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There’s this guy…

mu:zines is a website dedicated to digitally reprinting old music production magazines. It has quite a few Purple-related interviews of various vintage.

International Musician and Recording World issue from March 1975 had an interview with Ritchie Blackmore, where he mentions Tommy Bolin as one of the few worthwhile American guitarists, mere months before Bolin replaced him in Purple.

JT: What guitarists do you like?

RB: I like Jeff [Beck]. He’s my favourite guitarist. There are a lot of guitarists around that get overlooked. When you’re a guitarist yourself you tend to get so buried in what you’re doing. Mike Bloomfield is really good. Steve Howe’s always been a very good guitarist. I’m not too struck on Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, I never saw what was in Clapton at all. He’s a good singer.

JT: How do you view someone like Peter Townshend?

RB: He’s part of “the Establishment”… you can knock the Establishment but there’s not much point. There were days in ’64 when he inspired me, because he was the first one ever to use distortion, it was unheard of in those days, and he did a distortion solo in “Anyway Anyhow Anywhere”. That was really good, I thought The Who were great when they first came out. Townshend is not so much of a guitarist as an all-round guy — writer, all that. There are so many people who are good guitarists who aren’t even names.

JT: Are there any American guitarists that you find worthwhile?

RB: Tommy Bolin, especially. There’s a guy in a group called Stray Dog, and I was slightly listening to him outside the Record Plant door when he was recording, and he sounded great… I don’t know who he is.

The last sentence most likely refers to W. G. Snuffy Walden, who went on to make himself a successful career in film and TV music, winning numerous awards, including an Emmy for The West Wing theme.

Read the complete interview in mu:zines.

Thanks to Yvonne for the heads up.



14 Comments to “There’s this guy…”:

  1. 1
    DeeperPurps says:

    Great candid interview of Ritchie Blackmore….he called it as it is/was….he didn’t see anything special about Page and Clapton which in my humble opinion, is the absolute honest truth – they were good guitar players, but not great, certainly not Gods. Now that ought to get the Zeppelin and Cream fans worked up into a lather!!

    And he liked Glenn Hughes’ bass-playing prowess too! As well as Tommy Bolin guitar work. So Ritchie got lots of things right in this particular interview. One of the better ones of him.

  2. 2
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Yeah, I had heard of Blackmore complimenting Bolin before. They also met at least once. Blackmore was at Bolin’s house (again, this might have been before the latter joined DP) in LA and commented on how grimy the strings on one of Bolin’s guitars were and advised a slightly embarrassed Bolin to change them! Ever helpful Ritchie. ; – )

    In a DP-centric world, Bolin was of course pretty much an unknown in 1975, but that wasn’t true for people who listened to jazz rock. Bolin’s work on Cobham’s Spectrum had given the former a lot of limelight. He was regarded as a musician’s musician. Anybody who dug jazz rock had Spectrum at home in the 70ies. Same thing if you were a drummer, Cobham’s work with Mahavishnu Orchestra had given him huge credentials, he was extremely influential as a drummer in the mid 70ies. Of course, the elitist jazz rock crowd found Bolin’s move to DP disdainful. It was like John McLaughlin joining Status Quo to them. Little did they know that Bolin wasn’t a sight reader of music and simply improvised along to the songs written by Jan Hammer and Billy Cobham on Spectrum. (Most people – David Coverdale and Jon Lord among them – also mistakenly thought that Hammer’s lighting fast liquid synth runs in weird scales on that album were actually played by Tommy with his effects-laden guitar, when he was essentially a pentatonic blues picker – Zephyr! – oblivious to what had been de rigueur in the Mahavishnu Orchestra.)

    OTOH, hardly anybody knew back then that Bolin had been in James Gang which were never much of a name in Germany. Incidentally, he got the job there too after Peters and Fox, the Gang’s rhythm section, had heard Bolin’s work on Spectrum, it become a bit of an albatross around his neck for him. (Jeff Beck was a fan of Tommy too and Spectrum led him to venture into instrumental jazz rock.)

    I did it sort of reverse: When CTTB came out, I first didn’t like it as much as the Rainbow debut (old habits die hard, Tommy sounded so different to Ritchie), but it grew on me quickly. I then bought Teaser and Spectrum (my first jazz rock album, I liked it because I found the energy similar to the hard rock albums I mostly listened to back then) and later on mail ordered the two James Gang albums which weren’t widely available in Germany. What struck me on all four albums was how Bolin retained his original style on all of them and was immediately recognizable by his playing a few seconds into the first tracks on those albums.

    I remember playing James Gang’s Bang! (that double entendre title together with the sledgehammer suggestive sleeve – impossible in this day and age of PC) at a bar I jobbed at one night and a well-known drummer of the local muso scene stepped up to me and admonished me for the Echoplex beginning of Standing in the Rain: “That is ripped off straight from Billy Cobham’s solo album!” And I answered: “That’s because it is the same guy: Tommy Bolin, he also played with Deep Purple.” The drummer guy was incredulous. He had the Cobham album in his collection (of course!), but no idea about Bolin’s stint in the James Gang (or his tenure in DP for that matter) and ended up jotting the title on a piece of paper to get the James Gang album.

    I wonder what kind of music Tommy would play today …

  3. 3
    Mike Mazur says:

    Ihave to agree Eric Clapton, way way way overrated as a guitarist. I do like Jimmy Page as a guitarist.

  4. 4
    Uwe Hornung says:

    I think Clapton is/has become a very lyrical (blues) player. Which Ritchie is too, so that I always wondered why the latter found the former’s playing unappealing. But obviously not unappealing enough to not rip off Clapton’s Stepping Out
    Bluesbreakers riff and turn it into Lazy!

    People always accuse Clapton of selling out and want him to return to the way he was in Cream days. They overlook that his decision to leave Cream was at the time the opposite: In the dawn of power trios and virtuoso showboating und improvisation, he forsook the frenzied guitar hero role in a stadium-filling money printing machine, ditched his Gibsons for a Strat and decided to become a singer/songwriter who also plays lead guitar. That was – at the time – a highly uncommercial move and went against the grain of musical development as the 60ies turned into the 70ies.

    Clapton heard recordings of The Band while on tour with Cream and thought: “This is what I want to be and do – rather than being a guitar god and playing 20 minute improvisations.” That was brave and I believe heartfelt at the time (he had acted similarly when he had left the Yardbirds for John Mayall) – and I respect him for that.

    It was only years later that the singer/songwriter/instrumentalist package began to commercially eclipse “stadium rock” (among them DP, Led Zep, Mountain, Grand Funk Railroad, Foghat, Black Sabbath etc) which he had helped invent with Cream.

    Which is not to say that I don’t prefer Cream to a lot of his solo work, but if he doesn’t want to do it anymore, he doesn’t want to do it.

    And his guitar playing is never less than exquisite and tasteful. His singing otoh is … competent, let’s leave it at that. Probably better than Ritchie’s though!

  5. 5
    janbl says:

    “I wonder what kind of music Tommy would play today …”

    Harp???

  6. 6
    Uwe Hornung says:

    @5: The angelic type, not the blues harp, I get it now! : – )

    You think they let him wear his “The Ultimate” T-Shirt up there? Could cause misunderstandings.

  7. 7
    getahed says:

    @1 and @3. Phew! Not just me then!

    Most famous Clapton riff: Layla? That’s Mr Allman!

    Page is good and his riff are excellent too but more blues based than Blackers (with some exceptions both ways). However, I don’t find Page’s solos as fluid as Blackers. Page’s solos are good. Blacker’s solos are masterpieces.

  8. 8
    MacGregor says:

    Never take Blackmore’s comments seriously, ‘Clapton is a good singer’ says it all. Remember that saying from the WDWTWA sleeve wasn’t it, a media cut out, ‘ I could wipe the floor with most guitarists’, something like that. The forever stirrer of the pot or I should say cauldron is Mr Blackmore, & why not. Another one from way back in the day, ‘I don’t play rhythm guitar, I get Jimmy Page to come in & do that’. Ha Ha! Cheers.

  9. 9
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Poor Eric, people don’t even trust him with that trademark riff of his anymore! It’s an urban myth that Duane came up with it. He certainly plays it too – together with Eric -, but Eric brought it to the sessions, allegedly based on a much slower Albert King blues lick. It doesn’t much sound like a Duane Allman creation either, that type of melodicism was more Dickey Betts’ department as you can hear on Jessica and Rambling Man.

    If I may quote:

    What Allman did was to change the song’s dynamic by speeding up the opening riff. Some people even maintain that it was Allman who introduced the opening riff into the song, although Whitlock disagrees. “[It] was already there,” he states. But it wasn’t just the riff. Tom Dowd recalled layering six guitar parts on the track. “There’s an Eric rhythm part, three tracks of Eric playing harmony and the main riff, one of Duane playing that beautiful bottleneck, and one of Duane and Eric locked up, playing counter melodies,” he said. “There had to be some kind of telepathy going on, because I’ve never seen spontaneous inspiration happen at that rate and level. One of them would play something and the other would react instantaneously. Not once did either of them have to say: ‘Could you play that again, please?’. It was like two hands in a glove.”

    – end of quote –

    I believe that Ritchie’s public picking over the years on Eric was just your typical Blackmore mischief, being outrageous for the sake of it. Ironically, Clapton’s walking away from Cream and changing his whole outlook on music is not that different to Blackers packing up with Purple and donning tights to frequent German castles for evermore. One man’s The Band is another man’s Des Geyers schwarzer Haufen.

    And just like Cream fans never got over Eric’s defection, DP fans have a hard time with the transition from Machine Head to minstrel’s keg too. ; – )

  10. 10
    maro barco says:

    blackmores words are just playful depending on what mood hes in…later interviews state hed rather here eric play a couple of tasty blues licks than fast dweedlers…who he practically invented!!!there are millions of fast dweedlers striving to be th fastest out there…but look whos at the top of most guitarists lists…jeff beck adn eric clapton..not ast players..but tasteful and original..enough said

  11. 11
    Albania says:

    Uwe et al.
    Nice reading your insightful comments on Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, especially the background on Layla.
    I saw The Allman Brothers Band in July of 2012 in Hartford, CT, during their co-headlining tour with Santana. I had seen Santana in the mid 90’s in Tucson, AZ, and I remember being impressed, especially with the second set of the show/encores, but for some reason I do not recall much from his July 2012 performance.
    TABB put on a good show. Gregg, whom only a couple of years prior had had a liver transplant, was in fine form both on keys and vocals. You could hear his typical growls and howls and the rest of the band, especially Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes, seemed to benefit from his energy. I have also seen Warren with Government Mule and I like his style and laidback stage presence.
    On March 10, 2020, I attended what turned out to be the last concert in NYC before everything shut down the next day due to COVID. Billed as The Brothers, the show was at Madison Square Gardens and it featured the remaining members and/or relatives of TABB with Chuck Leavell on piano as special guest. I had seen Chuck with The Stones at the Meadowlands in NJ in August of 2019 for the rescheduled shows after Jagger’s heart surgery. I was also aware of his Rock Camp sessions with Steve Morse and Ian Paice. Chuck stood out more with The Brothers than with the Stones.
    Looking back at the March 10, 2020, show, exactly one year ago today… It would be an understatement to say that I felt apprehensive about being surrounded by 20,000 people indoors at a time when COVID had already arrived in certain parts of NY and was making its way to NYC. I took all possible measures imaginable (hand sanitizers, mask, etc.), but I still felt tense about the whole thing. Until the show started, I wondered whether there would be a last-minute cancellation. To my surprise, the show was on. MSG was at capacity, almost. Many people bailed last minute and put their tickets on StubHub at huge discounts.
    In the beginning, there was a sense of caution in the air, but, as the show progressed, the crowd felt more relaxed and got more and more into it. It reminded me of the easygoing and free-spirited demeanor I had witnessed the prior summer when I saw Dead & Company (featuring John Mayer) at the same venue. The fans at both shows (2019 and 2020), especially Dead & Co., had struck me as gentle folks who were there more for the overall experience than the music. As someone who wasn’t too familiar with their repertoire, the music sounded somewhat repetitive, the jams overdone/disjointed, and the performance a bit off (more so Dead & Co. than The Brothers). But the fans did not seem to care much, soaking it all in and enjoying every bit of it.
    On the way home after the March 10, 2020, show I recall admiring the crowd’s relaxed approach at both the TABB and Dead & Co. shows. They seemed genuinely grateful to be there and did not seem to really care about whether the music they were hearing was up to par with previous shows, or whether the current lineup was better/worse than the original/previous lineup(s), etc. To me, this stood in stark contrast with some of the harsh comments I had read at various times on THS about the quality of the recent DP albums and/or shows.
    While I do not consider myself a huge fan of either the Grateful Dead or TABB (I like the TABB better, especially the work with Dickey Betts), I appreciate the casual approach by their respective fanbasess. Do not get me wrong; I would LOVE to witness Gillan perform CIT Live the same way he did in MIJ while the rest of the Mark II lineup go nuts on stage. And I would say the same about Coverdale/Hughes and Mark III at California Jam. But I learned to stop using DP’s out worldly performances from the 70’s as the benchmark by which I judged any of their shows that I would get to see. I am simply grateful for all the DP shows I have been to, no matter the Mark, quality of that show, etc. And I am grateful for every album they have released, including CTTB, SAM and THOBL. I would be super grateful if I got to see them live again and if they released another album as long as they gave it their best and felt comfortable doing it.
    Again, I have enjoyed reading the insightful and balanced comments by you and others. I find them fun and enlightening. Keep it up.
    With COVID still front and center and with the future of live music still extremely uncertain, I am glad that exactly one year ago today I went to a live concert. To quote Forrest Gump, “life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” 😊

  12. 12
    Jim Sheridan says:

    Albania, I saw both of those shows too, the Santana / ABB in Hartford 2012 as well as The Brothers at MSG, “the last concert in the world.” Both were wonderful evenings of incredible music.

    The sound at MSG was unbalanced where I was, so I am really looking forward to a DVD coming out from that set.

    For those seeking the Purple connection, Warren Haynes did get Roger Glover to play with him on a tribute album!

  13. 13
    Albania says:

    Jim Sheridan, that is awesome. I am glad you liked both shows as well.

    You are right about the Purple connection. He has crossed paths with them quite a few times. Warren was the brainchild behind Great Gypsy Soul, the tribute album to Tommy Bolin featuring numerous luminaries like Peter Frampton, John Scofield, Derek Trucks, Joe Bonamassa, Steve Morse, Brad Whitford, etc.

    Warren’s other band, Government Mule, has also played Maybe I’m a Leo live a few times, including this performance with Roger Glover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v97ypB1Hshs

    Finally, Warren jammed with DP in Bonn, Germany, back in 2013. The video quality is poor, but might still be worth checking out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7eXUfLbiVU

  14. 14
    Dr. Bob says:

    Unless you are a guitarist and understand technique and difficulty it is hard to separate the playing talent from the writing talent and sound of a player. I am not going to argue that Page or Claption are better or worse guitar players than anyone else, but they are great guitar composers who found a great sound and I’d rather listen to them than a lot of guitarits who are technically better. To my ear the sound is the most important thing. Having said that I listen to Blackmore & Iommi more than everyone else combined.

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