Ritchie Blackmore’s Suspicion About U2’s ‘Threat’ Against Deep Purple

The year was 1985, and a rock festival also known as ‘The Knebworth Fayre’ with Deep Purple as the headliner took place. The line-up for the festival also included The Scorpions, Meat Loaf, UFO, Blackfoot, Mountain, Mama’s Boys, and Alaska. This was Deep Purple’s only 1985 show in Britain since reuniting the previous year.

While Deep Purple were gearing up for their comeback and expecting a massive crowd, Ritchie Blackmore heard that U2 was playing at Milton Keynes and the Glastonbury Festival the same weekend. The rocker shared in a 1985 interview with Kerrang! what went through his mind when he got the news. He explained:

“I thought it was very strange that they would go out the same day. Originally they were going to hold their gig a couple of weeks later and then suddenly they changed their minds and chose the same day as us. It’s not a threat, but it is a challenge, they’ve certainly got a big audience. We’ll be very aware that U2 are playing down the road.”

Although Blackmore shared that he gave U2 the benefit of the doubt when they last minute changed their show dates, he also revealed:

“I wasn’t pissed off when I found out that they were playing, but I was more than a bit suspicious. People in the so-called hierarchy have looked into it for me and they say that it’s definitely not a move to deliberately upset us, but at first I thought it was.”

However, Ritchie did admit that he was curious whether something was going on behind the scenes. The rocker said:

“I’m always suspicious of anybody though, there’s always undercurrents and undertones of suspicion that I seek out and look for in people. I always look for the bad in people… and I’m sure they see it in me. Mmm, the U2 thing I thought was very strange; of all the weekends there are in summer to play you know? I’m sure there’s a promoter hidden away somewhere who’s responsible, someone who’s been crossed in the past with an ancient axe to grind…”

There’s no definitive answer whether U2 changed their show dates on purpose but in the end Blackmore decided that it wasn’t done with hostile intentions. According to the owner of Knebworth House, Chryssie Lytton Cobbold’s book ‘The Knebworth Rock Festivals,’ although the two bands shared the same weekend and the weather was rainy and muddy, the festival goers eventually topped the 75,000 mark and it was all around a successful event.

You can read Ritchie Blackmore’s 1985 interview with Kerrang! here.