“Being original doesn’t require being the first to do something. It just means being different and better.”
Adam Grant, Originals
History is always written by the winners. If you read any story about Metallica today, it more or less states how “Kill Em All” came out in 1983 and took over the world. But, we all know it wasn’t the case. Hell, it wasn’t the case with their first four albums. But, their first four albums are seen as different and a better alternative to the MTV friendly form of metal.
Black Sabbath as a band gets a lot of attention for being original and influential and so does Deep Purple. But in every band like Metallica, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, there is always a person who is more influential than the others.
Ritchie Blackmore has been instrumental in influencing guitarists and vocalists all at the same time while carrying influential bands.
It’s common knowledge the iron fist Blackmore wielded to get Ian Gillian to record the “Child In Time” ohhhs and ahhhs. Eventually the production team needed to resort to studio trickery to make it sound like Gillian was more able than he was. And guess what happened after the record came out and people heard “Child In Time”. Suddenly every young wannabe singer started practicing. In the same way Roger Bannister achieved the first four minute mile in 1954, and inspired a whole new generation of runners that they could achieve the impossible, in music, “Child In Time” in 1970, inspired singers to practice and achieve a new standard.
A 12 year old kid called Bruce Dickinson became attracted to hard rock, after hearing Deep Purple’s “Child in Time” being played in another student’s room at his private school. As a result, the first album Bruce ever bought was Deep Purple’s “In Rock”. A 19 year old unknown called Rob Halford heard “Child In Time” and started to change his vocal style.
And when Ian Gillian couldn’t deliver the vocal performances Blackmore wanted, he fired him and hired a young singer/songwriter called David Coverdale to do what Blackmore wanted. From this vocalist change, a whole new range of singers saw this as a new standard and started practicing. And just in case David Coverdale couldn’t deliver the vocals Blackmore wanted, he had another singer in bassist Glenn Hughes as back up.
But in the end, Blackmore felt frustrated with the musical constraints of Purple, so he left “Purple” to start up Rainbow with a singer called Ronnie James Dio. This change, further evolved how a front man should sound.
In the space of 10 years and three different vocalists, Ritchie Blackmore, blew the paradigm open of what a metal vocalist should sound like.
There was a Twitter post from Stevie Van Zandt that said the following;
“Let’s just say it was an awkward period for singers. For the first and last time in history, guitar players were king. Hard to believe, but both Rod Stewart and Robert Plant were thought of as sideman. Both started on salaries. Both considered disposable. Some resentment may remain.”
The guitar player ruled up until the start of the 80’s. After that, you had a bassist writing songs for Motley Crue, WASP and Iron Maiden, a singer/songwriter writing songs for Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi and Europe. In Dokken, you had the influential guitar player who couldn’t handle the name of the band however the drummer and bassist provided most of the vocal melodies. Even someone like Ted Nugent needed to be pushed by John Kalodner into a supergroup called Damn Yankees.
Yngwie Malmsteen formed Rainbow Part 2 and called it Rising Force with Jeff Scott Soto and then found commercial fame with Joe Lynn Turner (another Ritchie Blackmore find), only to let his ego get in the way of a good partnership. David Coverdale had a powerful guitarist in John Sykes with which he carried out an excellent musical conversation with, only to let him go before the release of Whitesnake’s biggest album. Because as Coverdale showed, the guitarist was no longer in power. The front man was. When Lynch went solo, he didn’t get the platinum awards he had with Dokken and Malmsteen’s only platinum award is with Joe Lynn Turner. Hell, Vince Neil was more well-known than Nikki Sixx.
From a guitarist perspective, it’s hard not to be influenced by Blackmore. He enjoyed playing the Blues, but he took it a few steps further, by making it progressive. Most of his progressive interludes are founded in the Pentatonic scale. Again, he was not the first to do it, however he did it good enough to make it commercially successful. Blackmore’s fusion of blues, rock and roll, classical and medieval Influences was so commercially successful, he more or less spawned a new style of guitar playing called Euro Rock/Metal. Blackmore’s stage persona and guitar/amp set up became a standard amongst the young 70’s hard rockers who would become superstars in the 80’s. Malmsteen modelled himself after him even up to the same stage stand.
And from a band perspective, every single guitarist at that point in time was inspired by Blackmore to find a vocalist who had similar/better talents to the vocalists Blackmore used. lf the band was started by a drummer and a bassist, they would be looking for a guitarist like Blackmore and a vocalist like Gillian, Coverdale or Dio.