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That new new guy

Guitar Player magazine profiles the “new new guy” Simon McBride in their October 2023 issue (the one with Nita Strauss on the cover).

When asked if he felt any pressure kicking off Deep Purple’s epic number, Simon had this to say:

At the moment, no. But the first time I did it I was very nervous, because that was with Ian Gillan in front of about 10,000 people. But it’s such a simple riff. The main secret is just giving it the right tempo. Then Don kicks in with the Hammond playing the same thing, Roger kicks in with the bass, and it’s just a wall of power.

Some people overcomplicate the ‘Smoke’ riff by playing it like a guitar player – you know, they throw vibrato and other things into it – but then the riff loses its essence. You just have to keep it simple.

There are plenty of other places in the set for me to try new things. People always ask me, ‘Do you have freedom to improvise in Deep Purple?’ The answer is yes. But there are certain things you just have to play as they were recorded, like Blackmore’s solo on ‘Highway Star.’

It would be very arrogant of me to think that I can do better than that. That’s a brilliant solo. It’s iconic.

The issue (October 2023, #738) can be ordered via magazinesdirect.com.

38 Comments to “That new new guy”:

  1. 1
    Gregster says:


    At last, something from Simon ! Let ’em have it dude !

    Peace !

  2. 2
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Considering the number of times Ritchie fluffed it on the 1972 Japan tour, Simon is doing alright! ; – )

  3. 3
    AndreA says:

    Great! Great! Great!


    Wonderful Gillan! Morse!

  4. 4
    George Martin says:

    Respect for the original Highway Star solo. You got to love that!

  5. 5
    Uwe Hornung says:

    And he hasn’t misplayed the SOTW riff as often as Ritchie on the first Mk II Japan tour in 1972 yet!

  6. 6
    Rock Voorne says:

    First time I encountered an almost full live version of NO RELEASE.

    Heard countless boots, I m almost gone but hey…..I m surprised.


  7. 7
    James Steven Gemmell says:

    That comment by McBride about playing the ‘Smoke” riff simple tells me he’s got a good musical ear. Morse was great, but mucked up the song for many years trying to give it “effect”. You’ve got play it like you’ve got a pair.

  8. 8
    Tony Lind. says:

    Look forward to the upcoming new album with Simon on banjo. Hope it will be a double version this time.

  9. 9
    Uwe Hornung says:

    True, Steve put sometimes too much into it (with the best intentions), the SOTW riff needs to be sparse and terse, with an almost mechanical groove.

  10. 10
    MacGregor says:

    In regards to Blackmore supposedly ‘misplaying’ the smoke riff, he invented it, he can play it how he likes. It is the people who have to play it other than Blackmore that come under the spotlight as such. And woe betide if they don’t get it right. Cheers.

  11. 11
    Henrik says:

    Why don”t they bring in Jürgen Blackmore?

  12. 12
    Svante Axbacke says:

    @11: Why would they do that? Because of the name alone? His playing is lightyears behind any guitar player that has been a member of Deep Purple.

  13. 13
    Uwe Hornung says:

    “Lightyears behind” is an over- or understatement, Svante, Jürgen was technically good to very good and could also emulate the feel of his dad, here at 03:45


    but I understand that healthwise he has not been doing very well for a while now (Lyme borreliosis).

    Whether you want to have the son of your former lead guitarist in your band to play like his dad decades ago is another matter though altogether and it would have been a divisive move by Purple at any given time to make him a member. It would have likely split the fan base as much if not more than getting Steve in.

    While the Purple organisation generally went out of its way to accommodate Jürgen on German DP tours, Ritchie’s treatment of his first son isn’t the most floral chapter in his bio, let’s leave it at that.

  14. 14
    max says:

    @ 13 Very well said, Uwe. From start to finish.

  15. 15
    dave says:

    blackmore fluffed it on purpose messing around in differnt keys to catch other musos out…you prob wont know that unless playing an instrument like me

  16. 16
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Not on the two alternative Tokyo and Osaka nights in 1972, he simply made absent-minded mistakes there because the number – at that point in time not yet the huge hit it later became – was a bit under-rehearsed because no one in the band thought too much of it. Which perfectly ok, Ritchie may make mistakes like anyone else.

    Playing the riff twice in D minor before changing to the correct key in G minor came later – Ritchie started doing that in 1973 on the last tours of Mk II and retained it all through Mk III’s lifespan – it’s what he does on California Jam for instance.

  17. 17
    Gregster says:

    @16…RB would sometimes play the riff to SOTW on the 5th & 6th strings, up on the 10th fret too, just for variety & thumb exercises perhaps…The NYC University gig circa 1973 has him doing this on the famed Sunburst Stratocaster.

    At least he played it right on MH, & got it mostly right with a frisbee, as seen in the encore of “Live Between the Eye’s” gig with Rainbow…

    Even if RB often fluffed the intro riff, there’s never ever a solo played the same way, & they’re all quite interesting in their own way too.

    Peace !

  18. 18
    Uwe Hornung says:

    For the record: Ritchie can of course play the SOTW riff (and way more difficult stuff) faultlessly! And he is also a practical joker and grew to perhaps hold SOTW not in highest regard though there is not another four notes of music that have contributed to his accumulated wealth as greatly as duh-duh-duuuh, dud-dud-duhduuuh, duh-duh-duuuh, duh-duuuh.

    I still think it’s a much better composition than say Mistreated which for the life of me I have always found dreary and underdeveloped. I know that the song means a lot to many guys here, but I actually think it’s the weakest track on Burn (I know that’s weird, hence I admit to it only rarely!). And if push comes to shove, then I probably prefer the early Whitesnake version to both the Purple and the Rainbow one. Coverdale’s singing is the best thing about it and Marsden & Moody at least put some harmony in it, so sorely lacking in the sparsely orchestrated original.

    Minimalism has its place in music, but with Purple I prefer to be more going on musically.

  19. 19
    MacGregor says:

    Mistreated isn’t really classic Purple, I agree there indeed. It is Blackmore’s frustrated Paul Rodgers thing in many ways. Since My Baby left me, etc etc. I do avoid both songs like the plague & have done for many decades. Both SOTW & Mistreated are or were good at the time, but became rather boring much quicker than other gems in the Purple catalogue. The worst song on Burn is that dreadful ‘What’s Goin’ on Here’, a terrible song & a window into what was to become, especially with Glenn Hughes. ‘Lying on the floor I can’t remember my name” yes Glenn, we get it. Or this ‘Roll me over slowly, I’ve been drinkin’ all night, Help me make a move, I can’t stand the light, Wake me, shake me, don’t slam the door, I ain’t been so bad, I just can’t recall”.
    Does it get any worse than that, unfortunately it did. Cheers.

  20. 20
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Horses for courses, I always thought What’s Goin’ On Here a jaunty little tune and Jon’s piano playing lovely on it. Always brings a smile to my face. It’s a bit Mk III’s Demon’s Eye.

    Mistreated rubs me the wrong way for Jon’s extremely, almost session musician-like background-relegated role in it. I never get enough of Jon’s playing.

  21. 21
    George in Ohio says:

    Thank you, Ewe @20! I agree completely regarding Mistreated – the reason I don’t listen to it often is Jon’s diminished role (“session musician-like background” really nails it). Absolutely love Ritchie, but Jon’s playing distinguished Purple from numerous other hard rock bands. “I never get enough of Jon’s playing ” – spot on. Ritchie in many ways was the the meat in MK II, but Jon to me was clearly the seasoning that provides the savory taste.

  22. 22
    George in Ohio says:

    Typo and clarification – “Ritchie provides the meat in Mk 11 AND 111.” Meant to type III instead of II, but it’s true of either Mk.

  23. 23
    Mike Nagoda says:

    I actually really like that Steve embellished the Smoke riff and made it his own, or that he didn’t play the HS solo exactly like Ritchie did – that took guts. I disagree with Simon that playing it differently means you’re trying to do better than Ritchie – it’s called making the riff your own, and putting yourself into it, which is what Steve did. Steve needed to set himself apart from Ritchie, and not be a clone of his, play the music via his own interpretation.

    That gets my respect – I wish Simon did more of the same, tbh. I wish he didn’t feel he has to stick to what Ritchie did so much, branch out, get creative, and bring something fresh to the tune, including *that* riff. DP were always innovating, and prided themselves on *not* being a classic oldies band in the Morse era – I wish they’d return to that ethos – I feel things have gotten too comfortable in the live performances for the last 15 – 20 years, including now with Simon. The energy with Simon is great, but I miss that sense of danger and willingness to improvise and take risks that they had in the 70s with Ritchie, and in the MK 7 lineup with Steve and Jon. Purple, IMO, are always at their best when they buck their own musical traditions and try something new and start taking risks.

  24. 24
    Uwe Hornung says:

    No worries George, it can only be a matter of time until we get to ‘Mk 111’. 😅

  25. 25
    Gregster says:


    Mike said…qt.”The energy with Simon is great, but I miss that sense of danger and willingness to improvise and take risks that they had in the 70s with Ritchie, and in the MK 7 line-up with Steve and Jon. Purple, IMO, are always at their best when they buck their own musical traditions and try something new and start taking risks”.

    There was a gig from South America posted here with a You-Tube link a few months ago now, & the boys delivered everything you’re discussing imo, especially at the end with Hush…

    Check-it-out yo !…The best version yet imo.


    Peace !

  26. 26
    Uwe Hornung says:

    And I am partial to how Tommy played SOTW, I really am. He played it slightly too fast, with a devil may care attitude and a touch of sloppiness always good for rock’n’roll, took all the nastiness and intimidation out of that iconic riff (qualities I generally love about it), locked his right shoulder in with Little Ian’s snare and then turned around to dance/skip daintily and somewhat effeminately into the chorus. Priceless!


    I bet Jan Kuehnemund of Vixen wouldn’t have moved any different to it!


    Bolin’s overt and unperturbed androgynity was really something after Blackmore’s male-macho-moody gunslinger Lee van Cleef image. I believe that Tommy’s lack of acceptance with the male-adolescent denim brigade during the final UK tour had something to do with that. It was a bit much for them. And Dio era Rainbow was then even more musical man-cave’sque.

  27. 27
    Gregster says:

    Uwe said…qt.”Bolin’s overt and unperturbed androgynity was really something after Blackmore’s male-macho-moody gunslinger Lee van Cleef image. I believe that Tommy’s lack of acceptance with the male-adolescent denim brigade during the final UK tour had something to do with that. It was a bit much for them. And Dio era Rainbow was then even more musical man-cave’sque”…

    Possible, but one wonders how many were Bowie or even Queen fans too…Hmm…

    There’s nothing wrong with that take of SOTW, Ian Paice kicks absolute ass throughout, & the soloing from Tommy & John quite good / amazing also ( all things considered )…And thankfully, ( & likely edited out ), no Georgia lol .

    I like Vixon… Wow ! ( Anyone like to guess why ) ???

    Peace !

  28. 28
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Bowie and Queen both had a much larger female audience at any given time. When Freddie came out as gay he broke the hearts of many female Queen fans.

  29. 29
    Uwe Hornung says:

    “I like Vixen… Wow ! ( Anyone like to guess why ) ???”

    Since you seem to be the more cerebral type, lieber Gregster, it must be solely for the music of this once-upon-a-time-opening act of DP, am I right?☝️🧐

    Not being the man who is easily distracted then, but who focuses on the art, I leave you in the capable hands of Ms Lorraine Lewis (coincidentally Vixen’s lead singer in the current line-up):



    (Great percussive 🥁 interlude at o1:08, concentrate on the downbeats!!!)

    Alas!, happiness of my fellow man is all the gratification I strive for.

  30. 30
    Mike Nagoda says:

    @ 25

    Now THAT’s a bit more like it!!!! Thank you for turning me on to this – I think I’d like to see a bit more of that kind of thing in the band! For what it’s worth, I’ve noticed a lot of classic rock bands have taken to playing parts and solos exactly like they are on the record (Judas Priest comes to mind), not just Purple, and have lost that attitude of musical freedom that dominated the 70s.

    The fact that many classic rock bands are treating songs like classical pieces of music or, dare I say it, museum pieces that need to be replicated exactly like the studio recording live is a trend I’m finding concerning. Purple are not the only ones guilty of this – it IS a concerning trend to me… one that I feel needs to be let go of asap!

    If you want to hear the record, go and listen to the record! Why on earth so many bands are becoming tribute acts to their younger selves live is beyond me, but I digress…

  31. 31
    Gregsetr says:

    @29…Uwe said…

    qt.”Since you seem to be the more cerebral type, lieber Gregster, it must be solely for the music of this once-upon-a-time-opening act of DP, am I right”?☝️🧐

    Hmmm…I’m not sure to be quite honest herr Uwe…When I started watching the video, all my blood drained from my brain & into my…

    Peace !

  32. 32
    Uwe Hornung says:

    While we wait for Gregster’s blood pressure to reallocate in a more balanced fashion between ALL vital organs, the remaining adults here can discuss music further: I’m with you Mike, whenever people gush about a concert they’ve seen and then inevitably say “It sounded just like on the record/CD/Spotify!”, my interest wanes. That is why I like going to Bob Dylan gigs because “you never know what you’re gonna get”.


    Judas Priest, though brilliantly named after a Bob Dylan lyric, were never improvisational, and I’ve been a fan since I heard Sin After Sin in 1977. KK Downing was really the only guy in the band with a somewhat laissez-faire attitude in his solos playing live, but Glenn Tipton (great guitarist he is) was hell-bent (pun intended!) on reproducing perfection in his solos night after night after night. He was good at that, Priest were always a very disciplined outfit, but there was little point in watching more than one Priest show per tour, there was almost no variation between different nights.

    But I’m afraid we’re both a dying breed in our willingness to see a live gig as something more/different than just the faithful reproduction of recorded songs. James Hetfield of Metallica said that their live show is by now so much structured, sequenced, synchronized and choreographed that they can only make set-list changes after several days of reprogramming their light show first.

  33. 33
    Mike Nagoda says:


    Sadly Uwe I feel you are right – I should clarify I’m still youngish at 37, and not of the generation that grew up with the Purps in the 70s and longs for the nostalgia of yesteryear because I wish to relive my youth- I think for me, my love of improvised music comes from being a professional musician myself – improvising is in my blood, and sadly it’s become a dying art – then again, there are lots of young talented players where I am in Toronto who are GREAT improvisers – so maybe all is not lost!

    Metallica having their shows so choreographed is not surprising – I feel Purple have become much the same: for the last several decades it’s almost like they have dedicated sections in the music where they go – ok, here’s where we improvise a bit, but not too much – and it feels much too structured, imo.

    I absolutely adore the concert footage from the 70s where you did not know how the song was going to go, because Ritchie was so unpredictable (and so was Jon!) – THAT’s the danger I miss in the band. Steve brought some of it back before things became too organized again in the later half of his tenure, but at least Mk 7 kept things fresh and interesting, I felt. Say what you will of Steve, but you can’t fault him for not being an original, just like Ritchie!

  34. 34
    Gregster says:


    Age doesn’t matter, only appreciation of good music.

    The cost of ticket-prices now-days to see a top-tier-act, also means that you don’t want to see anyone falling-off-a-cliff whilst trying to improvise something new over a tune.

    It can be done well & easy in a jazz-club with friends & a crowd of 150 people, but 5,000+ crowds that have paid over $100:00 for a ticket prefer less mistakes to be heard, & so safe-bet soloing with some small variations are to be warranted at best.

    It’s one thing to take a chance & blow-it, but you also take the rest-of-the-band down with you, & that’s unprofessional & creates bad-press. There’s a limit to how much you can play around, & the band has to be somewhat familiar with the territory you might tread, to keep it all together.

    Even Mk-II in the early days were revisiting familiar territory by the time MiJ was recorded. This makes the even earlier shows better choices for on-the-spot improvisations. Jon was always a sure-bet, as he was a top-tier musician at a very young age, & his improvisations were always awesome, especially when you hear him unstick himself from a self-made trap / accident. RB less so, but he was exciting when going for it, but didn’t have the finesse or knowing of Jon imo.

    Those were the days !

    Peace !

  35. 35
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Jon could emulate Ritchie’s runs, but not vice versa. And a lot of that stuff was actually pre-rehearsed (if not to the last note). Still, in their 20-30 minutes jam-extravaganzas of Mandrake Root, Wring That Neck or Paint It Black (later on: Space Trucking of course), Purple could sometimes achieve collective improvisational bliss though self-adulation for their own technical skills was never too far away. But in the 70ies audiences granted a band that (self-)indulgence. It set Purple apart from the rest of the heavy rock pack, elevated their audience to being something more than just mindless headbangers AND had Purple catch considerable flak from music critics who thought it all a bit too masturbatory – but album sales don’t lie and to me DP’s improvisational character was always something that attracted me to them. Granted, Zep were more esoteric, Sabbath were nastier, Heep had catchier melodies and Quo were more infectious heads-down-boogie, but Purple could jam like none of these bands.

    And yes, Jon was lovely covering his own mistakes! I always enjoyed it when that happened.

    By the time MiJ was recorded, Purple were not so much an improvisational unit anymore, but a well-oiled machine that could confidently deliver the Purple sound with energy, abandon and precision anytime/in their sleep (they had been playing pretty much the same set for 18 months by then). The MiJ performances are a prime lesson in finely tuned and controlled franticness – if there is such a thing!

  36. 36
    Uwe Hornung says:

    I was writing nonsense – 18 months? Less than 8 months more likely, somehow I added another year, but Machine Head only came out late March 1972 and the first Japanese tour was in August that year. Given the amount of gigs they did though, they still had played the set often enough to do it in their sleep by then.

  37. 37
    MacGregor says:

    The art of improvising indeed, it is a fine line. Something coming from nowhere to a train wreck of all proportions. Well that is looking at both ends of the spectrum. I do feel the musicians from that era just wanted to become more sophisticated at what they do, composition wise. Sure there were bands that still carried on for a while, what about that band Henry Cow, improvising is pretty well all they did wasn’t it? The avant-garde artists from wherever they did emerge from, stumbling around, tinkering with this & that, it can be fun but how long does that last. Sure a lot of it with some bands was pre rehearsed, after all they have to ‘know’ when to bring it all together again, a certain cue here or there, a look of surprise or disdain, ha ha ha. All good fun most of the time but how many of the bands that we enjoy look back & and wonder ‘what the hell were we doing there’? It doesn’t matter. it was the 60’s & 70’s after all. I remember hearing some folks talking after witnessing John McLaughlin’s Fourth Dimension band in 2015. Their comments were, ‘it was good, but man they don’t play like they used to’, meaning free form improvising & going out on a limb etc. Look how Pink Floyd changed from the late 60’s into the 1970’s. Personally I find improvising wonderful & there is no better high than creating something from nothing Compared to playing songs all the time, that is good for discipline etc but a tad boring on the other ‘creative’ levels. Evolution indeed. Cheers.

  38. 38
    Gregster says:


    Don’t forget that the boys were playing some tunes that went onto MH 6-months or more prior to its release in 1971…

    And tunes like “Space Truckin'” were always a nod to the 1st few records with the “vamp” at the end…You’ll always hear segments / phrases from Mk-1 tunes within that “anything goes” 15-minutes, depending on what album / bootleg you have, but certainly the “vamp” is what evolved from ” MR,WtN, & PiB”.

    And “You fool no one” was heading in that direction too, with long solo sections which were awesome. This shortened “Space Truckin'”s length, since I think by this time RB was over it, which is tragic, as it’s a great platform to stretch-out differently from, every other might imo…But if you’re not having fun any-more…

    Peace !

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