Home > Chapters > 11b – Richie? Oh Yeah! Graham Bonnet? Incredible Vocalist!

11b – Richie? Oh Yeah! Graham Bonnet? Incredible Vocalist!

If you were asked to name something memorable from your youth, an activity or occurrence as opposed to a specific object, person or event, I wonder how many would eventually come up with going to the cinema? The weekly Saturday morning matinee when you were real young, when you would burst out of the exit after the show and be blinded by the bright daylight and then re-enact the roles of the heroes and villains you’d just been cheering or booing, all the way home.

Or maybe when you were a bit older and you got to go to the Saturday or Sunday afternoon showings of movies more suited to your age than the kiddies matinees. And then, older still, you would maybe go out on a Friday or Saturday evening to see the latest blockbuster. If you were really lucky you might take a girl and even get to sit in the extra wide double seats in the back row. Such was life before VCR’s, DVD’s, SKY Box Office, LED TV’s and PC’s with their streaming videos and bit torrents off the interweb. The cinema was about as technological as it got and gave great entertainment. Unless of course you were an army kid, living in Dülmen, in Germany.

We had three choices. Well, four if you count ‘do nothing.’
One, visit the ‘cinema’ room on base. This was a room with rows of chairs, not seating mind but plastic stackable chairs, and a projector screen. They would occasionally play a movie on one of those big reel to reel movie projector things that flickered a lot and made a flapping noise as though it was about to take off. They had the audacity to refuse me entry to watch Saturday Night Fever once, because I wasn’t 18. Apparently it didn’t make any difference when I pointed out that they weren’t a cinema, although with hindsight it probably made it worse. But that was the first and only time I was ever refused entry because of my age.Two, visit the German cinema in town. Which, unless you spoke fluent German, was a waste of time because they dubbed every film with German voiceovers. The only time we ever went there was when Grease first came out. A whole bunch of us were very keen to see it and decided that the songs were the most important part so we would go and watch it anyway because it would likely be ages before we got the chance to see the proper English version. It was kind of strange seeing John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John speaking badly synched German but singing in perfect English. But we were happy. We had seen the movie.
And three…visit the English run cinema, showing English speaking films and full of English audiences. The only drawback was that it was, like most other stuff, in Münster, and therefore not a viable option. I only ever went once.

And that ‘once’ was courtesy of none other than dear old Bill Johnson who, a few months earlier, took a load of us to see the mighty Quo. I’m sure I’m not the only one that holds Bills memory in such high esteem. He truly was a likeable and affable guy with a wickedly dry sense of humour. He had one of those faces too, that could just pull an expression at which you could not fail to laugh. We used to laugh a lot when he was around, which made his choice of film all the more understandable.
Some time in either late 1979 or early 1980, Bill organized an outing for a small group of reprobates to the cinema in Münster to see ‘The Life Of Brian’ and my love affair with Monty Python was both instigated and consummated in one irreverent thrust.

Laugh? I almost wet myself. Up until that point in my life it was the funniest thing I had ever seen or heard and I have spent the last thirty odd years reliving it through countless re-runs of first, the VHS recordings, and then the DVD. I have yet to get the Blu-ray version. I have also adopted the end-scene song ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’  as my signature tune and indeed, a very recent clothing purchase was a t-shirt showing a line of crosses underneath those very words.

But from that day, I was a confirmed Python fan and I went on to truly appreciate their very special and unique brand of humour and, not least of all, their brilliant musical offerings. I hate buying compilation albums with a passion but ‘Monty Python Sings’ is an excellent accompaniment to any true aficionados’ collection, featuring many of their best known numbers from their catalogue of films such as The Meaning of Life and The Holy Grail, and also previous albums.

A few years later, when I sold off my vast vinyl collection, the only records I didn’t get rid of, apartfrom my 12” picture disc single of Freebird and the Diamond Head white label EP featuring Shoot Out The Lights and Am I Evil bought at their gig, was my Monty Python collection. And I still have them 27 years later.

Bill Johnson, RIP…thank you for releasing my humour.

But Bill’s influence on my awakening was not quite over. Just over a year after the magnificent and mighty Quo, we were once more in his company and on our way to the Hälle Münsterland again to see what would be the third gig of my life. This time it was to see a band featuring the guitarist from Deep Purple that had captured my imagination in Brussels when I bought their Stormbringer album. Richie Blackmore, one of THE ultimate guitar playing demigods that ever lived, actually left Deep Purple not long after that much maligned album and formed the much marveled Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow, or just Rainbow. In February 1980 the line up consisted of  Blackmore on guitar, Cozy Powell on drums, Roger Glover as bassist, Don Airey on keyboards and the awesome Graham Bonnet as frontman with the mic. Although Ronnie James Dio, whom Bonnet replaced,  would go on to greater things as a soloist I regret never having witnessed his participation in Rainbow.

We caught Rainbow during their Down To Earth promo tour. It’s a known fact that no two Rainbow albums featured the same lineup. The only constant being Richie Blackmore himself. A bit like the modern day Guns ‘n’ Roses and Axl Rose really. But like their modern day counterparts, their disjointed origins still managed to produce music of awesome proportions.

The only three songs of any note that spring to mind from the album are Since You’ve Been Gone, Lost In Hollywood and All Night Long. All these were played at the gig as was, I’m sure, Love’s No Friend and Makin’ Love. But as with most all Rainbow gigs, it opened with the immortal lines from the Wizard of Oz movie…oh come on.. you know the line, don’t make me say it.. let me just say Mr Bonnet let rip with Somewhere Over The Rainbow, after which we were treated to renditions of the likes of Kill The King, Man On The Silver Mountain, Stargazer, Catch The Rainbow and long Live Rock N Roll. Graham Bonnet was powerfully awesome to the extreme and Richie Blackmore was just a demigod. I recall standing spellbound as he played a solo, in darkness except for a single spotlight shining down on him. He used his highly polished Stratocaster to reflect the light around the audience while he was still playing. Someone in the crowd got impatient and threw a bottle at him which actually bounced off the guitar. The demigod didn’t even flinch, although if looks could kill he would have been still languishing in a German prison, but he sure as hell reflected those beams right at the bottle throwing perp, like he was Luke Skywalker having a barney with his dad.The Rainbow gig was not as energetic as the Quo spectacular, but it was far more immersive and went an awful long way toward my appreciation of epic rock tunes. I can still, almost word perfect, sing Stargazer at full blast and literally enjoy doing it. Next step is to sing it while playing it on my guitar.

Rainbow. I loved you then, and love you still.

Categories: Chapters
  1. June 30, 2011 at 03:26

    I’m laughing at the mere thought of Travolta badly dubbed in German.

    Who doesn’t love a good Python record? “And now the sound of John Denver being strangled….”

    • June 30, 2011 at 03:31

      Hahaha..yes indeed..that and a Swedish Massage 🙂
      And I do like traffic lights, especially when they’re amber!

  2. July 28, 2011 at 00:08

    Too quiet on the Between the Music front lately….

    • July 28, 2011 at 21:21

      *blush 😛

      Yes, I totally agree and am trying hard to rectify it…got stuck behind a little block at around 300 words when that stuff that happens between the music got in the way… not to mention getting caught up with Words Asunder and a little vanity press project. Never fear, normal service will be resumed shortly. 🙂

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