Joe Lynn Turner

Not Kansas Anymore

SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW: What's a kid from Hackensack doing in an English heavy metal band? Ask Joe Lynn Turner, the new lead singer with Rainbow. the band led by former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore.

"I made a left in Kansas and clicked my heels three times," Turner said. "It hasn't really registered, and it probably won't until I get to England."

Turner, 29, spent most of the 70s singing with Fandango, a Bergen County band that split up last summer after four albums on RCA. We never made it, and I really thought the band should have done a lot more than it had, he said. He was looking for a solo recording contract when he got a call from someone saying only that he represented "an English band of some renown." and asked for an album.

Turner didn't give much thought to the request. 'I was sending out albums and bios anyway," he said. When he called back he really started giving me a drill. I said, 'What are you, from the 1.R.S?", He said, "No, I'm sitting next to Ritchie Blackmore. He'd like to talk to you."

"I said, 'I've been a fan of yours for 15 years.' He says, 'Well, I guess I'm a fan of yours now.' "I was a Purple freak way before Fandango," Turner said. One of his first bands, Ezra, was "a Deep Purple cover band. We had a stack of Marshalls, smoke bombs going off and everything. I kind of cut my teeth on that."

Turner went into a New York studio with Blackmore and bassist-producer Roger Glover, also a Deep Purple alumnus. They played him the backing tracks the band had already recorded in Copenhagen for the new album, DIFFICULT TO CURE.

I listened to the music and said. 'This isn't heavy metal this is real melodic.' "Turner said. Some of the tunes were unfinished, and Turner ended up sharing writing credit on two songs. Besides Turner, Rainbow also has a new American drummer, Long Island native Bob Rondinelli. "He's from the hard rock school of drumming they have out there on the island," Turner said. The fifth member is keyboardist Don Airey, who had played in Colosseum II. "I'd never even met the keyboard player until rehearsals," Turner said.

Despite Blackmore's reputation for chewing up band members (none of the original members of Rainbow are still with the band, and Turner is their third singer), Turner has been able to get along with him. He said to me that he's been looking for someone like me for about 10 years," Turner said. "On the album he really lets the vocals come out. Even on stage he pretty much lays out until his spot. I play guitar on stage with Ritchie," he said. "One song. I play a very limited part. But at least I strap it on and shake my booty."

Although they didn't know who Rainbow were at first. Turner's parents are as happy as he about his good fortune. "They stuck by me, my folks, like forever," he said. "The disappointments they felt them worse than I did."

Rainbow's current tour will bring them to the Capitol Theater in Passaic May 8. They go to Europe (where the band is huge; "I Surrender" is currently the number three single in England) in June and July, and to Japan in August. Then they begin work on the next album.

Turner's solo career has been temporarily siderailed. But he figures this exposure will give him more clout when he finally does approach a record company on his own, "Rainbow can do nothing but good for me." he said.

As for my longevity with Rainbow," he said, "I don't know, I haven't a clue. I think I've got at least one more album with these guys."

Jim Bohen - Daily Record (Morristown, New Jersey) - March 13, 1981