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Always do your homework

Rolling Stone magazine has series called Unknown Legends where they interview “[…] veteran musicians who have toured and recorded alongside icons for years, if not decades. All are renowned in the business, but some are less well known to the general public.” David Rosenthal was the latest guest on this feature column.

Tell me how you wound up joining Rainbow.
A friend of a friend told me that Ritchie Blackmore was looking for a new keyboard player, so I sent him a cassette. It was my cover band playing a bunch of different rock tunes on one side. And on the other side was my senior classical piano recital where I played all this crazy stuff. I knew he was into classical as well.

He heard that and invited me to audition out on Long Island. It was a cattle call. I went there and they narrowed it down to me and one other guy, and then I got the gig.

Do you recall what you played at the audition?
I don’t remember the exact songs, but it was a lot of jamming. A lot of what Ritchie was looking for was, “Can I connect with him musically? How quick does he learn?” And so there was a lot of jamming. I might have played “Man on the Silver Mountain” and a couple of the other classics. But I honestly don’t remember the specific songs.

It must have been intimidating to be onstage with someone like Ritchie.
Well, to me, it’s not intimidating. I just did what I did. My philosophy has always been to go in there after doings tons and tons of homework where you prepare and prepare. I then go in and do my best. If my best isn’t what they’re looking for, then that’s OK. At least I know I did my best. In this case, it turned out to click.

One moment of the audition I remember very specifically is that Roger Glover was running the auditions. He came over to me and said, “Let’s say that we’re onstage now in front of 20,000 people and Ritchie just broke a string and nothing is happening on the stage. You need to fill space. Go.”

I just played. I just starting playing something on the [Hammond] B3 and then I played some riffs on the Minimoog and jumped over to the clavinet. They were Ritchie’s keyboards that they had there. I had brought my stuff with me. I only had a Fender Rhodes, a Farfisa organ, and a synth. I was a student. I didn’t have any money. So they said, “Play our keyboards. Play this setup.”

I had learned about a lot of these keyboards in theory, but I’d never actually played them. But in any event, I just played a little bit here, and a little bit there. I just played. I didn’t think anything of it.

About a year later, Roger Glover told me that out of all the people they asked that of, I was the only guy that just started playing. He said everyone else had an excuse like, “Oh, don’t worry; I’ll be prepared,” or “I’ll work something up.” Everybody had a story, but I was the only guy that just started playing.

You’re filling the shoes of Don Airey, who’s a pretty incredible player.
Don is a great player. But I had the benefit when I was preparing for the audition of four keyboardists in Rainbow before me. I knew whatever those four players had in common stylistically was what Ritchie liked. I sort of tailored my playing accordingly, knowing what he was looking for, but it was a very natural fit. He and I clicked musically right away. And I was only 20 years old.

Continue reading in Rolling Stone. There’s a lot more interesting tidbits — did you know, for example, that before he got the Rainbow gig David was a student at Berklee College, where he formed a band with another fellow student, a then unknown guitar player by the name of Steve Vai?

Thanks to BraveWords for the heads up.

8 Comments to “Always do your homework”:

  1. 1
    Wiktor says:

    At last!!! Someone who doesnt blame Ritchie for everything going wrong in the world or in their own lives…
    Good on you David!!!

  2. 2
    Blackwood Richmore says:

    I love what David did in Rainbow, he is a virtuoso & his playing sounds just fantastic.
    His 1993 album ‘Never Say Surrender’ with his band Red Dawn, included Chuck Burghi & Greg Smith as the rhythm section.


    And something else he did for Billy Joel…


  3. 3
    MacGregor says:

    I always liked Rosenthal as a keyboard player in Rainbow. After Don Airey left the band I was becoming sort of disillusioned with where the band may be heading. I was disappointed with the new album SBTE, although Death Alley Driver was an impressive song to start with & is a classic ‘driving song’ so to speak. The Bent Out Of Shape album I enjoy & Rosenthal excels on that in many ways. Cheers.

  4. 4
    Blackwood Richmore says:

    Every time I hear this one, David’s little keyboard solo uplifts me & makes me feel good about life.

    Also, a dram or more of fine Scottish nectar diminishes my inhibitions & helps me to relax & enjoy the music so much more!.

  5. 5
    Georgivs says:

    They also had an interesting feature on Rudy Sarzo with some good memories of Whitesnake:

    Rudy seems to be a really cool guy, although most of his stories have the same plot: “I joined a band, it was great, but then it was no longer fun and I quit”.

  6. 6
    Bo says:

    Wiktor, I can only agree. So death boring that people who Ritchie did help to her a name for themself, are complaining like children later on. Like Dio and Gillan.

  7. 7
    Micke says:

    @6 just maybe they had a reason for that..? What do you think..?

  8. 8
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Bent out of Shape is for me the best JOLT era album [unless you include Slaves & Masters ; – ) ] – at least they went out on a high.

    Last I saw Rosenthal was a few years ago with Billy Joel – Chuck Burgi was on drums, so it was a bit of a Rainbow reunion of sorts! Unfortunately though, Billy didn’t quite see it that way und refused to encore with a Rainbow track, shucks!

    I remember another interview of Rosenthal where he said that he spent only a comparatively short amount of time with Rainbow, but still gets asked about that early phase in his career by other musos today, even by Billy Joel who when he heard that both David and Chuck had played with Blackmore kind of warily asked: “And how was that experience?”

    Ritchie sure has a reputation in music circles – and worked hard for it. : – )

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