Rainbow Rock On

"You go out there with the intention of slaying them, driving at them not letting go...."

The words come not from an archetypal heavy band like Heep or Purple but from a quiet Scot, Jimmy Bain, who plays bass with Ritchie Blackmore's furious Rainbow.

While Ritchie's out there smashing his Fender Strats to pieces, and Cozy is battering forty colours of hell out of his Ludwigs, Bain is there holding the whole damn thing together, driving and prodding away with his bass, sending the whole nuclear energy trip right out into space.

"Ritchie's a very demanding musician. Working with him, you come off stage after every gig with your heart pounding, feeling shattered but excited. You've got to really push yourself to work with him and that energy is something that most bands lack. Kids pay three or four quid to go and see a band these days and they deserve to see something for their money.

"I mean, it's like the Eagles, they're a good band, but they just stand there. There are too many bands like that, adding nothing to their records, we're a better live band than we are on record so that's how it goes with us," That energy trip takes its toll, needless to say, of drummers and bass players.

"Cozy was the thirteenth drummer that we tried and he's just bloody unbelievable. You can imagine what those auditions were like. Drummers were coming along and setting up their gear and Ronnie, Ritchie and I would just stand there while they set up and got ready. Then Ritchie would just launch into really fast rhythm he uses for a lot of his solos. After five minutes the drummers would start to get tired - after twenty the whole thing would just start falling to pieces! Cozy just kept going!"

Ritchie Blackmore has something of a reputation which most of his fans are already aware of. He's a tough professional, with a background that stretches back many years in the British and German club scenes. He's a vicious practical joker with a sly, sharp wit and he's a bloody fine guitar player. More than that, he's a solitary, some might say sinister, figure; 'the man in black' they call him. That makes him a difficult man to face unless you're sure of your ground. Jimmy was, fortunately for him, sure of his when the offer to join Rainbow came around.

"It was like a fairy story, it really was. Ritchie apparently came over here all the way from LA just to check me out - can you imagine that! Anyway, I was playing in a band called Harlot. We'd got a six week residency at the Marquee Club and he came along and saw me playing there.

"He'd taken a room at the Holiday Inn and, for the next ten days, we just jammed together and spent all our time together. It didn't take me all that long to realise that he wasn't just checking me out musically, he was trying to see if our personalities would work together. That was o.k. because I wasn't going to change. If it worked out it did and if it didn't there was no point trying to pretend. I was lucky because it's worked really well."

Jimmy's background is that of so many of the best Scot's musicians who've risen to the top. He began playing at around fourteen and switched to bass when he heard of a gig going in Edinburgh.

"I didn't play bass, but I heard of a gig going with a band called the Embers who were a big band, playing mostly standards. I borrowed our bass player's bass and got the job.

"Then I found myself playing in all the clubs with all sons of people. At that time there was a really healthy club scene in Scotland. It's funny, Ritchie and I were just talking about this the other night. It's amazing has putrid the club scene has become in Britain. Discos have just about killed the live music scene at a small level. Anyway, on that club scene up in Scotland at the time were people like Nazareth, who were called the Mark Five then and various members of the Average White Band; it was really good.

"One by one we all came down South to London looking for fame and fortune and there's pitifully few of us left now. That's an important part of being a musician, having a belief in yourself, because if you're going to succeed then there's going to be times when it's like bashing your head against a brick wall. For young musicians who mad BEAT it's got to be down to perseverance; it's hard but it's worth it when you get into a band like this one!"


As anyone who has seen Rainbow will already know, Jimmy's job is a demanding one. Numbers like Star Gazer and A Light in the Black are launching pads for extended solos and while Ritchie blasts them out, Jimmy has to hold down that steady rhythm. As he admits, it wasn't always that easy to keep going.

"The set we first started playing in the States had both those songs in them and, on a good night, they'd get up to about forty minutes long each. The solos were just going on and on and on and there's no way that you can stop or have a rest. After a while the nerves in the back of your neck and in your arms are killing you, I even found myself having to train before we went on tour at the start. After eight weeks on the road, though, it was o.k. and I wasn't feeling so tired - I was loving every minute of it!"

Not only does playing in Rainbow call for stamina, it calls for superb quality equipment - Ritchie simply won't accept anything less.

"When I joined, Ritchie said that there would be amplification for me. I was expecting something like a couple of Sunn Cabinets or an Ampeg V4 but when I got there I couldn't believe what he'd had made."

The bass amplification includes two Amcron DC300 A's (with two racked spares ready for change-over in seconds if needed) running through a stack of speakers which stands over eight feet tall! These comprise two 18" Gauss, two 15" Gauss, two 12" Gauss and two JBL horns. For a pre-amp, Jimmy us. a JBL and for tone he's using a Urei graphic equaliser - a unit that I've only ever seen before in the better class of studio!

"Part of it must be because it looks good, but when we have to play those massive open air gigs in the States we're going to need that sort of power.Another thing is that it's never let me down even once. What I do is use one channel of the Crowns for driving each section of the speakers, so that one channel drives the 12's, one the 15's etc. It sounds really amazing, especially with the graphic!"

On the guitar front, Jimmy uses a new Fender Precision which he bought in the States last year. All his guitars are equipped with Rotosound strings, especially his beloved Gibson Thunderbird.


"I bought that in LA for a gem of a price; it's a fabulous guitar - it's the sort of guitar that you can almost play one of guitar that you can almost play one handed. The trouble is that it doesn't quite sound right on stage. I've also got a really old Telecaster bass that I've had for years and have had heavily doctored."

One of the things that you can hardly help noticing about Jimmy is that the fingernails of his left hand are about one inch long. Surely, I asked, that made it difficult to play?

"No, I use them mainly for picking my nose and they don't get in the way because you're using the flat of your fingers. If i want to play guitar I do have to have them trimmed but they're no problem for bass."

Seriously, I persisted, why did he grow them that long?

"It's just an eccentricity of mine. One day I'll cut them off." No more would the man say!

Rainbow have just completed a world shattering tour of the Far East. Rumours spreading back to Britain suggest that they've taken quite a few attendance records with them and there is no doubt now that the band is set to be one of the biggest draws in the world - however much the weekly British Press chooses to ignore them. Has was Jimmy feeling about things, I asked.

"Settled. I feel very secure in this band, any personal differences that there would have been would have shown up by now and, although it's a band of very diverse personalities, we get on well.

"Ritchie is a great professional - he's about the best there is. He's a perfectionist and he doesn't like mistakes but he's not temperamental; he's a pro and he knows what he wants. He seems to have come out of his shell a bit since the Purple days. In America he was sort of coming up behind me on stage and grabbing the bass guitar and playing it, so I'd sort of lean back and hold a chord on his guitar - I've even seen him smiling on stage!"

Rainbow rocks on - next with a live album recorded on with superb Stones' Mobile in Europe, then it's down to another studio job. Needless to say, when the band next hit Britain again, the fans will be waiting.

© Gary Cooper, Beat Instrumental - February 1977