One of the
longest-lived hard rock bands in music, Deep Purple made its
influence known on metalheads and prog-rockers alike.
It all started in
1968 when Chris Curtis, an ex-Searcher, formed a group with Dave
Curtiss (no relation, note different spelling) on bass, Bobby
Woodman-Clarke on drums and brought in ex-Artwoods organist Jon
Lord (born 9 June 1941, Leicester, England) and ex-Johnny Kidd
and The Pirates bassist, Nick Simper (born 3 November 1946,
Southall, Middlesex). Nick had survived the car crash that had
killed Johnny Kidd in 1966. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore (born 14
April 1945, Weston-super-Mare, England) joined in rehearsals for
this new act initially dubbed Roundabout. Curtis dropped out
within days, and when Dave and Bobby also proved incompatible,
two members of Maze, Rod Evans (born 19 January 1945, Edinburgh,
Scotland; vocals) and Ian Paice (born 29 June 1948,
Nottinghamshire; drums), replaced them.
the Deep Purple name (apparently inspired by Ritchie's
grandmother's favorite song) following a brief Scandinavian tour
in April 1968 (where they played as Roundabout, "in case
they flopped"), the quintet began recording their debut
album, which they patterned on USA group Vanilla Fudge.
"Shades of Deep Purple" thus included dramatic
rearrangements of well-known songs, including a faithful cover
of Hendrix's version of "Hey Joe" and the Joe
South-penned, Billy Joe Royal hit "Hush", the latter
hitting US #4 in 1968 but not troubling the UK chart-compilers
ensued as the group, all but ignored at home, steadfastly
courted the burgeoning American concert circuit. "The Book
Of Taliesyn" and "Deep Purple" albums also
featured several excellent reworkings, notably "Kentucky
Woman" (Neil Diamond) and "River Deep Mountain
High" (Ike And Tina Turner). The lengthy intro section to
"River Deep" was a dramatic work-out of the theme from
the then recently released Stanley Kubrick sci-fi classic film
"2001: A Space Odyssey". This piece was based on
Richard Strauss' "Thus Spake Zarathustra" and Jon
Lord's classical leanings would soon culminate in a
self-composed full-length work performed at the Royal Albert
Hall in September 1969.
The band also
drew acclaim for their original material and the dramatic
interplay between Lord and Blackmore. In concert these
guitar/organ duels could go on for over 20 minutes!
In July 1969 both
Evans and Simper were axed from the line-up, which was then
buoyed by the arrival of Ian Gillan (born 19 August 1945,
Hounslow, Middlesex, England; vocals) and Roger Glover (born 30
November 1945, Brecon, Wales; bass) from the pop group Episode
Six. Acknowledged by aficionados as the "classic" Deep
Purple line-up (forever onwards known as Mark II), the reshaped
quintet made its album debut on the grandiose "Concerto For
Group And Orchestra", scored by Lord and recorded with the
London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold (later
Its hard rock
successor, "In Rock", established the group as a
leading heavy metal attraction and introduced such enduring
favorites as "Speed King" and "Child In
Time." Gillan's powerful silver-throated vocals brought a
third dimension to their sound and this new-found popularity in
the UK was enhanced when the single, "Black Night"
reached number 2. "Strange Kind Of Woman" followed it
into the Top 10 (reaching #8 in Feb 1971), while
"Fireball" and "Machine Head" both topped
the album charts. The latter included the riff-laden "Smoke
On The Water", based on a real incident involving Frank
Zappa and The Mothers and an infamous Montreaux concert.
platinum-selling "Made In Japan" captured their live
prowess in full flight, relations within the band grew
increasingly strained, and "Who Do We Think We Are!"
would be the end of this highly successful line-up. The
departures of Gillan and Glover robbed Deep Purple of an
expressive frontman and imaginative arranger, although David
Coverdale (born 22 September 1949, Saltburn-by-the-Sea,
Lancashire, England; vocals) and Glenn Hughes (born 21 August
1952, Penkridge, Staffordshire; ex-Trapeze, bass & vocals)
brought a new impetus to the act. "Burn" and "Stormbringer"
both reached the Top 10, but Blackmore grew increasingly
dissatisfied with the group's direction and in May 1975 left to
form Rainbow. US guitarist Tommy Bolin (born 1 August 1951,
Sioux City, Idaho), formerly of the James Gang and who had
impressed Coverdale with his playing on Billy Cobham's
"Spectrum", joined Deep Purple for "Come Taste
The Band", but his jazz/soul style was incompatible with
the group's heavy metal sound, and a now-tiring act folded in
1976 following a farewell UK tour.
Bolin died of a
heroin overdose within months of Purple's demise. Judicious
archives and 'best of' releases kept the group in the public
eye, as did the high profile enjoyed by its several ex-members.
Successful off-shoot bands include Whitesnake, Rainbow and
Gillan. Pressure for a reunion bore fruit in 1984 when Gillan,
Lord, Blackmore, Glover and Paice (the original Mark II)
completed "Perfect Strangers". A whole new generation
of fans discovered Deep Purple through this release and
subsequent US, Japanese and European tour. A second album,
"The House Of Blue Light", followed, but recurring
animosity between Gillan and Blackmore resulted in the singer's
departure following the disappointing live album "Nobody's
Perfect" which included a 1988 rehearsal re-working of
their first hit "Hush".
Joe Lynn Turner,
one of Blackmore's many Rainbow vocalists, joined and gave the
band more of an AOR (Adult-Orientated Rock) direction. After a
disappointing Slaves & Masters album released in 1990
(though Fire In The Basement is classic 70s Purple), better
sense prevailed. Gillan was re-admitted for his third stint,
uncomfortably sharing stage and studio with Blackmore. The
line-up remained stable while the band recorded "The Battle
Rages On" album released in 1993, but Blackmore jumped ship
once more during the tour that followed. The tour was completed
courtesy of US guitar whizzkid Joe Satriani. Contractual
obligations however, meant his tenure could only be short-term
and Purple hurriedly enlisted Steve Morse (ex-Kansas, Dixie
Dregs, The Steve Morse Band, et al) (born 28 July 1954,
Hamilton, Ohio) as his replacement to record Purpendicular
released early in 1996.
Setting off on
tour again, they took a fresh look at their 70s repertoire; tour
highlights were captured on the "Live at the Olympia"
CD (1997) with forgotten favorites jostling for position against
new material from the "Purpendicular" set. Suddenly
they felt they could have fun again, and the concerts were
enlivened by dropping old faves like "Lazy" and
"Space Truckin'" in favour of new material and songs
from the back catalogue that had seldom if ever been played
(such as "Bloodsucker", "No One Came" and
"Rat Bat Blue").
"Abandon" album had all the classic rock attitude,
nasty guitars, pounding drums and driving bass to scratch that
R.O.C.K. itch. The album included a brilliant reworking of
"In Rock"'s "Bloodsucker" (retitled "Bludsucker")
and the Floydish-style "Watching The Sky" amongst
other driving rock tracks.
In 1999 Deep
Purple had a very successful tour of Australia and Europe. The
Legend marches on...