Ritchie Blackmore: “I’m Deteriorating Fast...” Plus Three Other Revelations from the Rainbow Guitarist

(Image credit: Steve Thorne/Getty Images)

Ritchie Blackmore says he’s suffering from the effects of age and believes his former Deep Purple bandmates are working themselves too hard given the advanced years of its collective members.

In a July 2016 interview with Radio Veronica, recently posted on YouTube, Blackmore reveals his own health issues and how he prefers to put several days space between shows with his group Blackmore’s Night to minimize the strain of performing. The guitar legend says he believes hard touring is taking a toll on Deep Purple and that the group is doing it just for the sake of money.

Blackmore also reflected on his preference for playing acoustic guitar and talked about his concerts from this past June with the newly revived Rainbow lineup. Those shows—presented at the Monsters of Rock in Loreley, Germany, and on June 25 show at Genting Arena in Birmingham, England—marked Blackmore’s first rock shows in 20 years.

The entire interview is streaming below. Here we present four things we learned from it.

“Optically, I’m deteriorating very fast, as we all are,” the guitarist says. “All my friends are passing away. Some of my enemies are passing away too. But we try and keep up with it.

“What I do is I limit how many times a week we play. For instance, this week, we’re playing, I think, twice. And normally, our agent would tell us, ‘To make money, you have to be playing five days a week.’ And I refuse to do that.

“I used to, with Deep Purple and people like that—I would be playing and traveling all the time, and it gets very tiring. But this way we’re very fresh to do our shows. So we’ll be working tomorrow, having four days off, and hopefully we’ll probably play for, like, four hours, ’cause we can do it, and then there’ll be another few days off.”

“And then we can do another long show, whereas in the old days, it was an hour and 20 minutes and we’re exhausted because we’ve gotta move on to the next town.”2. He believes hard touring is taking a toll on Deep Purple and that the group is doing it just for the sake of money. (14:25)

“I don’t really have much say in it, I left them 20 years ago,” he says. “But I think, personally, they’re milking it a bit too much. And I hear that from a lot of people, that they just keep going.

“If I was them, I would give it a five-year rest or something. Some of them are not very happy at home, so they like to be on the road.”

Blackmore says he blames the group’s agent, whom he calls “a bit of a whip. They’ll work in North India, then be in Australia, then South America, and of course now it’s showing, you know. A couple of them are starting to become very sick.

“Ian [Gillan], the singer, he gets sick very often, so I really think they should take a rest. But that’s up to them.”

Blackmore also says he recalls Jon Lord, the group’s late keyboardist, once remarking on the group’s nonstop performing.

“I remember Jon Lord saying when he was in the band, ‘I don’t know if this band will ever know when to stop,’” Blackmore says. “I thought that was quite funny.”3. Fans at his Rainbow shows last June were disappointed that he included Deep Purple songs in the set. (11:45)

“We incorporated a few Deep Purple songs—‘Black Night,’ ‘Smoke [on the Water],’ ‘Highway Star’—of which some of the fans said, ‘Why did you do those Deep Purple songs?’” Blackmore recalls. “And I would say, ‘Why not?’

“They said, ’Well, we thought it was just gonna be Rainbow. We would prefer to hear Rainbow songs.’ Which I thought was kind of ironic, again. I’m thinking, ‘Wow. We just threw three songs in by Deep Purple, and they wanted more [Rainbow]...

“And I noticed when they clapped, they weren’t clapping so hard for Deep Purple. They said, ‘We hear that every year’—’cause Purple goes around [on tour].

“So the next time, if we go out, I would probably do 95 percent Rainbow songs. That’s what they seem to want to hear.”

4. He prefers playing acoustic guitar because it’s more challenging than playing electric. (12:50)

“People are like, ‘Why do you play the acoustic guitar when you could play the electric?’ It’s because I want to, and it’s more difficult. I find it a lot easier just going onstage playing the rock and roll guitar, turning the amplifier up and blasting away. That to me is not a challenge. It’s fun; it’s not a challenge.”

  • “I have adopted a different fingerstyle technique, and I play with all my fingers on the acoustic. When I play the electric, I play with a plectrum. So it’s totally different, the approach. Nothing is easy, but this music that we do in Blackmore’s Night is a lot more challenging. It’s like going onstage and you can’t hit them with volume and just jump around the stage. You’ve actually got to actually deliver something.”
  • Check out the entire 18-minuted clip below.

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Christopher Scapelliti

Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World, a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.