Ritchie Blackmore: The Ritchie Blackmore Story

Ninety-minute documentary tells a bizarre, skewed-focus story of the ‘lost’ guitar hero.

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As a Classic Rock reader, you’re likely to be on intimate terms with the storied and often chaotic career of the man born Richard Hugh Blackmore.

But after watching this 90-minute rockumentary, the thought struck us: what if someone came across this DVD stone cold (pun intended), with no previous knowledge of The Man In Black, his fretwork or his foibles? Would they think The Ritchie Blackmore Story was a glorious celebration of a mega-talented, mercurial six-string wizard? Or would they think it was the latest prank from the pen of Christopher Guest, starring a medieval George and Mildred?

Let us consider the facts. The film opens and closes not with electrifying images of Deep Purple and/or Rainbow in concert, but with long, lingering scenes of the seaside at Weston-super-Mare.

Blackmore is interviewed in a gloomy pub-cum-grotto, wearing a Robin Hood tunic, supping bottles of beer while battery-powered faux candles flicker in the background. (A nearby timepiece chimes, and the narrator says: “Ritchie is convinced the clock in his bar is haunted and chimes whenever it is happy.” Blackmore listens closely and concludes the clock is “very happy”.)

Fast-forward a bit and you’ll find Ritchie recalling how Purple’s explosive performance at the 1974 California Jam “blew Ian Paice’s glasses off”. Fast-forward further and you’ll discover former Rainbow singer Graham Bonnet complaining that Blackmore “was a hundred per cent against my haircut”. (“There was a hair situation,” RB admits.)

Later, up pop the aforementioned medieval George and Mildred: Ritchie and partner Candice. We learn how they first met at a soccer match, when Ritchie threw a sweaty football sock in her face. “That’s the way to get a girl,” Ms Night observes.

Get the picture? There are too many trivial tales and not enough nitty-gritty. The story of how Blackmore broke a security guard’s jaw in Vienna gets more airtime than Rainbow’s monumental Rising album, which is treated as little more than a footnote.

Given Blackmore’s co-operation, one can only assume the final edit met with his approval. If so, then it’s such a shame that he would rather relish telling the tale of when he chucked a plate of spaghetti in Ian Gillan’s face than stake his rightful claim as a guitar hero of the stature of Page, Beck, Clapton et al. But then again, perhaps this is just confirmation of something we secretly knew all along.


Geoff Barton

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.