THE UPS AND DOWNS OF RAINBOW
TIM LOTT talks to ROGER GLOVER
Not to put too fine a point on it, I've always felt Rainbow to be a crock of shit.
Insults like that bounce heedlessly off their leaden back. Ritchie must be used to it, with a reputation somewhere between Ian Brady and a Brussels sprout; nasty and brainless.
But I have this theory. Very controversial, it is. I think Ritchie Blackmore is an intelligent man. Calm down. I have proof. The proof is 'Since You Been Gone', one of the singles of '79, heavy like it should be, a steamhammer with a target.
It isn't what you might call the work of an intellectual, per se. The thought is the politics behind it ie: the return of Roger Glover.
Glover co-wrote 'Since You Been Gone', and in fact, helped pen all of the excellent new Rainbow album, 'Down To Earth'. Blackmore's acumen lies not in composing, but appointment. The return of Glover has been one factor. The introduction of vocal supremo - with the extra special charisma of machismo - Graham Bonnet, is the other.
As Glover puts it: "Rainbow have changed into a second echelon band into a first echelon band." Agreed, with 'tenth' substituted for 'second'. Rainbow are transformed. They are no longer, in my mind, synomymous with the brown stuff. Ritchie, who I still think must be a very surly man, shys away from interviews, probably in the interests of journalistic safety. Instead, Roger Glover does the talking, a dubious pleasure he hasn't enjoyed for six years since, in fact, he was booted out of Deep Purple partially at the behest of his present boss, Ritchie the B.
Since then, Glover has concentrated on producing, and very successfully. He's enjoyed hits with the likes of Nazareth, Rory Gallagher, Judas Priest and Ian Gillan. It was as a producer he was invited to team up with Blackmore again, and in a matter of months he was helping out the old grouch on the fat strings once again. The rift between them, if ever there was one, had been sealed. But tensions are not always a million miles from the surface.
"There was no personal vendetta., when I left Purple," says Glover. "It was more the other members of the band siding, with Ritchie I resented. I did leave, but if I hadn't I would have been pushed out. "But Ritchie is a difficult person to get along with. I've known him for ten years, and there are still things he does that I simply can't comprehend. I wouldn't do them. To a logical, reasonable person like myself, they simply make no sense. "Then, I'm not a genius like Ritchie. He's brilliant, a freak. You have to allow him artistic licence I suppose. "He's much happier being in charge now. We were both unhappy in Purple. But he likes running the show. And I've learnt an awful lot from him. He has an uncanny way of being right which I could never understand."
This knack of 'being right' has certainly paid off this time, but Glover can hardly consider himself in a stable position. Once bitten twice shy definitely applies. And it has to be borne in mind that not one single member of Rainbow remains from the original lineup, all of them having fallen under the great one's ruthless axe. Glover realises that if he falls out of sorts, the sane fate could await him. He treats the problem philosophically.
"It would be easy for me to have a more stable life and a lot less problems. But where would it be getting me? You have to have a professional outlook and face whatever challenges come along. I've made a lot of money out of this business, always knowing that I might get hurt. This little venture could well end in disaster, but I have to take that risk.
"I believe in 'balance'. It's an adventure. You only get out of life what you put into it." Glover is overjoyed to be appearing on stage again after six years as a backroom boffin, but he is already paying hefty prices for his new fix. The cost counted is suspicion, and boredom, and unease. "I despise the backstage syndrome. It doesn't agree with me at all - getting to gigs, doing soundchecks, wandering around empty corridors killing time. Playing is great but everything else is very boring. Doing nothing is an obnoxious activity. I get very restless, because I'm a creative person. There's so little to do with your time. It simply isn't conducive to creativity."
So much for the treadwheel of isolation. The other side of the coin is the human flotsam and jetsam that waits in the wings for every rock'n'roll band. "I've learnt what a lot of people there are to avoid. And I don't just mean groupies. There are so many guys who would just love to be your friend. But you've got to find out who they are and what they are because they can be dangerous. It's such a jungle. I've made a lot of money out of it, but there are a lot of the lower elements of society populating it. Like recently an American truckdriver who was wearing a Deep Purple T-shirt got offered a joint by some guys hanging around backstage. He accepted it - but they turned out to be policemen, who were overjoyed at catching a 'member' of 'Rainbow'. You know, 'last week we got Jefferson Airplane and now we got you.' That sort of mentality.
"Rainbow are a pretty clean band, see, so it's not easy to catch us like that. We had to bail the guy out, though. It cost us 500 bucks as well." Roger lives an almost lilywhite life on the road, eschewing groupies and drugs for the more innocent delights of portable computers games - "I love games of all sorts."
At home a £500,000 house in the heart of the English countryside - Roger has a collection of about 40 board games, though on tour he confines himself to the basic old faves like backgammon and chess. He is married with a young daughter - and touring doesn't help his personal life on that front too much - but spends more time at the moment trapped within the four walls of the Rainbow coach currently negotiating the lanes and highways of North America.
There, amid the inter-group tensions - "stick a bunch of quantity surveyors on a bus for as long as us and there'd be friction" - he blots out the world by playing his games and watching porn movies on the built-in video.
Rainbow are riding the crest of a new wave of popularity, as is heavy metal generally. The reasons for the renaissance, epitomised in the likes of Rainbow, Judas Priest and even Bram Tchaikovski, are ill defined but Glover has his own theories. I do not personally subscribe to them, but they will do in lieu of a better explanation.
"I could get very sociologicall here. The political climate has something to do with it. We're in the doldrums. Kids don't seem to feel passionate about much any more in the way they did about, say, Vietnam. There's a void to be filled. Kids need something passionate and angry. There is a feeling of frustration in the air. People are sick to death with disco. They are actually beginning to see through its superficiality and lack of depth. And Rainbow are very good at filling that gap. I would never have bought a Deep Purple record, but I would buy one by Rainbow."
Glover is at pains to point out that he should not be pigeonholed as a headbanger. "I am a music fan. I don't like heavy metal music more than any other. I love classical, I'd much rather buy something by Bach or Vivaldi than Black Sabbath. I am very eclectic." Glover now sees himself mainly as a songwriter, and his reversion to that role has come with something like a sigh of relief.
"I have to write songs, but I couldn't write them with nowhere to put them. And I'm not cut out for Tin Pan Alley. Songwriting is the most fulfilling thing to me." The veteran bass player is, take it for read. fulfilled, for as long as it lasts. Things, he insists, are different this time round.
"With Purple, the music died, stagnated. With Rainbow it's very much alive. And that gives you strength." It may be presumptious to say it but - he's going to need it.
Tim Lott, Record Mirror, October 27, 1979