Ritchie Blackmore

Blackmore says he isn't domineering

RITCHIE BLACKMORE had just dramatically concluded Rainbow's appearance at Atlanta's Omni Auditorium [supporting REO Speedwagon on June 24, 1978] by pulverizing his guitar against the stage floor and tossing its broken bits into the throng of 15,000 roaring fans. Suddenly, before the last bun from the dying instrument could even escape from his double stack of amplifiers, the harsh glare of the house lights came on, instantly turning the crowd's reaction from cheers to boos.

"Why'd you turn the lights on so soon?" a furious Blackmore screamed at the engineer responsible for committing the cardinal offense. "We practically kill ourselves out there, and you don't even let us enjoy our ovation." When his fierce outburst met with only a look of disinterested amusement from the burly light technician, Blackmore casually approached his adversary and unleashed a wicked right cross that sent the startled crew member into a heap behind the amps.

As Blackmore victoriously strode to his dressing room, he offered a sly wink and a bit of advice: "Don't mess with me."

Richard Blackmore has never been someone to mess with. Since 1967, when he first burst upon the rock scene as lead guitarist in the legendary supergroup Deep Purple, this 37-year-old virtuoso has built a reputation as one or rock's most unsavory characters a contention supported by countless back-stage punch outs and a world-wide swath of shattered Stratocasters. Yet despite his image as a moody and often unpredictable performer, as we sat downing glasses of Beck's Beer in a New York hotel bar a few months after the Atlanta incident, Blackmore revealed a thoughtful, light hearted side that was in sharp contrast to his blood and guts persona.

"I feel the need to let off a hit of steam every now and then," he said. "Actually, much of my hostility stems from my desire to achieve perfection. I can't put up with incompetence, and when I see that, especially at one of my shows, I find it extremely hard to deal with in a rational way.

"I tend to have a love hate relationship with everyone and everything my girlfriend, my guitar, my hand but I think my attitude has often been misinterpreted as being arrogant and domineering. I may want things my own way," he said, "but I'm not domineering."

Over the last couple of years things have certainly been going Blackmore's way. With last year's "Difficult to Cure" proving to be the most successful record of Rainbow's seven album career, and their new "Straight Between the Eyes" enjoying even greater commercial recognition than its predecessor, the band now finds itself cast squarely in the center of the American rock 'n' roll spotlight. Blackmore, bassist producer Roger Glover, vocalist Joe Lynn Turner, drummer Bob Rondinelli, and new keyboardist Dave Rosenthal, have created a series of challenging, pop-oriented numbers that reflect Blackmore's greater understanding of both his audience and himself.

"Unquestionably, we've turned in a more accessible direction on the last few albums," he explained. "A few years ago I would have insisted that selling records means nothing. I realize now that a statement like that is made only by someone who isn't selling many records. I imagine that seeing a sickening band like the Bee Gees sell millions of records helped me form that philosophy. Every artist wants people to buy their product, and even though I'm certainly not happy with the more commercial aspects of rock & roll, I am happy that our albums are doing well."

"This is an album that should appeal to everyone," Roger Glover who appeared with Blackmore on such classic Deep Purple albums as "Machine Head" and "In Rock") added. "What we've done on this album is strike a balance between the accessibility of the last few albums and the progressivism of the earlier ones. This is unquestionably the most diverse album that Rainbow's ever done, and I believe it's the best as well. It's the type of music that we've been trying to make for a long time.

In fact, the title "Straight Between the Eyes," is something that Ritchie's been holding on to for fifteen years. It comes from 1967 when he was sitting in a bar in London and Jeff Beck walked in after seeing Jimi Hendrix play for the first time. Jeff came over, and Ritchie asked him how Hendrix was. He said he comes at you straight between the eyes. That expression made a big impression on Ritchie and he's been waiting all this time for an album he felt was worthy of that title. This is it."

© Andy Seeker Asbury Park Press - April 18, 1982