Rainbow (also known as Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow or Blackmore's Rainbow) were an English hard rock band formed in California, controlled by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore from 1975 to 1984 and 1994 to 1997. They were originally established with American blues rock band Elf's members, though over the years Rainbow went through many line-up changes with no two studio albums featuring the same line-up. In addition to lead singers Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet, Joe Lynn Turner and Doogie White, the project consisted of numerous backing musicians. The band started out combining mystical lyric themes with neo-classical metal, but went in a more streamlined commercial style following Dio's departure from the group.
Rainbow were ranked No. 90 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. The band has sold over 28 million albums worldwide and 4 million albums in the United States.
In 1974, Ritchie Blackmore publicly disliked the funk, soul music (or as Blackmore called it, "shoeshine music") elements being introduced to Deep Purple by David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes, as well as the disappointing Stormbringer album where his favourite musical style wasn't adequately captured. Blackmore originally intended to release a solo single, the Steve Hammond-penned "Black Sheep of the Family", with "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves" on the B-side. He recorded these during a studio session in Tampa Bay, Florida on 12 December 1974 with singer/lyricist Ronnie James Dio and drummer Gary Driscoll, both from the blues-rock band Elf, former Procol Harum keyboardist Matthew Fisher, and cellist Hugh McDowell of ELO. Satisfied with the two tracks, Blackmore decided to make a solo album, replacing the keyboardist and bassist with Elf members Micky Lee Soule and Craig Gruber, respectively. The full album was recorded in Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany in about 3 weeks in February 1975. Though it was originally thought to be a solo album, the record was billed as Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. Blackmore decided to leave Deep Purple and form his own band Rainbow. The name of the band was inspired by the Rainbow Bar and Grill in Hollywood that catered to rock stars, groupies and rock enthusiasts.
Rainbow's debut album, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, was released in 1975 and featured the minor hit "Man on the Silver Mountain". This first line-up never performed live. Blackmore and Dio did promotional work for the album.
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. 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 fired everybody except Dio shortly after the album was recorded, due to Gary Driscoll's R&B style of drumming and the funky bass playing of Craig Gruber. Micky Lee Soule quit due to Blackmore's decisions, and Blackmore recruited Cozy Powell, Jeff Beck's drummer, bassist Jimmy Bain, and American keyboard player Tony Carey. This line-up went on to record the next album Rising. This line-up also commenced the first world tour for the band, with the first US dates in late 1975. Album art was designed by famed fantasy artist Ken Kelly, who had drawn Tarzan and Conan the Barbarian.
By the time of the European dates in the summer of 1976, Rainbow's reputation as a blistering live act was already established. Blackmore subsequently decided that Bain was substandard and fired him in January 1977. The same fate befell Tony 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 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 1977–78, 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.
Blackmore attempted to replace Dio with Ian Gillan, but Gillan turned him down. After a series of auditions, former vocalist/guitarist of The Marbles, Graham Bonnet was recruited instead. Powell stayed, but Daisley and Stone were both fired, the latter being replaced by keyboardist Don Airey. At first the band auditioned bass players, but at Cozy Powell's suggestion Blackmore hired then-former Deep Purple member Roger Glover as a producer, bassist and lyricist. The first album from the new line-up, Down to Earth, featured the band's first major singles chart successes, "All Night Long" and the Russ Ballard-penned "Since You Been Gone". In 1980, the band headlined the inaugural 'Monsters of Rock' festival at Castle Donington in England. However, this was Powell's last Rainbow gig, as he had already given his notice to quit, disliking Blackmore's increasingly pop rock direction. Bonnet was fired the night Powell quit due to a drunken performance. Soon after, he would join the Michael Schenker Group. Bonnet was fired from MSG due to similar problems with Rainbow.
For the next album, Bonnet and Powell were replaced by Americans Joe Lynn Turner and Bobby Rondinelli, respectively. The title track from the album, Difficult to Cure, was a version of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The album spawned their most successful UK single, "I Surrender" (another Ballard song), which reached No.3. It also contained the guitar piece, "Maybe Next Time". After the supporting tour, Don Airey quit over musical direction and was replaced on keyboards by David Rosenthal.
The band attained significant airplay on Album-oriented rock radio stations in the US with the track "Jealous Lover", reaching No. 13 on Billboard Magazine's Rock Tracks chart, which tracked AOR airplay. Originally issued as the B-side to "Can't Happen Here", "Jealous Lover" subsequently became the title track to an EP issued in the US that featured very similar cover art to "Difficult to Cure".
Rainbow's next full length studio album was Straight Between the Eyes. The album was more cohesive than Difficult to Cure, and had more success in the United States. The band, however, was alienating some of its earlier fans with its more AOR sound. The single, "Stone Cold", was a ballad that had some chart success (#1 on Billboard Magazine's Rock Tracks chart) and the video of which received heavy airplay on MTV. The successful supporting tour skipped the UK completely and focused on the American market. A date in San Antonio, Texas on this tour was filmed, and the resulting "Live Between the Eyes" also received repeated showings on MTV.
Bent Out of Shape saw drummer Rondinelli fired in favour of former Balance drummer Chuck Burgi. The album featured the single "Street of Dreams". According to Blackmore's biography on his official web site, the song's video was banned by MTV for its supposedly controversial hypnotic video clip. However, Dr. Thomas Radecki of the National Coalition on Television Violence criticised MTV for airing the video, which would contradict Blackmore's claim. The resulting tour saw Rainbow return to the UK, and also to Japan in March 1984 where the band performed "Difficult to Cure" with a full orchestra. The concert was also filmed.
Dissolution and temporary revival
Rainbow's management Thames Talent co-ordinated attempts to successfully reform Deep Purple MK. II. By April 1984, Rainbow were disbanded. A then-final Rainbow album, Finyl Vinyl, was pieced together from live tracks and B-sides of singles. The album contained the instrumental "Weiss Heim", widely available for the first time. In 1993 Blackmore left Deep Purple permanently due to "creative differences" with other members, and reformed Rainbow with all-new members featuring Scottish singer Doogie White. The band released Stranger in Us All in 1995, and embarked on a lengthy world tour.
The tour proved very successful, and a show in Germany was professionally filmed by Rockpalast. It has never officially been released, but has been heavily bootlegged (and considered by many collectors to be the best Rainbow bootleg of the era). The live shows featured frequent changes in set lists, and musical improvisations that proved popular with bootleggers and many shows are still traded over a decade later.
However, Blackmore turned his attention to his long-time musical passion, Renaissance and medieval music. Rainbow were put on hold once again after playing its final concert in Esbjerg, Denmark in 1997. Blackmore, together with his partner Candice Night as vocalist then formed the Renaissance-influenced Blackmore's Night. Around the same time as production of Stranger in Us All (1995), they were already gearing up their debut album Shadow of the Moon (1997).
In late 1997 Cozy Powell approached Ritchie Blackmore to see if he would be interested in reforming the Rising line-up of Rainbow. Due to everyone's prior commitments, this proposed reunion was intended to last for just one tour, and by early 1998 both Dio and Blackmore had almost given the project the green light. However, Powell's death in April 1998 brought about the demise of any anticipated reunion. In the following decade other rumours appeared in various web sources about a future Dio/Blackmore Rainbow project, but both men quickly dispelled these rumours as having no basis in fact. Dio's death from stomach cancer on 16 May 2010 made such a reunion impossible.
Rainbow songs after 1997
Many Rainbow songs have been performed live by former members of the band since the group's split in 1984 and then in 1997, particularly former frontmen, Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet and Joe Lynn Turner in recent years. Also, Don Airey often plays 1979-1981 era songs during his solo shows. Blackmore's Night occasionally performs one or two Rainbow songs live, namely "Ariel", "Rainbow Eyes" and "Street of Dreams". The latter two were also re-recorded by Blackmore's Night in studio.
In 2002–2004 the Hughes Turner Project played a number of Rainbow songs at their concerts. On 9 August 2007 Joe Lynn Turner and Graham Bonnet played a tribute to Rainbow show in Helsinki, Finland. The concert consisted of songs from the 1979-1983 era.
On August 4, 2006 at Geijyutsu-Gekijyo Metropolitan Art Space in Tokyo, Japan, a special symphonic tribute to Rainbow was performed by the New Japan Philharmonic featuring Joe Lynn Turner. The concert featured classic Rainbow songs as well as some never played before fan favourities, such as instrumentals "Weiss Heim" and "Maybe Next Time".
Rainbow fans would be also interested in the White Noise DVD (featuring former Rainbow singer Doogie White) titled "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" (recorded in 2004 and released in 2005). It is the only release by the band White Noise. This was a DVD filmed on their support stint with progressive rock band Uriah Heep. The show consisted of mostly Rainbow songs from their 1995 album Stranger in Us All but featured arrangements of other songs including Mostly Autumn's 'Never the Rainbow'.
In 2009, Joe Lynn Turner, Bobby Rondinelli, Greg Smith and Tony Carey created the touring tribute band Over The Rainbow with Jürgen Blackmore (Ritchie's son) as the guitarist. Over The Rainbow performed songs from every era of the band's history. After the first tour Tony Carey had to bow out for health reasons. There was a very big show planned for OTR, Sweden Rocks. Joe Lynn Turner reached out to Paul Morris, and it was accomplished with rave reviews. OTR then went on in their new line up with Paul Morris on keyboards, and did a USA, European, and Russian tours. All very successful. The band were disbanded at the end of 2010.
- Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow (1975)
- Rising (1976)
- Long Live Rock 'n' Roll (1978)
- Down to Earth (1979)
- Difficult to Cure (1981)
- Straight Between the Eyes (1982)
- Bent Out of Shape (1983)
- Stranger in Us All (1995)
- Roy Davies, Rainbow Rising - The Story of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow (Helter Skelter, 2002)
- Martin Popoff, Rainbow - English Castle Magic (Metal Blade, 2005)
- Jerry Bloom, Black Knight - Ritchie Blackmore (Omnibus Press, 2006)
- Jerry Bloom, Long Live Rock 'n' Roll Story (Wymer Publishing, 2009)
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Image from Discogs