[% META title = 'Deep Purple, Interviews' %]
Ritchie Blackmore

All of the fun of the Fayre

Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple aims to
confound the Knebworth knockers, reports Mick Wall

(From Kerrang No 96, June 13-26 1985, p. 23)

NEW YORK CITY: the Warwick Hotel over on 54th street. It's 2-30 in the morning and in room 1110 the telephone is ringing. A sleepless hand reaches out and grabs the receiver, lifting it tight to a sleeping head.

"Yeah?" the word crawls out of my gob like a snake from a sandpit. On the other end of the wire is Bruce Payne, manager of Deep Purple. "What happened?" he barks down the line. "Ritchie waited in the bar for you for two hours! And you didn't show! What happened?"

"Whaddayamean Ritchie waited in the bar for two hours? I get straight off the plane and make it over to the hotel in double quick fashion. I don't even know for certain if there's going to be a room reserved for me. I don't know when, where of how I'm supposed to be getting together with Ritchie, so what do I do? It's Friday in New York, do I go out on the razzy and hit the clubs? Do I crawl on my hands and my knees and launch myself ass-first into a bottle, any bottle? Do I f**k! I sit in my hotel room and wait. I need instructions, I need orders and I am a good boy and so I wait and nothing do I hear, no more do I know until this very phone call... s**t, so what do I do now? Can I talk to Ritchie tomorrow? Is he pissed off? Has the whole deal been shot down in flames and am I about to be the proud receiver of a Geoff Barton sized boot up my ass?"

Two seconds of silence... "No, you wait and sit tight until I ring you back in the morning," says Bruce, sensing that my nerves are raw and my head's on backwards. The phone dies slowly in my hands.

THE FOLLOWING PM the phone starts up again and this time I'm ready. "Do you play soccer?" "Uh, well yeah," I say. "OK, this is what you do. Ritchie says he came to you last night so now it's your turn to go to him. The thing is, Ritchie is playing football this afternoon so he suggests you have a game too and then get the interview together. What do you say? You'll have to take a train out to Long Island and we'll worry about getting you to the airport afterwards." Bruce's voice is all smiles.

The deal struck, I spend the next 4 minutes limbering up round and round the furniture and fittings in my room, psyching myself up into classic Bryan Robson animal-magic pose. If it's football they want, I am going to make damn sure I can shoot the ball with both feet. An hour into the training programme the phone is doing its ring-thing again.

It's Bruce: "There's been a change of plan", he announces and, oh no, I can feel my mood of doom and gloom in June returning. But the voice inside my head tells me to stay cool and listen patiently.

"We're gonna send a car over to pick you up and take you to a restaurant in Long Island at six where you'll have dinner with Ritchie and you can do the interview then, while you're having your meal. What do you say?" I say I'm disconnecting this damn phone from the wall before you change your mind again. Some time later I'm leaning into a fine Bloody Mary at a table reserved for Mr Blackmore and his guests. Out the window I can see Ritchie Blackmore and his friends walking up the drive towards the eaterie and my stomach turns over like a Ferris Wheel in a force nine gale. I don't get nervous as a rule -- but hell, this is Ritchie Blackmore! The Man In Black! The One That Never Talks! And what am I but a short-arsed scribbler from Soho? And so I remove my nose from the red juice and stand to my attention when the man walks in the room and finally we meet.

I needn't have worried. Contrary to all the preconceived ideas everybody and their milkman threw at me when they knew I was making the trip to meet Ritchie Blackmore, in person he's warm, friendly and very good company indeed. The first thing he does is break all the rules and smile, and so as we both sit down and I grin back at him it's time to cut all my bulls**t and do what I came to do... talk.

Mick Wall: Do you see the forthcoming Knebworth Fayre as an important gig for the band?

Ritchie Blackmore: Oh yeah, very important. The pressure is always on in England... although I don't know too much about the gig itself. Knebworth? Nah... I'm off to see U2 that day myself! (A wry smile creases the corners of the mouth).

MW: Why just the one UK date? It seems strange after doing a string of gigs elsewhere in the world like Australia, etc.?

RB: We took kind of a vote. Some of the band wanted to do more gigs and some wanted to do one big one. But it's so difficult when you've got a big production to break even when you play in England, which is why not too many bands go there. I wanted to do a few gigs -- one in Scotland, one in Birmingham, tow in London, something like that, but I was overruled by... someone, I can't remember who, someone I met in a pub somewhere I expect". (laughs)

But I don't like to be judged on one gig because it's inevitable a disappointment, everything goes wrong. I could say the halls in Britain aren't big enough but I really don't know the answers. I can just see people saying now, "Oh the halls aren't big enough to hold Ritchie's head!"

I know if it was down to Ian Gillan the band would do every club and hall in Britain, but I don't know, politics come into play and all kinds of things and it's ended up that the band is doing a European tour with three days off before Knebworth and three days off after so we probably could have done something more. I think it's got to the point where I can't even remember the real reasons we're not doing a British tour. We're gonna kick off the European tour by playing a small club date in Sweden actually. Just invite members of the fan club, and do it secretly so the promoter doesn't start charging people a fortune to see it.

MW: When was the last time you played in a club?

RB: Oh Christ... a club? Well, I play in a club here in Long Island a lot, a place called Sparks just down the road; it's a Heavy Metal club. If there's ever a really simple three chord blues I'll jump up with the band a play a bit. I get into a lot of fights over the football table though. (chuckle)

MW: Switching back to Knebworth a sec, with U2 holding their festival the same day as yours do you see the Milton Keynes bash as a threat to Purple's attendance figures, to your prestige?

RB: I thought it was very strange that they would go out the same day. Originally they were going to hold their gig a couple of weeks later and then suddenly they changed their minds and chose the same day as us. It's not a threat, but it is a challenge, they've certainly got a big audience. We'll be very aware that U2 are playing down the road. I wasn't pissed off when I found out that they were playing, but I was more than a bit suspicious. People in the so-called hierarchy have looked into it for me and they say that it's definitely not a move to deliberately upset us, but at first I thought it was.

I'm always suspicious of anybody though, there's always undercurrents and undertones of suspicion that I seek out and look for in people. I always look for the bad in people... and I'm sure they see it in me. Mmm, the U2 thing I thought was very strange; of all the weekends there are in Summer to play you know? I'm sure there's a promoter hidden away somewhere who's responsible, someone who's been crossed in the past with an ancient axe to grind...

MW: Would you take a poor attendance at Knebworth as a direct snub from the British fans?

RB: No, not a direct snub, because being English I know how we think and it would just be the luck of the draw. It would be just another concert to go to and it would mean people just weren't interested in us at that particular time. As we have no big commercial hit out we will attract the real heavy staunch followers; we'd like to get through to the people that buy hits as well but if you're not on Top Of The Pops then, well... I'm still kind of nervous about the event, not sure how it'll turn out. We'll see, ha! ha!


Transcription and HTML by Benjamin Weaver