One of the British bands to hit the scene in the late 60s was Deep Purple. For some reason they always seemed to be a tier below their British contemporaries.
First off I want to wish Ritchie Blackmore, one of the earliest members of Deep Purple, a very Happy Birthday. He turns 67 today.
Richie’s guitar mastery is second to few and in the days since Purple, he has stayed very active in the business.
The early lineups of Deep Purple:
Ritchie Blackmore – Guitar
Ian Paice – Drums
Jon Lord – Hammond B-3 Organ
In 1971 the band released their most commercially successful album, Machine Head. The album included the song Smoke on the Water, which included the lyrics, “Frank Zappa and the Mothers, were at the best place around. But some stupid with a flare gun, burned the place to the ground.”
These words are in reference to their recording plans for Machine Head. The band was originally booked to record at the Montreux Casino in Switzerland. The Casino always closed in the winter months for refurbishment and Purple arrived on December 3, 1971.
The final Casino concert of the season was the following night when Frank Zappa took the stage. Sometime during the concert a member of the audience fired a flare into the building’s roof. Although there were no fatalities, the resultant fire ruined Deep Purple’s plans. The band retreated to a nearby theatre called the Pavilion, where they recorded a riff by Ritchie Blackmore provisionally named “Title No. 1.” It became one of the most recognizable riffs in rock.
Bass player Roger Glover named it “Smoke on the Water”, in reference to the band’s experience watching the burning down of Montreux Casino. A photograph of the burning Montreux Casino would ultimately be included in the gatefold of Machine Head’s album cover.
Machine Head would be the groups only #1 album. (#1 in UK – #7 US)
In December of 72, DP released Made in Japan, a double album live set.
Deep Purple was at the height of its powers. That double album was the epitome of what we stood for in those days. It wasn’t meant to be released outside of Japan. The Japanese said, ‘Will you please make a live album?’ We said, ‘We don’t make live albums; we don’t believe in them.’ We finally said okay, but said we wanted the rights to the tapes because we didn’t want the album to be released outside of Japan. That album only cost about $3,000 to make. It sounded pretty good, so we said to Warner Bros., ‘Do you want this?’ They said, ‘No, live albums don’t happen.’ They wound up putting it out anyway and it went platinum in about two weeks.
Jon Lord interview at www.thehighwaystar.com[/box]
Despite getting to platinum in two weeks, Made in Japan topped out at #6 in the US and #16 in the UK.
This period also marked the beginning of the band’s decline. Roger Glover took an exit shortly after Made in Japan and was replaced by Glenn Hughes. Vocalist Ian Gillian was replace by David Coverdale about this same time.
Blackmore abandoned the band in mid 1975 to be replaced by Tommy Bolin.
Within a few months Deep Purple imploded on the wieght of Bolin’s drug use and Coverdale’s resignation. The breakup was publicized in July of 76. Guitarist Tommy Bolin died of a drug overdose the following December.
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 Gillan, Lord, Blackmore, Glover and Paice. The reformed band signed a worldwide deal with PolyGram, with Mercury Records releasing their albums in the US, and Polydor Records in the UK and other countries. The album Perfect Strangers was recorded in Vermont and released in October 1984. A solid release, it sold extremely well (reaching #5 in the UK and #17 on the Billboard 200 in the US.)
The guys clicked along with miner skirmishes flaring up between Blackmore and Gillian over the years. Then in November of ’93, Blackmore walked off, guitar in hand, never to return.
Joe Satriani was drafted to complete tour dates in December and stayed on for a European Summer tour in 1994. He was asked to join permanently, but Satriani’s other contract commitments prevented this. The band unanimously chose Dixie Dregs/Kansas guitarist Steve Morse to become Blackmore’s permanent successor.
Morse’s arrival revitalised the band creatively, and in 1996 a new album titled Purpendicular was released, showing a wide variety of musical styles, though it never made chart success on Billboard 200 in the US.
Don Airey joined the group in 2001 to prepare for Jon Lord’s looming retierment from Deep Purple. Through the years there have been many shifts in the lineup but the 2012 Deep Purple looks like this.