I’ve just finished reading “Black Knight, Ritchie Blackmore”, a new, and first ever biography of the guitarist written by Jerry Bloom. Bloom is the editor of More Black Than Purple, the Ritchie Blackmore web-site and magazine.
It’s a fascinating read and I gained some insight into the man and the legend as well as filling in many gaps in my knowledge. Also, on the plus-side, I got a better sense of the financial dynamics of the music biz; the impact of elongated recording sessions, the incentives to tour and reform. However, I came away frustrated by a couple of things. Firstly, Blackmore is arguably one of the finest and most distinctive guitarists of his generation. Even if you disagree with that assertion, you can’t argue that the reason he’s famous is because he plays guitar and yet the book barely touches on his playing. There is no insight into his technique and no exploration of the equipment he uses. Blackmore is famous for the custom scalloping of the fret-boards on his Fender Stratocasters yet this is not mentioned at all. Aside from a brief paragraph on his switch from Gibson 335 to Strats, and a piece on his customised Marshall amplifiers, there is a huge wasted opportunity here. A sizeable proportion of readers will be guitarists themselves and I suspect, like me, they will feel a little let down.
The second frustration, I’m afraid, is that the book is just badly written. Random facts and snippets drop into the narrative at odd places and “the author” (as he refers to himself, ad nauseam, throughout the book) has a deeply irritating habit of quoting second-hand conversations verbatim. The essence of the exchanges may be fascinating, sometimes not, but they too often feel not worth the trawl through mazes of nested quotation marks, ellipsis and “like”, “you know”. A bit of judicious editing would have yielded a more readable book and my reading enjoyment would have been less interrupted by a desire to smack the author.
For die-hard fans and those curious for an insight into the moody genius of legend, this is probably a must-have. Blackmore has long deserved a decent biography (a cause not aided – in fairness – by his personality) and this book comes close. It’s just a shame that it could have been so much better.