Saturday, 16 May 2009

Guitar Heroes - Ritchie Blackmore

Ritchie Blackmore is probably my very first guitar hero. In the late seventies, as my musical taste drifted towards hard rock and heavy metal, the virtuosity of Ritchie Blackmore was a beacon that drew me in.

Deep Purple, at this stage, had imploded and Blackmore had created a new band called Rainbow. Both of these bands were extremely popular within my school and I began to collect their LPs, with what little cash I made from a paper round.

Chief amongst those albums was “Made In Japan”, a live recording made by Deep Purple’s unbelievable “Mark Two” line up in Tokyo and Osaka in 1972. I played the album so much that the vinyl almost melted. I became Ritchie Blackmore’s evil air guitar doppelganger as I leapt around my bedroom to the brilliant “Child In Time”, “Smoke On The Water”, “Space Truckin” and “Strange Kind Of Woman”.

I progressed onto Rainbow and continued to be an imaginary air guitarist, ripping through classic albums like “Rising” and “Long Live Rock And Roll” in my room. My father used to despair that his eldest son, now a mad haired heavy metal teenager, was leaping up and down, screaming in to the sound of music played at a volume that shook the walls.

Fast forward to 1984; a day that almost made me cry with joy - the reformation of Deep Purple with the classic “Mark Two” line up, with Ritchie, Ian Gillan, Jon Lord, Roger Glover and Ian Paice. The first album “Perfect Strangers” was a triumph as far as I was concerned. I also liked the follow up “The House Of Blue Light”.

Sadly, as brilliant a guitarist as he is, Ritchie Blackmore seems to have a streak in him that makes him very difficult to work with. Ian Gillan has been a famous casualty and their volatile relationship, although producing some classic timeless tunes, has also resulted in the initial destruction of Deep Purple at their peak and the eventual final departure of Blackmore from Deep Purple.

I was fortunate enough to see Deep Purple “Mark Two” at the Manchester Apollo in one of the last concerts before Blackmore left for good. The tension on the stage was tangible and Blackmore seemed to be so lonely there, almost as if he was playing a solo concert that happened to feature the rest of the band. I have only seen Ritchie Blackmore perform twice, and this second time was a disappointment. Sure, he played his guitar like it was part of himself, but there was something missing.

I keep thinking to myself, if only Blackmore hadn’t been so difficult, we could have had decades of Deep Purple brilliance.

Don’t get me wrong. Deep Purple are still making decent music even today. The only problem is, Blackmore is not part of the band. Instead, he has become sort of medieval mandolin player in a band called “Blackmore’s Night”, a style I can’t bring myself to like.

Despite the rollercoaster of Deep Purple, I still have nothing but the utmost admiration for Ritchie and he is still a huge hero of mine. As part of Rainbow, he produced the best rock album of the 1970’s – “Rising” – and on that album, one of the greatest rock songs of all time – “Stargazer”.

My favourite songs featuring Ritchie Blackmore are:

(1) Child In Time – Deep Purple
(2) Highway Star – Deep Purple
(3) Strange Kind Of Woman – Deep Purple
(4) Perfect Strangers – Deep Purple
(5) Space Truckin – Deep Purple
(6) Stargazer – Rainbow
(7) A Light In The Black – Rainbow
(8) Kill The King – Rainbow
(9) Spotlight Kid – Rainbow
(10) Difficult To Cure – Rainbow

His style is unique and his talent is almost immeasurable. The man was and is a true rock god. I would love to see Ritchie Blackmore abandon his medieval Renaissance folk rock and return to the axe-wielding rock guitar hero of my youth.

Finally, if you follow the link below you will find Ritchie Blackmore with the greatest Deep Purple line up performing "Child In Time" way back in 1970:

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