22nd October 2015
Colin Hart was the main man on the road with Deep Purple and Rainbow. He is the only person (apart from Mr Blackmore himself) who witnessed them both from the inside and has published his memoirs in the highly entertaining book, A Hart Life. Here, he spends time with us to share some laughs and go into a bit more detail about his life with the two Rock giants.
Gillan Purple Era 1
Q: Were you ever witness to the writing procedure of any of the early Purple classics?
CH: Yeah I was around when they did Smoke On The Water – the ideas for that and also Woman From Tokyo. It was usually Ritchie that just came up with the riff and then everybody kind of joined in and it just fell together. That’s basically how they did it and then Gillan and Glover would do the melody and the lyrics.
Q: Smoke On The Water you go into a lot of detail in your book so taking Woman From Tokyo as an example, did that come together quite quickly?
CH: That was the second track that came out of the Rome sessions with the Rolling Stones Mobile: Woman From Tokyo and Painted Horse. They were basically just messing around because the studio wasn’t exactly perfect and wasn’t working too well for them. So they were just messing around and come up quite good I think (laughs). They did a couple of other tracks there as well – some fun tracks – which I know Jon Lord had them on a cassette or something but I don’t know what happened to them. They were just silly fun things like Peter Cook & Dudley Moore would do - crazy tracks. (laughs)
Q: Aside from those, are there any other songs from that era that were recorded and released that you can recall?
CH: I’m sure that there must be a couple but I don’t know specifically that there are.
Q: Should it be heard in your opinion?
CH: It’d be fantastic if the quality was good enough or if somebody could do something with them. If Roger Glover could get hold of them for instance but I don’t know if they exist. Martin Birch might have a couple of tapes laying around somewhere but Martin doesn’t really talk to anybody anymore: he’s really reclusive. Then of course there’s the Phil Lynott music that will no doubt make an appearance one day. I think sooner rather than later on that one to be honest.
Q: Where you there?
CH: Yes I was at that session and it was amazing!
Q: How close was it to actually being a band?
CH: It was just an idea of Ritchie’s and I don’t know how serious he was but him and Paicey really enjoyed it. They loved the idea and they really did sound great, really fantastic but as usual, everybody had schedules that couldn’t be broken. It was just a ‘Let’s get together and try this out’ kind of deal.
Q: To me, Paicey and Blackmore were always the two who pushed Purple whereas Roger and Jon always sat back a bit on it…
Q: …whereas I think Phil Lynott is a pushy bass player so that stuff would have been flying.
CH: Oh yes – it was really good. They just did two tracks I think but it just sounded great, driving along….I love Phil.
Q: There’s a version of Highway Star they performed on Beat Club with different lyrics. What’s the story behind that?
CH: (laughs) I had to look that one up to remind me of what happened! I looked at the video and that TV show was recorded before they did the studio version of the song so I’m assuming that they were sort of test lyrics or maybe he didn’t even have any lyrics! I can’t remember the actual incident but when I listened to him singing it, it sounded like anything that came into his head – nothing made any sense – but that was weird that they did it on the show before they recorded the track.
Q: Have you kept diaries of all your days?
CH: No. I came across most of this stuff when I was doing my book and the most difficult part of that was doing the timeline which I made several stabs at. There was me and the other guy that wrote it, Dick Allix, and even when we thought we’d researched it and got it right, the publisher came across a couple of mistakes and I had to re-write them: I had a couple of tours arse-backwards. (laughs) It was tricky but in doing all that I stumbled across all sorts of stuff I had forgotten about.
Q: So what’s this thing with A Kooper to replace Ritchie on the US 1972 tour (Ritchie was contracted mononucleosis): What the fuck was everybody thinking?
CH: If I remember correctly, it was something to do with Al Kooper’s manager who was something to do with the agency that was doing the tour we were on. Of course the agent desperately wanted the tour to go ahead and said ‘Al you’ve got to come and help us out. We need somebody to replace Blackmore’ but of course Al Kooper is basically a keyboard player (laughs) who dabbled in guitar. He came along and did his best but he had no intentions of actually doing the tour. I don’t think he took it seriously at all. The guys in Purple did but I don’t think he had any intentions of accepting the job. When he came to one of Ritchie’s solos, he just kind of stopped playing and Jon took over (laughs).
Q: I can understand managers and agents and even the band wanting the tour to go ahead but…Al Kooper?!
CH: Well like I say, it was just his manager but we ended up cancelling the whole tour anyway. We went ahead with Randy California and did one show in Canada…I think it was one show in Quebec or somewhere and the audience was sort of ‘Who the hell is this guy?’
Q: Randy California I can understand. At he’s a guitarist but they could have pitched for anyone around at that time. Stevie Marriott for example.
CH: That would have been good. Stevie Marriott…wow.
Q: Let’s move on. Recording Who Do We Think We Are in Rome and the Mobile debacle…(The Rolling Stones Mobile was too big to pass through the archway of the villa they were due to record in and had to be parked some distance from it.)
CH: That was a bit of clever stuff from John Coletta who found this beautiful villa on a hilltop in Rome. He went up there and checked it all out, looked at all the bedrooms and thought ‘this is fantastic’ but he failed to realize as he was driving his Rolls-Royce through the archway that the Rolling Stones Mobile was not even going to be close to passing through that.
Q: Did you have to make the cables that ran all the way from the Villa out to the Mobile then?
CH: I didn’t but the guys from the Mobile, Jeremy Gee & Nick Watterton, they were the ones who had to stay up all night manufacturing cables and boxes.
Q: Making 100’ mic cables?
CH: Oh yes. We had cables connected to cables strung down this driveway and out through the arch. We couldn’t get any cars passed the Mobile truck so everyone had to park outside. It was just a nutty situation and that’s why things were not going to work like that. To listen to a playback, it was like ‘All right, get your hiking boots on’ and they’d all march down the driveway. (laughs)
Q: The rift between Ritchie and Ian – was it the proverbial ‘Musical Differences’ or was it in your opinion something deeper than that?
CH: It was a personality clash. Ritchie would stamp his feet and say ‘I want to do it this way’ or ‘I’m going to do this’ and Gillan would say ‘Well screw you. If you’re going to do that, I’m going to do this.’ It was who could stamp their feet the hardest – it really was like that. ‘Well if you’re not going to go on, I’m not going to go on. If you’re going to have your own dressing room, I’m going to have my own room.’ (laughs) Crazy stuff like that but with musical differences, I think they were both in the same direction: it wasn’t like the Coverdale/Hughes vast difference. You’ve been around enough bands to know when two guys get into it for no apparent reason and just no amount of sense can stop it from rolling on.
Q: Yes I have – women as well. I worked for Girlschool who I’m sure you remember toured with Purple and Rainbow and even now some thirty years later, two of them absolutely despise each other.
CH: Crazy isn’t it? The other thing with Gillan of course was that he always had gripes with the management and that didn’t help. Ritchie didn’t have any gripes with them at the time so that was always another head-butting deal.
Q: I’ve spoken to quite a few people who have been managed by John Coletta at some point and they don’t really have a good word to say about him. What’s your take on him?
CH: He was a tough businessman and I don’t think he always made the best decisions for the band. All his decisions – him and Tony Edwards – were based on ‘How much money can we make if we do this?’ and how long they could keep the band out. That was one of Gillan’s gripes that they just pushed and pushed until the band were totally exhausted or they started getting sick and Coletta would still keep pushing them. I don’t know…he certainly wouldn’t have got away with it these days.
Q: You seem like a very amicable, go with the flow kind of bloke: how did you handle all of this angst going on around you?
CH: (laughs). Well with difficulty sometimes but for the most part I thrived on what was going on. Bruce Payne and I figured out a way to deal with Ritchie which certainly worked. Ritchie hated when things were going well,. It really really bothered him when things were going along smoothly so whenever Ritchie would come near us, Bruce and I would make like something was terribly wrong. ‘Oh God! What are we going to do about that?’ sort of thing and Ritchie would get this smile on his face and keep walking. It would make him happy to think it was chaos. We did that quite often (laughs). Overall though, there was always something interesting, always something good. Ritchie wasn’t always a bad guy to me. After a show, he could be the complete opposite of the arsehole he was at the show. As soon as we got back to the hotel, he could be super nice. Especially with me, we’d sit in the bar for hours telling stories but then the next day it was like that never happened. (laughs)
Q: You say in your back as well that he was always great to your Mum and Dad.
CH: Oh yeah he was fantastic with them. He’d make a point of coming down and sitting in the bar or restaurant with them and he’d talk for hours: he was great.
Q: Ritchie’s career is quite well documented but he never talks about his upbringing in Weston-Super-Mare. Did he ever talk about it to you?
CH: He never talked about his home life at all. He has a brother and I would say that they tolerated each other – they just about got along. His Mum and Dad used to come to a couple of shows when we played in London or somewhere in the West Country but it was strange because he treated my parents better than he treated his own. It was odd.
Q: I don’t want to get into psychiatry here but maybe he saw something between you and your parents that he never got out of his own.
CH: Well that’s a possibility but he never talked about that.
Coverdale Purple Era
Q: You wrote that the first gig of the Burn tour was supposed to be Aarhus in Denmark but it was cancelled: what was the reason for the cancelation?
CH: I remember we started in Copenhagen but I cannot remember why Aarhus was cancelled. I can only assume that maybe one of the trucks didn’t arrive or something like that.
Q: Oh so you actually set out for the gig?
CH: Well it’s so vague I can’t remember. I don’t know if we were actually there and it got cancelled or what. I did try and find out but no one seems to know for sure.
Q: I know the feeling. I recently found out that one of the bands I used to work for named Rock Goddess recorded a third album which was never released. I sat around for three weeks in a studio drinking beer and I for the life of me can’t remember anything about it.
CH: (laughs) Welcome to the club! You’re fully qualified.
Q: When did Coverdale’s ego really kick in? Before or after Purple?
CH: Basically after I think. He was a bit overawed by the whole thing at the beginning and he was still quite a nice guy up to the Whitesnake days. One incident was when he was in Whitesnake - I think it was in Poughkeepsie in New York - and Jon and I were passing through for some reason. We went to see him at his hotel and called from the desk downstairs and some guy answered the phone and said ‘Let me see if Mr Coverdale is available’. Jon was like ‘Let’s just piss off’ but I said ‘No, let’s see what happens’ and eventually we got summoned to the suite: ‘Mr Coverdale will see you now if you care to come up’.
Q: Oh dear…
CH: Yeah by that time, he’d turned all posh. He no longer had the Redcar North-Eastern accent. He was all (adapts posh accent) ‘Oh hello. How are we?’ He invited us in for a cup of tea into this suite but it was all so pretentious that we couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there and get back to normal (laughs). Still now, when I see interviews with him with his fantastic accent, it just kills me.
Q: I must say as well, this new Purple album that he’s done, I don’t see the point.
CH: Yeah I was just bummed that there were no keyboards on it. Bernie Marsden always used to have a go at Coverdale something terrible – he took the piss out of him all the time. Coverdale would be sitting in a bar somewhere with his arm around a chick and Bernie would come up saying ‘He’s my Dad you know’. (laughs) he used to drive Coverdale nuts.
Q: Let’s move on again: Can you clarify your comment about ELO’s sound man earning his wages: were they using tapes even way back then – before the infamous Out Of The Blue tour in ’78?
CH: No. The difficulty he had was that this was before pick-ups for stringed instruments. I think it was Barcus Berry that came up with those for violins and things so before that it was a hell of a job attaching microphones to strings and then to amplify them to compete with drums, bass and guitar. So the sound guy had a real tough time every night. These guys were leaping around with a cello and violins. In later days when they got the sophisticated new pick-up systems and electronic violins and things like that, life became comparatively easier for them.
Q: Jon Lord has only one writing credit on Come Taste The Band: had he lost interest by then?
CH: I wasn’t privy to much of the recording back then and that particular album but what used to happen was that Ritchie always had a thing with writing credits. He would sit and come up with the riffs usually and then in his mind, he had written the entire song although Coverdale and Glenn Hughes had written the lyrics and the melody. It was the same in the MK II Purple where a lot of the credits were Blackmore/Glover/Gillan even though Paicey and Lord put in equal parts Ritchie didn’t see it that way so that was always a bone of contention and that carried on into all the incarnations of Purple.
Q: So it’s not true that Ritchie had the Rainbow light show dropped into the middle of the Atlantic by a ship’s crane operator?
CH: No. I’ve heard that many time and always got a good laugh about it. For years, it sat in See Factor warehouse in Queens, New York. See Factor built that monstrosity and a guy called John had the horrible task of getting it working every night. It ended up in a disco in Mexico apparently and that’s where it stands to this day. I don’t know which one or where but that’s the story. It’s definitely not in the ocean although that would have been a much better story!
Q: Why no UK dates on the Straight Between The Eyes tour?
CH: All I can remember about that is that it pissed off so many fans but I don’t remember the actual reason. I just got the dates from the agency and management and went with it. Whatever they gave me, I didn’t question the why not but I remember getting calls from fans saying ‘Why the hell aren’t you coming?’
Q: I asked the same question to Bobby Rondinelli and Joe Lyn Turner a few years ago and they were puzzled by it. They didn’t remember: they thought they actually did the UK on that tour.
CH: No I remember getting calls from people saying ‘This is outrageous!’ and I’d be saying ‘Hey – nothing to do with me!’
Q: How much of the reunion do you think was driven by the fact that Whitesnake were bigger than Rainbow?
CH: There could be a bit of truth to that – an underlying desire to re-take the lead (laughs) but the time was just right for the reunion as far as everybody was concerned. Everybody was at a crossroads in their solo things and it’s just that the timing was great. When everybody came to that meeting in Conneticut, everybody got along so great it was unbelievable. It was going to be fantastic but of course it didn’t take long for the old ugliness to raise its head. (laughs)
Q: As much as you would have been excited by the reunion, how long did you think it would last and did you actually think it was a good idea?
CH: Initially I thought it was going to be fantastic and we would roll on for years, it would keep going until everybody retires but then the cracks started to appear after the first album.
Q: After the first album?
CH: Yeah. When we were on tour a few cracks started when Ritchie would start pulling antics and drive people mad.
Joe Lynn Turner Era
Q: You recommended John Miles as a replacement for Ian Gillan in ‘89. Did you recommend any others?
CH: No that was it. When they were desperate, looking for people, I knew what a huge talent John was from the early days and all the bands he was in around my home town and I thought it would be good for him and launch him. He really didn’t care about fame and he still doesn’t and he did have the good taste to turn us down. That was a good thing because he would not have put up with all of Blackmore’s crap (laughs). He would have probably just packed his case and been off one night.
Q: Kal Swann also auditioned at that time. I was one of Tytan’s roadies and you talk about egos in Purple but Tytan run a close second…
Q: …how come Kal didn’t get the job? I would have thought he would have been ideal because he had the right voice and right image.
CH: I don’t know who made the decision. He really was good and sounded great with the band so I don’t know if it was a management thing or what. I wasn’t privy to the discussions of why he didn’t get it. I was just ‘Who’s next?’ Joe was on the roster for it when we were rehearsing in Vermont but you’re right, Kal would have worked out really well I thought. He was understandably a little bit nervy about the situation.
Q: Oh well, maybe he just looked a bit too much like Ian.
CH: That could be because Ritchie is such a funny one. Back in the early days for the Rainbow auditions in California, he would take one look at somebody who had driven miles to come to the audition and say ‘Get rid of him.’ (laughs) ‘Get rid of him…I don’t like his drumsticks.’ (laughs)
Q: There’s a lot of stories in your book where you write that Ritchie mistreated you in some way but you also say he was a very kind man sometimes. You must have a vast amount of respect for him in a lot of ways.
CH: Oh absolutely! When I first started working for Purple as a roadie I was terrified of Ritchie you know and we had a chat about this one night over a few drinks. He thought that I didn’t like him but I did. He was getting this thing like he had for Gillan with me but we put that to bed and fixed that one. He used to terrify me at the beginning. There I was working for this monster guitar player but I have no regrets over the years: I had a great time with him.
Ian’s back again and Steve Morse Era
Q: That last day at the airport with Ritchie when everyone had finally called his bluff and he was out of Purple: what emotions were you going through? Elation? Sadness? Relief? Frustration? It reads quite heartbreaking.
CH: It was very sad because I knew I wasn’t going to see him again for…well I didn’t know if I was ever going to see him again really. He was quite matter of fact about it – you know ‘See ya. Goodbye’.
Q: Once he got on that plane though, do you think he sat there and though ‘Fuck me. What have I done?’
CH: I’m sure he thought that right from when he got out of bed that day and realized he hadn’t got the reaction that he hoped by stirring things up but who knows. He might have got on the plane, clapped his hands and gone ‘Great! Onto the next phase of my life.’
Q: Joe Satriani had to decline the offer; who else was considered besides Steve Morse?
CH: I know Roger had had some discussions with the guys about a couple of people but I don’t know who. They settled on Steve quite quickly and the managements had spoken to each other so it was all arranged and done. He flew to Mexico from Australia I think and I picked him up. He was exhausted but we went straight to rehearsals and he played fantastically well. I couldn’t believe that both him and Satriani stepped in and played the show right through with hardly a mistake – it was frightening.
Q: Well not only did Steve prove to be the right choice but he’s also one of the nicest guys you could meet as is Don Airey.
CH: Oh absolutely – great. I went to see them last year in Orlando which was the first time I’d seen Purple since I left and that was a fantastic night. Don came out and took me backstage and wandering in to see everybody was really weird but great. Bruce Payne was there and it was a really great night.
Q: You mentioned early in your book that Top Of The Pops was live in the early days. I always thought it was recorded on the Wednesday and broadcast on the Thursday. Is that not the case?
CH: They might have done that but it went through a couple of different phases. Right in the very beginning it was all mimed, vocals and backing tracks but that didn’t last long. There was some sort of union bullshit that came about and the first time I did it which was with either Vanity Fare or Toby Twirl, they had decided that you could use a backing track but you had to sing live. There were some strange rules that came out and the backing track was only allowed if all the members who played on the original recording were actually on the stage. Then they had the Top Of The Pops Orchestra – do you remember that?
Q: Yes I do.
CH: Right so if you were a solo singer, you had to be backed by that which invariably resulted in disaster. (laughs) There were a few great disasters with the backing tracks and stuff where the band would be standing onstage and the people at home could hear the backing track but the band couldn’t. (laughs)
Q: What are the big differences for roadies back then and now?
CH: Well you know as well as I do. Roadies back then, we were truck drivers, we set up sound, lights, backline and did everything but now there’s a technician for every instrument (laughs) - a technician…not a roadie anymore…you can’t call them roadies…good god! (laughs) There’s catering, three meals a day, tour buses, hotels on days off…What the hell’s a day off? Back in my day I was driving a truck for hundreds of miles on my day off because we didn’t have truck drivers or bus drivers. That’s the main difference and of course the money is fantastic these days. I still get all the A-List emails looking for roadies, technicians, sound guys and some of the money being offered is incredible. Of course the difference is that now you just get hired per tour and when the tour is over, the money stops.
Q: Right. There’s not many retainers* any more is there?
CH: No. I was one of the lucky ones. I negotiated a great deal with the Purple and Rainbow guys where I got paid all year round and I had three different pay scales. There was the ‘Home doing nothing’ retainer; the ‘Recording and Writing Sessions’ and then there was the ‘Road Pay’ so I have no complaints about that.
Q: Going back to that roadies/technician thing: I recently watched a documentary about The Rolling Stones last tour and they had a ‘String Technician’.
CH: A String Technician?
Q: Yes. What he did was change all the strings on all the guitars. He didn’t set them up for Keith or Ronnie – their personal guitar Techs did that – he just changed the strings every gig.
CH: (laughs) Great! What a fantastic gig!
Q: To be fair, There must be a lot because Keith and Ronnie go through a lot of guitars every night but still…
CH: He must have been exhausted poor guy. (laughs)
Q: Let’s get back to Purple: Which football team does Ian Paice support?
CH: He’s from Nottingham so he’s a Nottingham Forest supporter. I don’t know if he supports Reading as well because he lives close to there but he was always a Nottingham Forest lad.
CH: Sunderland unfortunately.**
Q: Well you and Don get along fine then. (Don Airey is also a Sunderland supporter)
CH: Oh yeah. I love Don, he’s a fantastic guy. He was really pissed when he got the job with Purple and found out I wasn’t with them anymore. (laughs)
Q: Have you heard from Ritchie since your book was published?
CH: Not since it was published – no. The last time I saw him I mentioned in the book when I went to see Blackmore’s Night in California. He really was fantastic to me that night and it was the first time I had had a hug from him for god knows how long – probably since the last time I scored a goal in one of his football matches. I told him I was writing a book when I saw him and he said ‘Oooooo…Don’t mention any of the sex stuff will you’ and I kind of wish I had now because he hasn’t talked to me since. (laughs) He gave me his phone number and I called a couple of times but he never answered the phone so that was it. I also tried to go and see him when he played a little theatre down here in Orlando. I called Jim Mannguard and Jim was all gung-ho the night before and then the day of the show I couldn’t get hold of anybody so I have a feeling somebody didn’t want me there; either Carol his manager or Ritchie.
Q: Let’s just leave it at that. Colin, thank you very much for this interview.
CH: Oh you’re welcome it’s been a pleasure. Take care and stay in touch.
*Retainers were a small weekly fee paid by a band to a roadie when the band were not on tour to a) ensure they did not go and work with another band and b) enable the roadie to be able to eat.
**Sunderland are currently struggling towards the bottom of the Premier League