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Metal Hammer
Metal Hammer
Geoff Barton

"I'll be honest here – I think they blew us off stage every single night": what happened when AC/DC went on tour with Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow


In the autumn of 1976 AC/DC embarked on a tour of mainland Europe supporting Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow

Were Angus and co starstruck? Nope, just the opposite, according to the late, great Rainbow frontman Ronnie James Dio and keyboardist Tony Carey. Classic Rock interviewed them both about the experience in 2009.

Did you know much about AC/DC prior to them supporting Rainbow? 

Dio: “Just a little bit, but not much. I knew they’d been huge in Australia, but really not much more than that. However, we certainly knew about them after they’d finished that particular tour!” 

Carey: “We knew they were hot in Australia and would help us sell tickets. ’Til then I’d never heard their stuff.” 

So, how did the tour go? 

Dio: “I’ll be honest here – I think they blew us off stage every single night. They were exciting, fresh and really got the crowd going. And in some ways, perhaps they made us look old-fashioned. What with our long guitar pieces and so on.” 

Carey: “It was a great billing. Nobody was going to blow Rainbow off the stage in ’76, so I wasn’t afraid of AC/DC. They went over great, they were great, and they were a lot like they are today. Whereas we were ‘Dungeons & Dragons Level Eight’, a whole different thing. It was an entertaining show, I’m sure. Our band was on fire in ’76, and so were AC/DC.” 

How did AC/DC go down? 

Dio: “Amazingly. They were getting encores every night, and we were just astonished by how good they were. Angus was incredible. Even back then, he gave everything on stage. Nobody worked – or works – harder. Every night [Rainbow drummer] Cozy Powell and I would stand there and watch, and go: ‘Wow. How are we gonna follow this?’ We just loved what they did.” 

Carey: “I watched a couple of AC/DC’s sets and I loved ’em. They were ‘hometown heroes’ to the crowds."

Did you realise how big AC/DC were eventually going to become? 

Dio: “I knew they had what it took to be successful. You could see they would be big. But as big as they’ve become? No, not really.” 

Carey: “I’d love to say ‘of course’, but the truth is that the key to that level of success is longevity. They found a perfect replacement in Brian Johnson when Bon passed away. I actually expected us to be huge, but our banjo player kept shooting himself in the foot by firing great musicians.”

Did the members of Rainbow and AC/DC party together at all? We imagine Bon Scott and Rainbow bass player Jimmy Bain, a renowned party animal, might have, shall we say… ‘bonded’? 

Dio: “We didn’t party together much. AC/DC left the venue as soon as their set was over, to drive to the next town. But I do remember the first time I met Malcolm Young. He came into our dressing room looking for beer, as they’d gotten through their rider in about five minutes. He never said hello, just: ‘Where’s the beer?’ I recall Jimmy Bain muttering something under his breath. The next thing you knew, Jimmy had gone to sit down, and Mal had pulled the chair from under him! 

"But that’s what they were like. Young and brash. They’d had to learn to survive in Australia, and that means you fight for everything. I did have the pleasure of talking to Bon a few times, and he was totally friendly. Towards the end of tour, he caught a cold and asked my advice on what he could do to get throught the shows. I gave him a few tips about how I handled the situation, and he was so appreciative. Lovely man.” 

Carey: “Well, where Jimmy Bain was in those days, I wasn’t too far behind. I assume you’re talking about ‘bonded by bourbon’? Well, yeah, There were certainly instances of that. I remember a time when Bon had a small falling-out with his wife regarding his tendency to fart in bed excessively, and he told some funny stories. Does that count?” 

What did Rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore make of AC/DC? 

Dio: “I think Ritchie thought the same as Cozy and me. Very impressed. I don’t want to put words into his mouth, but like the two of us, I reckon he might have thought we’d made a mistake having them open for Rainbow, as we just couldn’t match them.” 

Carey: “To be honest, I don’t know what Blackmore thought about anything, much less support acts."

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