On 18 August 1979, Rainbow were on a roll, as one of the powerhouse British rock bands of the day entered the UK chart with Down To Earth. It would not only become their third consecutive top ten album, but contained two of their three top ten singles in their home country, ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ and ‘All Night Long.’ Three new members may have joined the line-up, but the group’s success continued unbounded.
Listen to Down To Earth right now.
The fourth studio set for Ritchie Blackmore’s band now featured new lead singer Graham Bonnet, drafted in when Ronnie James Dio left. It may have seemed a daunting role to fill, but Bonnet had recently released a solo album and was a veteran of the pop charts from as far back as 1968, when the group he was in, the Marbles, hit the UK top five with the Bee Gees-composed ‘Only One Woman.’
Bassist Bob Daisley and keyboard player David Stone were also gone from the Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll album line-up of the year before, as was live their touring keyboardist who also appeared on some tracks on that LP, Tony Carey. Joining the fold with Bonnet were Blackmore’s former (and future) Deep Purple colleague Roger Glover, both as producer and bass player, and Don Airey, a member of the present-day Purple incarnation with Glover, on keyboards.
“By the time we finished the album, I’d played bass on [it] and written all the songs with Ritchie,” Glover told Guitar International in 2013. “He said, ‘Why aren’t you in the band?’ I said, ‘No one’s asked me.’ Eventually, the call came, ‘Would you like to join Rainbow?’ and I did.”
Bonnet, for his part, remembered in an interview with Blabbermouth in 2010 that Blackmore “was listening to tapes of lots of bands, and he happened to come across one of my songs. Ritchie auditioned 80 singers and he heard me signing the Marbles’ ‘Only One Woman’ and asked how to get a hold of me. It just happened that Roger Glover was working with a friend of mine, Micky Moody, and he give him my telephone number.”
With Cozy Powell still rock-solid on drums, Rainbow were now down to a trim five-piece line-up and emerged from studio sessions in the south of France and in New York with a strong new sound. As the album emerged, the UK chart marked a banner week for rock releases.
AC/DC’s Highway To Hell was a new entry at No. 8, with Down To Earth close behind, debuting at No. 11. A week later, AC/DC were down to No. 11 but Rainbow were up to No. 7, and a week later, they peaked at No. 6. By mid-September, the Russ Ballard song ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ was starting a chart run of its own that saw it also climb to No. 6.
By the release of 1981’s Difficult To Cure, Bonnet himself had been replaced by Joe Lynn Turner and Powell by Bobby Rondinelli, but the Rainbow juggernaut roared on regardless, with their biggest UK album and even more hit singles.
The deluxe edition of Down To Earth can be bought here.
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