Rainbow: A Family At War

The countryside was waking up to springtime when I knocked on the door of Cozy Powell's quaint rural cottage. He opened it, somewhat less alert than the world outside due to a heavy night in the recording studios, taking a break from Rainbow activities by working on his solo album.

After a mere three weeks' work, the record is practically complete, and the line-up of musicians who've helped out is as glittering as a Hollywood superstar cast: there are appearances by Jack Bruce, Max Middleton, Clem Clempson, Don Airey, Bernie Marsden and Gary Moore.

"I just phoned them up and announced that I was doing a solo album this month, and they all agreed to participate - it was as simple as that. I think the last thing Jack Bruce did was 'Berlin' for Lou Reed three years ago, and he did something for Zappa two years before that. He's done no work for anybody else recently, just his own albums. I'd always wanted to play with him, because he's a real rock 'n' roll bassist. He came into the studio, played as well as ever, very enthusiastic, and we had a fantastic time."

Listening to a couple of tracks provided enough evidence that "Over The Top," as the album will be titled, is a high quality affair, varied in conception and carefully assembled, and not simply two sides of solid drumming.

This contrasts greatly with Cozy's experience of solo work several years ago, when he scored a big hit with "Dance With The Devil." The less than satisfactory handling of that material prompted Cozy to abandon rock 'n' roll for a while, turning to his other love - motor racing. But his driving terminated nine months later when Ritchie Blackmore invited him to go out to LA for a blow with his band, which was than struggling to establish a permanent line-up.

"I hadn't played for almost a year." recalls Cozy, "and went straight off the plane into a rehearsal studio with Ritchie and Jimmy Bain. Ronnie Dio was there but he didn't sing anything, yet fortunately the three of us hit if off immediately. Ritchie told me that the job was mine if I wanted it and, after sleeping on it, I accepted. We've been together ever since.

"I wouldn't say that it's the easiest band in the world to be in; you've got to have a strong arm to last the distance. You need to be good at boxing and every kind of free-form fighting. You have to play to the very best of your ability at all times, or you're liable to get a boot up the arse. It's not for the weak-hearted, that's for sure.

Cozy's observations make one realize why Rainbow has seen the arrival and departure of so many musicians during its existence. The climax of these upheavals was Ronnie Dio's departure (did he jump or was he pushed?) which left Ritchie and Cozy as the nucleus of the group.

"I've had thoughts about leaving Rainbow every other month. It's easier to quit, but harder to keep going - and I don't believe in giving up. Ritchie must have been thinking 'I wonder how much longer he's going to take this?' while I was thinking 'how much more can he put up with me?' - it was a battle of wits. This is reflected in the way we play, very aggressive; but in the end we've got great respect for each other.

Cozy's current associates in Rainbow, apart from Ritchie, are another old Purpleite, Roger Glover, former Colisseum II keyboard player Don Airey, and ex-Marbles singer Graham Bonnet. "Once we get back together we'll get the new stage show prepared, hopefully new members in and have a few punch-ups. Then everything should be all right!"

Steve Gett, Melody Maker - June 16, 1979

Thanks to Tonny Steenhagen for the scan