The Album That Ended Rainbow: 40 Years of ‘Difficult To Cure’

One of the most divisive Classic Rock albums of the 80s, take a look into the history behind the album.

On this day back in 1981, Classic Metal legends, Rainbow, released their fifth studio album: Difficult To Cure. An album that divided the band’s fanbase, the release has since gone down in history as one of the main disappointments in the Rock and Metal scene… but what exactly was it that made Difficult To Cure quite so infamous?

From the lack of original members to the decision to sell out their powerful Metal origins, the album managed to both catapult the band into some of their biggest commercial success whilst simultaneously losing them thousands of devoted fans in the process.

Now, exactly four decades since its debut, take a glimpse Ritchie Blackmore’s process behind the album and discover the story behind the paradoxical release!

Most renowned for their stellar lineup during their early years, by the time that the 1980s approached, Rainbow had already begun to falter at the seams. Following the departure of the band’s iconic vocalist, Ronnie James Dio, and the exit of one of the most highly praised drummers of the decade, Cozy Powell, both as a result of creative differences, when the new decade of 1980 hit, the future of Rainbow was thrown into question.

Taking complete control over the direction of the band, the legendary guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore, took the reigns of Rainbow- steering the band into new territory in order to fit with his vision. The main changes this included was making Rainbow more commercially accessible and further suited for radio-airplay.

Although achieving paramount success with their albums prior, for Blackmore, the origins of the band were just the starting point for what the guitarist had in mind. Striving to be more mainstream and emotive in its sound, Blackmore urged the other members to cast their powerful, metal-centred roots aside in exchange for a sound more reminiscent of bands including Foreigner and Journey.

The early stages of this vision led to disagreements, building up to the eventual departure of both Dio and Powell as Blackmore pursued this route further. Beginning to write Difficult To Cure, this newfound direction inspired such little faith from other members that even Dio’s replacement, Graham Bonnet, also left the band half way through the album’s production.

With the remaining members still seemingly reluctant to pursue this new musical direction, Blackmore enlisted new vocalist, Joe Lynn Turner, as the frontman for Rainbow. Generally higher pitched and more melodic in his vocals than both Dio and Bonnet, the new voice of the band both served Blackmore’s vision more adequately than ever before, whilst simultaneously pushing fans further away.

Despite a poor reception from fans upon its emergence, with once-devoted followers accusing the band of selling out their distinctive edge and abandoning their origins, surprisingly, Difficult To Cure proved to be a paradox- somehow still achieving huge success on the charts. 

Alongside the outcry of disappointment from fans of their earlier releases, lead single, ‘I Surrender’, became the band’s highest charting single of all time, peaking at No.3 on the Billboard charts. What’s more, the album as a whole also sold extremely well, to the surprise of many- climbing to the No.3 spot on the UK Albums Charts. 

Yet, despite becoming one of their most successful releases of all time, fans remained outspoken in their attitudes towards Difficult To Cure.

Openly criticising Blackmore for selling out on Rainbow’s unique and epic sound, the album was even tarnished by the label of “Foreigner Jr.” by ex-member Ronnie James Dio and the guitarist was accused of producing a watered-down and uninspired replicas of their previous albums by listeners. 

With a new, more stripped-back approach to his signature, technically-precise riffs and solos, Ritchie Blackmore’s ultimate vision came to light with the release of Difficult To Cure. Despite the outward criticism from his once-loyal fans and failure to leave a positive lasting impression, the album still signified an important landmark for the band: the transition of Rainbow from Classic Metal to mainstream Heavy Rock

Using an album cover initially designed for Black Sabbath’s 1978 album, Never Say Die!, Difficult To Cure was seen, in many ways, as a simple regurgitation of other bands under the guise of Rainbow. Yet, despite the held-back approach to his playing and more generic structures of the tracks, the album is still held in high regard by many, with song including ‘I Surrender’ and ‘Spotlight Kid’ becoming essential tracks in many Classic Rock playlists.



What are your thoughts on Difficult To Cure? Let us know via the comment section!


  1. I like Difficult to Cure. I saw the Straight Between the Eyes tour with this line up and they played this album too and it was awesome! I’ve been playing drums for 45 years. Cozy Powell and Dio are at the top of my all time favorite list and I love Gates of Babalon. All the early Rainbow is classic but bands evolve and change. A remake of of the previous albums could be received as too “safe” so I like when bands take risks, hey, it’s Rock and Roll right? Lol


    • Hey Mike, thanks for your comment!
      Difficult To Cure seems to be their most divisive album- it is fascinating to see how some fans adored it whilst others couldn’t stand it! At one point or another, all bands have to make that choice to follow a different route to avoid becoming repetitive…
      To me, it isn’t a bad album by any stretch, it is just impossible to compete with their earlier releases!


      • I think that everything that you say about Difficult to Cure actually applies to the album before it, Down to Earth. That album radically changed the band, and the song Since you’ve been Gone was their first really commercial pop hit, and even had an MTV video to go with it. In my opinion, Difficult to cure actually brought them back on track to some degree. Of course the Difficult days were sorely missed, but having RJD join Black Sabbath made it worthwhile. Good article though.


      • Hey Mario, thanks for your comment!
        Great point concerning the Down To Earth album, it was definitely a huge turning point for the band and began to rewrite who Rainbow were! With that being said though, the response from fans was definitely more favourable than that towards Difficult to Cure, hence why I centred the piece on that album instead. Glad to hear you enjoyed the piece!


  2. It’s a great album and I saw the accompanying tour, very much more commercially successful than it’s predecessors I don’t really get where you have seen the negativity. Yes there’s lots of affection for the previous albums and rightly so but I don’t agree with your general thesis that it was a disappointing album that ended Rainbow, it powered them forward for several more years.


    • Hey Arthur, thanks for your comment!
      The stance for the piece comes from the overarching legacy of the album rather than a personal opinion! In hindsight, the album set the band down an entirely new route and stemmed from internal hostility between the members. It also led to poor sales and a huge division between fans which then followed them for the remainder of their career! Of course, some tracks were a hit with certain fans, but for the most part, it marked a new chapter of Rainbow that many fans disliked. Hope that helps clarify!


      • Thanks for the response, the music on the album will always be a matter of personal opinion but I really don’t agree it led to poor sales, chart performance in the UK was better than previous albums and the JLT era saw improved sales in the USA. I agree that the Ronnie James Dio albums are now held in higher regard critically and many of his fans did not enjoy the new direction but the band certainly enjoyed greater commercial success at the time from this album forward.


  3. Unfortunately, it’s such a bland album, with few highlights and containing dreadful tracks such as, ‘I Surrender,’ the title track and the execrable ‘Magic.’ One positive is that it’s a better album than the truly awful ‘Straight Between The Eyes.’ I would disagree with the the description of Turner’s voice being higher than that of Ronnie’s or Graham’s, with the latter arguably having the greater range. JLT was a good singer but lyrically he’s one-dimensional. It could be said that this lineup was responsible for castrating this once mighty band, shame on you Ritchie!


    • Great analysis there, Ronnie! Nothing could compete with Rainbow in their heyday… it’s a shame that the changes in lineup and dilution of the music itself led to the album being a let-down for fans. Thanks for your comment!


  4. Interesting article but I disagree about one thing, I don’t believe rainbow were really pioneers in metal. I think they were always hard rock from the beginning. More blues based. It was heavy Rock for sure but I don’t believe it crossed over into metal territory at all, coming close when Ronnie James Dio sing for them, but still not fully metal. Deep purple was closer to metal but rainbow always seemed more blues based hard Rock to me personally. But overall an interesting article.


    • Thanks for your comment- I’m thrilled you enjoyed the piece! I personally have always seen Rainbow as metal pioneers. Countless metal bands over the past three decades have been inextricably inspired by Blackmore’s playing style and nearly all metal ballads incorporate vocalists who capture the same vigour as Dio… just look at power metal for instance! Whilst there is debate on whether they were fully metal or not… they definitely played a huge role in inspiring metal bands across the globe!


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