Interview with Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow/Deep Purple)

Joe Lynn Turner
Photo: Chris Marksbury

In Rainbow and Deep Purple, Joe Lynn Turner worked closely with legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Mick Burgess spent time with Turner to chat about his solo career as well as his time with Rainbow and Deep Purple and the prospect of working again.

You’re going to be over in the UK soon for some festival shows. Are you looking forward to getting over here to play again?

I can’t wait to play over here again. I’m doing the Rewind Festival and that looks like it’ll be a great concert. I’m flattered that I was asked to be even in it but word has it that Kim Wilde recommended me. She’s a great old friend of mine. We had so much fun on the Rock Meets Classic tour of Germany a while back and the festival was looking for an ’80s Rocker so she suggested me. That was so sweet. She’s such a wonderful person and I’m really pleased to be doing these festival shows. It’s going to be a big party and it’ll be fun with what I consider the best era of music that there’s ever been.

You will be doing an acoustic tour then you’re coming back in the summer for some electric shows. Why did you decide to do two tours like that?

I certainly hope to be doing that. It’s what I’m planning and hopefully it’ll be finalised soon. I would actually rather come and do some Rock shows. I do like doing acoustic shows but I really think I need to bring my Rock show to the people. There’s my Rainbow material, some of my own stuff, songs I did with Glenn Hughes and Deep Purple. There’s such a wide variety in the repertoire that I know people really dig it so hopefully I will come over soon and play some of the O2 Academies with my Rock band.

How are you going to condense your career into an hour and a half show?

You can’t please everybody and I’ve got an hour and a half to try to fit in as much as possible. You can’t sing your whole life in an hour and a half, it’s impossible. We try to speckle it with Deep Purple classics along with stuff I did when I was in Purple like “King of Dreams” and “Love Conquers All.” I try to get a good, well rounded set. Most of the songs I’m doing are high energy stuff so no low moments. It’s the up-tempo real Rocking stuff that’s up there kicking ass. I do songs from my time in Rainbow as well of course. I did “Miss Mistreated” for the first time since I did it with Ritchie all those years ago and the groove was just fantastic.

Will that include anything from your first solo record Rescue You?

I should be. People have been asking for “Losing You” from my first solo record so I might work that one into the set if I can. We may also do “Endlessly” but we’ll rock it up so it’s not a chintzy ballad. I’d like to do “On The Run” and “Get Tough”. I wish I had one show where I could do things like that. It’d be great. There’s so much I could do. When I start signing the sleeves and the covers I realise I’ve been working too much.

You first came to prominence over here in the UK when you joined Rainbow although you had done a few albums with Fandango by then. When were you first aware of Ritchie Blackmore’s interest?

It was towards the end of the Fandango period. We had four albums out and our equipment had just been stolen, thousands of dollars of customised guitars and amps. The wind was right out of our sails and RCA Records tried to help us out and buy us some new stuff but it was never the same. We were just so downhearted. Then it started to break apart. I ended up living in a one room flat with a mattress on the floor and no money when I got a call from Ritchie and my life totally changed. I thought someone was playing a joke on me.

So things were pretty bleak for you at that time?

I’d been going to auditions with my guitar and not getting anywhere as frankly I was better than the people holding the auditions, they thought I’d steal the show. I just wasn’t getting a break and thought I’d have to form my own band and that’s when I got the call from Ritchie.

What was your audition like?

I walked into the studio in Long Island and there was Ritchie and Roger at the desk. Ritchie said very few words. He just told me to go in there onto the mike. They started to throw these tracks at me. They asked me if I could write and I said I could so they threw some tracks at me and asked me to write something. I went into what Ritchie later called my “magic bag” which is full of lyrics and ideas and I pulled out this one lyric that became “Midtown Tunnel Vision” and they loved it. We then worked on “I Surrender” after which Ritchie came in with a couple of beers and said the job was mine if I wanted it. I said I didn’t just want it but I needed it and I was in Rainbow.

What happened next?

I didn’t really know what was happening but knew something was happening as they wouldn’t let me go back to my apartment. They said they’d put me up in a hotel and gave me some money to buy some new clothes. It was very intriguing. We started writing straight away and worked on ideas in the studio, some of which had previously been written. So that was it. I auditioned, I got the job and we started working straight away.

When you joined was Cozy still there or had Bobby Rondinelli joined at that point?

Cozy had left by then and Bobby was already on the drums when I joined.

When you came in, was much material already written for Difficult to Cure?

Whatever had been done at that point was changed, even “I Surrender” was changed. I changed the original Russ Ballard melodies and we tried to get a song writing credit but Russ wouldn’t budge and I don’t blame him really. It wasn’t written with Graham Bonnet’s voice totally in mind as they were looking for a new singer so they were just writing songs they wanted to write but not with Graham specifically in mind hoping they’d find a vocalist who’d do them justice. “Midtown Tunnel Vision” was one of the songs that got me the job and we wrote “Freedom Fighter” soon after. They also had “Magic” there so there was quite a bit of material and they just wanted someone to wrap their throat around it. Roger was always coming up with ideas but many of those ideas changed completely when I came into the band.

I think one thing Ritchie didn’t like about Bonnet was he wasn’t a lyricist. Do you think your ability to come up with lyrics on the go was a big factor in your relationship working?

Absolutely. There’s no doubt about it. That’s just what you have to be able to do. You have to be able to improvise. For example when I was working with Ritchie in Deep Purple, when I first worked with them when Jon played the keyboard intro to “The Cut Runs Deep” the exact lyric and melody that I sang there for the very first time is what ended up as the final song. Ritchie liked working with someone who could do that, someone who could create instantaneously.

The follow up albums Straight Between The Eyes and Bent Out Of Shape were more complete and coherent albums. Do you think your song-writing and performances benefitted from being involved with those albums right from the start?

Absolutely, yes. On that second album I co-wrote the whole thing. When you build up a working relationship with people it tends to be more organised and it develops into a style and that develops into a sound. By the time we did Bent Out Of Shape I felt we were really going somewhere. They’re great albums all of them but my favourite is still Straight Between The Eyes as I think it just kicks ass. “Eyes of Fire” is an absolute epic. I also love “Fire Dance” from Bent Out of Shape, Ritchie wrote a great riff there. We had a lot of energy and knew we were doing something really special.

When you ended up working with Ritchie again in Deep Purple did you have to audition again or was Ritchie’s recommendation enough?

Ritchie was the one that stood fast and said we had to get Joe in. The story is that they had a singer or had semi-agreed on this singer. I know the guy and he was a great singer. I got a last minute call and it’s funny as I got a call from Bad Company and Foreigner around the same time. I was over the moon. When Lou quit Mick Jones called me and I went down and played with them. Anyway, Ritchie called and said it was an audition as Jon and Ian didn’t know me but he said the job was mine.

Purple fans can be quite harsh and like Come Taste The Band, Slaves and Masters seems to be more appreciated after the passage of time. What do you think of the album now with hindsight?

I think it’s one of the most underrated, undiscovered albums of all time. It kind of went past everyone. I think there was a knee jerk reaction and people called it Deep Rainbow. You should just listen to the music, it’s the last great Deep Purple album. That’s it, the last one. There’s none better, song for song after it. No way. Ritchie has said in many interviews that it is one of his favourite albums and he can’t understand why it didn’t make more of an impact.

It is one of the few Deep Purple albums that hasn’t been remastered and reissued as yet. Are there any bonus tracks that could go with that?

I guess there was “Slow Down Sister” but that’s already out there. There may have been another one or two we recorded that’s not been released before but Roger will have all of that. He’s the keeper of the keys. I’m sure he can go into the archives and find something as we were turning out track after track during those sessions and had a stack of them and just ended up picking those that worked well together. I just listened to Slaves and Masters when I was in Barcelona a few weeks ago and man it sounds good. When you crank it up it just screams out of those speakers.

Purple have released an abundance of live albums over the years from all their line ups except yours. Do you hope to release a show or two in the future?

We had a live video from that time but we must have some recordings somewhere. When I get together with Ritchie I’ll suggest the label release some shows. It’ll make us get in touch with Bruce Payne and we’ll ask Roger what he’s got. I’d like him to look for Rainbow stuff too as we were very creative at that time and had more chart action and played more shows than ever before. It actually pisses me off when they call my era commercial when there’s nothing more twee than “Since You Been Gone”. It never ceases to amaze me as I thought we had integrity and balls and it’s not a crime to get your records heard on a jukebox. We wanted people to like it and we wanted millions of people to like it and just because it’s popular they call it commercial.

Were you pretty philosophical when Gillan returned to the band?

We had the backlash from the Simon Robinson Deep Purple fan club so we were all shaking our heads as we all thought it was an awesome record. I think Jon and Ian were a little frightened in a way and maybe thought it was the Ritchie and Joe show. They wanted Gillan back in the band but Ritchie didn’t want him back in the band which is why it took them almost a year to finish that last album and then he plays 2 or 3 shows and just bails because he’d had enough and he also got a shit load of money to go and do another record so he could afford to just walk away. He’d had enough of the backstabbing and egotistical shit and all that crap. Ritchie was never into that and he could be a moody son of a bitch but I love him. He’s intelligent and really amenable if you reach out to him. He said he’d carried Deep Purple for years and made them rich.

When Ritchie put the band back together for Stranger In Us All with Doogie White, were you asked first?

No I wasn’t. I was shocked as we were supposed to get back together as that was the promise he’d made when we were coming back from Japan. I was shocked but didn’t cry into my beer about it. Doogie told me later that Ritchie asked him at one point to sing like Joe Lynn Turner and Doogie told him, why don’t you just go and get Joe Lynn Turner!! I love Doogie and Graham too. I’ve toured with them and we’re great friends. I sing their songs and they sing mine. I sing Ronnie James Dio songs in my set. I absolutely loved Ronnie. As a member of Rainbow I want to keep Ronnie’s name alive and we do “Man On The Silver Mountain”. I want to tip my hat to Ronnie and I know he’s smiling down when I do that. I was very close to Ronnie and respected him greatly. He was the gentleman of Rock.

There’s been so much chatter on the internet about a Rainbow reunion. Is that all it is chatter or is there something of great substance there?

There’s been a lot of miss-speak from the journalists about this who like to twist phrases and twist words. All I can say is this. I’m in touch with the camp. I am not delusional, I know what I’m talking about and I’m not over talking it. I’m telling you as each month goes by what the news is. We are going to meet in the late Fall and that’s it. It’s probable but that’s it at the moment. We are going to get into a room together and if it works fine but if it doesn’t then we’re on our bikes. I think the only way it wouldn’t work is if we didn’t want to work at it. We both have the full intention of getting together and working on it. I have some ideas already knowing exactly where we should go and I’ll present it to Ritchie and I know he’ll say that I’m absolutely right, this is who we are. He’s also asked me if I remember about a song that I once wrote over 20 years ago, I have that stored away. He wants me to get it out and bring it down to work on.

Last year you released Rated X featuring yourself and Tony Franklin with Carmine Appice and Karl Cochrane. First of all how is Karl at the moment after his stroke?

I just spoke to him on Skype recently. His speech is getting better and he has an electronic stimulator for his right arm that’s helping him. His left arm is fine and his right one is getting better. He understands everything completely and that’s the frustration for him. He understands everything but he finds it difficult to put that into words. He’s determined to get well and is doing everything he can from traditional conventional therapies to holistic ones. The medical treatment is very expensive and we are planning to do one big show with some big names to raise money for his treatment. It’s going to be huge. We’ve also started a charity to help people who have suffered in the same way called Rock N Recovery and you can check that out on This is not just for Karl, it’s for all rockers who need help and we want to make a lot of money to help people.

The album has been getting great reviews. Were you pleased with the reaction?

It’s a great album, I love it. “Lhasa”, it’s nearly 8 minutes long, I mean who does that now? It’s incredible and the reviews have been great and to think we weren’t even in the same room when we made that. We are looking forward to doing it again but it’s tough out there and we need to do some gigs. One guy on the radio said we were going to single handedly bring back Classic Rock but that’s stretching it a bit but I knew what he meant.

What plans do you have for this year?

I’ll be putting out a live album called Live at The Paradise. It’s a very good live recording from a radio feed from way back. I’ve got tons of stuff I could do and loads of offers but I want to see what Ritchie wants to do. I must see if this thing works out and if it does I’m going to put my energies into it. I just want to go out and show everyone, here….here we go again. This is Rock history being made.

Joe Lynn Turner will perform at Rewind Scotland at Scone Palace in Perthshire on Sunday 26th July and Rewind South at Temple Island Meadows in Henley-on-Thames on Saturday August 22nd. For tickets, please visit:


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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