Remembering Rainbow Rising

I’m often asked what I remember of the early days of my father’s musical career and what my favorite Dio-based band was.

It’s an easy answer. Rainbow.

Though I love and appreciate the power of Black Sabbath (the all-time kings of heavy metal, in my opinion) and the sheer energy of Dio albums like Holy Diver and Last in Line, Rainbow has always been for me, and probably always will be, the epitome of what a rock and roll band should be.

Rainbow Rising Circus Magazine 1976
Kudos to my friend, Scott Braun, for digging up this classic spread from Circus Magazine from the summer of 1976.

Photographer and graphic designer Scott Braun shared with me this amazing bit of nostaglia – the Rainbow spread from summer of 1976 in Circus Magazine, coincident with the release of Rainbow’s second album, Rainbow Rising. The magazine cover, which features King Kong atop the World Trade Center buildings, is permanently etched in my memory, for I must have read this article a hundred times at the ripe age of eight. This was when I began to realize my father wasn’t just a musician who wrote songs and played in band. He had become a bonafide star. A rising star.

Whereas Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow was a hugely successful introduction to the band’s innovative sound – traditional hard rock interspersed with Renaissance era melodies, it was Rainbow Rising that saw the band’s sound perfected. Rising stands today as one of the greatest achievements in album rock history – a sound that is unmistakable and an album on which every track holds its own.

Circus Magazine 1976 King Kong and RainbowRainbow Rising peaked at #48 on the Billboard charts (#6 in the UK), but perhaps its greatest achievement is in its undeniable longevity. The album still sells, at times better than the more commercial post-Dio hits Rainbow became famous (or infamous) for. Rising was remastered in 2011 and released as a double album with Down to Earth.

I still hear Rainbow Rising in the oddest of places. Tarot Woman, which begins with an invigorating build from abstract synth into a powerful medium-tempo rocker, was utilized last year as entrance music to the Boston Red Sox radio broadcasts. This is probably a great irony to my late father, who as a die hard Yankees fan was required to hold disdain for the lovable enemy from the land of Yastrzemski, Larry Bird, and chowder. Stargazer (featuring the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra) continues to force its way onto hard rock radio despite the track’s nine minute length which is, of course, considered unmanageable on commercial radio.

Truth be told, any of the album’s six tracks bring a smile to my face whenever they pop up on a modern day MP3 shuffle. But there is no greater treat than listening to Rainbow Rising in its entirety, as it was meant to be experienced. There is so much variety to be found. From the fist-pumping, horn-raising Starstruck, to the slower, darker Run with the Wolf, and the catchy Do You Close Your Eyes, there is something for every rock and roll fan on Rainbow Rising. The writing was never better in Rainbow than it was with Rising, and the lyrical content set the tone for everything to come, from Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell to Dio’s Sacred Heart.

My favorite? Well, that would have to be Stargazer. I couldn’t have been more overjoyed than when my father performed Stargazer again with Dio in the late 1990s.

I hold many fond memories of the summer of 1976. Of spending two weeks with my late grandparents at my father’s new home in Encino, CA, that the success of Rainbow allowed him to afford. Of trips to Disneyland with my father, and long swims in the pool, of which I can still smell the chlorine if I close my eyes. Of sitting at the dining room table with colored pencils, trying to design a cover for a future Rainbow album. Time slips away.

The only question we are left with is, why, prior to my father’s death, did Rainbow never reform for one more album and one more tour? They came close on more than one occasion, but record company contracts and the egos of the band members prevented a dream reunion. It’s too bad. The word of rock badly needed a band like Rainbow and still does.

Although the 1978 followup Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll is another high point in the band’s short history with Dio as vocalist, Rainbow never quite achieved with future albums the mastery of Rainbow Rising.

Thank you again to photographer Scott Braun for giving us this wonderful piece of nostalgia.

6 thoughts on “Remembering Rainbow Rising

    1. I nearly missed this post but am so glad I just saw it. Rising was my first introduction to Rainbow around the age of 11 or 12. The radio-friendly sound of “Since You Been Gone” was stinking up the airplay on the local stations, and I really had no interest in that sort of careful route Blackmore had taken with Joe Lynn Turner. I think it was my neighbor who turned me onto Rising. I immediately got the first album, then Rising to match my neighbors, and then the third studio record. When Final Vinyl came out I snatched it right away too because I knew it had Ronnie on it. I felt cheated when I got home to find only a few songs with him. I never listened to anything else on the album but those few songs. It’s one of those things that had we had the internet in the early 80s I would have researched it first and probably passed on it. After all, $10 wasn’t easy for a kid my age to come by. Though everyone of those albums was gold, it was Rising that struck a chord with me most, and ironically, Stargazer was always my favorite Rainbow song. I remember trying to write the lyrics down in a notebook and failing miserably: “I knew, no I’d sell my soul for water.” I did this a lot with my favorite songs and I always got the lyrics wrong. By the time I was done writing them I’d be like WTH does this song even mean? I make a living listening to recordings and typing them out verbatim, and I’m pretty good at it too..Go figure. All I knew is I thought it was about a wizard, and with Dungeons & Dragons being a favorite past time at that age, that was good enough for me. I remember thinking I couldn’t get that song to crank loud enough, nor could I listen to it enough. The chorus (and in particular the chorus outro) was ridiculously powerful. “In the heat and the rain! With Whips and chains.” It was this song that I first noticed a pattern in Ronnie’s writing style. Often times during the outro of a song he would repeat bits of the the story he just told: “In all the rain…with all the chains!… “Coming home! I’m coming home!” If there was ever a song that gave me chills, it was particular those last two minutes or so. I’ll be listening to this record today..and I’ll give Stargazer at least a few listens just like old times. Thanks for the reminder, Dan!

      1. Thanks, Chad. I think Rising is absolutely timeless, and Stargazer is a hard rock classic. It definitely has a medieval Dungeons and Dragons vibe. But…weren’t the lyrics inside the album? I thought that they were.

        1. They could be, Dan. Unfortunately I only had the cassette (I’ve always thrown the word “album” around as a general term for any band’s release). Back then, my turntable was nothing to boast about so I’d trust all good things to my “ghetto blaster.” It could deliver the loud I needed. Blackmore’s Rainbow is the only one I have on vinyl. Had I known that, I probably would have sprung for the Long Live and Rising wax just for the inserts..haha!

  1. Hello,

    My maiden name is Mahar, we lived on Sunset across the street from you and your Mom (Loretta) and Dad. I actually babysat you when you were about 2 (I think). My Dad Leo and your Dad kept in touch. When my Dad moved to Fl to retire your Dad called him because he was playing somewhere close to him and wanted my Dad to come but at that time my Dad was to sickly to go.
    But I remember listening to Elf practice in the basement at your house. Cindy Berardi was my best friend growing up and we still keep in touch. I never even knew you were an author. I will start reading your books. God bless and good luck in all you do. This has brought me some wonderful childhood memories, I’m really glad one of my Cortland friends told me about it.

    1. Thank you, Lynn. I remember the Mahar family name, though my earliest memories are from just after we moved from Sunset to live next door to Rock. Then, as you may recall, we moved back to the east end in the two apartment complexes on Kellogg Road. I have a ton of great memories from those days, and I still keep in touch with some of my friends from that neighborhood. Thank you for sharing!

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