What's the state of Deep Purple now?

Deep Purple, with their new guitar player Steve Morse, released their new album "Purpendicular" in February 1996. They have been more or less constantly touring ever since. After a turbulent period from 1989-1993, including the firing of Ian Gillan, the invatation for Gillan to rejoin, and finally Ritchie Blackmore calling it a day, the band now oozes with newfound vitality and musical confidence. Here's the full story, starting with the recording of The Battle Rages on... in 1992...

Last updated on August 22, 1996

After heavy pressure from various sources (most notably the rest of the band), Ritchie Blackmore was forced to take back Ian Gillan as Deep Purple's vocalist in the Autumn of 1992. The re-reunited Deep Purple Mk II recorded The Battle Rages On..., which actually is quite good. It was released in July (Europe) and August (USA) 1993. The proposed July US Tour was cancelled for unknown reasons, officially because the album was delayed there. But "low sales" probably is a more likely explanation.

The European tour started in Italy in September 1993, and as reviews started to reach us on alt.rock-n-roll.classic (where the Deep Purple discussions at times overwhelmed the newsgroup, and eventually led to the forming of alt.music.deep-purple), it looked like we were in for a treat. I got to see them in Oslo, Norway on 15. November 1993 myself, and it was a very enjoyable show, with Ritchie in particularily good form and mood. I felt that I got at least a glimpse of what Deep Purple had been like in the early Seventies, something which can't be said about most of the reunion shows up till this point. Although they certainly had their bum nights, too - the show at the Birmingham NEC got a particularily unfavourable response. Unfortunately, this was the only concert that was filmed during the tour. The cost of the recording forced the record company to release it despite the flaunts, as the video Come Hell or High Water.

On 17. November 1993 the tour ended in Helsinki, Finland. And this seems to be it as far as Mark II goes; the same day they played here in Oslo, news reached us on alt.rock-n-roll.classic that Ritchie Blackmore was to quit. It seemed unbelievable after I'd seen the show, with Blackmore in better form than for ages, but it turned out to be true.

Ritchie leaves

The day after the show, a Norwegian paper printed an interview with Ian Gillan where he confirmed that Blackmore was to leave. Reasons being that the whole band had found the good friendship they had back in '69, except for Blackmore, who travelled separately from the others, stayed by himself... And it's also well known that Ian Gillan and Ritchie Blackmore aren't on too good terms on the personal level. The first mention of Blackmore leaving, on BBC Radio Sunday 14. November 1993, said Blackmore didn't want to tour any longer, and that he had plans outside Deep Purple for 1994.

In an interview with Finnish magazine "Rumba", done on the day Ritchie left: Roger Glover said:

RUMBA: Deep Purple has managed to work only because the others have done what Ritchie Blackmore wants to?

- Yes, and that's why Ritchie plays his last concert in Deep Purple today. The last ten years we've been faking the band democracy. We never said it, although we all knew it very well, that resisting Ritchie's will would lead into big trouble.
Interview courtesy of Jari Tapio Tomppo.

Ritchie had given each of them a letter two weeks earlier, telling what he was miscontent with, and stating that the concert on the 17. November 1993 would be his last. After the concert in Rotterdam, he had torn up his Japanese visa in front of the rest of the band, stating that he'd leave them before the Japanese tour. He even told the roadies they were fired, as his imagination seemed to rule out the possibility of Deep Purple doing the Japanese gigs without him. The tickets for the Japanese tour had already been on sale for a long time when this happened.

Satriani steps in - in Japan

They didn't want to cancel the Japanese tour, and their management contacted Joe Satriani, asking him if he could help them out on the Japanese dates. It seems that the Japanese promoter, Mr. Udo, was the person to first mention Satriani, as he said they'd have to get another first rate player as replacement. Deep Purple played several dates in Japan in the beginning of December 1993, with Joe Satriani. They played all days from 2. December to 8. December, except the 4.

Joe Satriani had been given a live tape from the European tour, and learned the set from that. They all met for the first time on the airport in Tokyo, had one rehearsal - and everything worked out so good that they later could concentrate on learning a few new songs instead of rehearsing more!

According to Juntaro in Japan, who caught four of the shows with Satriani, they were quite enjoyable. They even lasted for a massive 140 minutes, with old faves like Maybe I'm a Leo, Pictures of Home and When a Blind Man Cries added to the show.

(These are typical numbers that Ian Gillan and the others had wanted to do, while Ritchie Blackmore had vetoed them out of the show, sticking to the old Made in Japan setlist for choice of classics.)

Deep Purple continues - with Satriani

The first indication we got about Purple continuing with Satriani, came from Scott A Holman, who spoke with a spokesman for the record company early in February, and learned that Purple was going on the road again with Satriani.

Later Colin Irwin got news from Simon Robinson that Purple would indeed be touring with Satriani again, with dates for Japan being set up first. But it was unsure whether they would record, as their commercial standing was rather shakey.

The Australasian dates were first postponed till the Autumn, but were later dropped altogether.

Successful European summer tour

But Deep Purple did tour Europe during the summer of 1994.

The reviews we got in from the live dates in Europe with Satriani was mostly very favourable. Most of the negative remarks were about the sound mix. Satriani was too high in the mix at some gigs.

I saw them in Gothenburg, Sweden on the 11. June, and it was a fantastic show. The band sounded incredibly fresh and together, playing the classics with the energy they had in the Seventies.

Minus points: No UK dates on the tour. US fans were also pretty frustrated, as the last time Deep Purple played there were eight dates with Joe Lynn Turner on vocals in 1991.

Joe Satriani: "I'd like to stay in Deep Purple forever"

Here's exerpts of an interview with Satriani in the German magazine MetalStar. This explains much of what happened:

Was it your idea to join DP?

- No, after the band asked Ritchie to leave [??? He sure left on his own accord! - Trond], Bruce Payne and Mr. Udo (Japanese promoter) had this idea and phoned my management.

Did you accept immediately?

- I asked for a few days to think about it. I thought this must be a rather dramatic change for the audience. But after one hour thinking I phoned back and accepted. I was afraid they would have changed their mind meanwhile. But the band was still interested, strange enough. And then I met them, very nice and friendly, with a huge musical background and interested in new music, new stiles, new sounds!

Weren't you afraid that your solo-career would be negatively affected?

- In fact, the offer came right in time. I had finished some studio work and hadn't been on tour for quite a long time. And in the end DP are part of my "roots". Already when being a teenager I listened to their music.

How long do you intend to remain in the band?

- Preferably for ever! On the other hand we have a very strange contract situation at the moment, concerning the recording of new albums. Very complicating! But if it's true what Roger says, then the band wishes to keep me as a permanent member. This would my biggest wish, too! That's what I like!

- I was always a kind of an anarchist, especially when it came to my image. We prefer to say "forget the past - let's discover new things as a band!"
Thanks to Thomas Zeltwanger for translating the interview.

But the contractural problems would remain unsolved. Joe Satriani eventually left to record his next solo album. Fans says the stay in Deep Purple shows on the album - especially one song is very reminiscent of When a Blind Man Cries. He did state that he would be guesting on the next Deep Purple album, but this didn't happened. Roger Glover was asked to guest on Joe's album, but was too busy making Purpendicular at the time. Joe Satriani allegedely guests on Ian Gillan's upcoming solo album Dreamcatcher, though.

Steve Morse enters the scene

News soon reached us that one Steve Morse would be the guitarist on the short tour in October/November for New Zealand and Australia. Morse is best known for his work with the Dixie Dregs, and his own Steve Morse Band, but has also recorded two albums with Kansas. Inbetween it all, he's been voted "Best guitar player" in the magazine Guitar Player five years in a row, thus earning a lifetime award.

Eventually no concert promotor would handle them in Australia, so they ended with just two dates in New Zealand, which again would end up being cancelled due to low sales.

But Deep Purple played their first gigs with Steve Morse on guitar in Mexico in November 1994, and finally one in Corpus Christi, Texas, USA on the 26. November 1994 - incidentally alt.music.deep-purple's first "birthday"! :-) Reports from that gig indicated that they'd found a good replacement again.

A live album from the 1993 tour, titled Come Hell or High Water was released on the 24. October 1994 - along with a live video. The live album has not been released in the US. The Japanese CD has two bonus tracks. The album was compiled by the record company, with little or no input from the band, who seems to object to the song selection. "Surely The Battle Rages on should have been on it," Roger Glover said at one point.

The video is from the concert at the Birmingham NEC on 9. November - apparently a weak show from all reports we've had in, with Ritchie in a bad mood, not entering the stage before he was supposed to play the solo in Highway Star. Nonetheless - most fans seem to enjoy this video, Ritchie's childish behaviour aside. The camera work and sound quality is great.

New album recorded with Morse

Well, after a turbulent year for Deep Purple, it looked like 1995 would be more constructive. Deep Purple - with the Ian Gillan - Roger Glover - Jon Lord - Steve Morse - Ian Paice - lineup, is entered the studios in Florida in January, and recorded what eventually turned out to be "Purpendicular". In an interview with Swedish paper Aftonbladet in December 1994, Ian Gillan claimed that Roger Glover and Ian himself had already written 30 new songs.

After spending some time in the studio, the band took to the road again in March and April, testing out a couple of new songs as they went along. Ted the Mechanic, Soon Forgotten and The Purpendicular Waltz were played at two gigs in Florida, and Deep Purple went for a short tour in India, South Korea and South Africa after this. One of the South Korean gigs were shown on TV there, and Jon, Roger and Steve did a unplugged session for a South African radio station. Around this time Roger Glover discovered the newsgroup alt.music.deep-purple, and even contributed a little, thus giving us a unique way of acquiring news about the band. Jon Lord soon appeared as well.

The recording of the album was finished during the Autumn of 1995. The release of the album was eventually postponed until February 1996, with an April 1996 US release date. The reception amongst the fans has mainly been highly positive. The following European tour(s) have received even more exstatic reviews. The Summer tour saw them playing in Russia for the first time. The long suffering Russian fans gave them a warm welcome, and the show was later shown on Russian TV. The Summer tour ended at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July, with a gig to celebrate the 25 year anniversary for the writing of "Smoke on the Water" in that Swiss town.

The band seemingly will continue touring to promote the album well into 1997.

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