today again is a special date (lots of those this year…) as it is the 65th birthday of the one and only, the real man in black, and my favourite rock guitarist of all time: ritchie blackmore.
his most famous group of course was deep purple, of whom he was a founding member and also some sort of leading figure. after that (neglecting dp reunions) there was rainbow, a hell of a rock group also, putting his enormous skills right in the center of attention and giving him the (solo) fame that he deserved long before. but just like other guitar giants like jeff beck or jimmy page blackmore began working as a session musician as a teenager in the early sixties, and this he did quite well to say the least, and it is incredible on how many recordings of the time he can be heard – and often those are songs you would NEVER expect to be related to deep purple, sometimes of the kind that even i would despise (although i usually have a liking for pop-trash). those early session works were brought together and released on a two-disc set titled ‘getaway’ after an 1965 instrumental credited to blackmore himself, which is easy to find on blogspot (or check the link below). but as i said, a lot of the stuff in this collection is very trashy, and so i put together a little sampler with the pieces that i personally like best, in case youre not interested in the full collection. a lot of obscure and hard to get blackmore stuff can be found on todopurple (‘todo’ being spanish for ‘all’), a fantastic, really dedicated site for deep purple fans, in case your interest goes further.
anyway, there are some pretty insteresting cuts among the selection i made, first of all there are two numbers gene vincent did with blackmore and his group the outlaws (who began with western-style instrumentals but were active as a session backing group aswell) live on the radio in 1963, ‘crazy beat’ and ‘catch me a rat’. this was way after vincent became famous with songs like ‘be bop a lula’ or ‘race with the devil’ and the style is a lot different, but still not bad and somehow i like those radio broadcasts even better than the respective studio recordings.
next, there are three tracks by the outlaws themselves after they turned their back to their early, shadowy instrumental style and went more into rock&roll; and beat like most groups did at the time. here we have a great cover of little richards ‘keep a knockin’, a pop number titled ‘shake with me’ (a little weaker, but still charming), and a rare live recording ‘as long as i live’ that is NOT featured on the original compilation (again, see link below if you want more). poor quality, but if you see it as an important document in history rather than just enjoyable music it is ok.
apart from the outlaws there are two other famous and important acts young ritchie played with, the next one on this comp is german-born, hampshire-raised singer heinz (burt) whos backing band the wild boys featured blackmore (and sometimes jimmy page) as their guitarist. as an excerpt of that collaboration, here we have three early recordings, ‘country boy’ and ‘i get up in the morning’ from 1963 and ‘questions i cant answer’ from 1964. heinz died on 7th april 2000, which was ten years ago last week (tribute on this blog will be on his birthday thus), after a long and tragic fight with motor neurone disease. he is mostly remembered for his – admittedly very fab – eddie cochran covers and tributes, and for being a member of the tornados (‘telstar’ – nothing needs to be said about this is guess) – and his extremely atrificial looking, bright-blonde died hair that became his trademark. being a protege of famous producer joe meek, he was even involved in a case of murder when meek shot a woman and then himself, because he did it with heinz’ gun (he was prooved innocent soon). however, following up there is a marvelous 1965 single he did with blackmore in his backing band, ‘dont think twice its alright’ / ‘big fat spider’, the a-side being a lovely dylan cover with famous larry adler playing harp on it. i dont really like zimmys original anyway, but heinz version instantly won my heart, because it is so charming and cute, especially soft and warm vocals. the flipside is a just as lovely pop song about chasing and marrying girls written by joe meek and spiced up with blackmores still great, outlawish guitar. the next heinz-blackmore release was the 45 ‘im not a bad guy’ / ‘movin in’ from 1966, the b-side being a crazy, driving beat number that again profits from blackmores good work, just as sharp as heinz crazy, rock&rollish; vocal style – highly recommended.
two other 45s of that time are worth mentioning aswell. first there is ‘bouncing bass’ / ‘let me in’ by the sessions, both are fantastic, but especially the a-side is a pure killer as it is just was the title says! next theres ‘satans holiday’ / ‘earthshaker’ by the lancasters, the a-side being a rendition of edvard griegs 19th century opus ‘in the hall of the mountain king’. both are instrumentals, so blackmores prominent guitar can be enjoyed here at its best.
the second important act, to whom blackmore perhaps was more closely related than to heinz and the wild boys, was screaming lord sutch (david sutch) who had blackmore (second from left in the picture above) playing in his backing band the savages from time to time. blackmore, whose guitar teacher at the time was no one else but big jim sullivan, played at auditions for the group as early as 1961, aged about fifteen, but at first didnt get the job because he was not experienced enough. he then eventually worked with the savages may to october 1962, february to may 1965 and december 1966 to april 1967 (his later deep purple band-colleague nick simper was the savages bassist from july 67 on). it is said that ritchie did not like having to wear the leopard-pattern loin cloths while being a ‘savage’, because it made him look very skinny and he would have less success with girls – well i guess hed rather laugh about that today. during his stay with the group in 1965 a 45 was cut that featured him on guitar, ‘honey hush’ / ‘train kept a rollin’, also included in this selection. both sides being cover versions, this is a really wild and simply aweseome recording nevertheless and especially the b-side features a fine solo by ritchie played at being merely twenty years old.
in the mid-sixties ritchie blackmore played on a couple of tracks by meek-produced singer glenda collins, most of which are simply dreadful (sorry if there are glenda fans out there, but i am just being honest). one 45 of those is not too bad, however, and i picked it for this little selection. ‘though shalt not steal’ is really close to be very annoying, but somehow i still like it and its an ok-girl-pop song. the b-side, ‘been invited to a party’ (and im gonna go), is more beat- than pop-orientated and thus my favourite collins track, not only concerning this comp, mostly because it is a lot tougher and more driving than her other records.
blackmore had also been part of neil christians backing band the crusaders, featured on this comp with the 1968 single ‘my baby left me’ / ‘yaketty yak’ (a-side: vince taylor cover, b-side: re-titled cover of big joe turners ‘honey hush’). christian died of cancer in january this year, aged 66 only. what a drag, every second artist i mention here has recently died it seems – and this i write in an article about someones birthday!
however, back to the living – theres a extremely rare 1966 track by roy harper, ‘committed’, on which blackmore is featured, that first appeared on harpers debut album and which i included aswell. last but not least theres a 1983 interview blackmore gave at the BBC in which he talks about the old days in the sixties, and it is really fun to listen to it as he tells of some great anecdotes about pranks, etc.
well, so much about the pre-purple blackmore, i will continue the celebration of this rock giants birthday with a big surprise for you soon, for once leaving the path of beat, rock&roll; and psych, taking a trip into real hard rock.