By Steve Newton
Ritchie Blackmore is one of my favourite guitarists of all time. As a 15-year-old when Machine Head was released in 1972, I could barely comprehend how great his guitar solo on “Highway Star” made me feel. Over and over again.
Two years later he did it again with the lead break on “Burn”. Serious goosebumps.
And when I first heard his guitar wipeout on Rainbow’s “Spotlight Kid” in 1981 I registered a pleasant tingle near the top of my skull that musta been my body’s way of saying “Fuckin-AAA!”
There was just something about Blackmore’s touch that really connected with me. It was on the same level as the buzz I got from hearing players like Rory Gallagher, Jeff Beck, Gary Moore, Johnny Winter, Randy Rhoads, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
As much as I loved Ritchie’s music from the get-go, though, over the years I would often hear bad things about him as a person. The “Man in Black” had a heart to match, if you believed some of the stories. His former keyboardist in Rainbow, Tony Carey, told me back in ’84 that he wouldn’t tell Blackmore if his hair was on fire.
But not everyone was making Ritchie out to be the devil back then. In an interview I did that same year with vocalist Graham Bonnet–who sang on Rainbow’s Down to Earth album of ’79–he took a much more positive view of Blackmore’s personality.
So I guess it depends who you talk to.
Have a listen: