despite Ritchie's reservations he obviously has a lot of affection left for his ex-colleagues. Perhaps he is the best person to foresee their future:
"Well, they certainly couldn't have got a better guitarist than Tommy. I've always rated him. I think their main problem will be deciding who is going to do the writing. I was never really a writer but seemed to find myself doing most of it.

"Another problem is that they seem to be pulling in diverse musical directions, and relying on a few musical cliches to tie it together. I certainly wish them the best of luck: it could be a surprise. And they do have the advantage of also having a great drummer in Ian."

Ian Paice was, Ritchie says, his best friend in the band. "I'm not a chatty sort of bloke, and I could say 'OK?' to him and get monosyllabic answers back. That's why we worked and got on so well."

Now there's a new band to acquaint himself with. And if Ronnie's anything to go by, the rest will not be overshadowed by Ritchie:
"For one thing I know I'm a better vocalist than he'll ever be, so why should I go in awe of him. It'll be great to have such a good guitarist around though."

And Ritchie's black clad presence "That wasn't just my Purple image, that's me", will obviously, help in drawing attention to the new band in their live work too.

Ritchie won't be on the bread line even if this band fails. But behind it there's a lot of determination as well as musical ability. And as he points out, he had little choice:
"I'd stopped enjoying music with Purple. You must progress and I chose this as my way of doing that."

© Rosemary Horide, Disc August 2, 1975