||Early Morse days||
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The first tour
Deep Purple Mk. 7 made their live debut in Mexico City on November 23, 1994 at the Palacio de los Deportes. Steve Morse had just joined the band after each of the remaining four members individually had put him at the top of their wish list for a new guitarist. An offer had been extended to Steve's manager who got in touch with Steve to ask what he thought of the idea. Steve's immediate reaction was to ask whether Deep Purple had a dresscode. Learning this was not the case, and not being afraid to walk down new musical avenues, Morse thought it would be worth a shot.
The first Deep Purple member Morse met was Roger Glover in late 1994. They met at Ziggy's - a night club in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. [Morse and Glover's part of this photo was taken there and then. The rest of the band was digitally added in later to produce a promotion photo of the new line-up.]
Steve Morse joined Deep Purple for rehearsals in Mexico City a few days prior to the live debut. He later said how very impressed he'd been with the other players' musical abilities. Having come from a radically different musical background, it doesn't come as a surprise that Morse perhaps was a bit surprised with the others' musical skills. Morse had been a DP fan in his younger days, and had played Hush with his brother in one of his first bands. (It was upon Steve's request that Hush was brought back into Deep Purple's live set for the first legs of the Abandon tour in 1998.) However, since the early 70s Morse hadn't been following Purple so he was quite new to most of their material.
A press conference preceded the debut gig where several journalists were asking about Blackmore. Ian Gillan quickly set things straight there and then stating that Ritchie was gone. Morse was asked about how it felt to fill someone else's shoes. Replying, he said: "as far as I'm concerned, Ritchie took his shoes with him when he left."
A tape of Steve Morse's first Deep Purple show clearly includes Ian Gillan introducing the new guitarist - but it also features a band sounding much more coherent than later comments from Morse would have you believe. Words to the effect that he was literally being lead through the songs by Roger Glover are not confirmed by the tape.
Post-show, Morse commented that he had felt great being onstage with the band in front of 15,000 people. The admiration was clearly mutual, and not long after that first night in Mexico City, the band realised the definite potential of the new lineup and asked Steve Morse to join the band as a full time member.
The group performed a further two shows in 1994 - one in Monterey, Mexico and one in Corpus Christi, TX. A few years later at a drum clinic in Stockholm, Ian Paice referred to these very early gigs as try-out affairs. There was an obvious reason for not opting to go for a premier gig at Wembley Arena. Gigging somewhere out in 'Botswana Land' seemed relatively harmless, and the band felt few would notice if it turned out they'd picked the wrong guitarist.
The set list for the Mexico and Corpus Christi shows remained fairly static. Carrying over the set from the European summer tour with Joe Satriani only five months earlier - which itself was an extension of the set from 1993's successful The Battle Rages On tour - the Corpus Christi set list looked like this:
The band then took a break followed by further writing sessions for the Purpendicular album in Orlando, FL. In March 1995 they went out on the road again, opening with two supposedly secret Florida shows at Orlando's Tupperware Centre on March 3, and Fort Lauderdale's Sunrise Musical Theatre on March 4. However, news of the shows had spread through channels hitherto largely unused by Deep Purple fans. Roger Glover returned home from the shows to find his son congratulating him on a couple of shows well done. How did he know? Quite simple - he'd been visiting the then infant alt.music.deep-purple newsgroup where Deep Purple fans had eagerly been discussing the shows, dissecting every detail and reporting on the three new songs performed.
The Fort Lauderdale show spawned the first Mk 7 bootlegs. With highly inventive boot titles like Purple Sunshine, Purple Sunrise and - the best one of the lot - Blackless Morsemania, fans were offered the chance of hearing the new lineup Judging by the recordings, it was a somewhat hesitant affair, but clearly promising much for the future. The Satriani lineup had proven that the band still had much to offer, and Japan had witnessed long shows filled with breathtaking guitar cadenzas from Satriani, strong solos from Lord, and free-flowing banter from a Gillan in his right element. Free from Blackmore's grim stares on The Battle Rages On tour, Gillan and the rest of the band were clearly having a ball. Remaining in strong voice throughout most gigs, Ian was once again the focal point of the shows.
Not unlike his touring days with Kansas, Morse was clearly content with being in the background visually for the early shows, leaning back by his amps, laying down the foundation and adding extra embellishments where possible. Even though he would grow immensely, both musically and visually onstage, his trademark signature sound was there from the beginning. In order to learn the set, Morse had been given tapes of Blackmore's last tour with the band, but he was puzzled as to how he should tackle some of the songs. Blackmore's playing left a lot to be desired in terms of cohesiveness - one minute he was there, playing with extreme fire and passion, the next he was gone. Morse asked the others in the band whether he was supposed to also play nothing when Blackmore was playing nothing on the tapes! Steve was given somewhat free musical reigns to do whatever he felt would suit the songs best.
Songwise the March shows differed from the first gigs a few months earlier. Some songs where shifted around, others were dropped. But most interestingly, three new songs had been added. Ted The Mechanic, Soon Forgotten and Purpendicular Waltz all made their live debut in Florida. It is interesting to hear the first live attempts at these songs.
In particular Soon Forgotten is neat - and it has never been performed live since. What would later become a rather inspiring song on record, the live version was still very much unfinished business. At one point in the song, everything fell apart - a very uncommon feature at Mk 7 gigs. With Gillan singing the chorus, Morse went for the harmonies, which are actually quite disharmonic. Confusion ensues and only Paice holds the song together, with seemingly no one else knowing what to do next. Gillan eventually saves the party by taking the lead with some ad-libbing, ending on a high note with one of those screams. Wonderful stuff. An improvised solo from Steve follows, then into the chorus, and out again, total mayhem, brief duet between Morse and Gillan, back into the riff, followed by a neat Lord solo, back into the riff again (not in unison this time!), Lord comes back, Glover is doing his own thing, and then it all grinds to a halt. Gillan says it all so eloquently post song: "That was Soon Forgotten! Well, we all gotta start somewhere." Indeed. [The officially released recording of this show, Purple Sunshine - part of The Bootleg Series 1984-2000 box set - commits the unforgivable crime of omitting Soon Forgotten and part of Lazy. Keen collectors are advised to seek out the Blackless Morsemania bootleg instead.]
Deep Purple is such an extremely tight unit these days, that the bootlegs of the Sunrise show serve as an interesting souvenir from a short period of time when the band was still feeling their way - still trying to come to terms with each other musically. As for the three songs premiered in Florida, Ted The Mechanic, suited the live setting best to my ears, which probably explains why it's still in the set.
Considering he'd only been playing a few gigs with the band at this stage, Steve Morse did a very good job on the old songs. Although Anya suited Blackmore's style of playing better, it remains one of the highlights of the early Steve Morse shows, as it gave him an exciting extended solo spot. As for Anyone's Daughter, Morse arguably managed to do a better job than Blackmore himself. Outside of Purple, Morse's extensive career also sees him as a superb country guitarist and he knows his funk well. His playing suited Anyone's Daughter perfectly, and I'd like to take the opportunity to suggest that they bring this one back for the upcoming tours. This time around, preferably including an extended solo section devoted to Steve for him to truly show off his chicken picking skills. It could turn into a show-stopper
In terms of actual performance, the rest of the band were rock solid as always, but the star of the Florida shows would have to be Ian Gillan. Partly because of his consistently good singing, but also because he really seemed to be into it displaying numerous Gillanisms. The set list for the Sunrise show was:
Highway Star (encore)
The Florida dates were followed by stadium shows in South Korea and South Africa, before the tour finished in Bombay, India. Both the Korean and the Indian shows were filmed and are now available. The footage from Seoul forms part of the New, Live & Rare DVD/VHS, while the complete Bombay show is out as Bombay Calling - the title referring to the origin of Child In Time (but that's a completely different story).
In many ways 1994-95 was a vitally important period for Deep Purple. It showed a fresh start for the band; they managed to recruit a new full-time guitarist to ensure the band's future; they conducted writing sessions for one of their most interesting albums; they tried out new material live; and they toured countries they had never been to before. With Steve Morse, Deep Purple found the stability they craved, and they began to regain lost ground. Mk 7 was Deep Purple's longest lasting lineup, one which produced great results for seven and a half years.
Now let's see what Mk. 8 with Don Airey come up with!
Photo: John Lonsdale, Bristol 1996.