If we don't like something, we'll hit it right away, Ritchie and me
On the road to the Amstedam Sonesta Hotel I almost got knocked off my feet by two motorcyclists on brand new, very expensive BMWs near the entrance. And I was not in the mood, because in a rash moment I had made an appointment for an interview with Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell, while at the same time the broadcast of the annual championships reversed driving on the Zandvoort circuit took place on television. I see the two motorcycles in front of the sliding glass doors, and just when I consider talking to these two guys about their driving style, I see that one of the heads pulled from the full-face helmets belongs to Cozy Powell. Suddenly I get a genius plan: when we arrive at the top of the hotel room, I switch on the TV with a careless gesture and shout with surprise to Cozy that we are very lucky, because the broadcast of reversed driving has just started. Our fanatic car and motorcycle driver immediately succumbs and so I have the broadcast and an interview. Cozy, who is going to the Grand Prix in Zandvoort with his friend and manager Bob the next day, still shouts in shock that it will take a lot of effort to completely clear the circuit of all wrecks, broken glass and spilled oil for the next day.....
For someone who takes a short flight to London during the Rainbow rehearsals in Los Angeles (time difference 8 hours), picks up some clothes at home, takes the motorcycle out of the garage and immediately drives to Amsterdam via the Dover-Ostend ferry connection in the pouring rain, Cozy looks strikingly fresh. But he is one of the few in pop music who, apart from the racing hobbies, has a very healthy life. So no smoking, little alcohol, no drugs and lots of exercise.
You just popped over from Los Angeles to see the Grand Prix?
Yes, I left on Thursday evening and will be back on Monday evening. We are currently preparing with the new guys in the group for the American tour, which will be followed by our third tour of Europe.
Let's talk about Rainbow later and go through your solo record first.
Okay. Last week we finished the record and only a few things have to be mixed. So I play drums myself, Jack Bruce plays bass, the guitarists are ex-Thin Lizzy Gary Moore, Bernie Marsden from Whitesnake and Clem Clemson, who played in Humble Pie, among others. Furthermore, the keyboard player who played in the Jeff Beek group at the same time as me, Max Middleton, takes part. That's about it. The record is completely instrumental. Most of the arrangements were made by the ex-Colosseum keyboardist, who is now in Rainbow, Don Airey. The music is completely different from that of Rainbow; a little jazz, some rock & roll, also some classic things, all sorts of things mixed up, but especially things that I can play drums on. Two songs were written by Max and me, George Martin provided a song and Gary and Bernie each provided a song. The other two were written by Max on his own. During the recordings, which lasted about two weeks, we all worked out the material a bit to create the same atmosphere throughout the album. In any case, the collaboration was very pleasant; I've known some guys for so long. The record will be released in October, plus a single entitled Theme One.
Like your world famous hit 'Dance With The Devil'? Isn't that what you used to be familiar with?
Well, not exactly the same. It is an instrumental song with a catchy theme and rather predominant drums. Well, that was something, that 'Dance With The Devil'. With the money I made with that song, I was able to race professionally for almost a year and a half without a sponsor. At that time I only did some session work to be able to play the drums, but I just got a fixed amount and my name was never mentioned. Without anyone knowing, I have played hundreds of hit singles.
What exactly were you doing before you had that hit?
From '70 to '72 I was in the Jeff Beek group and we made the records "Rough And Ready" and "The Jeff Beck Group", which I still really like. For the rest, so a lot of studio work and I was also in a band called Bedlam. With that group I went on tour through the Netherlands. I can still very well remember the performance in Paradiso.
When did you actually start playing drums?
That must have been in .... 1961. I left school in the 1960s, then worked for a few months until I had enough money for a drum kit and then left for Germany, because there was said to be a lot of work there for musicians. You had to play everything, such as dance music, rock & roll and jazz, but there was indeed enough work. As long as you didn't set too many demands, you could earn a good living there. At one point the competition became fierce, of course, but I was always able to keep my head above water. After being in Germany for about four years, I went back to England and because I had made a name for myself in the English musician world, I was able to start working as a studio drummer almost immediately. I tried it with bands then, but that never worked out until I met Jeff Beek. From that moment on I started to make a bit of a name for myself, but making money.... That only came with Dance With The Devil.
By the way, did you know that the mastermind behind the Boney M group, Mr. Frank Farian, has extended his stealing practices to your job? The opening track of the LP "Nightflight To Venus" is a straight copy of your 'Dance With The Devil'. If you make it a lawsuit, you can still take a lot, because that record has probably sold a few million.
Yes, I know. People have written and called me about it. But you know what it is, firstly there are already far too many lawsuits in this business for my taste and secondly I have also been pointed out that the melody of 'Dance With The Devil' somewhat resembles some theme from classical music. Now the arrangement is of course mine and Boney M has stolen that arrangement from me, but if Frank Farian gets to the bottom of the matter and he would only admit taking the arrangement, then I will not get that much money and the question is whether it is worth it. It is of course also a matter of principle for me, but I fear that it will be a dragging, years-long affair and I don't really feel like it. If there ever comes a time when I am really in need, I will check it out again. For the time being, I'll just let it go.
And then you started racing for a while. Until the money ran out?
More or less. At one point, sometime in '75, the reserves had dwindled so much that I started looking for another band. I met Ritchie Blackmore, who I knew but hadn't seen for a few years, and he told me he had just disbanded his newly formed group Rainbow. He was very satisfied with the songs on the first album, but the production and the live performances were much too tame for him. So he was looking for some tough guys.
I was confident because I know Ritchie as a very confident person who knows exactly what he wants and will not rest until he reaches his goal. I enjoy working with people like that, so it was soon settled. I flew to Los Angeles, discussed the details and played drums the next day. Fast and efficient, as it should be. Jimmy Bain was already there and all we had to do was find a keyboard player. That became Tony Carey and then the group was complete, because singer Ronnie Dio was the only one who had not been fired.
In this line-up we played for about a year and a half, recorded the LP "Rainbow Rising" and just after the release of the live double album "On Stage" in '77, Ritchie, Ronnie and I left the group. We then continued with Bob Daisley bass and David Stone keys and recorded the LP "Long Live Rock 'n Roll". That group also fell apart and then Ritchie and I came up with the current line-up: Graham Bonnet vocals, Don Airey keys and Roger Glover bass.
It is often said that it is virtually impossible to work with Ritchie and that he has worn out so many musicians for that reason. May I hear your opinion on that?
The cooperation between me and Ritehie is excellent and I don't find it difficult at all to work with him, on the contrary; I feel him very well and he feels good about me. The problems really lay with the musicians. One wanted to be the star when there was no reason to do so, the other did not appear at rehearsals or even performances, yet another just turned out not to be good enough to develop, or thought he was there with Rainbow and didn't do anything to push the band forward and so on. Of course Ritchie and I apply fairly strict standards, but that is also necessary if you want to function optimally as a group. And especially Ritchie gets annoyed if something is not right and then intervenes immediately. That is why he also left Deep Purple; others might have stayed in the group for the money or the good life and accepted the artistic stagnation and differences of opinion, but not Ritchie. When some time after the arrival of Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale, Deep Purple was no longer what it should be according to Ritchie, he left to start his own group. And he is willing to work very hard for that.
Now I can still imagine, to a certain extent, that the bassists & keyboard players did not meet Ritchie's requirements, but it did surprise me when he fired Ronnie Dio as well.
I can imagine that yes. But I think the blame was still with Ronnie, because when we found out at a certain point that he was no longer so involved in the course of events and no longer committed to the development of the group, we started talking to him and when it turned out that he had some other ideas musically, which he was sure he wouldn't have to come up to Ritchie and me. We put it to the test and it turned out that his ideas and ours were too divergent. He then left and turned up a while later in Black Sabbath, but that seems to be off the track now. In any case, we held auditions then, where we had more than sixty people sing, but despite the fact that there were some very good singers and also famous names, there was not one, of whom Ritchie and I thought: that is him! To track down forgotten talent it is always useful to play old singles and when we did that once, we stumbled upon 'Only One Woman' by The Marbles. Two guys, one of whom has a great reach. Then we found out that the guy was Graham Bonnet and was in Australia, when we asked him to join the band, he was immediately enthusiastic. After a few rehearsals, he turned out to be the perfect man for us.
And how did Roger Glover get involved?
Ritchie had asked Roger, who had played with him in Deep Purple after all, to produce the new LP "Down To Earth". Roger wanted to do that, but we didn't have a bass player. We agreed that Roger would play bass on the record and that we would solve the bass player's problem later, but the recordings went so well with Roger that at one point we asked him to stay in the group. Well, Roger also got a big kick from the bass and said yes immediately. Despite the fact that he was kicked out of Deep Purple by Ritchie at the time.
And Don Airey?
Don is an old friend and I got in touch with him again through Gary Moore, who played with Don in Colosseum II, while recording my solo album.
How come you are the only one who has survived in Rainbow for almost five years?
First of all, I get along with Ritchie, like I said. We respect each other one hundred percent and I do my job well. I have input in the music, Ritchie always thinks my opinion and advice is very important and I am willing to give it all.
You know, Ritchie is just a simple guy who plays guitar and writes songs. He simply needs people who are willing to commit themselves to the development of the group. Without a certain input, Ritchie is of no use to you; you have to cooperate very hard. Second, I don't hang out with the other Rainbow members, including Ritchie. I always go to gigs alone, usually on the bike, sometimes by car, but never with the other guys.
That may seem a bit anti-social, but I am simply very private and if you don't see each other that often, you can't get into trouble so quickly and it's always new when you see each other again. Ritchie has that a bit too and in that respect we fit together well. I don't think there is more than that, except perhaps the fact that I am always on time for rehearsals and performances, that I am always prepared, etc, That is part of the job; if you work in a factory and you do your job properly, but you arrive late every morning or sometimes not at all, you will also be fired. Doesn't that make sense?
It struck me that, despite the radical changes in the group, the album "Down To Earth" is recognizable as the new Rainbow LP from the very first notes.
Thank you, I like to hear that. Recording wasn't that easy at first, because we were in a castle in France, where we had to completely check out the sound, we didn't know the new guys that well, we didn't know exactly how Roger could work with Ritchie as a producer, etc. However, it went very well. Roger immediately understood that the group sound had to be maintained, without there being any imitation; we had to show that Rainbow was one step further. Graham also turned out to be excellent in the studio, in short, we are very satisfied with the end result.
How have the rehearsals with the new boys gone so far?
Fine, I cannot say otherwise. We have already made a live movie for TV in America and we were amazed how well it went. At first we were a bit worried that Graham would be a bit uncomfortable on stage, because he hadn't performed in years, but he immediately made a very confident impression and it looked great. I am confident that the presentation will be solid when we start the tour.
Didn't Graham have any problems with the old material?
We no longer play old material. 'Long Live Rock 'n Roll' is the only song we still play from the period before "Down To Earth". The rest is all new!
I can imagine that you could still fill a support act with that in America, but how do you do that in Europe, where we are used to playing at least an hour and a half?
We have a number of surprises in store for Europe. I'm not going to tell you, because then they won't be any more surprises. Our philosophy has always been that we give Europe the most comprehensive and best show and we will stick to that this time too. You should definitely come and have a look, because I can assure you that you won't be disappointed, even if that might be your first reaction when you hear that we don't play old songs anymore. The show is very well put together.
Why is that no longer old material?
Well, of course I can't explain that very well without revealing what the surprises are. In any case, you will see a whole new Rainbow, with new people and new energy, without losing the old familiar sound. You have to see it as a new phase of Rainbow.
Your previous tour through the States wasn't such a success, was it?
No, not exactly. We were plagued by many problems; firstly, the personal problems in the band, which you could hardly avoid, because you were always on the same plane and in the same hotel and that is certainly not conducive to the atmosphere, secondly we had a lot of difficulties with the equipment, because we were almost always support act, we never got a sound check, we were allowed to use very little light and we had to play shorter and shorter. And especially Ritchie, who wants to give the audience a good show and was always hindered in doing so, could hardly control himself and for that reason we kept arguing with the groups we opened for, and their roadies. As a result, we kept getting bad reviews and that didn't make the mood any better.
You've gotten into a fight with other groups too, haven't you? Reo Speedwagon for example.
Yes, that's right. After all, we are not a Fairport Convention. At a certain point we had enough and then you get into an argument and then there are blows. Ritchie and I won't let ourselves be insulted by a bunch of fallen Midwestern farmers or other hard-haters who think they own the truth because they have a big bank account. Also, they shouldn't say ugly things about our music or insult our road show, because we won't take that. Look, Ritchie and I are both from the slums, where you have to be able to defend yourself physically in order to survive. That was often hard, so you made sure you could stand your ground. We are both quite good at boxing and karate and we are in good shape too. So if we don't like something, well, we'll hit it off right away, Ritchie and me.
Did you fight with many groups?
I lost count years ago. Ritchie and I are therefore not very popular among the musicians in the States, but yes, we had bad luck.
What about those rumors about a Deep Purple reunion.
There is no chance of that, because Ritchie is definitely not participating..... for no price. And there is no reunion without him.
Final question, Cozy. How long will this Rainbow line-up last?
Longer than any previous line-up. Whatever that means, hahaha.
© Kees Baars, Muziekkrant Oor no 21 - October 17, 1979