Recording of the album commenced in April 1977 at a studio in Château d'Hérouville, France, featuring Ritchie Blackmore, Ronnie James Dio and Cozy Powell. Keyboards were initially played on a session basis by former Rainbow member Tony Carey, while bass parts were started by Mark Clarke. Clarke was soon dismissed, however, and the bass parts were recorded by Blackmore himself. By July 1977 seven tracks that ended on the album were in demo form. Recording was suspended while the band recruited Bob Daisley and David Stone and thereafter commenced extensive touring of Europe in the summer and fall of 1977. A return to the Château d'Hérouville studio in December saw the band finish the album and also yielded a final track, "Gates of Babylon".
Although Daisley and Stone are listed on the album credits for their contributions, they joined the band partway through the recording sessions and only appear on three and four songs, respectively. Stone wrote parts of "Gates of Babylon" but was never credited.
"Kill the King" was already a staple part of the tour setlists, opening Rainbow concerts since mid-1976. It first appeared on the live album On Stage in 1977. In the 1977–78 concerts the title track and "Kill the King" were the only songs performed, although "L.A. Connection" did get a few airings on the US tour before being dropped from the set. From 2004 to his death in 2010, Dio's solo shows featured a live version of "Kill the King", "Gates of Babylon", and the title track.
The original vinyl release was in a gatefold-sleeve cover illustrated by Debbie Hall, with a lyric-sheet insert. The crowd picture is actually from a Rush concert, with the wording on the banner the fans were actually holding replaced by the Rainbow album title and the visible Rush T-shirts airbrushed to black.
Geoff Ginsberg of AllMusic wrote that Long Live Rock 'n' Roll "would turn out to be the last great album Rainbow would ever make, although they did enjoy a great deal of chart success in the post-Dio era."
The album, among other Rainbow releases, is often cited as a strong influence on formation of the power metal genre, especially on its fantasy-themed lyrics and aesthetics.
Long Live Rock 'n' Roll was remastered on CD for the US market in April 1999, with the European version following later. The US version had a matte booklet/insert, which matched the original vinyl sleeve for all markets, whereas the European issue was the standard glossy type.
Long Live Rock 'n' Roll Story, an album and a book about the making of the LP was released in June 2009 in the "Rock Landmarks" series. The inlay story was written by Jerry Bloom, author of Black Knight, a Ritchie Blackmore's biography.
On 12 April 2012 a picture disc album version of Long Live Rock 'n' Roll was released in the US as part of Record Store Day 2012.
A deluxe edition version was released on 13 November in Europe, featuring rough mixes of the album tracks from July 1977, with the exception of "Gates of Babylon" which was written later.
Serbian band Osvajači recorded a cover version of the song "Rainbow Eyes" entitled "Tragovi" on their 1999 album Vrelina.
Fictitious band Steel Dragon also covered the song "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll" for the 2001 movie Rock Star.
Finnish band Stratovarius did a cover of "Kill the King" as a B-Side to the "Father Time" single/EP, as well as being released on their compilation album Intermission (2001).
German band Gamma Ray did a cover of "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll" on the 2002 reissue of their album Power Plant.
Spanish folk metal band Mägo de Oz recorded a cover version of "Rainbow Eyes" on their album Finisterra (2000) entitled "Es hora de marchar" ("It's Time to Go") with lyrics in Spanish, as well as "Gates of Babylon" on their album Gaia II: La Voz Dormida (2005) entitled "En Nombre de Dios" ("In God's Name").