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Sunday Old School: Deep Purple

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Band Photo: Deep Purple (?)

It’s a widely accepted fact that it’s important to know your history and generally agreed upon that one should also be aware of their roots. With that in mind, it seemed an appropriate to finally devote a Sunday Old School column to one of the most important bands in the history of heavy metal, though they may not strictly fit the tag by the modern definition. Most people, when discussing the first metal bands will point to three groups, all formed in England; Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, both from the Midlands are two and the other was born in the country’s capital. The other is named, Deep Purple.

Deep Purple was initially conceived as a supergroup called Roundabout, named so because the idea was for musicians to join and leave the band whenever they wanted. It was the brainchild of drummer Chris Curtis, who began assembling the band with the help of manager Tony Edwards, beginning with organist, Jon Lord and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Curtis was soon fired from the group owing to his behaviour and was eventually replaced by Ian Paice, who was brought along by singer Rod Evans during his own successful audition for the band, who by that time had also brought in a bassist by the name of Nick Simper. After performing a few shows in Sweden and Denmark, Blackmore suggested they change their moniker to Deep Purple, reportedly in honour of his grandmother’s favourite song. The suggestion was accepted and they began life as the outfit we all know today.

They found almost immediate success with their debut album, "Shades of Deep Purple," which contained a cover of the Joe South song, "Hush," a number they still perform live and a single which peaked as high as number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 in Canada. Though they were finding commercial fortune in North America, Great Britain had not taken much notice of the debut, nor their sophomore effort, "The Book of Taliesyn," which was released in time for a tour supporting Cream. A third, eponymous album would hit the shelves a year later and brought new sounds to the fold, such as an increasing classical music influence and also a hard edge inspired by Vanilla Fudge. It was not particularly well received at the time and would prove to be the last album to feature the original lineup, as Rod Evans and Nick Simpler would leave the band soon after its release.

Initially, Blackmore hoped to recruit singer Terry Reid, who had also been courted by Jimmy Page to join Led Zeppelin before Robert Plant was brought in, but when Reid politely declined the offer, the role was offered to Episode Six frontman, Ian Gillan instead. Gillan accepted the position and brought with him a fine bassist named Roger Glover, though it took some coaxing from Ian Paice to convince other two members to hire him. They soon made a name for themselves by becoming one of the first rock bands to collaborate with an orchestra on the composition, "Concerto Group for an Orchestra." Gillan and Blackmore were unhappy with this classical direction and stronger, harder material was soon written, surfacing on the band’s fourth album, "In Rock," released in 1970. The album was their biggest critical success at the time and sold well too, in addition to featuring fan favourites such as "Child in Time" and "Speed King." They also released a single around this time, one which is regarded as one of their most beloved tracks, "Black Night."

A follow up album named, "Fireball" was released a year later and though not as highly regarded as its predecessor, received more very good reviews, especially thanks to the title track. Only one week after it was released, the band were already performing songs intended for the next album, one of which would become the classic driving anthem, "Highway Star." They were to record their album in Montreux, but the casino in which they were to record the material, which housed the mobile studio which they had borrowed from the Rolling Stones, was burned down when someone fired a flare during a Frank Zappa concert. This incident of course, would be the inspiration for arguably the group’s biggest hit, "Smoke on the Water" Both of these songs would appear on their next album, "Machine Head," when it was finally released, along with such other staples such as, "Space Truckin'" and "Lazy," all of which helped to create what many critics believe to Deep Purple’s best record and a true classic album.

"Machine Head" would prove to be their big breakthough at home, reaching the top of the British album charts and the band succeeded it by releasing the live record, "Made in Japan," before another studio album, "Who Do We Think We Are," which performed well but received some lacklustre reviews. Despite their commercial success however, tensions had begun to run high in the band, which eventually led to Gillan and Glover leaving the group. They were replaced by singing bassist Glen Hughes, who joined because he was allegedly promised that Free frontman Paul Rogers was to be hired as a co-vocalist, though he joined Bad Company instead and Deep Purple hired an unknown singer by the name of David Coverdale. This new incarnation recorded a well received album entitled, "Burn," the title track of which became another Deep Purple classic and sold well in the United States especially.

Another album, "Stormbringer" followed that same year and though it featured another stand out track in, "Soldier of Fortune," it received both lukewarm reviews and sales and Blackmore was critical of the album in public causing him to eventually leave the band and form Rainbow with Ronnie James Dio. The legendary guitarist was replaced by an American named, Tommy Brolin, who made his recording debut with the band on the album, "Come Taste the Band." It was another mixed response critically and commercially but gave the group a short shot of adrenaline, though by the time touring came to an end, David Coverdale resigned from the band, only to be told that they had already decided to break up.

The now former members of the band found varying degrees of success in the future projects, with Rainbow and Coverdale’s Whitesnake in particular proving popular, while Ian Gillan’s self-titled band performed well too. Nevertheless, the "classic" lineup of Gillan, Blackmore, Paice, Glover and Lord reunited in 1984, much to the relief of the singer who was enduring a horrid time as the frontman for fellow metal pioneers, Black Sabbath. They celebrated the reunion by releasing the album, "Perfect Strangers" which hit the top five in Britain and received great reviews, as well highly successful tours which included a headlining show at Knebworth, supported by the Scorpions, UFO and Meat Loaf. They released another album, "The House of Blue Light" in 1987 before Ian Gillan was fired two years later over a deteriorating relationship with Blackmore and was replaced by former Rainbow singer, Joe Lynn Turner, who recorded the album, "Slaves and Masters" with the band before he was forced out by Glover, Paice and Lord, who all wanted Gillan to return, much to the chagrin of Blackmore, who agreed on the condition that he be paid a quarter of a million dollars.

With Gillan back in the band for a third time, Deep Purple recorded, "The Battle Rages On…" which received a mostly positive response and what would have been a successful tour, had Ritchie Blackmore not decided to leave for a second and final time during a show in Finland. He was replaced temporarily by Joe Satriani, before former Kansas guitarist, Steve Morse was brought in as a permanent member, whose first album with the band, "Purpendicular," was released to poor sales, but strong reviews. Another album, "Abandon," would follow two years later and would mark their final studio recording with Jon Lord, who retired to pursue orchestral work, his place being taken by former Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath member, Don Airey.

Five years after, "Abandon," Deep Purple released their seventeenth studio album, "Bananas," to a good response critically, but didn’t sell well enough for EMI to offer the band an extension of their contract. They signed with Edel in Britain and Eagle in the U.S., through whom they would release their next album, "Rapture of the Deep," in 2005, again to positive reviews. Touring for the album also went well, including a headlining slot at the Monsters of Rock revival held at Milton Keynes in 2006, which also featured Alice Cooper, Journey and Ted Nugent.

The band continued as more of a live act over the coming years, but eventually released a new album entitled, "Now What?!" in April 2013. It sold decently and was received well, but by now the band are all about writing and recording music just for fun as they have nothing left to prove. The legendary quintet is still a big concert draw, particularly in Europe and they cemented their place as icons of rock, (quite literally in the case of "In Rock,") a long, long time ago. Whether you love Deep Purple, shrug them off or can’t stand them, it simply must be acknowledged that they were a huge force in creating the music we love today and metal music will forever be indebted to these talented lads from London.

Deep Purple - "Hush"

Deep Purple - "Black Night"

Deep Purple - "Fireball"

Deep Purple - "Highway Star"

Deep Purple - "Burn"

Deep Purple - "Soldier of Fortune"

Deep Purple - "Perfect Strangers"

Deep Purple - "Call of the Wild"

Deep Purple - "Bananas"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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3 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Deep Purple"

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Anonymous Reader
1. I'm not Jesus Christ writes:

Great work on this, Oz! Deep Purple is one of the greatest bands of all time and they changed my life after I first listened to their "Machine Head" album years ago.

# Sep 21, 2014 @ 12:59 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

2. Diamond Oz writes:

Thanks mate. I'm pleased you liked it!

# Sep 21, 2014 @ 1:06 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
3. Ivan writes:

Deep Purple are amazing. I recently saw them in Orlando and they rocked the house.

Black Night, Hush, Strange Kind of Woman, Highway Star, Child in Time, Burn, should I keep going?

Paice is still an amazing drummer, and Morse has been a worthy replacement of the immortal Ritchie Blackmore.

# Oct 21, 2014 @ 10:21 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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