Ritchie Blackmore

I haven't found the right people yet

A few months ago, no one gave a penny for the survival of Rainbow. Singer Graham Bonnet and drummer Cozy Powell left the group and Blackmore would quit rock music. For the umpteenth time, however, Blackmore proved he know exactly what he wants. Result: two new musicians and a great new LP...

With "Difficult To Cure", Rainbow's new album, guitarist/leader Ritchie Blackmore has once again proven that he is not only capable of making great music, but also finding the people who can sustain the typical Rainbow sound. A few months ago, rumors spread that the group would be over after the (forced?) departure of singer Graham Bonnet and drum giant Cozy Powell. Blackmore is said to have made life so miserable for the two musicians by his own unruly attitude that they suddenly called it a day. For years it has been claimed that it is impossible to work with Blackmore. He would be a tyrant, despot, or whatever.

The guitarist himself sees that in a more nuanced way. "I firmly believe in discipline. Also within the band. And some musicians don't like that. They are angry when they are woken in their bed early in the morning to rehearse. I am also convinced that new blood can only have a positive effect. So far I still haven't met the right people, maybe with this group. When I left Deep Purple, I knew one thing for sure: I didn't want a band that did a good job and so kept on with the same line-up. You should strive for perfection and try to get it as close as possible."

"Difficult To Cure", the follow-up to "Down To Earth", has been recorded with Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), Don Airey (keyboards), Roger Glover (bass) and the two newbies: singer Joe Lynn Turner and drummer Bob Rondinelli. How did Blackmore get those successors to Graham Bonnett and Cozy Powell?

Ritchie Blackmore: "I ran into the drummer, Bobby, at a club in Long Island. He was playing someone else's drum kit with his band, and every five minutes the others were shouting" Bobby, play a solo. He did that well and that's why he really impressed me. The singer, Joe Lynn Turner, was in a band called "Fandango". Because he has that blues-ish, that emotional in his voice, I brought him in. Although I am much more into the rock and classical side, I think a blues base is indispensable for a rock band."

For you, Joe, as Rainbow's new vocalist, it must be a daunting task to make people like Ronnie James Dio and Graham Bonnet forget...

Joe Lynn Turner: You're right, but I take up the challenge with both hands. I know Ritchie's principles and I am convinced that we can work well together. The sound of Rainbow has also changed a bit, back to the rock and blues principles, full of energy, emotion and the theatrical. For me it is all a dream coming true. When I first started, I played and sang all the Deep Purple songs. As a guitarist I stole all of Ritchie's melodies. And now we play together. I always knew it would happen one day. He is my teacher, indeed... and my idol."

Ritchie, your new singer was just talking about Purple. Are they going to play together again or are they just rumors?

Ritchie Blackmore: "I don't know. We could do the best if we started working with the good Purple people. With the people who were in it between '70 and '74. With Ian Gillan, Jon Lord, Ian Paice, Roger Glover and Blackmore. The way things are now it depends on Ian Gillan. As far as I am concerned, we are going to tour for a month. I'm sure there are still a lot of Deep Purple fans who love the music from that period. And that is only possible with the people who were in the group at the time. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who do not know what the actual Purple was. Make no mistake about it, only Ian Gillan was the designated singer, everyone else were successors or temporary stand-ins. So, if Ian can break away from his own group, then we can get to work. A month-long tour seems ideal.

Okay, back to the LP. The title track "Difficult To Cure" is actually your adaptation of Beethoven's 9th symphony. What's behind that?

Ritchie Blackmore: "Classical music has always made a big impression on me. I have been working on it as intensively as possible for at least ten years. And I love making classical music rock songs. For me it is "difficult to cure", because that classical music always lingers in my head. It's a kind of addiction. I love to hear violinists play a classical melody, because they do it so disciplined. Classical music is my therapy when I feel bad. Then I put on a record and somehow I see it all over again after a while."

There is a European tour coming up for you soon. Are you confident that with these people you can satisfy your spoiled fans?

Ritchie Blackmore: "Certainly. The old Rainbow was wrong. We had become five professional musicians, each doing his own part without caring too much about the other. One of the reasons was to change. I think that the five musicians of Rainbow are well aware of what the intention is and operate as comrades ...".

© Jaap Bubenik, Muziek Expres - May 1981
photos: © Laurens van Houten