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Members include Don Airey (group member, 1979-81), keyboards; Jimmy Bain (group member, 1975-77), bass; Graham Benett (group member, 1979-80), vocals; Chuck Berge (group member, 1995-97), drums; Ritchie Blackmore (born on April 14, 1945, in Weston-super-Mare, England), guitar; Tony Carey (group member, 1975-77), keyboards; Bob Daisley (group member, 1977-78), bass; Ronnie James Dio (born Ronald Padavona on July 10, 1949, in Portsmouth, NH; group member, 1975-78), vocals; Gary Driscoll (group member, 1975), drums; Roger Glover (group member, 1979-84), bass; Craig Gruber (group member, 1975), bass; Paul Morris (group member, 1995-97), keyboards; Candice Night (group member, 1995-97), vocals; Cozy Powell (died on April 5, 1998; group member, 1975-80), drums; Bob Rondinelli (group member, 1980-84), drums; David Rosenthal (group member, 1981-84), keyboards; GregSmith (group member, 1995-97), bass; Mickey Lee Soule (group member, 1975), keyboards; David Stone (group member, 1977-78), keyboards; Joe Lynn Turner (group member, 1980-84), vocals; DookieWhite (group member, 1995-97), vocals. Addresses: Record company--Universal (formerly Polydor), 3800 Alameda Ave., #1500, Burbank, CA 91505.
Rainbow began when Ritchie Blackmore, a classically trained and legendarily difficult lead guitarist left Deep Purple, the British heavy metal band that made him famous. The rest of Deep Purple had had the audacity to demand democracy--and wouldn't record one of Blackmore's favorite songs, Quatermass's "Black Sheep of the Family"--so the guitarist packed up his strings and went solo. He immediately commandeered a New York band, Elf, which had opened for Deep Purple and starred shrieking vocalist Ronnie James Dio. The new band, Rainbow, became a revolving door of over-the-top metal talent.
Although it never had a gold album or a hit single, Rainbow wasn't a failure; the band toured successfully for almost a decade beginning in the mid-1970s and released the underrated metal anthems "Man on the Silver Mountain," "Since You Been Gone" and "Jealous Lover." It also anticipated two major 1980s hard-rock trends: hair bands such as Poison and Bon Jovi, who borrowed aspects of their coiffure and singing styles from Dio, and fast-fingered guitarists such as Yngwie Malmsteen and Joe Satriani, who adapted Blackmore's classical leanings and rock excess. But even Rainbow's members knew they weren't exactly making musical history. "It was successful, but it was always a second-rank band. It never seemed to get any better," bassist Roger Glover told the Los Angeles Times in 1985, after a Deep Purple reunion signaled the end of Rainbow, at least for the time being. "Ritchie and I were getting bored with it."
Born in England, Blackmore began his music studies at age eleven, when his father bought him a guitar and demanded that he take lessons. The British rock scene was just heating up in those days, with eventual contemporaries Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page preparing to form their own bands. Blackmore found work as a session musician. He backed rockabilly heroes Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis onstage and attended studio sessions by the great freaked-out producer Joe Meek. In 1968 he cofounded Deep Purple, whose first hits were souped-up versions of Joe South's "Hush" and Neil Diamond's "Kentucky Woman." Blackmore soon invented one of the most recognizable metal riffs of all time, "Smoke on the Water," a number-four hit that helped the band sell 15 million records by the mid-1970s.
"Pound for pound, [Blackmore is] one of the best soloists in history, but he's such a d*** that he'll probably never get the credit he deserves," Billy Corgan, the Smashing Pumpkins' lead singer and guitarist, told Guitar Player in 1996. It was this arrogance that led him to form Rainbow. The band immediately made Blackmore happy by covering "Black Sheep of the Family"; they then went to Germany's Musicland Studios to record Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. The album's creative axis was Blackmore and Dio, who bonded over a mutual love for both heavy rock and medieval music. "Man on the Silver Mountain," Dio's signature song during his brief Rainbow tenure was the epitome of this Jethro Tull-like concept.
Fans of Blackmore and Dio say the next album, 1976's Rising, was the band's peak, with former Jeff Beck group drummer Cozy Powell (later of Whitesnake and Emerson, Lake, and Powell), then-unknown bassist Jimmy Bain, and keyboardist Tony Carey replacing the original Elf core. The album's core is "Stargazer," an eight-minute dungeons-and-dragons epic featuring busy drumming, a long guitar solo, lyrics about whips, chains, towers of stone and the immortal line "there's no sun in the shadow of the wizard/see how he glides/why, he's lighter than air/oh, I see his face." The album had its less-busy side, too, with the femme-fatale rocker "Starstruck" showing a more restrained Blackmore and Powell. In 1981 Kerrang! magazine readers named Rising the greatest metal album of all time.
After a sold-out European tour and live album, Dio stayed on for one more studio round, resulting in 1978's Long Live Rock 'n' Roll, which featured the same mixture of motorcycle-groove metal (the title track) and medieval excess ("Gates of Babylon"). Blackmore tinkered with the band lineup again, replacing bass and keyboard players for the third time in as many albums. As was often the case with Blackmore's bandmates, however, Dio became disenchanted. The guitarist, emboldened by the success of the "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll" single, wanted to move in a more mainstream-rock direction, while Dio preferred to stick with the medieval experiments. He was also tired of deferring to Blackmore. When singer Ozzy Osbourne quit the pioneering Black Sabbath in 1979, Dio landed a job as the future bat-biter's replacement.
Rainbow persevered. For the group's next album, Down to Earth, Blackmore hired bassist Roger Glover and singer Joe Lynn Turner, who exerted a streamlining influence. Although Dio (and perhaps even Blackmore) would disagree, the band turned out its best singles, "Since You Been Gone" and "Jealous Lover," both of which sounded great next to Foreigner and REO Speedwagon on early 1980s rock radio. Glover and Turner managed to hang on for the next several years, until Deep Purple reunited in the mid-1980s and Blackmore broke up Rainbow. Before that happened, though, the band had a bombastic finale: their last performance at Tokyo's Budokan Hall in April of 1984 that featured "Difficult to Cure," a rewrite of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The song landed on Rainbow's Finyl Vinyl compilation two years later.
The Purple reunion was short-lived, of course, after Blackmore characteristically ripped Gillan in public, calling the singer's attitude unprofessional and his voice, as quoted in Guitar Player, "completely shot." In 1995 Blackmore reunited Rainbow, with two new unknown singers, Dookie White and Candice Night (Blackmore's fiancée), but the moment had passed. By then, Nirvana and other Seattle grunge bands favoring punk simplicity over metal excess were hugely popular, while classically trained metal guitarists were This Is Spinal Tap clichés. Rainbow survived a few more years in that configuration, until Blackmore shifted almost exclusively to his New-Age-y solo project, Blackmore's Night. He also contributed the guitar solos to Pat Boone's "Smoke on the Water" cover on a bizarrely funny solo CD In a Metal Mood. Blackmore's Night, starring Blackmore and Night, continues to tour the world; Shadow of the Moon went gold in Japan.
by Steve Knopper
Group formed in Los Angeles, CA, 1975; released debut album Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, 1975; followed by Rising, 1976; Long Live Rock 'n' Roll, 1978; On Stage, live double album, 1977; "Jealous Lover" single, 1979; released Down to Earth, 1979; performed final shows, Budokan Hall, Tokyo, 1984; released compilation Finyl Vinyl, 1986.
- Selected discography
- Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow Polydor, 1975.
- Rising Polydor, 1976.
- On Stage Polydor, 1977.
- Long Live Rock 'n' Roll Polydor, 1978.
- Down to Earth Polydor, 1979.
- Difficult to Cure Polydor, 1981.
- Bent Out of Shape Polydor, 1983.
- Finyl Vinyl Polydor, 1986.
- Very Best of Rainbow Chronicles/Polydor, 1997.
- Best of Rainbow: The Millennium Collection Polydor/Universal, 2000.
- Graff, Gary, and Daniel Durchholz, editors, MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1999.
- Romanowski, Patricia, and Holly George-Warren, Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, 2001.
- Boston Globe, April 9, 1987.
- Guitar Player, November 1993; December 1996.
- Los Angeles Times, January 13, 1985; January 27, 1985.
- "Rainbow," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (October 7, 2002).
- Ritchie Blackmore and Blackmore's Night Official Website, http://www.blackmoresnight.com/ritchie_bio.html (October 7, 2002).
- Additional information was obtained from the Very Best of Rainbow liner notes, Chronicles/Polydor, 1997.
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