[% META title = 'Deep Purple, Interviews' %]
Melody Maker, September 11, 1971
Often abused by critics and disc jockeys, Deep Purple have won through during the past two years to become one of this country's top groups. Formed in 1968 by organist Jon Lord and brilliant session guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, their initial success came in America. At that stage the line-up featured current drummer Ian Paice and two others who were to leave the group. These were bassist Nick Simper (currently with Warhorse) and singer Rod Evans.
A year later vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover took over the respective roles.
Last week saw the release of a new Purple album entitled "Fireball" and a British tour is lined up for October.
If anyone takes a back seat in Deep Purple's stage show, it's bassist Roger
Glover. The spotlight rarely shines down on Roger, but without his solid
bass foundations, the soloist up front would totter like new build Spanish
Perhaps more than anyone else, Roger is responsible for the driving sound which Purple rely on to whip up excitement.
He took up bass 11 years ago in a trio where he was considered the worst guitarist of the three, and the one who could do without the two top strings. "I fell in love with the sound of the bass and I've played it ever since, but I never really thought about my bass playing properly until I joined Deep Purple."
In 1965 Roger quit Hornsey College of Art in favor of a professional music
career with Episode Six. Combining college with playing in a group five
nights a week didn't work. Ian Gillan was the vocalist in Episode Six, and
when Ian went for an audition to join Purple, Roger went too. He did a
session in a studio with Purple, turned down an invitation to join but
changed his mind the following day and accepted.
"I felt very awkward at first because I was very aware of the previous bass player's presence. I was signing copies of the group's album which had Nick's face on it."
Roger has strong opinions about the bass player's role in a group. "There are very few people who can make a bass guitar into a lead guitar - McCartney and Jack Bruce can - but a bass player should be an anchor man and stand back to let someone else get the glory. I have come to terms with it. The singer and the lead guitarist get all the glory. There is always one person who is last and that is usually the bass player."
"It is a sad thing because most of the people don't realize just how important the bass player is. Deep Purple is a difficult group to play bass for because there is so much happening all the time. I have to be very careful what I am playing because I could easily mess up someone's solo. I have to work closely with Ian (Paice) to keep it tight otherwise it would just become a loud mess. We are a loud band the last thing we want is to become a loud mess. There's nothing worse than that."
Illness may force Roger to retire from the group within the next 12 months, although he hopes this will not happen. If it does, he is assured a job as their producer - for producing is what Roger intends to do when Deep Purple are no more.
Jon Lord, the Cristianlike figure who towers over a decaying Hammond organ, is the veteran of Deep Purple. A founder member of the group, he had been in the music business for several years before Purple was ever dreamed of. Jon first started playing piano at the age of nine. He studied piano through school, took the Royal College of Music External Examination and came to London to study at drama school. Here he started listening to jazz.
"In about 1961 I heard Jimmy Smith playing 'Walk On The Wild Side' and from
then on I was enraptured by the organ. I couldn't buy one but I got really
interested in Hammonds."
"I left the drama college but never got any work as an actor because I didn't want to leave London. For two years I did virtually nothing until I joined an band called Red Bludd's Bluesicians, an experimental blues group which amalgamated with a singer called Art Wood."
Art Wood - brother of Faces guitarist Ronnie Wood - formed the Art Wood
Combo with Jon on organ and this later became the Artwoods which lasted for
"We made eight singles, one of which was a minor hit, one album. Keef Hartley was the drummer and he was first to leave. I left in 1967, not because I was dragged down by them, but because my goal was to form my own band in which I would have more says in than the Artwoods.
"I had also discovered classics but I couldn't fit any into the Artwood's music. I had nothing to go to and for eight or nine months I did not work apart from the few sessions to pay the bills.
"I joined the Flowerpot Men's backing group and met Nick Simper, the original Purple bass player, and Ritchie Blackmore. At the time we all had a lot in common, much more than we have now."
Jon was the prime mover behind Purple's "Concerto For Group And Orchestra,"
a step in their career which made them known on a wide scale.
"We thank our lucky stars that it came off well," says Jon. "It received a lot of publicity, and people started talking about the group. Controversy is never really a bad thing and in our case it was a turning point. It was a great morale booster to see the Albert Hall packed. We didn't even know f it was going to work because the rehearsals had been disaterous."
The BBC commissioned Jon to write another one - the "Gemini Suite" - which was performed by the group last year.
Jon's favorite organist is Keith Emerson, a close friend. He also admires and Tony Kaye, who left Yes two weeks ago. He is currently negotiating the writing of two filmscores and considering an album of his own songs.
At the age of 10 someone gave Ian Paice a violin. He couldn't play it
properly so he turned it upside down and started hitting it. The result was
much better. Now he occupies the drumseat in Deep Purple and if his current
drum style is anything to go by, that old violin can't have had a long
"I flogged the violin and found a tom-tom and some old biscuits tins. Then I hit them again and again," he told me.
"Eventually I bought a kit for 32 pound and went round accompanying my father who was a pianist playing waltzes and quicksteps. It was a wee bit insipid but it was a start."
Ian has played with Purple since their inception in 1968, although his
first meeting with Ritchie Blackmore was years before then. His first group
was called Georgie and the Rave-Ons, who later changed their name to the
Shindigs, and his first pro job was with a Windsor band called the MI5, who
later became the Maze.
"I met Ritchie on a boat on the way to Italy in 1967, then we bumped into each other again at the Star Club in Hamburg where he was living at the time. He wanted me to join with him then but I couldn't because I needed the money my band was earning.
"I made a real enemy of him because of that and used to cross the road if ever I saw him coming down the same street. Then in 1968 I went for an audition for Deep Purple and there he was again. Apparently he had been trying to find me but couldn't. They just hoped I'd see the ad in the paper and I did. I took along our vocalist, Rod Evans, and he got the job as Purple's singer.
"At the time I joined I had a feeling that this band was going to make it. There was a will in the band to work hard and not sit around doing nothing."
Talk about drummers to Ian and there's just one name he'll drop - Buddy
Rich. "I like people who show off and he's the greatest at that. In the
rock world there are so many good drummers it would be unfair to name any.
There are so many frightening, but it keeps up your standard to know
there's someone else around who's just as good.
"I didn't think I'd had any major influences until about four months ago. Then I realized I was doing what the west coast session drummers do and just make nice sounds. It was then I lost the hang-up of trying to be busy all the time. I lost the idea that I wanted to be the fastest and loudest around. At one time I was playing one long drum solo from the start to the end of a number. I wanted to dominate the whole band and have people say oh look at the drummer.
"Now I just keep a nice beat and try to fill in the breaks with incredibly tasty bits like the west coast men. It's far better.
"Purple is a very demanding band to drum for. They are a loud band and it makes you play hard all the time. It's no good turning down at all.
Physically it's difficult because Roger (Glover) and I have to hold it all together. Roger is really the anchor man. I am a lot more flamboyant."
I asked what part Ian played in the group's writing. "I contribute nothing lyrically or melodically, I just suggest rhythms and arrangements and in any type of music the arrangement is important. It's always a five way thing for us."
If there's an odd man out in Deep Purple, then that is Ritchie Blackmore, the fiery guitarist with a temper that lets fly on stage and snarls at an audience like a starving alsatian guarding a building site.Moody, violent, arrogant and distinctly unsatisfied with his job in the group. That's Ritchie, who defies his critics with bland statements like "I've been playing a long time and I can play the ass off most guitarist around today. I know I can."
Ritchie was doing sessions work for Heinz and, because he needed the cash, he went on the road with him despite a dislike for the kind of music he was playing. "I went with him on pantonimes and summer seasons. It was terrible. The I went with Lord Sutch for a time."
The invitation to join Purple came when Ritchie was in Hamburg. The group was originally to be managed by Chris Curtis, former drummer with the Searchers, but that fell through. "But I knew there was something going on and Jon (Lord) was a great organist so I joined."
Ritchie's violent style is often criticized as flash and over extrovert.
"I'm your original angry young man. I know I am. Basically I can't get
across what I want to get across and I get very frustrated. I like leaping
about and sure, I like to show off too. Why not? I think people want to see
something. They want to sense an atmosphere. They want to go home and
remember something visual.
"You've got to be careful otherwise you can look a right idiot. It's taking a big change jumping around because if it goes wrong you look daft. It's much harder to play a guitar when you are throwing it around. I think it adds to the music but I play slightly worse when I am doing it. "I am pretty conceited about my playing. I know I am much better than most people but I can't get it across. People who say the leaping about is to cover up musical inadequacies are talking rubbish. I know I play the ass off most guitarists. I just like jumping around."
How about smashing guitars? "I smash a guitar because I want to smash it. It excites an audience and they will go away talking about it. I try not to do it too much because it's been done before by Townshend and Hendrix."
Most lead singers ten to be the figurehead of their respective groups. With
Ian Gillan things are different. He has to compete against the talents of
Blackmore and Lord, whose extrovert antics often leave him waiting at the
side of the stage for the next verse.
He admits to feeling a bit fed up about the lengthy solos at times but unselfishly points out than not many bands have to such virtuosos in their band.
Ian's singing career started 11 years ago when he decided at 15 that he
wanted to be famous. Casting politics aside he formed a rockgroup called
Jess Thunder and the Moonshiners. Ian was Jess and the Moonshiners changed
their line-up once every few months, and eventually altered their names to
"Next to Purple they were the most exciting band I have played with. The I left to join a group which I thought had a recording contract. They were called Wainwright's Gentlemen and the contract turned out to be an audition which we failed. That group spawned a lot of other players into various ventures which are still doing. Lots of people filtered through the band. "After that I joined Episode Six which had Mick Underwood playing drums. He's played with Ritchie before in the Outlaws and he introduced me to him when Deep Purple were looking for a new singer. I felt absolutely elated at joining Purple. When I first heard them I had never been moved musically so much in my life.
"With Episode Six it was making commercial things all the time. At the time Deep Purple were the greatest band I could join. It made me realize I ha to work much harder than I had ever worked before. It's very important to feel you are contributing a valid part to what is going on and I really tried to contribute. I am usually a bit of a dreamer and a hard person to work with."
Ian is responsible for the words to the Purple songs. "When I am singing I
tend to make up the tune as I go along. What I have to do is sing a song
over a very exciting piece of music, which is difficult.
"Some nights I feel I want to sing for hours and hours, and those nights I get fed up with the long solos and instrumentals. We don't plan things. People like Jon and Ritchie just play what they want to play. If Ritchie wants to play a 150-bar solo he'll play it and no one will stop him. Extended solos are a drag when they are all worked it beforehand."
Aside from Deep Purple, Ian took the singing role of Christ in the album of the rock opera "Jesus Christ Superstar' which, although a comparative failure in this country, is amazingly successful in America. "I did some sessions at Island and Olympic and forget about it for a while. Now it will probably do about 50 million pounds worth of business in the States in various forms."
Deep Purple's recording career began in 1968, with the release of their first album "Shades Of Deep Purple," which included their single hit "Hush," which reached number five in the US charts but never made the British top 50.
On Parlophone in this country, it contains "Mandrake Root," until recently a number included in Purple's stage act and a version of "Hey Joe" which Hendrix was to have a huge hit with. Purple's version is worth a listen, as well interesting versions of the Beatles' "Help" and Skip James' "I'm So Glad," both of which are on the same album.
In June, 1969, came their second album "The Book Of Taliesyn," which was another hit in America. Two tracks, Neil Diamonds, "Kentucky Woman" and the classic "River Deep, Mountain High," were released as singles in the States. The instrumental "Wring That Neck," an integral part of the group's live act, is on the album, albeit barely recognizable and five times shorter than their live version. A second flirtation with Lennon and McCartney comes with a heavy version of "We Can Work It Out' and Jon Lord brings in strings for the first time on one track "Anthem."
Their third album, titled simply "Deep Purple" and released on Harvest in September 1969, was the last with vocalist Rod Evans (last heard of in Los Angeles forming a band with two members of the old Iron Butterfly) and bassist Nicky Simper (currently playing with Warhorse). It is the first to reveal real traces of the current band's sound, with heavy riffs dominating most of the songs. The longest track "April" sees Jon arranging string and woodwind in classical fashion.
So it comes as no surprise that their next album was the much talked about "Concerto For Group And Orchestra" recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in September, 1969, and released four months later. Ian Gillan and Roger Glover had joined the group by this time.
Purple's first rock album with the new line-up "Deep Purple In Rock" proved a monster success and finally established the group as a top attraction in Britain. Released in June last year, it stayed for over a year and even now hovers around the 30 mark. It features the electric "Speed King" and the sensitive "Child In Time," both favorites from the group's live act.
A track recorded at the same time as "Deep Purple In Rock," but left off the album, was released as a single which several months later reached number two in the single charts. This was "Black Night," the group's only real single success in the UK. "Strange Kind of Woman," released as a follow-up single, only reached number 15 in the MM single charts. Their latest album "Fireball," released only a week ago and reviewed fully in last week's MM, continuous in the same direction as "In Rock." Musically it is less frantic, but there is little doubt that it will be a monster seller.
Chris Charlesworth is the author of "Deep Purple - An Illustrated Biography".