If the name Ritchie Blackmore only conjures vague reminders of the classic rock period, if the vision of his Fender Strat perched upon his shoulders is a new one, and if the only riff of his that you know is ‘Smoke on the Water’, then we implore you to revisit some of the guitarist’s finest work.
Blackmore is, without a doubt, one of the finest but invariably overlooked players of his generation. The artistic powerhouse that gave both Deep Purple and Rainbow their electrifying energy, guitar-playing would be a very different beast than what it is today without Blackmore’s contributions.
What he couldn’t do with a whammy bar wasn’t worth knowing, and his performances always expertly balanced serving the song and indulging in his distinctive style of playing. It’s a balance that he developed all on his own as one of the foremost players of his generation, taking cues from those who came before him, augmenting their influence, and casting it off into the future for his legions of disciples to use for their own ends.
“I owe him a lot of money,” said Blackmore when speaking about Ludwig Van Beethoven’s influence over his iconic ‘Smoke on the Water’ riff. Inspired by the composer’s famous ‘Symphony No.5’, Blackmore constructed one of the most instantly recognisable riffs of all time, allowing the simplicity of the music to negate any notion of ego-driven pomp. It has since become Deep Purple’s trademark number and a melody that is now known across the globe.
However, Blackmore is so much more than plainly ‘Smoke on the Water’. He’s one of the most influential guitarists of all time, and since he first broke onto the scene in the late ’60s, fans have wanted to know what sort of music makes him tick, as his back catalogue is as eclectic as they come when it comes to rock musicians.
Luckily for us, in 1996, Blackmore gave an interview with a fan, and he listed a selection of his favourite songs and albums of all time. A real mix, it accounts for his dextrous and varied artistry, showing the axeman to be a complete sponge when it comes to music, with a penchant for all things ’60s.
The first album Blackmore chose was 1967’s A Hard Road by English blues behemoth John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. Whilst he didn’t explain why he chose it, evidence can be found in another interview he gave to his fan channel in 2018.
Asked about virtuoso guitarists such as Joe Satriani and Steve Morse, Blackmore shocked fans by revealing that he prefers “heart” players, such as John Mayall. He said: “I prefer a ‘heart’ player, I prefer someone like a Blues player with the kind of Jeff Healey, he is tremendous. I think John Mayall guy is great too”.
It is well known that Blackmore is a devoted lover of Bob Dylan, and one of the albums he picked was Dylan’s 1966 release Blonde on Blonde. In that same interview posted to his fan channel, he explained: “I would love to play with Bob Dylan. I mean it sounds kind of funny in a way. But he is the only person I admire in the business.”
He continued: “I have been in the business for so long, he’s the one that I still feel he remains mysterious. There is something about him that I think is truly monumental and he is so creative. When you think on all the songs that he has written, you know, ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’, ‘Blowing In the Wind’, it’s endless. So I’m a big fan of his.”
To round off the 1996 list, Blackmore picked both a song and album by Procol Harum. The band behind ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’, they’re one of the most iconic outfits of the ’60s, and for those of Blackmore’s generation, they rank amongst the very best. However, it wasn’t ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ that he chose; it was its follow-up single, ‘Homburg’.
As for the Procol Harum album that Blackmore chose, it wasn’t 1967’s eponymous debut or 1968’s Shine on Brightly, but the band’s polarising 1991 return, The Prodigal Stranger. Again, the guitarist offered no reasons for choosing Procol Harum twice, but as lovers of music, we can understand why.
Check out the full list below.
Ritchie Blackmore’s favourite music:
- John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers – A Hard Road
- Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde
- Mike Oldfield feat. Maggie Reilly – ‘Moonlight Shadow’
- One More Time – One More Time
- Procol Harum – ‘Homburg’
- Procol Harum – The Prodigal Stranger