History Deep Purple
Pre-Deep Purple years (1967–68)
In 1967, former Searchers drummer Chris Curtis contacted London businessman Tony Edwards in the hope that he would manage a new group he was putting together, to be called Roundabout: so-called because the members would get on and off the band, like a musical roundabout. Impressed with the plan, Edwards agreed to finance the venture with two business partners: John Coletta and Ron Hire (Hire-Edwards-Coletta – HEC Enterprises).
The first recruit was the classically-trained Hammond organ player Jon Lord, who had most notably played with The Artwoods (led by Art Wood, brother of future Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, and featuring Keef Hartley). He was followed by session guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who was persuaded to return from Hamburg to audition for the new group. Curtis soon dropped out, but HEC Enterprises, as well as Lord and Blackmore, were keen to carry on.
For the bass guitar, Lord suggested his old friend Nick Simper, with whom he had played in a band called The Flower Pot Men and their Garden (formerly known as The Ivy League) back in 1967. Simper’s claims to fame (apart from Deep Purple) were that he had been in Johnny Kidd and The Pirates and had been in the car crash that killed Kidd. He was also in Screaming Lord Sutch’s The Savages, where he played with Blackmore.
The line-up was completed by vocalist Rod Evans and drummer Ian Paice from The Maze. After a brief tour of Denmark in the spring of 1968, Blackmore suggested a new name: Deep Purple, which was his grandmother’s favourite song.
In October 1968, the group had success with a cover of Joe South’s “Hush”, which reached #4 on the US Billboard chart and #2 on the Canadian RPM charts. The song was taken from their debut album Shades of Deep Purple, and they were booked to support Cream on their Goodbye tour.
The band’s second album, The Book of Taliesyn (including a cover of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman”), was released in the United States to coincide with this tour, reaching #38 on the billboard chart and #21 on the RPM charts, although it would not be released in their home country until the following year. 1969 saw the release of their third album, Deep Purple, which contained strings and woodwind on one track (“April”). Several influences were in evidence, notably Vanilla Fudge and Lord’s classical antecedents such as Bach and Rimsky-Korsakov.
After these three albums and extensive touring in the United States, their American record company, Tetragrammaton, went out of business, leaving the band with no money and an uncertain future. (Tetragrammaton’s assets were assumed by Warner Bros. Records, who would release Deep Purple’s records in the US throughout the 1970s.) Returning to England in early 1969, they recorded a single called “Emmaretta”, named for Emmaretta Marks, then a cast member of the musical Hair, whom Evans was trying to seduce, before Evans and Simper were fired.
In search of a replacement vocalist, Blackmore set his sights on 19 year old singer Terry Reid, who only a year earlier declined a similar opportunity to front the newly forming Led Zeppelin. Though he found the offer “flattering” Reid was still bound by the exclusive recording contract with his producer Mickie Most and more interested in his solo career. Blackmore had no other choice but to look elsewhere.
The band hunted down singer Ian Gillan from Episode Six, a band that had released several singles in the UK without achieving their big break for commercial success. Six’s drummer Mick Underwood—an old comrade of Blackmore’s from his Savages days—made the introductions, and bassist Roger Glover tagged along for the initial sessions. Deep Purple persuaded Glover to join full-time, an act that effectively killed Episode Six and gave Underwood a guilt complex that lasted nearly a decade—until Gillan recruited him for his new post-Purple band in the late 1970s.
This created the quintessential Deep Purple Mark II line-up, whose first, inauspicious release was a Greenaway-Cook tune titled “Hallelujah”, which flopped.
The band gained some much-needed publicity with the Concerto for Group and Orchestra, a three-movement epic composed by Lord as a solo project and performed by the band at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Malcolm Arnold. Together with Five Bridges by The Nice, it was one of the first collaborations between a rock band and an orchestra, although at the time, certain members of Deep Purple (Blackmore and Gillan especially) were less than happy at the group being tagged as “a group who played with orchestras” when actually what they had in mind was to develop the band into a much tighter, hard-rocking style. Despite this, Lord wrote and the band recorded the Gemini Suite, another orchestra/group collaboration in the same vein, in late 1970.
Popularity and breakup (1970–76)
Shortly after the orchestral release, the band began a hectic touring and recording schedule that was to see little respite for the next three years. Their first studio album of this period, released in mid-1970, was In Rock (a name deliberately chosen to distance the rock album from the concerto) and contained the then-concert staples “Speed King”, “Into The Fire” and “Child in Time”. The band also issued the UK Top Ten single “Black Night”. The interplay between Blackmore’s guitar and Lord’s distorted organ, coupled with Gillan’s howling vocals and the rhythm section of Glover and Paice, now started to take on a unique identity and become instantly recognisable to rock fans throughout Europe.
A second album, the more mellow and creatively progressive Fireball (a favourite of Gillan but not of the rest of the band ), was issued in the summer of 1971. The title track “Fireball” was released as a single, as was “Strange Kind of Woman” – not from the album but recorded during the same sessions (although it was included on the US version of the album instead of the UK version’s song “Demon’s Eye”.)
Within weeks of Fireball’s release, the band were already performing songs planned for the next album. One song (which later became “Highway Star”) was performed at the first gig of the Fireball tour, having been written on the bus to a show in Portsmouth, in answer to a journalist’s question: “How do you go about writing songs?” Three months later, in December 1971, the band traveled to Switzerland to record Machine Head. The album was due to be recorded at a casino in Montreux, using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, but a fire during a Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention gig burned down the casino. The album was actually recorded at the nearby empty Grand Hotel. This incident famously inspired the song “Smoke on the Water”. Gillan believes that he witnessed a man fire a flare gun into the ceiling during the concert, prompting Mark Volman of the Mothers to comment: “Arthur Brown in person!”
Continuing from where both previous albums left off, Machine Head has since become one of the band’s most famous albums, including tracks that became live classics such as “Highway Star”, “Space Truckin'”, “Lazy” and “Smoke on the Water”. Deep Purple continued to tour and record at a rate that would be rare thirty years on: when Machine Head was recorded, the group had only been together three and a half years, yet it was their seventh LP. Meanwhile the band undertook four North America tours in 1972 and the August tour of Japan that led to a double-vinyl live release, Made in Japan. Originally intended as a Japan-only record, its worldwide release saw the double LP become an instant hit. It remains one of rock music’s most popular and highest selling live-concert recordings (although at the time it was perhaps seen as less important, as only Glover and Paice turned up to mix it).
The classic Deep Purple Mark II line-up continued to work and released the album Who Do We Think We Are (1973), featuring the hit single “Woman from Tokyo”, but internal tensions and exhaustion were more noticeable than ever. The bad feelings culminated in Gillan quitting the band after their second tour of Japan in the summer of 1973 over tensions between Gillan and Blackmore, and Glover being pushed out with him. Auditions were held. Two primary candidates surfaced: a Scotsman Angus Cameron McKinlay and David Coverdale. Angus, not having a high enough voice, was eliminated. They settled on Coverdale, an unknown singer from Saltburn in Northeast England, and Midlands bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, formerly of Trapeze. After first acquiring Hughes, they debated continuing as a four piece with Hughes as both bassist and vocalist. This new line-up continued into 1974 with the heavier blues-rock album Burn, another highly successful release and world tour. Hughes and Coverdale added both vocal harmonies and a more funky element to the band’s music, a sound that was even more apparent on the late 1974 release Stormbringer. Besides the title track, the album had a number of songs that received much radio play, such as “Lady Double Dealer”, “The Gypsy” and “Soldier Of Fortune”. Yet Blackmore voiced unhappiness with the album and the direction Deep Purple had taken. As a result, he left the band in the spring of 1975 to form his own band with Ronnie James Dio of Elf, called Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, later shortened after one album to Rainbow.
With Blackmore’s departure, Deep Purple was left to fill one of the biggest bandmember vacancies in rock music. In spite of this, the rest of the band refused to stop, and to the surprise of many long-time fans, actually announced a replacement for the “irreplaceable” Man in Black; American Tommy Bolin.
There are at least two versions about the recruitment of Bolin: Coverdale claims to have been the one who suggested auditioning Bolin. “He walked in, thin as a rake, his hair coloured green, yellow and blue with feathers in it. Slinking along beside him was this stunning Hawaiian girl in a crochet dress with nothing on underneath. He plugged into four Marshall 100-watt stacks and…the job was his”. But in an interview originally published by Melody Maker in June 1975, Bolin himself claimed that he came to the audition following a recommendation from Blackmore. Bolin had been a member of many now-forgotten late-1960s bands – Denny & The Triumphs, American Standard, and Zephyr, which released three albums from 1969-72. Before Deep Purple, Bolin’s best-known recordings were made as a session musician on Billy Cobham’s 1973 jazz fusion album Spectrum, and as Joe Walsh’s replacement on two James Gang albums: Bang (1973) and Miami (1974). He had also jammed with such luminaries as Dr. John, Albert King, The Good Rats and Alphonse Mouzon, and was busy working on his first solo album, Teaser when he accepted the invitation to join Deep Purple.
The resulting album, Come Taste the Band, was released in October 1975. Despite mixed reviews, the collection revitalised the band once again, bringing a new, extreme funk edge to their hard rock sound. Bolin’s influence was crucial, and with encouragement from Hughes and Coverdale, the guitarist developed much of the material. Later, Bolin’s personal problems with drugs began to manifest themselves, and after cancelled shows and below-par concert performances, the band was in danger.
Band split, side projects (1976–84)
The end came on tour in Britain in March 1976 at the Liverpool Empire Theatre. Coverdale reportedly walked off in tears and handed in his resignation, to which he was allegedly told there was no band left to quit. The decision to disband Deep Purple had been made some time before the last show by Lord and Paice (the last remaining original members), who hadn’t told anyone else. The break-up was finally made public in July 1976.
Later, Bolin had just finished recording his second solo album, Private Eyes, when, on December 4, 1976, tragedy struck. In Miami, during a tour supporting Jeff Beck, Bolin was found unconscious by his girlfriend. Unable to wake him, she hurriedly called paramedics, but it was too late. The official cause of death: multiple-drug intoxication. He was 25 years old.
After the break-up most of the past and present members of Deep Purple went on to have considerable success in a number of other bands, including Rainbow, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath and Gillan. There were, however, a number of promoter-led attempts to get the band to reform, especially with the revival of the hard rock market in the late 1970s/early 1980s. By 1980, an unauthorised version of the band surfaced with Evans as the only member who had ever been in Deep Purple, eventually ending in successful legal action from the legitimate Deep Purple camp over unauthorised use of the name. Evans was ordered to pay damages of $672,000 (US) for using the band name without permission.
Reunions and breakups (1984–94)
In April 1984, eight years after the demise of Deep Purple, a full-scale (and legal) reunion took place with the “classic” early 1970s line-up of Blackmore, Gillan, Glover, Lord and Paice. The album Perfect Strangers was released in October 1984. A solid release, it sold extremely well (reaching #5 in the UK and #6 on the Billboard 200 in the US ) and included the singles and concert staples “Knockin’ At Your Back Door” and “Perfect Strangers”. The reunion tour followed, starting in Australia and winding its way across the world to North America, then into Europe by the following summer. Financially, the tour was also a tremendous success. The UK homecoming proved limited, as they elected to play just a single festival show at Knebworth (with main support from the Scorpions; also on the bill were UFO, Bernie Marsden’s Alaska, Mama’s Boys, Blackfoot, Mountain and Meat Loaf). The weather was bad (torrential rain and 6″ of mud), but 80,000 fans turned up anyway. The gig was called the “Return Of The Knebworth Fayre”.
The line-up then released The House of Blue Light in 1987, which was followed by a world tour (interrupted after Blackmore broke a finger on stage) and another live album Nobody’s Perfect (1988) which was culled from several shows on this tour, but still largely based around the by-now familiar Made in Japan set-list. In the UK a new version of “Hush” (with Gillan on lead vocals) was released to mark 20 years of the band. In 1989, Gillan was fired as his relations with Blackmore had again soured and their musical differences had widened too far. His replacement was former Rainbow vocalist Joe Lynn Turner. This line-up recorded just one album, Slaves & Masters (1990) and toured in support. It is one of Blackmore’s favourite Deep Purple albums, though some fans derided it as little more than a so-called “Deep Rainbow” album.
With the tour complete, Turner was forced out, as Lord, Paice and Glover (and the record company) wanted Gillan back in the fold for the 25th anniversary. Blackmore grudgingly relented, after requesting and eventually receiving 250,000 dollars in his bank account and the classic line-up recorded The Battle Rages On, but tensions between Gillan and Blackmore came to a head yet again during an otherwise stunningly successful European tour. Blackmore walked out in November 1993, never to return. Joe Satriani was drafted in to complete the Japanese dates in December and stayed on for a European Summer tour in 1994. He was asked to join permanently, but his record contract commitments prevented this. The band unanimously chose Dixie Dregs/Kansas guitarist Steve Morse to become Blackmore’s permanent successor.
Revival with Steve Morse (1994–present)
Morse’s arrival revitalised the band creatively, and in 1996 a new album titled Purpendicular was released, showing a wide variety of musical styles. With a revamped set list to tour, Deep Purple enjoyed success throughout the rest of the 1990s, releasing the harder-sounding Abandon in 1998, and touring with renewed enthusiasm. In 1999, Lord, with the help of a fan who was also a musicologist and composer, painstakingly recreated the Concerto for Group and Orchestra; the original score having been lost. It was once again performed at the Royal Albert Hall in September 1999, this time with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Mann. The concert also featured songs from each member’s solo careers, as well as a short Deep Purple set, and the occasion was commemorated on the 2000 album Live at the Royal Albert Hall. In early 2001, two similar concerts were performed in Tokyo and released as part of the box set The Soundboard Series.
Much of the next few years was spent on the road touring. The group continued forward until 2002, when founding member Lord (who, along with Paice, was the only member to be in all incarnations of the band) announced his amicable retirement from the band to pursue personal projects (especially orchestral work). Lord left his Hammond Organ to his replacement. Rock keyboard veteran Don Airey (Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Whitesnake), who had helped Deep Purple out when Lord’s knee was injured in 2001, joined the band. In 2003, Deep Purple released their first studio album in five years, working with new producer Michael Bradford, the highly praised(but controversially titled) Bananas, and began touring in support of the album immediately. In July 2005, the band played at the Live 8 concert in Park Place (Barrie, Ontario) and, in October of the same year, released their next album Rapture of the Deep. It was followed by the Rapture of the Deep tour.
In February 2007, Gillan asked fans not to buy a live album being released by Sony BMG. This was a recording of their 1993 appearance at the NEC in Birmingham. Recordings of this show have previously been released without resistance from Gillan or any other members of the band, but he said: “It was one of the lowest points of my life – all of our lives, actually”.