Released: 2008, Omnibus Press
Over the years I've amassed a library of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal related books. One thing I just noticed is that there are very few biographies about individuals. There are lots of bios about bands and lots of autobiographies but very few biographies about individual performers. There is a biography about Randy Rhoads, one about Eric Carr, one about Darrell Abbot and one about Cliff Burton. Do you notice the common theme? All those guys are all dead. It might be some sort of professional courtesy to let a living person write his or her own life-story first. There is a bio about Bruce Dickinson and Axl Rose, both very much alive and kicking thank you very much, and that is about it for books of that nature. Until now. UK author Jerry Bloom has taken it upon himself to write the story of Ritchie Blackmore, who like Axl and Bruce is alive and kicking. I wonder if these guys have read the book of someone else’s version of their life story? The whole scenario seems odd to me. Regardless of who writes it and who is alive (or dead) BLACK KNIGHT is a wonderful book. As far as biographies it is standard, a nice big paperback, almost 400 pages long, with lots of black and white photos on glossy plates dating back to the 60’s. There is an intro by Bloom, a filmography, a bibliography and a very extensive discography. It’s a good value.
Ritchie Blackmore is one of those legendary and iconic Hard Rock/Heavy Metal figures that epitomize the stereotype of ‘guitar hero’. In fact he invented it and perfected it. All the elements of the archetypal ‘Rock Star’ are found in Blackmore. Perfectionism, moodiness, creative, singular of art and purpose, petulant, solitary, genius; all those adjectives apply here. Quirky and compelling Blackmore’s life story is an interesting journey. I knew he had been kicking around the London scene for a while before deep Purple but I had no idea of the extent of his involvement with Screaming Lord Sutch and Jerry Lee Lewis. There are many old black and white photos from the early 60’s that had been thankfully preserved. It’s a kick to see him types in various styles of attire from his various 60’s rock bands, he is dressed in a suit, as a cowboy, as a Roman Gladiator and a hippie before finally refining and perfecting his long-standing image as ‘the man in black’ many years before the American country singer, Johnny Cash adopted the same image.
One of the disadvantages of this biography for me personally, is that I realized, deep down, I’m not that huge of a Blackmore fan. I know that sounds odd, but of the four distinct phase of his career; 60’s rocker-for-hire, 70’s Deep Purple guy, 80’s Rainbow leader and on into his acoustic minstrel project (1997-present) I really only truly love Rainbow. I admire and respect Deep Purple but his 60’s stuff and everything he has done since the last Rainbow album in 1995, hasn’t done a thing for me. Accordingly, it was a but dull to me to read about Blackmore’s Night and his merry band of minstrels playing select, low-key acoustic gigs at various castles in Germany. I did however enjoy reading about Rainbow especially the interview with Doogie White about the last album and tour. The book is very contemporary and follows Blackmore up the current day, and fortunately it’s not just a teary-eyed nostalgia piece looking back at 70’s Deep Purple.
Bloom does a wonderful job documenting Blackmore’s life in amazing detail, interviewing many ex- members of his various bands, ex-girl-friends, and invariably they all said that he was odd but a genius (paraphrased). He legendary temper, quirky sense of humour and love of practical jokes are all well documented. Some people like being on the butt end of his clever jokes and others had no time for his childish acts of vandalism and destruction. Two sides to every coin, I suppose. I got the impression he is not a very nice person; temper tantrums, many failed marriages and constant infidelity, rude behavior, petty crimes, and notorious for firing people at the drop of a hat, Blackmore doesn’t come across as a very nice fellow. However many of his loyal fans and colleagues swear by his generosity, sense of humour (which is often misunderstood by Americans) and child-like naivety.
BLACK KNIGHT is a very well-written and interesting look at the life of this strange and fascinating person that has been so influential on the development of Hard Rock and heavy Metal.