Asked to pick a favorite guitar track, Queen’s Brian May quickly names Ritchie Blackmore’s pop-rock update of “Since You’ve Been Gone” with Rainbow, showering his fellow axeman with praise.
“I suppose you’d call it ‘pop rock’ in a sense,” May admits to Planet Rock’s Liz Barnes, “but it’s uncompromising, you know?”
The song was written by Russ Ballard, and released on the former Argent guitarist’s 1976 album Winning. Rainbow’s take, featuring Graham Bonnet on vocals, became a UK Top 10 hit in 1979.
“You know, people don’t talk about Ritchie Blackmore enough,” May says. “I don’t know why, but he was such a trail blazer 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.”
Blackmore was in Deep Purple from 1968-75 and then again from 1984-93, and worked with Rainbow in between with stints in 1975-84 and 1994-97. The guitarist has since moved into ren faire-rock with a group he started with his spouse, called Blackmore’s Night.
Also featured on the Rainbow version of “Since You’ve Been Gone,” by the way, was the late Cozy Powell, with whom May worked on four albums in the 1990s — including Back to the Light, Live at the Brixton Academy, Another World and Red Special — before the legendary former drummer with Black Sabbath, Whitesnake and Rainbow died in a car accident.
“It was a wonderful experience working with that guy,” May says. “You know, he had rock all the way through him. An amazing guy.”