Bob Daisley has a fascinating story to tell. Anyone who has been into heavy metal since the 70s or 80s will have special appreciation for Bob's contribution to rock history. His most famous bass playing and writing contributions come by way of Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Oz and Diary of a Madman, two albums that, unfortunately, he has had to fight exhausting legal battles over with the Osbournes, Jet Records, and Don Arden. Bob also lent his musicianship to Rainbow's Long Live Rock N Roll, played on two Uriah Heep albums, and worked with Gary Moore on several albums. Before he hit the "big time" with Rainbow, the rock n roll journeyman honed his craft in the early to mid 70s with Mecca, Kahvas Jute, Chicken Shack, Mungo Jerry and Widow Maker. He also worked on several other recordings that you can read about at www.bobdaisley.com. Bob currently lives in Australia and has just released an album by the Hoochie Coochie Men.
- You've had quite an extensive career in metal. How did you get sucked into the heavier side of rock?
I think probably the first introduction to the heavier stuff would have been probably…I guess, The Yard Birds, even though they were sort of a commercially successful band in the charts and whatever. For me, that was the beginning of me being introduced to the heavier stuff. I had listened to blues before, but blues was just like raw blues - you know, basic original blues. When the Yard Birds came along - and I didn't know Led Zeppelin was going to happen - it was the light at the end of the tunnel for the beginning of Led Zeppelin. That's kind of what got me into the heavy stuff. And then came along Cream. Of course, Clapton left the Yard Birds. When Cream was first formed, my ears pricked up at that. I said, whoa, what's this? Ginger Baker was such a perfect drummer for that trio. For me, that was really the beginning of listening to the heavy stuff. Of course, Hendrix as well - he was blues orientated as well. I loved anything blues. Deep Purple was a great band, but it wasn't so blues orientated and I like more of the bluesy stuff, which is why I got into Zeppelin as well.
- Rainbow was the first "big time" metal band that you played with. What were things like for you as a musician before you met up with Rainbow?
Yeah, Rainbow was the first arena band. I had been with a band called Widow Maker and Widow Maker formed in 1975 in London. We went on to record an album that was released in the beginning of '76. The original line-up had a singer called Steve Ellis who had a lot of success with a band called The Love Affair who had a hit single in 1966. The second album we did with Widow Maker, we had a different singer - a guy called John Butler.
I was touring America in '77 with Widow Maker and things were starting to crumble a little bit within the ranks. People weren't getting on and that tour wasn't successful. It just wasn't happening. It wasn't put together right. We were opening up for various people. The first tour we did in '76, we opened up for ELO for six weeks and that was really well rung. It ran like a well-oiled machine. The '77 tour didn't quite happen.
I was in L.A. at the end of the tour and I was growing a bit unhappy about the situation. I met a friend of mine in L.A. who I had worked with years before in a band called Mungo Jerry, which was a bit more commercial kind of band. The guitar player was named Dick Middleton and he introduced me to Ritchie Blackmore. He'd been a friend of Ritchie's from way back. He told me that Ritchie was looking for a bass player for this new band he [Ritchie] had called Rainbow. Jimmy Bain had already been in the band but he'd come and gone. I met Ritchie and we went out for a drink and a couple of meals. We got on fine, which was another important thing for Ritchie - the person he had in the band was someone he could get on with. We got on well. Then I went down for an audition. So it wasn't audition first. It was like let's go out and socialize a little bit first and see if you're not an asshole [laughs] or whatever and you might get an audition [laughing]. I got the audition. It was down in a big film studio or something somewhere in L.A. Ritchie sort of put me through the paces. He wanted somebody to play with a pick, rather than finger style bass. He liked the way I played. I think I was there for probably a couple hours on and off playing. At the end of it, they all said: "do you want the gig?" [Laughing] It was funny because I said, I'll think about.
- Really? Wow.
Yeah. I loved Cozy's drumming, Ronnie James Dio - brilliant voice, nice bloke - and Ritchie was a legend in his own lunchtime. He [Ritchie] was already a legend from the Purple days and a brilliant guitar player. Obviously, it was his band. They had a new keyboard player, David Stone from Toronto. The only thing that made me say that [I'll think about it] was because people were sort of saying things like, "well, he'll [Ritchie] just chew you up and spit you out; he'll use you as a sideman for a while and then you'll get dumped or you'll get fired." At least Widow Maker was a complete democracy where we all had a say. It was a band situation. It wasn't one guy running it. I know the situation with Ritchie was pretty much him calling the shots - he runs the band and if he doesn't like you for whatever reason, then "see ya." That was the only thing that was kind of holding me back. I spoke to my wife at the time - she was in England and I was in L.A. - and she said, "No, you gotta do it!" Other people, including Dick Middleton, said: "Look, why don't you do it; it's gonna be a good stepping stone even if you're only in it for a while." It lasted a lot longer than I thought it would. I thought I might do it for three or six months, but it lasted well over a year - probably about a year-and-half all told. We did quite extensive touring.
With Widow Maker, we had a couple of gigs to do before the tour was over. I think we played at the Whiskey on Sunset [boulevard] and I'd already pretty much kind of decided to join Rainbow, but not 100 percent. After the gig at the Whiskey with Widow Maker, another big fight broke out and there was screaming and arguing, and I thought, "Fuck it, that's made the decision for me." I don't have to think about it anymore. That's it; I'm definitely going to join Rainbow. Apparently, Ritchie had been at that gig to watch me play, I guess just to make sure that he was offering the right person the gig. I went up to the Rainbow Bar and Grill after that, which was just up the road from the Whiskey, and as I walked in, Ritchie was sitting at a table in there and he actually stood up and applauded me as I walked in. I thought, wow, that's something, because Ritchie's a sort of laid-back character; he won't give compliments easily. [Laughing] He stood up and applauded and I was thinking, wow, that's Ritchie Blackmore applauding me as I walked in. I had already made the decision. I told him that I wanted the gig and I'm going to join. So I stayed in L.A. for another month rehearsing with Rainbow after that.
- You did one album with Rainbow. Are you pleased with the way Long Live Rock N Roll came out?
"Kill the King," I thought, was a brilliant track. That for me was the epitome of everything Rainbow should have been doing. There were a few tracks on there that sounded a bit like Rainbow wants to be Bad Company. There were a few tracks on there that weren't my favorites. "Gates of Babylon" I thought was brilliant. I thought that was an epic. David Stone, the keyboard player, actually wrote the middle section of that song but didn't get credit for it; they just bought it from him. The big epic keyboard part in the middle and the part Ritchie solos over - David Stone wrote that part. It was an absolutely brilliant solo of Ritchie's on top of it.
- You've certainly played with some legendary guitarists. How would you compare the playing of Blackmore, Randy Rhoads, and Gary Moore?
Very different and as good as each other in their own right. Ritchie was definitely more into classical composers from way back, which I guess was quite a new thing in the sixties. I think his favorite person was Bach and some of the other classical composers - Beethoven, Mozart and all those sort of things. Randy was kind of into the classics as well, but in a slightly different way. I think Randy was more into becoming a classical guitar player, like Segovia or that type of thing. That's what he would have finally gotten into I think. He was always looking for tutors and advanced lessons. Gary Moore is kind of a jack-of-all-trades and master of all trades. Some people are jack-of-all-trades and master of none. He's kind of a jack-of-all-trades and seems to master whatever he does. The only thing with Gary is that he kind of lacks direction some times. It's kind of like, this week I'm gonna be Steve Morse or this week I'm gonna be Jimi Hendrix or this week I'm gonna be Peter Green. Which is an observation, not a criticism. He's a great guitarist. He just didn't get into something and find his little slot and stay there. He experimented a lot. It's difficult to say someone is better than someone else when they're as good in their own right. They all had something good going for them.
- What are the best things you took from Rainbow?
Rainbow was my introduction to, for the want of a better expression, the big time. Being an arena band and working with one of the biggest name guitar players in the world, Ritchie. When I was going through the sixties, my probably four top guitar players would have been Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Ritchie Blackmore... and there's me with Ritchie Blackmore. It was an honor and I learned a lot from it. I did my groundwork and paid my dues, but it was kind of like doing an apprenticeship for the bigger big time.
Scott, Live 4 Metal, November 2002