"We Could Have Had A Whole Album Like 'Gates Of Babylon',
It Would Have Been Groundbreaking"
Within months of releasing his first album with Symphonic Slam, David Stone was invited to join Rainbow to replace Tony Carey for the making of the Long Live Rock 'n' Roll album. Mick Burgess called up David Stone to talk about his early days, his time in Rainbow looking back over 40 years later and how he co-wrote most of "Gates Of Babylon" but remains uncredited, as well as working with RUSH and Max Webster and coming right up to date to talk about his life in music today and what his plans are for the future.
Not long after the Symphonic Slam album was released you had joined Rainbow. How did you get the call to join Rainbow?
I was still signed to A&M Records and was still involved with Symphonic Slam. That album had only been out a few months and it was only just rolling. I was getting a lot of session work in Toronto because of Symphonic Slam. I got offers to work with Gino Vannelli and lots of other people and I was doing a lot of demo work too. I was at home and I got a call from the studio where I was doing a lot of work at the time from Bob Segarini, who had a hit called Goodbye LA and he called me to tell me that the manager for Ritchie Blackmore was trying to get a hold of me. He told me that there was a first-class ticket waiting for me at the studio to fly out to LA. I flew out the next day and got picked up in the evening by Colin Hart, Rainbow's manager. He took me up to Hollywood Hills and I get out to one of those million-dollar places and there in the kitchen is Ritchie Blackmore, Cozy Powell and Ronnie James Dio and here I am, this 24-year-old kid from Toronto, shitting large bricks. I was the youngest in the band by about 10 years.
What were your first impressions meeting Ritchie, Ronnie and Cozy?
Well British guys have a different sense of humour to us Canadians and more of a macho attitude. You're either good enough or get out. They weren't there to make friends, they were there to work. I hadn't seen that attitude up until that point. I'd been used to it being more personable but these guys were like keep your head down, don't get hit by any flack and if you can't keep your shit together then they'll go and get someone else. Ritchie was a funny guy. I think he respected me but he didn't want me to know that because I was the young upstart and he was the grizzled veteran.
How long had you been in the band before playing your first live show?
Not very long. It was July when I got the call and flew down to LA and they put me up in the Sunset Marquis hotel on Sunset Boulevard across the street from the Whiskey A Go Go. I'd never been to LA before in my life and I couldn't believe it, it was incredible. I'd go and rehearse in the afternoons, or maybe they were auditions and about three weeks after this Colin Hart said they were sending me home for a week then they'd fly me to England to rehearse at Shepperton Studios for a couple of weeks and they we were going to tour England and Europe for the next four months. I said to Colin "When were you going to tell me that I was in the band?" as I still didn't know at that stage. That must have been the British sense of humour – "Oh, he's in the band but don't tell him". We toured extensively before we started on the album.
Blackmore was known to improvise a lot on stage. How was it playing a live show with him?
It was ridiculous, he was absolutely ridiculous. Back then we played insanely loud on stage. We had so much equipment that ran eight feet high right across the stage. All of the road crew could go back and forth behind our equipment without being seen. Ritchie would send his roadie right across the back of the stage to my roadie who'd then come to me when the lights were off me, to say that Ritchie wanted me to take a 10-minute solo at the end of the song. That's all the notice I'd get. I didn't even know what theme I should adopt. Was I doing an intro to a ballad, should I end up in a certain key? Nothing, no clues whatsoever. I did get used to it quite quickly though as I expected it after the first couple of shows.
How much of the Long Live Rock 'n' Roll album had been recorded when you had joined?
I really couldn't tell you because Blackmore didn't talk to anyone about anything. It's not one of my favourite albums, I find it incomplete and there's very little keyboards on the album other than "Gates Of Babylon". I did play on another couple of tracks but typically I just ghosted the guitar tracks with Hammond organ and clavinet with the odd piano bit and that was it. It wasn't anything significant at all so if I'm on a track or Tony Carey is on a track, I couldn't tell you. I know Tony is claiming to be on a couple of tracks and if he can hear it then that's great. As far as I'm concerned it's not an album I'd listen to apart from "Gates Of Babylon". Some of the song writing is great. I love Ronnie's work and the lyrics to "LA Connection" are great and "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll" too. All I hear there is Ronnie. He was a great singer in a good band.
How did you interact with Ritchie Blackmore on a musical level?
He would ask me musical questions. I wrote quite a lot of "Gates Of Babylon" but I never got any publishing for it although management gave me $10,000. I wrote the intro and the whole middle section and I wrote the passing chords in the chorus. In the studio in France I had to sit down with Blackmore and I wrote him a chart and I'd show him how I was going from chord to chord. I was teaching him music in the studio. I think I was one of the most musically knowledgeable people that he'd worked with.
So, you were paid for your writing contribution on "Gates Of Babylon" but you didn't get a writing credit on the album. Does that not frustrate you?
Even before then I lost a fair amount of respect for that guy. He was one of those people in the Rock 'n' Roll business that had this attitude that there were people at his level and everyone else was below him. That kind of attitude rubbed me the wrong way right from the word go. Maybe it has something to do with me being Canadian. To me we're all in the same lifeboat together and all rowing at the same time but with him it was more of a hierarchy type of thing. Even with Ronnie, I saw him bully, for the lack of a better word, bully Ronnie and I thought "You're a fool Blackmore". Ronnie was the greatest singer I'd ever heard and why would anyone ever, want to alienate Ronnie? By the time Ronnie left, he couldn't wait to get out. He was so sick of it. I know of other people made writing contributions too but got no credit. Blackmore was a pretty cheap guy. He didn't pay us very well. I know Bob Daisley is very upset with him. I'm not quite as upset with him and don't see the point in carrying a grudge. He looked down his noses at us. It's self-defeating. If he'd been more amicable, he'd have got more out of us.
Do you wish that you'd had more opportunity to be part of the creative side of Rainbow?
Many people say "Gates Of Babylon" is the best track on the album. Had he wanted to work with me more, we could have done more like that. You can tell how every member of the band was involved by the way the parts weaved together. We could have had that over the whole album. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to build that song with Martin Birch and Cozy. Ritchie left us alone. I think he knew we were onto something. We built the whole thing up, did the overdubs and added strings. That's the shame of it. We could have had a whole album of that. It would have been ground breaking. Even Tony Banks of Genesis told me that it was his favourite track and liked what I was doing. I almost burst into tears to hear him say how much he liked that track. That meant the world to me. I loved Genesis and I loved Tony's playing. He doesn't try to show off, he plays music.
What was your relationship like with Ronnie and Cozy?
Cozy was great. He befriended me and I think he felt sorry for me. I was just a kid and he looked after me and gave me hints to handle the pressure. He'd give me the wink on stage to say "Nice solo Dave, good job". He just encouraged me and made me feel at home. Same with Ronnie and Wendy, they'd ask me to travel with them. They were like my Aunt and Uncle. They'd done it a hundred times and this was my first time. They were like a family and made me feel that I was people that cared about me.
Martin Birch, who produce Long Live Rock 'n' Roll sadly passed away recently. How was it working with Martin in the studio?
He died much too early. He was the greatest to work with. I can see why Blackmore stuck with him. He was a quintessential professional. We were working at a chateau just outside of Paris that was just a wonderful studio. Led Zeppelin did three albums there, Elton John and The Stones recorded there too. It was a great, great studio in a 14th century chateau. He wasn't the musical type of producer who was involved in writing and arranging but he had great ears and his mixing was just brilliant. He got such a beautiful sound to those songs. I have nothing but good things to say about Martin. It's such a shame that he's gone.
What did you make of the music when the album was finished?
Frankly I found the music a little boring, I hate to say that but I did. I was a professional musician working a lot by the time I got the call from Blackmore and I was sort of moving ahead. The Hammond organ was what they were using in the late '60s and early '70s and I was moving over to more modern keyboards, synthesisers, clavinets and Fender Rhodes pianos. I was listening to a lot of the Progressive bands like Yes, who had released Close To The Edge and I thought that was a beautiful piece of work along with Topographic Oceans and Fragile. They were fabulous albums and the music was more challenging. The same with Genesis with Trick of the Tale and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, they were such beautiful pieces of work. That's what I was listening to at the time so when I got the job with Blackmore I thought, man you guys are like a throwback, like it was Deep Purple again but not as Progressive. Deep Purple were always progressing and I loved Glenn Hughes. Talking of Glenn Hughes, I remember once asking Blackmore why he didn't want to keep working with Glenn Hughes and he hit the roof. He was really upset. He's not a big fan of people who do drugs and I think back then his cocaine use was out of control so Blackmore was extremely upset that I even mentioned his name.
The Long Live Rock 'n' Roll line-up didn't last very long. What happened?
Blackmore was very hard on people. The way he fired Bob was awful. He didn't even talk to him. We just got off the American tour and he was going home to his family and they told him not to come back. Ritchie never even spoke to him to his face; he just got a call from the management.
Did you go long after that?
No, I stuck it out. Instead of being based in LA we were now based in New York but were rehearsing in Connecticut. So, we were in Connecticut and Bob was fired. Ronnie quit and Ritchie was bringing in singers and we were looking for a bass player so Cozy called Clive Chaman who'd played with Cozy when Cozy was with the Jeff Beck Group and he was a tall Afro-American bassist. He was a great bass player but didn't play in the style that we did and played more like a Motown bass player. He played with his fingers and was perfect for Blues and Soul but totally not the guy for Rainbow. People have told me that I'm wrong but I got the distinct impression that he was prejudiced and I heard him use some offensive terms. I was working with Clive but Ritchie wouldn't even come in. We jammed for a couple of weeks but I thought it was a complete waste of time.
You mentioned singers coming in. Do you remember any of them?
Oh, yeah, Graham Bonnet showed up with these dark sunglasses on that he kept wearing indoors and I thought he was an airhead but he could sing like a bird. After working with Ronnie, I thought, are you kidding?
Did you work on songs that ended up on Down To Earth?
Yeah but I can't remember the specific songs but we'd jam out ideas in rehearsals and then I heard them on that album.
At what point did you end up leaving?
Ronnie got the offer to join Sabbath but everything was on hold because Tony Iommi's divorce was going through. Ronnie was left with $5000 and his car after his time in Rainbow and that's when I really lost respect for Blackmore. He left this guy with five grand after all he'd done for him. I couldn't believe it. There are no friends in Rock 'n' Roll. Ronnie and I had been talking about me doing a year with Sabbath. I was open to that idea then my mother found out and she was quite religious and said that I couldn't join a band called Black Sabbath. It struck a chord with me and I decided that I didn't want to be a part of them. I felt it was a derogatory term that I didn't want to be associated with. Call me old fashioned, I just didn't like it.
Did you know your replacement, Don Airey?
Don is a great player. He goes back with Cozy to the early 70s. Cozy talked to me about Don. We've been in touch on Facebook quite a bit and we both admire each other's playing. I have a lot of respect for Don Airey. Don has said some really nice things about me publicly and I want to thank him for that. He was especially impressed by "Gates Of Babylon".
Were you relieved when you finally left Rainbow?
Not really. I just thought what a horrible business the Rock 'n' Roll business is. I wasn't getting a lot of money for it and was getting nothing but grief and he didn't care whether I lived or died. So, screw you.
A few years ago, Bob Daisley mentioned that there had been talks with Ronnie, Ritchie and Cozy about putting the old Rainbow back together. Had you been approached to be part of this?
Cozy called me about putting it back together and I said that I was open to that but then he died three weeks later. Cozy had convinced Ritchie to put it back together because I guess they realised that, that line-up was a great band. Everyone in the band was really quite good. It was repetitive and boring but live it was a hot band.
Do you wish you'd had the chance to make a second album with Rainbow?
I wish I'd had the chance to work with Roger Glover. He did a great job on The Butterfly Ball which Ronnie sang on. It was a great production. The albums that Blackmore did when I left were much better than Long Live Rock 'n' Roll because of Roger Glover. They were more coherent songs and more keyboards. It was easier to listen to and got more airplay I was happy for Cozy as they got more success after I'd left but I do wish that I'd worked with Roger.
Does it surprise you that there's still so much interest in Rainbow over 40 years later?
Not really. Although we weren't a huge commercial success, but live we were one of the best bands on tour in those years. We were a hot band. Although I found it loud, boring and repetitive, when it came down to straight Rock 'n' Roll, we were damn good at it. I've heard bootlegs, especially one from Atlanta and man, we were good that night. We were a great live band and that's what Ritchie wanted, a band where every member was really good. I don't think he knew what to do with it but at least he put it together.
What did you think of the earlier Rainbow albums?
I don't think the first album was very good. It sounded like a demo to me and there's no real thought put into it to make it standout, to make it spectacular. It just sounded like a bunch of songs and a band jamming them in the studio. There's no direction or cohesion. If you put on one of those albums by Yes or Genesis it was like, here we go... boom!!
Would you have liked to have been involved in Rising as there's much more keyboard interplay on there?
Tony Carey was a very good keyboard player and his keyboards are interwoven right through there but I didn't think it was a great album. It didn't do anything saleswise and got no airplay. I suppose we got some airplay with Long Live Rock 'n' Roll so at least that got a bit more traction.
Looking back on it all now, how do you feel about your time spent working with Ritchie Blackmore?
He was an oddball that guy. I don't really have anything horrible to say about him. We weren't friends and just worked together basically. On one of those rare occasions where we were chatting, which was extremely rare and that must have happened about a dozen times, and I said to him that he was very good with a pick. He gave me this evil look and said "It's not a pick, it's a plectrum" in a very stern voice. So, I thought, OK, Mr Blackmore, it's a plectrum, thank you Sir. Whatever he was like as a person he was a damned good guitar player and could do things that other players could not. He didn't have much respect for other guitar players though and he thought Jimmy Page was trash. He said "That guy can't play guitar... but he's very clever". That's what he said, word for word. I love Jimmy Page's guitar playing. So, we didn't see eye to eye on that. One guitar player that he admired was Albert Lee and he was a big fan of his.
Full interview on Metal Express Radio
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© Mick Burgess, Metal Express Radio - September 16, 2020