Rainbow hero Ritchie Blackmore pours out his heart
I LOVE ABBA, IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THAT?
Guitar hero Ritchie Blackmore was largely responsible for Deep Purple's rock 'n' roll successes. Since 1975 he has been the driving force behind the hard-rock formation Rainbow. The States have now also gone down for this band, mainly thanks to the hit single (Since you've been gone). Blackmore and his group will soon be touring Europe again. On this occasion the leader and sufferer of the hard notes kindly poured out his heart to Joepie.
Ritchie Blackmore has a reputation for being a difficult and unruly guy. According to many, working with him would be an insurmountable nightmare. Singer Ronnie Dio and other members of the band experienced this firsthand when they were relentlessly thrown out. Nevertheless, it stands out, because during our conversation Blackmore shows himself a more accommodating and candid personality. The heart is constantly on the tip of the tongue, even when some reproaches are thrown at the tormented head. But he never gave up his night's sleep, even when people tried to take him off his pedestal for allegedly selling his artistic soul to the business with his hit single.
"I think 'Since you've been gone' is a great song and that's why I recorded it", he responds calmly. "By the way, nobody has to tell me what to do or not to do". Blackmore, perhaps not the Pope, but then one of the cardinals of hard rock, makes for even more bold statements. The fact that he is fond of popular hit music will sound sacrilege to many.
"I love those pop tunes", he emphasizes without batting an eyelid. "I can really enjoy Abba for example. What's wrong with admitting that? But I don't want to let myself be forced into a musical straightjacket. That's why I often react differently than people expect. Every time I know that people come look at me to see me smash my guitar again, I just don't do it. I like to get people angry and since many hate me anyway, it could hardly get worse. So I keep my image of 'difficult boy' in honor, whatever I really am."
He laughs, apparently surprised by so much sincerity. "You know, I take life very seriously, but I consider the whole showbiz to be a big joke. Only classical music has a deep meaning. I only play in a rock band because after all it is even better than that I have to work. Whenever I hear classical musicians play, I always feel ashamed about the nonsense I spout myself. When I was 16. I honestly didn't like classical music. Now, however, I feel obliged to convince the youth to give classical music at least a give it a chance."
"I fell in love with the guitar when I was eleven," Blackmore continues. "Tommy Steele was my idol back then. I wanted to be as free as him to play and dance. Other than that, I had a rotten childhood. I hated the school and the teachers. Every time I smash my guitar on stage, I think of them. I was regularly involved in fights, which eventually made everyone fear, and they began to avoid me.
I left school when I was fifteen. I couldn't wait any longer because they couldn't teach me anything anymore. And when I was eighteen I played in several groups in Germany."
After working as a radio engineer at London Airport for some time, Blackmore joined Deep Purple in 1968. The rock band that would later write one of the greatest rock classics, 'Child in time'. It was a time when every member of the group had something to tell, says Blackmore.
"However, everyone said it at the same time and so our message went wrong. Jon Lord wanted more and more in the classical direction with big symphonic orchestras and so on. I was not at all comfortable with those musicians who treated us with contempt. Under my influence Deep Purple changed to rock. Around 1974 I start to become interested in classical music. Bach and Beethoven were never under pressure from record companies, they composed without interference from others. In any case, I could not play their pieces, which meant that parentheses frustrates a lot. My only consolation is that I play for myself in the first place, so that I can believe in my guitar playing."
FIGHT AGAINST BOREDOM
How does Ritchie Blackmore feel about record material?
I believe that rock bands should never record records, he says bitterly. "They should only give live concerts, which are then recorded by the fans with a tape recorder. Only Queen makes perfectly produced albums. After ten minutes in the studio I'm already tired of the whole thing. And after that it will be a tough fight against the boredom."
Why did singer Ronnie Dio actually leave Rainbow?
"If he had been good enough, he would still have been in Rainbow", it sounds determined. "Mind you, I still think Ronnie is a great singer, but his contribution to our music became too small in the end.
He resisted, probably also because he could not be sufficiently prominent in Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. I don't want to hurt the career of the ex-members. But I would still like to mention that several of them took drugs, which caused them to literally to fall asleep during concerts. That was no longer possible."
Rainbow currently consists of newcomer Don Airey on keyboards, ex-Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover, veteran drummer Cozy Powell and singer Graham Bonnet who delivers excellent vocals.
"Roger Glover is constantly coming up with a lot of fresh ideas," says Blackmore with satisfaction. "I am also very happy with Graham, who we discovered after endless auditions. The horrifying false notes that used to appear in the past are now completely gone."
After all, how does Ritchie Blackmore see his future?
"I will continue to work on the same pattern. Since I started in showbiz nothing has changed for me politically, socially and musically. I don't mean to convey a message. I want to play some strong solos and the occasional bad one and smash a bad guitar, that's all."
Blackmore, who nowadays firmly believes in 'mind-altering experiments' such as voodoo and hypnotism, concludes. "Despite everything I am a pessimistic realist. When I feel down, the guitar playing picks me up. However, I refuse to flutter through life with a paper smile. Because let's be honest, life isn't that beautiful, isn't it?"
© Joepie nr 306, Belgium - January 27, 1980
Thanks to Tonny Steenhagen for the scan