Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Rainbow Rising with Ritchie Blackmore

If you're a person of a certain vintage like moi, then you may fondly remember the almost classical guitar work of that electric minstrel Mr Ritchie Blackmore. I first heard one of his riffs around '78/79 - I think it was 'Smoke on the Water' or 'Highway Star', not sure now, but anyway, it was a bit of a road to Damascus experience.

To me, Blackmore's sound was a bit kind of Black Sabbathy, but with a little more spirituality and classical overtones chucked in. Combined with the Sabbath influence (and late night Hammer Horror movies), Blackmore's music and general vibe was my first tentative introduction to the more esoteric and occult aspects of life, which I have continued to cultivate ever since.

Using the various cash presents and promises awarded to me for Christmas 1980, I managed to get the first 3 albums: 'Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow', 'Rainbow Rising' and 'Long Live Rock 'n' Roll'. I was one lucky kid that year. After listening to these, the die was cast and my future was written in the Major Arcana of the great Tarot pack in the sky ... if you know what I mean ..

Well, basically, I began to really dig that giant growling darkly fascinating Black Dog called ROCK (I know I'm getting a bit cheesy here, but please, stay with me). It wasn't just the music, it was the whole aesthetic. It was cerebral as well as sonic. The seemingly very English Gothic/Medievalism of bands like Sabbath and Rainbow, with all their strange talk of Iron Men and Tarot Women was a world away (literally) from the banality and pettiness of school life and pop chart fodder (I mean Gary Numan and Soft Cell - give me a break!)

It was like this world and it's music belonged to me personally. I felt proprietorial. I felt like a member of a secret cabal, a keeper of the flame, one of the great initiates of The Knowledge. If it wasn't for Blackmore's Rainbow, I don't think I could have made the imaginative leap from the doom laded riffs of Sabbath to the Proggy intellectualism of Rush.

But wait, lets get something straight here from the off. I was never a Goth. Goth's belonged to an ersatz, style-driven Romanticism, that to me had no depth, no hidden codes or esoterica, it was about as deep and profound as the cheap hair dyes that they used from Boots chemists - shallow alchemy. No, I wanted the real thing. To dive into the vortex of otherness and feel a little different than everyone else, which, in a period when New Wave and Post Punk predominated, actually meant something.

Anyway, I owe a debt to Ritchie, even though his music went a bit pear shaped back in the 80's he seems to have returned to his Medieval troubadour roots for good.

~ H-Allen