"I Was The Only One To Vote Against Joining Up With Blackmore in Rainbow"

After a few years on the club circuit, piano player Mickey Lee Soule joined The Electric Elves featuring Ronnie James Dio on vocals. The Electric Elves became Elf and were soon discovered by Roger Glover and Ian Paice of Deep Purple, changing their lives forever. Before long Ritchie Blackmore took most of Elf to record Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. Mick Burgess called up Mickey Lee Soule to talk about his early days in the clubs of New York to meeting Ronnie James Dio and playing in Elf and onto becoming part of Rainbow and what he went onto do after leaving the band as well talking about his current music projects and returning to the road, working with Deep Purple.

It was around this time that Ritchie Blackmore was leaving Deep Purple. At what point did you realise you were going to be working with him?

We'd been touring with Deep Purple. He was the last one in the band we got to know. Ronnie came to me one day saying that Ritchie had a song he wanted to record as a solo artist and he asked Ronnie if we'd be his backing band. We were on tour and somewhere in the Mid-West we went into a studio and recorded a song, it wasn't even one of Ritchie's it was by a band called Quatermass called "Black Sheep Of The Family." He was pleased with that and we did a second song for the B-Side, I think it was "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves" and we did the two songs thinking that was going to be the end of it but the next thing we knew things blew up between Ritchie and Deep Purple and Ronnie came to me and said that Ritchie was interested in forming a new band and he wanted us to be it. To tell you the truth I was the only one in the band to vote against it. We'd been a band for a long time and we'd worked our way up to a certain point and it'd take very little, just one great song and we could be at that level. That was what we'd been trying to do for all these years, Ronnie even longer, but I was out voted. Everybody else in the band thought I was crazy. So, Rainbow was formed.

Rainbow was his band; did he tell you exactly what he wanted from you or did you have some input into the creative process?

That was one of the reasons why I was disappointed at being in the band. We didn't really have any creative input and I was used to that as I'd been Ronnie's writing partner for quite a few years. It was one of many things that made me eventually leave the band. At the time Ronnie and Ritchie would get together and I believe it was Ritchie who suggested the lyrical content of the songs, to go in a mystical direction and that's all Ronnie needed. On that first Rainbow album, Ronnie wrote the best lyrics that he'd written in his life. After that it changed but the first album, I thought was really good. I hate to say that it's my favourite album because I played on it but it is my favourite Rainbow album and the songs are better.

Tracks like "Catch The Rainbow", "Man on the Silver Mountain" and "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves" are Rock classics. Did you realise how special these where while you were recording?

I had nothing against any of the songs, I thought they were all great. "Man On The Silver Mountain" was the one I thought should have been the single. I thought this was the one, it was good.

Did you only record the 9 songs that made the final album or were any others recorded but not used?

I don't believe so. I could be wrong as it's quite a few years ago.

How was it working with producer Martin Birch? How did he shape the sound of the album?

Martin had so much more to do with the sound of Deep Purple and Rainbow than he was given credit for. Not only was he great in the studio but he was just the nicest guy. He'd party with us when we were out of the studio. I worked with him a number of times with Rainbow and Elf and also the Ian Gillan Band. I hadn't seen him in many years but when I saw he'd died I was shocked.

Blackmore literally took the whole of Elf to record the first Rainbow album. Only Steve Edwards was left out. It was obviously a huge opportunity for you but what did you feel about Steve being left behind?

I don't really remember how that all came down but it was pretty obvious when we decided to form Rainbow that there'd be no room for Steve. I saw him a few years ago when he came to a Deep Purple show and we hung out for a while. He seems to be doing really well and he still plays. He doesn't seem to hold any grudges about it. It was just one of those things. You learn after a while of being in the music business that everybody is replaceable.

Did you play any live shows with Rainbow?

No, I was only in the studio with Rainbow. We never did any live shows. We started rehearsals for live shows in Malibu but the first thing that happened was that Craig Gruber, the bass player, got fired. Ronnie came to me and Gary and said that Ritchie wanted to replace Craig and there wasn't a lot we could do but let's make a pact that the three of us would stick together. Next thing I knew, two days later, Ronnie came to me and said that Ritchie wanted to replace the drummer, Gary Driscoll. Gary had been playing drums for Ronnie for a few years before I joined the band. He said that there wasn't much we could do about it and said that we should make a pact. He'd made a pact with Gary as well so the pact was just silly. I eventually ended up leaving on my own but I always qualify that by saying that I was probably going to be the next one to go.

Were you involved in any of the initial Rising song writing sessions?

No, we hadn't started working on Rising but I was there for Cozy's audition. He blew everybody away. He was great.

Did you ever see or speak to Ritchie after you'd left Rainbow?

I saw Ritchie briefly somewhere but I can't remember where. It must've been a Rainbow event of some kind, I can't imagine what else it could have been. But I remember being somewhat surprised that he was wearing a bright red shirt. Don't know if I ever saw him in anything but black before. Anyway, he was quite nice that night. We always got along socially.

Full interview on Metal Express Radio

For more on Mickey Lee Soule visit www.mickeyleesoule.com

© Mick Burgess, Metal Express Radio - September 24, 2020