The Ronnie James Dio Story "Rainbow"
Rainbow (also known as Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow or Blackmore's Rainbow) are a British rock band led by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore from 1975 to 1984 and 1993 to 1997. They were originally established with Ronnie James Dio's American rock band Elf, but after the first album, Blackmore fired the backing members and continued with Ronnie James Dio until 1979.
By 1973, Blackmore had steered Deep Purple through a significant personnel change, with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover being replaced by David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. However, the new members were keen to add new musical styles and Blackmore found his request to record the Steve Hammond-penned "Black Sheep of the Family" with "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves" turned down by the band. He decided to record the song with Dio instead, using Dio's band Elf as additional musicians. He enjoyed the results, and a full album, billed as Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow was recorded between February and March 1975 at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany. The band name was inspired by the Rainbow Bar and Grill in Hollywood.
Rainbow's music was partly inspired by classical music since Blackmore started playing cello to help him construct interesting chord progressions, and Dio wrote lyrics about medieval themes. Dio possessed a versatile vocal range capable of singing both hard rock and lighter ballads, and, according to Blackmore, "I felt shivers down my spine." Although Dio never played a musical instrument on any Rainbow album, he is credited with writing and arranging the music with Blackmore, in addition to writing all the lyrics himself. Blackmore and Dio also found a common ground in their sense of humour.
Following the positive experience of recording with Dio, Blackmore decided to leave Deep Purple, playing his last show in Paris in April. The album had a positive critical reception and was a top 20 UK and top 30 US hit. Blackmore's departure from Deep Purple was publicly announced on 21 June.
First world tour and initial success (1975–1978)
Blackmore was unhappy about carrying the Elf line-up along for live performances, and so he fired everybody except Dio shortly after the album was recorded, due to Driscoll's style of drumming and the funky bass playing of Gruber. Blackmore would continue to dictate personnel for the remainder of the band's lifetime, with drummer and former bandmate Ricky Munro remarking "he was very difficult to get on with because you never knew when he would turn around and say 'You're sacked'." Blackmore recruited bassist Jimmy Bain, American keyboard player Tony Carey and drummer Cozy Powell, who had previously worked with Jeff Beck and had some solo success. Powell also greatly appealed to Blackmore in their mutual fondness for practical jokes.
This line-up also commenced the first world tour for the band, with the first date in Montreal on 10 November 1975. The centrepiece of the band's live performance was a computer-controlled rainbow including 3,000 lightbulbs, which stretched 40 feet across the stage. A second album, Rising, was recorded in February at Musicland. By the time of the European dates in the summer of 1976, Rainbow's reputation as a blistering live act had been established. The band added Deep Purple's "Mistreated" to their setlist, and song lengths were stretched to include improvisation. Carey recalls rehearsing the material was fairly straightforward, saying "We didn't work anything out, except the structure, the ending ... very free-form, really progressive rock." The album art was designed by famed fantasy artist Ken Kelly, who had drawn Tarzan and Conan the Barbarian.
In August 1976, following a gig at Newcastle City Hall, Blackmore decided to fire Carey, believing his playing style to be too complicated for the band. Unable to find a suitable replacement quickly, Carey was quickly reinstated, but as the world tour progressed onto Japan, he found himself regularly being the recipient of Blackmore's pranks and humour. Blackmore subsequently decided that Bain was substandard and fired him in January 1977. The same fate befell Carey shortly after. Blackmore, however, had difficulty finding replacements he liked. On keyboards, after auditioning several high-profile artists, including Vanilla Fudge's Mark Stein, Procol Harum's Matthew Fisher and ex-Curved Air and Roxy Music and U.K. man Eddie Jobson, Blackmore finally selected Canadian David Stone, from the little-known band Symphonic Slam. For a bass player, Blackmore originally chose Mark Clarke, formerly of Jon Hiseman's Colosseum, Uriah Heep and Tempest, but once in the studio for the next album, Long Live Rock 'n' Roll, Blackmore disliked Clarke's fingerstyle method of playing so much that he fired Clarke on the spot and played bass himself on all but four songs: the album's title track, "Gates of Babylon", "Kill the King", and "Sensitive to Light". Former Widowmaker bassist, Australian Bob Daisley was hired to record these tracks, completing the band's next line-up.
After the release and extensive world tour in 1977–1978, Blackmore decided that he wanted to take the band in a new commercial direction away from the "sword and sorcery" theme. Dio did not agree with this change and left Rainbow.
Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow (1975)
On stage (1977)
Long Live Rock 'n' Roll (1978)
Go to Rainbow for the rest of the Rainbow story