|Rainbow - Difficult To Cure tour 1981|
(blak) adj - of the v very darkest colour or approaching this; dark,
sombre, malignant, deadly, sinister; wicked; infamous; threatening, sullen,
What’s in a name? Well, if everything you’ve ever heard about Ritchie Blackmore was true then those dictionary definitions would appear to suggest that there is just about everything in a name.
Ritchie is said to be moody, hard-bitten, mean. Most rock critics seem to go out of their way to centre on that side of his character - as they see it - without looking at the immense number of positive attributes the man has. For a start he’s one the best hard rock guitarists - hell, one of the best guitarists full stop - that the music business has ever seen. In addition, what could be seen as stubbornness and moodiness on one side might well be read as honesty and purity of motive from another. Blackmore has remained true to his own ideals and his own idea of music from just about the first time he played guitar professionally back in the Sixties. From then until the present day Blackmore has refused to dilute his music and his attitude has always seemed to be “If you don’t like it - well, tough”. Stubborn? Probably. Difficult? It’s possible. Single-minded? Undoubtedly. Talented? Immensely.
And Tony Carey, the demon keyboard player. A native of California he first learned to play string bass before switching to piano as a youngster. “I came to a point”, he once said “when I had to choose between going to a conservatory or playing rock and roll. I decided a symphony was pretty dull”. Though a chance meeting with Bain at a Los Angeles recording studio brought Carey the gig with Rainbow. That line-up lasted from September 1975 through to January 1977. Together they toured North America, Europe and the Far East. In that latter area of the world they recorded the double live album “On Stage” which was released during the summer of 1977. Previously, of course, they had made the seminal “Rainbow Rising” - a classic album which had the stamp of Ritchie Blackmore all over it. It was a startling combination of the rabble-rousing, blood-boiling heavy metal side of Ritchie’s character and the incredibly mellow, classically influenced almost medieval slant that he can take. The Munich Philharmonic Orchestra was brought in to help out, most effectively on “Stargazer” and it was probably with the release of this album that people realised that Ritchie Blackmore and Rainbow were here to stay. And that they had the potential to be as big, if not bigger than Blackmore’s previous vehicle, the superlative Deep Purple.
It would be difficult to imagine that there is anyone on this planet
who hasn’t heard of Rainbow. Since Ritchie Blackmore left Deep
Purple in 1975 to form a new band - a remarkably brave step considering
the stature of the Deep Purple people - it’s easy to suppose that
the success of Rainbow has been beyond just about everybody’s wildest
The first edition of Rainbow lasted from May, 1975, to September of
that same year and featured Blackmore, Ronnie James Dio on vocals, Craig
Gruber on bass
So, in September 1975 - a scant month, remember, after the band’s first album had been released - Ritchie started the first of his many switch rounds in the Rainbow set-up. Out went bass player Gruber, drummer Driscoll and keyboard player Soule. To replace them he brought in Cozy Powell on drums, Jimmy Bain on bass and Tony Carey on keyboards. A powerful combination. At the time Cozy was - and for that matter still is - one of the most respected and sought after drummers in British rock. Like Ritchie he had been a veteran of the notorious music playing with producer Mickie Most and artists Donovan and Tony Joe South, a stint with the almost legendary Jeff Beck Group and his own bands, such as Hammer and Bedlam.
Bass guitarist Bain had been a stalwart of the British Columbia music
scene in Canada - his parents having moved there from Scotland when Jimmy
was in his early twenties. He returned to Britain to join a band called
Harlot where he had come to Blackmore’s attention.
In August, 1977, Bob Daisley was brought in on bass. David Stone was recruited on keyboards. Daisley had been in Widowmakers while Stone, from Canada, was chosen at an audition session which also boasted the hopeful talents of Matthew Fisher, Mark Stein and Eddie Jobson. Thus constituted, Rainbow recorded “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll in Paris before going on to tour Japan and the States. Needless to say - almost inevitably really - Ritchie’s desperate need for perfection saw the dissolution of this band too. But radically. It was goodbye to Ronnie James Dio, who was later to join Black Sabbath, replacing Ozzy Osbourne. Out too went Bob Daisley and David Stone.
With the new men that he found Blackmore came closer than before in finding the ideal line-up. On bass guitar Blackmore reunited himself with his old Deep Purple colleague Roger Glover. The latter had busied himself with in production since the end of his tenure with Deep Purple and it came, perhaps, as something of a surprise to see him back treading the boards. Despite his work on albums for people like Status Quo, Ian Gillan, Nazareth and Judas Priest, Glover had always made it clear that he wouldn’t be unwilling to get back into a regular band if the right one came along. It speaks volumes for the mutual respect that Glover and Blackmore have each other that once the idea of their reuniting was mooted it took no time at all for Glover to say yes.
At the new lead singer Ritchie Blackmore made what at the time seemed a curious choice - Graham Bonnet. A sometime film actor Bonnet had also been a member of a band called Marbles who had enjoyed a massive worldwide hit with the emotion-charged single “Only One Woman”. He came to Blackmore’s attention through his solo work and it was the task of but a moment to get in touch with him and get him into the band. For his new keyboard player Blackmore chose the startlingly talented Don Airey. He had been with Coloseum ll for around three years and had played on three of that band’s albums, displaying a taste and finesse which few could equal. In addition Airey had also been a respected and in-demand session player. One of his other gigs had been with Cozy Powell as a member of that man’s band Hammer. At the time of his joining up with Rainbow Airey said “I’ve admired Ritchie and Cozy for a long time. I wanted to get into playing some heavy rock and roll and Rainbow are the best band around to do that with”. That edition of Rainbow came together in April, 1979, and in June of that year the band came up with the extraordinary “Down To Earth” album.
Recorded in Paris that album saw a new and significant departure for Blackmore’s and Rainbow’s musical style. The music was, of course, as strong and impressive as ever, but with Roger Glover adding his incomparably deft touches on the mixing desk and in addition his ability as a composer and arranger aligned with Blackmore’s undoubted multi-talents Rainbow blossomed into a new band. Melody and a new kind of accessibility existed alongside the same tough and powerful approach. The best example of that stage of Ritchie’s career was the classic single “Since You Been Gone”. A massive hit worldwide it convinced any doubters - could there still have been any? - that Rainbow were one of the top bands in the world. The band followed that 45rpm extravaganza with two more blockbusters “All Night Long” and “I Surrender”. With three massive hits in a row that was surely Rainbow at its height. Surely they couldn’t change again, surely they couldn’t dwarf these achievements.
Well, in August 1980 the band reached what was probably one of the great moments in any band’s career when they headlined the Castle Donington Monsters Of Rock Festival in the Midlands of England. The show was unbelievable. Superlatives like stunning, spectacular, astonishing and so on just don’t even begin to tell the half of it. The band played and sang like men possessed and this, allied to a remarkable example of state of the rock and roll art visuals ensured that none of the massive crowd went home without being astounded by the strength and depth of Rainbow.
The event was made all the more poignant, however, by the announcement on the very eve of the gig that Cozy Powell intended to leave Rainbow. The split was probably inevitable. Blackmore himself said that it was probably down to his own mercurial character and Powell’s strong personality. Whatever the reason, Cozy went on to join the Michael Schenker Band. And Rainbow was set to enter yet another phase of existence.
As a matter of fact the Cozy departure came as no real surprise to Ritchie.
The two had sorted things out long before Cozy had actually left. It
had given Ritchie time to find a replacement and the man in black came
with the hitherto relatively unknown Bobby Rondinelli.
© 1981- Concert Publishing England