Bob Daisley on His Years With Rainbow and Dio

It doesn't seem like Widowmaker was a band destined to last, but it led to you joining Rainbow.

First off, I loved Widowmaker. I wanted to see it make it. It was my band as much as anyone's. We weren't working for someone else. It was our band. It was a democratic situation. But at the end of the last Widowaker tour, we were in Los Angeles to play at the Whisky a Go Go. I got a call about auditioning for Rainbow.

I thought to myself, "I'll try this. I'll go to the audition and I'll see what happens." I get there and there's [drummer] Cozy [Powell], there was Ronnie James Dio, and there was Ritchie [Blackmore]. We played for about an hour or so, they went into one of the offices of the rehearsal place, and they came out and said, "You've got the gig if you want it."

They'd already auditioned about 40 bass players. They couldn't find somebody. That's because there's three main credentials you need for a band, usually, when you do an audition. You've gotta look the part, you've got to be able to get on with them, and you've got to be able to play.

I said, "I don't know. I'll think about it." [Laughs] They must have thought, "You little fuck. Who the fuck do you think you are? This is Rainbow. We're offering you the gig and you're going to think about it?" But I did have to think about it. I wanted to know, for sure, that I wanted to make the move from Widowmaker into that.

Also, Ritchie had a bit of a reputation of chewing people up and spitting them out quite quickly. People that knew me were saying things like, "You could be gone in three months. You might end up with nothing."

And so I played the Whisky that night with Widowmaker. At the end of the night, we went up to the dressing room and another squabble broke out. I was like, "Oh, fuck. Oh, God. Here we go again." I said, "Fuck this."

Ritchie saw me that night. He came to the show and told me he'd be at the Rainbow afterwards, which was just a few steps away. After the squabble, I said, "I'm going up to the Rainbow." I packed my bag and walked out. What I meant was, "I'm going up to the Rainbow Bar and Grill." But I also meant, "I've decided to join Rainbow."

I walked in and Ritchie was at a booth by himself. When he saw me, he stood up and clapped. I thought, "Wow." That meant a lot to me. Ritchie didn't give compliments easily. That was a really good sign for me. He never suffered fools gladly. He was an aware person. He had the reputation of being cantankerous, but I got along fine with him. As long as you did your job, kept your head down, and went along with it. I had a drink with Ritchie that night. I think the very next day, I started rehearsals for Rainbow.

It was an interesting time for Rainbow. Punk was happening. New Wave is starting. It was a little past their peak. Did you feel like things were changing?

Things were changing, but this was 1977. The punk thing was just getting off the ground. It wasn't that established. There were the Sex Pistols and the Ramones and some of those other bands that came out of CBGB in New York. But it was still finding its sea legs and wasn't taken that seriously. The big bands — like Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Rainbow — were still very revered and they filled big halls everywhere they went.

At the time, a lot of people were saying, "This punk is shit. It's rubbish. The Sex Pistols should go home." But I understood what they were doing. If you've ever heard John Lydon, who is Johnny Rotten, he always speaks sense. I can always relate to what he says. He's an intelligent man.

Was the period around Rainbow's Long Live Rock ‘n' Roll a good time for you?

It was. Some of the tracks on Long Live Rock ‘n' Roll had been done. Ritchie played bass on a couple of tracks since they didn't have a bass player. Ritchie as a bass player is a great guitarist, if you know what I mean. [Laughs] He's a great guitarist, phenomenal, brilliant player. With bass, there are certain notes that a guitar player doesn't play normally, or a feel, or an approach. I thought it was just a bit too tidy. But he did a good job. I got to play on about three tracks.

Did you and Ronnie bond quickly?

Oh, yeah. When I first joined the band, we rehearsed for about four or five weeks in L.A. As we rehearsed, I got on great with Cozy. We hung out a lot together and had breakfast or dinner together at Ben Franks in L.A. We used to go there a lot. We had a lot in common. Cozy and I were always reciting Monty Python, and so were Ronnie and Ritchie. We were all big Python fans.

I remember Ronnie always saying to me, "You're in like Flynn. I'm going to take you under my wing." He was great. There was nice camaraderie in that band, even though it was Ritchie's band. It started out as Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, which I can understand since he'd just left Deep Purple. After a while, I think that used to rub Cozy and Ronnie the wrong way. They were like, "When are we going to drop the Ritchie Blackmore part?" And we did. It eventually became just Rainbow. I think what happened with that band is Ritchie wanted more chart success. We had album success and all the shows were selling out and the reviews were great. In 1977 or 1978, we got the the live band of the year in Sounds magazine in England. We got the number-one live band of the year. The band was being received really well, but Ritchie wanted more chart success. He did want to become more commercial-orientated.

It was Ronnie and me that went first. And then Cozy got to the point where he just didn't like the music and he left. But then Ritchie continued on with [vocalist] Graham Bonnet and then [bassist] Roger [Glover] came back in the band. And they had chart success with "Since You Been Gone" and "All Night Long" and all that. You can't knock success. But for me, personally, I thought, "Oh, he sold out."

How did your Ozzy Osbourne period start after that?

Well, Ronnie Dio phoned me when I went back to London. He said, "Obviously, we're not going to get back together with Ritchie. The Rainbow thing is over. I'm going to put a new band together. I've got interest from record companies. I'm going to be looking for a guitarist and a keyboardist. Would you be interested?" I said, "Yeah."

He told me he'd be in touch, and so I didn't look for anything else. I was waiting for Ronnie. I thought, "This will be good." But I went up the road one day and I bought Melody Maker. On the front, it said, "Ronnie James Dio Joins Black Sabbath." I thought, "Oh? Thanks for telling me, Ron, while I'm siting around like a spare dick."

Not long after that, I went to see this band Girl play at the Music Machine Camden. They had Phil Collen, who ended up in Def Leppard. They were on Jet Records, the same label as Widowmaker. I went backstage and spoke to some of the people from Jet, including Arthur Sharp. He had been working at Jet for a good while. He said, "Ozzy's here tonight. Do you know Ozzy?" I said, "No, but I think I met him once when Black Sabbath did a show with Widowmaker."

Anyway, I got to chatting with Ozzy and he said, "I'm putting a band together. Would you be interested?" He knew who I was and what I'd done, and I'd just come from Rainbow. I said, "Yeah, OK."

Moving ahead a bit, how did you wind up on tour with Ronnie James Dio in 1998?

I think Wendy [Dio] got in touch with me. I moved to Australia the year before. I think Ronnie had a bass player. I don't know what happened, whether he had to leave or Ronnie fired him or he had something to take care of. I can't remember. But Wendy phoned me and said, "Look, we're doing a tour in Scandinavia. We need a bass player. Do you want to do it?" I said, "Yeah, alright."

I'd hung out with Ronnie when I was in L.A. We were still in touch and still getting on fine. I agreed to do it. I think it was about a three-week tour of Scandinavia. And it was in November, so it was very cold. It was icy.

You're playing "Man on the Silver Mountain" again along with all these Rainbow songs you last did together in the Seventies.

Yeah. That was a good band. Tracy G was the guitarist. He's a nice guy. He and I got on great together. It was good.

What are you working on now?

I've just done an album with the drummer of the Hoochies, Rob Grosser. We've come up with an instrumental album. It's not really a band. It's just me and Rob, and there's one or two guests. But 95 percent of it is just me and Rob. I'm just so pleased with it. It's turned out so well.

I've called the band the Upstarts. It's a name that's not too serious. It's a little bit cheeky. It's instrumental stuff and some of it is just modern surf music with a bit of Pink Floyd thrown in. Some of it sounds ideal for television or movie themes. It has got that sort of vibe about it. And I love it. There's not one person I've played it to that doesn't like it. Everyone says, "I love this. It's really good."

It's easy to listen to. It's pleasant. Some of it is a little trippy and spacey, a bit Pink Floyd–ish at parts, but it's really nice stuff. It was such a pleasure for us to work together and do it. That element goes into the music of being enjoyable to do. It's enjoyable to listen to. That'll be out this year, within a couple of months. There's no album title. It's just the Upstarts. I'm very pleased. It's really nice to do something different.

You never think about putting the bass away and retiring?

No. I don't really want to go on the road anymore. I mean, look at the world at the moment. But even before all this bullshit, going on the road and traveling was getting worse and worse and worse anyway because of all this security stuff. It's just not enjoyable. Plus, at this age, you need to be at the very, very top with flights and the best hotels, all that stuff. I've done all that.

But I'd never retire. I'd probably play the last note and retire after that. [Laughs.]

Looking over all your credits is pretty incredible. You've just played with so many of the greats. I feel grateful that I've had great opportunities and situations to have played with so many greats. Obviously, they didn't have me there to do me a favor. I was doing my job. We got on great together and created together. But I do feel privileged and honored to have played with so many greats.

A lot of people have had one or two great bands or one or two great albums. But I played with so many of the true greats. It's a great feeling.

Andy Greene, Rolling Stone - August 4, 2021

To read the full interview with more on Ozzy Osbourne, Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath and Gary Moore click here