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Going radio friendly

Louder Sound has a story of how a cover of Since You Been Gone became the first ever Top 10 hit for Rainbow.

Russ Ballard admits he got his recording of Since You’ve Been Gone all wrong, bur Rainbow gave the song a tough exterior and sent it up the charts

Having quit the band Argent two years earlier, Russ Ballard had hoped that a second solo album would ignite his solo career. Winning, released in 1976, did bring attention to several of Ballard’s songs, although little of it under his own name; Santana covered its title track on their album Zebop!, the Bay City Rollers re-recorded Are You Cuckoo? and Roger Daltrey borrowed Just A Dream Away for the score of the film McVicar in which he starred. But it was Since You Been Gone that cemented Ballard’s reputation as a go-to songwriter to take rock music into the charts.

“I knew immediately that Since You Been Gone was radio-friendly,” Ballard recalls now. “Because I wrote it on the piano, we recorded it that way. Which was bad because it was an obvious rock song. My version was kinda soft.”

Continue reading on Louder Sound.

Thanks to Gary Poronovich for the heads up.



16 Comments to “Going radio friendly”:

  1. 1
    George Martin says:

    Rainbow took a good song and made it great!

  2. 2
    James Steven Gemmell says:

    Bonnet’s new disc sounds pretty good, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbakmECj-go

  3. 3
    stoffer says:

    I had never heard/seen this version, pretty cool, much better than the Head East cover but not nearly as good as Rainbows! Thanks to Russ for writing good tunes also “I Surrender” with JLT handling the vocals for Rainbow.

  4. 4
    Andy says:

    This was the first riff I learned to play on the guitar when I was in High School. Then of course came SOTW.

  5. 5
    Uwe Hornung says:

    As a research project, I’d give that Louder Sound article a C-. It is only half-right and not very in-depth. Sloppy.

    Let’s go a little myth-bustin’:

    Ritchie did NOT hear Ballard’s lame original arrangement to turn it into a guitar riffgasm. He heard this version here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mu_NTgbat4I

    Because Bruce Payne played it to him on tape in his office as a proposal for Rainbow to finally have a hit. The Clout version already had noticeable, pun fully intended, guitar clout and lots of ingredients Rainbow simply copied and pasted. Ironically, even Cozy liked the Clout version, but thought it “not a song for Rainbow”.

    Then there’s – as a Runaways fan I cannot let this chance go amiss – always this version here, also loaded with guitars which came out around the same time as Rainbow’s version:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbIssvdx_a8

    That’s the guys from Toto by the way backing the Currie sisters.

    Now I doubt that Cherie and Marie snuck into Rainbow’s recording sessions (though they would have probably gained admission) to steal Roger’s ideas (whatever changes Rainbow made in their version, they stem from Roger not Ritchie), but they had probably heard this here in the US:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJKZL1EKpdY

    That version, also guitar heavy, even dated back to 1978, when Ritchie was still playing dungeons & dragons scales and not getting anywhere opening for REO Speedwagon on lengthy US tours.

    And no, Russ Ballard did not need Rainbow’s version to alert people to the fact that he was a hit merchant as a songwriter, this was in the summer of 1977, he wrote the song, it was #1 in the UK, #3 where the kangaroos roam, #6 in Deutschland and even a respectable #31 in the US:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU9WYqw0gLI

    Yes, I know, Hot Chocolate (which I love) in a Purple forum, sacrilege, but there’s a connection: Their guitarist Harvey Hinsley replaced Blackmore in the Outlaws, so there! And they were – much like Purple – early Derek Lawrence protegees.

    Where were we? Oh yes, Russ Ballard being allegedly so unknown. Well, not in the US, this went to #7 in 1971, another Ballard composition, there was no escaping that song in the early 70ies, Three Dog Night were immensely popular in the US:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtTGfWDamVE

    It’s from the Argent debut album (1970), here is a somewhat shaky Argent live version of it from 1972:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4VUDgPNkik

    Of course, most people here will probably know this rendition:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2euaRIza70k

    Too bad it was not contained on Bonnet’s promo film featuring some songs from his Line Up album. I’ll post it just the same, the keyboarder, the drummer and the guitarist might still catch some interest here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0j4XTiBjKY

  6. 6
    Paulo Glover says:

    Down to Earth really broke Ronnie’s spell in Rainbow 🙂 I like all Rainbow eras.
    I surrender is another great song from Russ Ballard covered by Rainbow.

  7. 7
    Dr. Bob says:

    Post-Dio Rainbow was, and is, a disappointment to me. A rock ballad like this can be a top 10 hit, but at the same time it alienated their hard rock/power heavy fans like me. It’s just not my cup of tea.

  8. 8
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Shamefully, I forgot another Russ Ballard hit way ahead of Since You’ve Been Gone, fast backward to 1975. #9 in the UK charts, #7 in Germany, quite literally a stomper of a song:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtzdigGGZys

    Our Yank subscribers will be more familiar with this version here, #13 in the Billboard Charts in early 1979 (and thus also preceding Since You’ve Been Gone) …

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3npq9aTUUk

    Space Ace’s buddies would revisit Ballard’s songwriting craft more than a decade later …

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybmEK64OkjA

    The Argent original here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsG5V-o6uxY

    Which all goes to show: Russ Ballard was an established hit maker when Rainbow turned their hands on Since You’ve Been Gone. It’s a great song nonetheless and I remember hearing it the first time at a party not even recognizing it as Rainbow. When someone told me what it was, my first thought was: “This is so darn catchy, Ritchie finally has his hit.”

    And if you thought the Rainbow version was too lightweight … Well, here it is again, in a Chris Impelliteri “MORE IS MORE !!!” treatment : more heavy, with (lots) more hair, more shredding, arpeggios & pinched notes, with more thrown shapes and Graham as always immaculately dressed in a pink jacket:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gwk6mb3VtA

  9. 9
    David Black says:

    Great contribution Uwe. Thanks.

    Ballard’s original is..err..very limp.

  10. 10
    Simon says:

    Uwe, despite being a butter side up chap, all I can say is; I love you. Great article!
    I stopped listening to Rainbow when JLT joined. Like many Englishmen, I think a man should be a man, whatever his orientation. JLT was a woofter even though he was a ladies man. That said, Can’t Happen Here was a belter.

  11. 11
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Ballard is a great English songwriter, period. Very varied, you must be doing something right if you write hits for acts as diverse as Three Dog Night, Hello/Ace Frehley, Hot Chocolate, Rainbow, Santana, Frida of ABBA …

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p98PjtSfNWo

    + America, John Farnham, Kiss etc.

    What he is not: (i) a great singer, (ii) a fluid solo guitarist (iii) the Brit version of Brian Wilson when it comes to arranging things.

    Which is fine, one out of four ain’t bad. And he does look like Liam Gallagher with his chiseled features.

    https://c8.alamy.com/comp/MP2KG4/russ-ballard-argent-70s-MP2KG4.jpg

    He really should have written something for Oasis too. The OTHER big brother so to say, Liam, Noel & … Russell! ; – )

    I have most of his solo albums, but good to great as his songs are, his own renditions of them tend to be underwhelming, there is always that last sparkle missing. Ironically, Argent’s classic “Hold Your Head Up” was NOT written by him (but he sang it).

  12. 12
    Uwe Hornung says:

    David & Simon, I aim to please! Danke schön.

    Joe Lynn Turner was and is a fine singer.

    But that is about all. Dio was iconic, though small in stature (hey, so was Napoleon!), Graham had this irresistible Brit laddishness to him, intrepid in not conforming to the typecast image of a heavy rock front man (I loved him for it once I got over the initial shock), but Joe often made me wince – and I’m not even Brit so I’m free from all islander arrogance (“man from the colonies”, “English accent all wrong” etc). Yanks can be totally credible front men – Sammy Hagar, Springsteen, Eric Bloom or Alice Cooper, even Jon Bon Jovi come to mind -, but Joe didn’t have the front man thing cut out for him. It puzzled me that this didn’t bother Ritchie more back then after having worked extensively with people like Gillan, Coverdale and RJD – men that have natural gravitas. There was always something “loud car salesman from New Jersey” about Joe, I hate to say.

    Slaves & Masters is for me a fine (odd, but fine) album in the Purple canon, but Joe is better heard as a lead vocalist than seen as a front man. And I’m writing this as someone who actually likes the Fandango albums Joe sang (and played guitar) on. But the JLT Rainbow line-ups neither had a focal point (other than Ritchie) nor someone really filling the front man role. I saw the JLT line-ups a few times – it was never a gripping experience. Dio charmed you into his fantasy world and was genuinely kind from stage, Bonnet was a force of nature who kept you on the edge of your seat because his stage demeanor was often so totally off-the-wall, it was like David Letterman fronting Rainbow!

  13. 13
    Micke says:

    @2 Crazy old he looks compared to the Rainbow video of Since..

  14. 14
    Robin says:

    Russ appreciates the Ritchie “arrangement” enough to play it similarly live these days

  15. 15
    Not the mummy says:

    #12″….and I’m not even Brit so I’m free from all islander arrogance (“man from the colonies”, “English accent all wrong” etc)” so speaketh the bigot with not a sniff of irony.

  16. 16
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Liebe (Not-the-)mummy: I’m never 100% irony-free – sarcasm runs deep in the family. As do low-PC deadpans. You should see my two brothers and me get together – we could have our own Tonight Show.

    And for the record: Yank and Limey culture is deeply ingrained in and loved by me. I went to an American school during my adolescence in the 70ies (how else would I know something about Three Dog Night?) and I have been with a Brit-origin global law firm for the last 22 years of my professional life.

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