Whatever else you can say about Saul Goodman, he knows a great guitar riff when he hears it. In one telling episode of Better Call Saul, the impresario is found plucking away on a guitar that once belonged to Ritchie Blackmore.
OK, Saul Goodman is a fictional character: Yet he’s far from the only one who enjoys Blackmore’s playing. No less a luminary than Brian May (and he’s in Queen, so that makes him royalty), praised the guitarist. “You know, people don’t talk about Ritchie Blackmore enough,” May said. “I don’t know why, but he was such a trailblazer and technically incredible — unpredictable in every possible way. It’s great. That’s what you love, isn’t it? You go to a gig and you want to see something which is not predictable, which is not like just reproducing. So you never knew what you were gonna see when you went to see Purple, when Blackmore was in it, but also Rainbow. You know, this was his own thing and it was wild and dangerous.”
In his interview with Far Out, May likened his rock number ‘Driven By You’ to a Blackmore song. “Musically, I don’t know where it came from. To me, it reminds me of one of those songs with gaps in, like ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’.” May is referring, of course, to the Rainbow classic, but Far Out readers will probably know Blackmore as the man behind ‘Smoke On The Water’. The riff thrives on immediacy, which explains why so many budding musicians opted to learn it, but there was more to Blackmore’s canon than power chords and attitude.
He was a guitar player of immense flair and talent and was responsible for the sound of the group. The reason that Deep Purple could change from frontman to frontman more successfully than Black Sabbath is likely due to the fact that it was the guitar, not the vocals, that cemented the albums.
Ian Gillian was the second frontman who sang for Deep Purple, although he would later front Black Sabbath. Rock alum Paul Rodgers also enjoyed a late creative wind when he took Freddie Mercury’s place fronting Queen in 2005. Black Sabbath and Queen are formidable heavy metal bands, but it was the songs that typified those groups. It’s nearly impossible to imagine Deep Purple sans Blackmore, in spite of the fact that Deep Purple have been touring without him for decades.
Instead, he was a driving force of energy for the band, and regularly indulged audiences in a series of blinding guitar licks, each one more exhilarating than the last. In this video, Blackmore pivots from metal into more industrial terrains, drilling his fingers up and down the fretboard with almost maniacal fashion.
And then he plunges into the fretboard to unleash a tasty solo, his fingers poised, his passion resolute. In this one fell swoop, he lets out a quirky display, as if offering Eddie Van Halen the blueprint he would spend a lifetime following. Brian May is correct, we need to talk about Ritchie Blackmore often.
See the clip, below.