Article from Trouser Press, July 1978

"Hi, I'm Ritchie Blackmore. And I want to tell you what I've been

doing for 15 years..."

by Jon Young transcribed by Darkhop


     As Dave Schulps and I rolled along in the darkness to our

     impending interview, we were filled with apprehension. After all, Ritchie

     Blackmore has never been known as a pussycat. In fact, most accounts of

     his years with Deep Purple emphasize his moodiness, sullenness, and

     even outright hostility. The Teutonic severity of Ritchie's current group,

     Rainbow, does little to suggest that time had mellowed Blackmore the

     least bit. We didn't even know where we were being driven! What if

     Ritchie got annoyed with our questions and had us "silenced"? Paranoia

     strikes deep.


     There was nothing to worry about, as it happened. After a circuitous

     drive we pulled up to a suburuban bar in Greenwich, Connecticut

     (Ritchie lives nearby), and parked ourselves in a greasy-looking

     swinging singles place. Over a typically giddy barroom roar,

     interrupted occasionally by notes from an "admirer" who asked

     things like "are you Deep Purple?," we had our talk.


     Ritchie Blackmore turned out to be a genial model of decorum, and

     was fully prepared to discuss anything. Indeed, when we got over

     the surprise of discovering him to be a pleasant fellow, he even

     fielded borderline tactless questions, unthinkable to ask of

     someone with his image. My only complaint about the thoughtful and

     open Mr. Blackmore was that he insisted on keeping his juiciest

     comments off the record.


     Rainbow had that evening finished a rehearsal prior to their

     multi-month tour in support of a new album, Long Live Rock 'n'

     Roll. Seeing as how this was the band's fourth album, why the long

     wait to try and make a mark on America?


     "It's just that the other markets came first, Europe and all that. We

     took advantage of it rather than just playing around America as a

     small time band. Now the only market left is America and we're the

     underdog. Most of the time we're sharing the bill with REO

     Speedwagon and Foghat is topping the bill in some places. It's not

     like starting again. A lot of people feel that, but it's just something

     you do. I'm quite looking forward to it. It means I can get back to the

     bar afterwards. If you're a top-billed act you get back to the hotel

     and everything's closed."


     Did Deep Purple audiences get too big?


     "They were too big sometimes. It was moving too fast. It's funny how

     sometimes it will escalate and turn into something that big, when

     you know you're just the same as any other band. All these people

     are turning out to see this band and next year they'll be turning out to

     see some other band equally as bad or as good, whichever way

     you look at it. The way it's been going I think it's been getting worse.

     In America you have some very strange big groups."


     Like Kiss?


     "No, Kiss I like because they don't care what people think of them.

     They take a chance and it's worked. They're the first ones to admit

     they're not good musicians. I'm talking about middle of the road

     bands that turn out that lethargic laid back cocaine beat. The dj's

     love it and they play and play it all the time."


     Oh, Fleetwood Mac?


     Laughing, "Funny you should mention them. Nice people, but I have

     reservations about what they're doing. But the rest of America

     doesn't seem to have reservations. It's gone into this mellow thing

     and I'm not keen on that. I like intense music that comes across as

     drama, as acting."


     The new wave has that excitement, doesn't it?


     "Well, that's got the impetus, the energy, but it hasn't got the music.

     That's wrong as well. I don't quite know what I prefer to listen to, the

     new wave or Fleetwood Mac. I often think of that and I think I would

     play Fleetwood Mac because I can't take the other stuff."


     To go back to square one, when did you start guitaring?


     "When I was 11. It mostly was my idea along with my father. He

     made sure I went along to proper lessons, because if I'm gonna

     have a guitar, I've got to learn it properly."


     Did you have it in your mind to rock?


     "Yeah, because there was a guy called Tommy Steele prancing

     around with a guitar and Presley and all that lot. I wanted to do that

     just like everybody else... Duane Eddy, then Hank B. Marvin, then

     Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery, James Burton, Les Paul. I

     bought all of Les Paul's records up until I was about 17, but after that

     I didn't have any idols. Then I was mostly praciticing. I listened to

     rock via Buddy Holly up until 16, 17 (1962). Then I was on my own. I

     didn't have any inspirations from guitarists, it went more into

     inspiration from violinists. I don't listen to too much rock 'n roll really.

     Jimi Hendrix was good and I liked Cream. I wasn't really getting off

     on people like the Beatles and the Hollies, all that vocal business.

     The Stones? I considered them idiots. It was just a nick from Chuck

     Berry riffs. Chuck Berry was OK. Sometimes I'm outspoken, but I

     don't have any time for the Stones. I can see where they're

     respected and their rhythms are very good, very steady on record. I

     respect them but I don't like them."


     And the blues?


     "It might sound condescending but I find them a little too limited. I

     like to play a blues when I'm jamming, but then I want to get on to

     other things. I listened to B.B. King for a couple of years but I like

     singers more than guitarists. Albert King I thought was a brilliant

     singer. That depth, which comes out in Paul Rodgers too. I do like a

     blues base to some things, that can be very interesting with

     classical overtones."


     So what was your first professional gig?


     "My first band was with Screaming Lord Sutch. He had amazing

     publicity stunts -- he would go up to the Prime Minister and stick his

     hand out and say 'hello there.' The Prime Minister's first reflex was

     to shake his hand and suddenly he's thinking 'who is this man?' He's

     got pictures of him about to shake hands with everyone in the

     business. He used to copy Screamin' Jay Hawkins.


     "From there I was onto a group called the Outlaws. I did sessions

     for three years. They were known as a very steady band, good for

     session work, so we used to work together for sessions (besides

     putting out a number of singles of their own). You were just given the

     music to play, sometimes it was just the backing tracks. It wasn't our

     job to know who we were playing for, it was just to get the money

     and go."


     Did you read music?


     "Yeah, but not well. It was more like chord shets. Pagey was in all

     those sessions. Sometimes you'd get complete rock 'n rollers who

     could play but wouldn't be able to read and others who could read

     but wouldn't be able to improvise. Sometimes they'd want rock 'n

     roll sessions and that's what we'd do."


     You and Jimmy Page both played in Neil Christian's band, right?


     Blackmore laughed and mused a second before answering: "I was

     with him on and off for about a year. Chris, that's his real name, was

     a slightly bizarre person to work for. In fact, Jimmy Page played with

     him for about three years. That's when I first met Pagey. I was 16

     years old. He was good then; I rate him as a three-dimensional

     guitarist. He has a range, he has ideas, but he can't be everything,

     so sometimes he lacks on improvisation a bit. He's so caught up

     with producing and everything else concerned with being a top

     band. Whereas someone like Jeff Beck is entirely in the opposite

     direction. Jeff can extemporize really well, but I don't think he can

     write a song. It's always somebody else's tune. He doesn't have

     many ideas, but he's a brilliant guitarist."


     Our brief search for other three-dimensional guitarists failed to turn

     up any more that met with Blackmore's approval. Ritchie was asked

     to evaluate himself.


     "This is gonna sound very cocky, but I think I can improvise better

     than any rock guitarist. My failing is composing. I really fall down in

     composing. I can come up with riffs and I'm good at improvisation,

     but I'm not very good at putting a song together. I have done, but

     there's nobody else around to do it anyway. I feel very frustrated in

     my songwriting, I think it's terrible half the time. But improvising for

     me is no problem -- in fact, it's something I could do all the time.

     That might sound slightly weird."


     So you tend not to memorize your parts.


     "No, that's partly my downfall. I have a very bad technical memory,

     so I can't remember, if I write a tune, exactly what the notes are. It's

     really exasperating, 'cause I'll write one and 'that's great, I'll play it

     again and record it.' And I'll play it again and 'oh dear, I've forgotten

     it. What did I play?' It's really annoying. I don't like to write; it's a

     chore for me. I do it because there aren't a lot of other people

     around me who do it. It's not knocking the people around me ...

     songs are a letdown half the time."


     But didn't you do most of Purple's music?


     "I did most of the riffs and progressions because basically, we had

     so many arguments in the first two years of Purple, and I was sick of

     it so I said let's split it five ways, because everyone was bickering

     about 'I wrote that one note' ... 'Include this song which is a bunch of

     rubbish, but I wrote it.' Every band goes through that. There's one

     thing today we haven't got over with modern technology. We haven't

     found a way to fashion a computer to take the information and tell

     you who's written the song. That would be very nice.


     "People said to me, 'You were silly to split it five ways for most of it,'

     but I said, 'Purple wouldn't have been together at all if I hadn't done

     that,' because they were very strong-minded people. It would have

     died out in 1970 if I hadn't done that. They did (write) to a certain

     extent, but not to the extent that they should have gotten a fifth share

     on every song. Jon (Lord) would have written what would have been

     one song an LP, but he would get out of eight songs a fifth share on

     each song. It's the only way to work. But to give him his due, the

     drummer (Ian Paice) gave his enthusiasm, Jon was always there for

     stability. He wouldn't come up with the ideas, but he'd remember

     them when I forgot them. Ian (Gillan) would write the lyrics, and

     Roger (Glover) used to write some."


     How did Deep Purple get together?


     "I saw Ian with another band in Hamburg in 1967 and I said 'when I

     get something I'll let you know.' When this Purple thing came up, I

     said 'right, we've got something here.' We had a millionaire backer

     (Chris Curtis, of Searchers fame) -- it's very hard to start without

     financial backing. He just wanted a very good group. As far as he

     was concerned Jon was the best organist he knew and I was the

     best guitarist ... but once we all got together he kind of fell out. I told

     Jon about Ian and then we got the other two. Jon knew Nick

     (Simper) and I knew Rod (Evans) the singer. We were all living in

     one big mansion in England which we used to rehearse in. There

     were a lot of things happening there, psychic phenomena. For the

     first few years Purple had no direction whatsoever. If anything, we

     used to follow what Jon wanted to do, which was OK because

     nobody else had any ideas."


     Be that as it may, Deep Purple roared into the American top five in

     the fall of 1968 with an acidy remake of Joe South's "Hush." Yet that

     original band never seemed capable of capitalizing on it. How



     "Jeff Wald (Mr. Helen Reddy) was our manager on the road and we

     did a lot of gigs that didn't mean anything. They were ballrooms,

     they weren't on the circuit to make it. The only time we really made it

     was when we supported Rod Stewart, supported him as we're

     doing now in order to do the right gigs and be seen. We'd be

     playing around headlining all the wrong places. Nobody knew where

     to put us. We played with Cream at the Hollywood Bowl, but they

     never really knew who we were.


     "I really admired Jim Hendrix and I really loved Vanilla Fudge so we

     just tried to integrate the two. We did "Hey Joe" and a lot of

     standards because we didn't have a lot of writing going on. I'd never

     written a tune before '69 when I started feeling my way and came up

     with a few ideas. But at the time we were just so over the moon

     about playing with good musicians, because we'd had such a hard

     time finding good musicians. You find them and you ask someone

     to join -- 'We've got a great band' -- 'Yeah, sure, how much do I get?'

     -- 'Well, it's only just for the moment.' You know the story. We were

     just so pleased to be playing with each other that we didn't really

     care which direction we went in.


     "[This was] Until about '70, when we decided we should replace the

     singer and bass player. The singer wanted to go anyway and the

     bass player was asked to leave." Ritchie's friend Micky Underwood

     (now with Strapps) was in the soon-to-be-defunct Episode Six, and

     he invited Ritchie to come down and check out their singer, Ian



     "Ian was amazing, his voice, the way he looked and everything else.

     Stupendous. We took him right there. We didn't know who to have

     on bass but Ian recommended Roger.


     "Why we thought we had to change singers was because of Robert

     Plant. We were playing at Mother's in Birmingham and Robert got

     up to sing with Terry Reid. We thought 'Christ almighty.' He was so

     dynamic. And the next two weeks we were looking for a singer,

     people who had Robert Plant's dynamic approach. So it was thanks

     to him.


     "Zeppelin, I liked their hard approach when they came out and did

     'Whole Lotta Love.' I immediately tuned in with that type of style

     because before when we were fiddling around with orchestras, I

     thought 'something's wrong, I'm not giving all that I can.' Thanks to

     them for the inspiration. They got it from Jeff Beck, who got it from

     the Small Faces..."


     In Rock was the right formula: agile musicians playing with a tidal

     wave of force. But not a Zeppelin steal; the textures were much

     more varied, the sound more flexible. Suddenly escalating

     popularity soon led to "supergroup" status. That must have been a

     little surprising.


     "I was surprised because I was happy to be working."




     Did you like the Yardbirds?


     "Well, Jeff was always brilliant. Yeah, I did like the Yardbirds very much.

     They were an exception. Jeff was one of the first to use distortion. There's

     quite a few guys before Jeff that used distortion but you wouldn't have

     heard of any of them. Like Bernie Watson with Lord Sutch. In 1960 he

     made a record with Cyril Davies which has an amazing solo, all distortion.

     It was like Hendrix on a good night. He now plays for the Royal

     Philharmonic. Just gave it all up."


     Ritchie said he was motivated to try something like that in 1963. The

     results ("I just freaked out") can be found on the B-side of the Outlaws'

     version of "I Hear You Knockin'." Archaeologists and fans take note. From

     there, via "You Really Got Me" ("The solo was too bad to be Page. It had to

     be Dave Davies."), talk drifted to stealing.


     "Everybody steals. It's healthy to steal. The thing is to disguise who you're

     stealing from. I used to steal a lot from Jimi Hendrix."


     But "Rainbow Eyes," on the new album, sounds especially like Jimi.


     "What it is, is the inflection of playing in fourths. Jimi used to play a lot

     of fourths. Several single notes he'd play a fourth above and that

     gave him the effect. On Axis: Bold As Love it's all fourths."