Billy Corgan Believes Deep Purple Limited Ritchie Blackmore’s Success

Billy Corgan, frontman of the Smashing Pumpkins, recently sat down with Revolver for an extensive interview, where he shared his take on the 11 greatest heavy-metal bands and guitar players of all time. Among his selections was Ritchie Blackmore, an influential figure in Corgan’s musical journey and a guitar player that set himself apart from his peers.

Corgan’s relationship with the music of Deep Purple and Rainbow, and his admiration for Blackmore, is deep-seated. From his early exposure to Rainbow ‘Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow’ album, Billy Corgan took note of Blackmore’s shift from blues to hard rock to melodic guitar playing. Ritchie’s evident evolution, in Corgan’s eyes, was a key factor in not only his success but also his impact on a whole generation of guitarists.

The frontman also highlighted that Blackmore’s music was playable on the radio, which couldn’t be said for most musicians and bands. He set the standard for what rock tracks could be as they reached the mainstream, as a result of crafting tunes that resonated with a broader audience.

Billy Corgan’s words about Ritchie Blackmore follow:

“Maybe a controversial pick, but here’s why it isn’t controversial after Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple, and I got the sense I don’t know the inside story, but there were some creative differences there. Ritchie took basically what was the blueprint of hard rock in the early ’70s and made it much more popular and had a lot of great success.

Of course, in the beginning with Ronnie James Dio and eventually with Joe Lynn Turner, I saw that tour in 1981 at Alpine Valley, where I was stranded and had no ride home. It was an hour and a half back to my house, and I was 14 years old, so that’s a good story to tell, but yeah, Ritchie Blackmore, I think, is one of the greatest guitar players of all time.”

He added:

“I think what’s amazing about Ritchie Blackmore as a guitar player is his transition from kind of a blues guitar player to a hard rock guitar player to a melodic guitar player; not only did he influence an entire generation of guitar players, but of course, Yngwie Malmsteen the most prominent among them, but he always wrote music that, at the end of the day, you could play on the radio, and I think that’s really what distinguishes a lot of the great guitar players are not only were they great guitar players, but they need music that everybody can enjoy.”

Although Corgan believes Blackmore’s time with Deep Purple was impactful, it may have limited his creative potential. His move to Rainbow allowed him to push the boundaries, not to mention his influence, which was so strong that it inspired other guitarists, most notably Yngwie Malmsteen. Overall, his ability to appeal beyond the technical crowd showed that Ritchie was a talent that successfully found the balance between his skills and the ability to reach a diverse audience.