Ritchie Blackmore, for most rock fans, is the mercurial guitarist who traded licks with the best of them as the powerhouse player in Deep Purple and Rainbow, responsible for playing on some of the most famous riffs in rock .. think Smoke On The Water and Highway Star … despite the fact he hasn’t now played rock on a regular basis for many a year.
Whenever his name is mentioned, terms like ‘arrogant’, ‘headstrong’ and ‘disruptive’ are used to describe his behaviour and attitude, someone who’s proven he’s prepared to walk out on bands if things don’t go to his liking. However, Ross Halfin’s book is an attempt to show another side of Blackmore, a side his fans seldom get to see. It isn’t a rock biography or an in-depth analysis of his music or playing, it’s mostly a book of photographs featuring literally hundreds of images of the man himself, taken down the years by the man known in rock circles as ‘photographer to the rock stars’, with many of the images shown revealing another side to the man in black. Halfin had first been introduced to Blackmore with the words ‘you two will be bad for each other’, but surprisingly a genuine friendship arose, resulting in Halfin being allowed into the inner circle and given almost carte blanche to take pictures of his subject as and when, in many different situations – often ones he’s not been seen in before. Halfin has had unparalleled access to Blackmore down these many years, both on and offstage, and it shows.
There’s no doubting the quality of the images shown, with top class photography all the way through. There are many pictures of Blackmore in action with Purple and Rainbow pulling all kinds of guitar hero poses and facial grimaces, plenty taken backstage, mixing with other band members from his various band line-ups, plus with other musicians; there are images of Blackmore looking clam and serene, and even several pictures of him in black stockings and suspenders(!) – plus pictures of Blackmore wearing colours other than black, as well as him sitting on an LA hotel wall and smiling, though granted there aren’t too many of these! Towards the end of the book, we even get three pictures which feature Candice Night singing alongside her man.
The book, published by ‘Rufus Rock ‘n Roll Publishing’, and unavailable in bookshops (direct order only), comes with an introduction by Def Leppard man Phil Collen, who eulogises over the influence Blackmore had on him when, as a 14 yr old in 1972, he saw him with Purple at the Brixton Sundown (now the Academy). It also concludes with an appreciation written by Billy Corgan, who makes a compelling case for Blackmore to be considered as the most important and influential guitar player in rock. You may well disagree with this but his reasoning is certainly worth consideration.
If you’re a major fan of Ritchie Blackmore, this is a book you’ll almost certainly like, though I wonder how many fans will be prepared to stump up £199 (£599 for the A3 super limited large format edition!) to obtain a copy of what is, even allowing for how good they are, just a book of hundreds of photographs of one person, alongside a few reminiscences from the photographer and some comments by a rock journalist? Then again, this is Ritchie Blackmore, and if anyone will inspire that demand, it might well be him…