Behind You !!!
BOO! they cry. Hiss! they add. Manifold are the enemies of this panto villain. All of Deep Purple for a start. Neil Jeffries meets Ritchie Blackmore and demands that he retorts.
The dark man. Moody bastard. A right c***. Ritchie Blackmore has been called all these, and more, by many. Not least by those who've played on the same stage during his time as lead guitarist in Deep Purple and Rainbow Last July on Pete Frame's Rock Family Trees 'Purple People' episode, many of those colleagues-cum-enemies got together to talk about him like he was dead. Except that he was very much alive and merely taking the Fifth. Now, with a revamped version of Rainbow issuing a new album, Stranger In Us All, Blackmore lodges his tongue firmly in his cheek, ignites a wicked twinkle in his eye, and has his say on...
It's rock'n'roll. I'm throwing beer over a cameraman, so what? That's what rock'n'roll is all about... I went to see Jethro Tull in Hamburg once and afterwards I asked Ian Anderson, "Why did you jump offstage into the front row? It looked very strange?" He said, "There was a guy there who was asleep. He had fallen asleep at my show! So I jumped down, smacked him, then got back onstage." I thought Ian was brilliant. Talk about inspiration.
Strange guy. He wanted me and Jon Lord to join a band called Roundabout. I went round to his house and it looked like a bomb had hit it. There was no furniture or carpets, just rubble. Someone had gone in with a pneumatic drill and broken everything up. There was plaster everywhere and then I saw some of it move. It was Chris sleeping on the floor. He sat up and went, "Ah Ritchie, come in! The band's great, it's all happening!" Chris was just full of bullshit, but a genuine rock'n'roll character...
Big Jim Sullivan
I used to go sit on 'Big' Jim's doorstep when I was 13 and he was in Marty Wilde And The Wildcats. He was God because he had this Gibson and he could really play. When I was 15, in 1960/'61, I remember this show where he played something like a wah-wah pedal, way before its time. Way before Hendrix. Unbelievable! And he did [Dave Berry's 1965 hit] The Crying Game - although Jimmy Page tells everybody he did it.
I've noticed that with The Kinks, too. Dave Davies did the solo on You Really Got Me but Pagey always tells people that it was him. He likes to say, "I did this, I did that" but omits to say that he's only playing rhythm guitar. Every time I talk to Pagey about Neil Christian [Page's pop group debut - Ed] he just looks at me blankly. I don't know why. It's like, come on Jim, you made it as a big superstar, you can admit that you were in a small band, what's the problem? "No ... don't remember..." He does. He just doesn't want to know about that.
It takes a while to know Ian because he's a very astute man, very clever, and he's got this very strange psyche. People often say that Jon Lord is the most intelligent one of us but no, Gillan is the most intelligent. But he just used to be around the guy because I always felt he was doing things for shock value. He would manufacture stories - invariably with no clothes on. There was always a no-clothes story. The first 10 times it was funny, but after that...
I often blame myself. He was a very shy and reserved guy until I did this... We were in a club, the Rock'n'Roll Circus, a big pretentious place in France in 1970. For some reason I retain this very childish love of pranks. I love practical jokes... So at one point when he went to sit down and, because I saw he was a bit drunk, I pulled his chair away. But I didn't realise that behind us was a big drop of about 15 feet and he crunched his head. I heard his head go (he thumps the table) on the stone floor. I thought it was all over. I thought he was dead. But then he got hack up and I asked him, "Are you all right?" And he just said, "Yeah, I just hurt my head a bit... " But after that, he was never the same. He did change. It was the blow. He hit his head and he seemed to change as a person...
In 1972 when we were on tour and staying in a hotel, a roadie would call me up and say, "If you're thinking about going down for a drink, I just thought I'd tell you: Gillan's in the bar." I'd say, "Is it hunched shoulders?" and if he said, "Yes, very hunched shoulders", it meant that Ian had been in there all day and all night. Sure enough, you'd sneak past and there'd be this hunched figure, looking into his beer. If he saw you, he'd sit up straight and go, "Hey! How are you?" But I'd always keep moving and say, "Er, Ian, I've got to go now.. "
He was a great dinner guest, my very favourite dinner company - and in the band he was great, he could emulate very well. But I don't know why, to this day, he doesn't come up with any ideas. I still find that awesome. You'd think that over a period of 25 years a guy would have one idea. I remember wandering over to him onstage one night while I was playing. I said something like, "The sound is really awful!" or "The lights are really bad" and he just smiled, kept playing and said, "Another day, another dollar..."
He used to call me Blackers. He's now acquired a very posh upper-class English accent - but he's from North Yorkshire and you know how they speak up there. One day he was in this restaurant and did his usual, "Waiter! Bring me your finest brandy" thing. So the waiter stopped and said, "Would sir prefer the 1912 so-and-so, the 1915 such-and-such, or the 1885 whatever?" Cover-dale just froze in panic and spluttered, "Er, yes, that'll do..."
Setting Fire To Bass Players
In Rainbow around 1976 I walked into Jimmy Bain's to have a drink, but he had a girl in there with him. Just for a joke, let's see... I set fire to something and put it by his bed. I thought he would see it, stamp on it and put it out - but he was too engrossed in this girl. Then it started catching the bedclothes. So I'm there watching these flames going, "Er, Jimmy, I think... " And he's just carrying on with this girl until all of a sudden he notices and leaps up yelling, "Fucking hell! The bed's on fire!" I thought, now that's a bit more like it. Now I can leave and go to bed.
Walking Off The Last Purple Tour
I'd had enough. I wrote a letter to each member of the band. I spoke to Jon Lord first and said, "What do you think about Ian just grunting his way through the fourth or fifth number? Why do you think he does that? The poor kids in the audience are mouthing all the words but he doesn't remember the lyrics at all." Jon went, "Hmmm, I see what you mean. I'll have a diplomatic chat with him."
Why He Likes The New Rainbow
I can sing a lot of Olde English folk songs with Dougie [White, the Scotsman who sings with Rainbow]. We have a half-hour set of all acoustic stuff like Lincolnshire Poacher and I Belong To Glasgow. I could never have done that with Gillan. Or Coverdale. They were too serious. (Affects a pompous accent) "We're not going to sing Nights Of Aberdeen!"
© Neil Jeffries, Mojo The Music Magazine, January 1996
Jon Lord reacted on Radio Mafia (aired on 9 March 1996) to this interview:
Recently Ritchie Blackmore gave an interview to the Mojo magazine, or in fact he was asked to characterize some of his previous fellow musicians. There was written about Jon Lord that he is a very nice guy, but Ritchie can't stop wondering why hasn't he presented any ideas in the band during the last 25 years, not a single one.
Jon Lord: I'm mentally disappointed that he chose to make such a stupid remark. Extremely disappointed. I thought that he had more class than that. It's basically stupid. I mean, you got to go to listen to my contributions. Some are better than others, but from a man who wouldn't listen to anybody else's idea's anyway, that's a rather strange statement. I am surprised, and I am hurt, of course!