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As valid as anything by Beethoven

An interview with Jon Lord, published at a critical point in Purple history. It first appeared in New Musical Express on March 17, 1973 — weeks after the release of Made in Japan and Who Do We Thing We Are, yet mere weeks before Mark 2 imploded. One can not help but wonder, did he know at the time that IG had already submitted his resignation?

Who do Purple think they are?

In context, we`re as valid as anything by Beethoven.
Jon Lord talks to Keith Altham.

SO HERE I AM, ensconced in Jon Lord’s music room, attempting to find out just who Deep Purple think they are — if you’ll pardon the pun on their new album.

Following a few recent performances, there seems to exist an ill-considered critical opinion that the answer is that Deep Purple are five maniacal egotists trying to blow each other off the stage?

“I really don’t think that is fair criticism,” says Lord.

“We do a drum solo like most bands because we’ve got a fine drummer, and like to show him off. I do an organ solo at the beginning of ‘Lazy’, which was on the record anyway and was how the song grew.

“It would have been truer of the group some years ago when I did that 20-minute organ solo, although it never seemed to bore anyone when it was fresh and new.

“It only became boring and self-indulgent when I lost the need to go on for 20 minutes and the band realised we didn’t need to play two hours to please people. Now we play for about one hour-twenty and have a much more contained programme.

“If I slip a bit of Bach or something into my work, it’s not in order to impress people with the fact that I know a bit about classical music. It does not matter to me if they don’t recognise it either as long as it is enjoyable to me and the audience.

“That’s how I build a solo now — so that it is enjoyable to me on an emotional basis. There’s no reason why other influences should come into your playing. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a musical vacuum anyway.

“We’ve not had enough time to consider if there was another way to go — we’ve probably moved sideways. The songs have got better but the sound is much the same, and it seems silly to change a successful format until you have time to come up with a better one.

“I think Ian, Ritchie and myself would like to introduce a little more delicacy in certain areas – become a little less frantic.

“In June we are going to come to a full stop for three or four months because we are all shattered after two years without any real break in our activities. That will give us a chance to formulate some new ideas and reorganise our thinking on the band. It will also give us the chance of a good holiday.”

Read the whole thing in My Things – Music history for those who are able to read.

Many thanks to Geir Myklebust for his continuing efforts to digitize rock’n’roll history.



17 Comments to “As valid as anything by Beethoven”:

  1. 1
    Leslie Hedger says:

    IMHO, the greatest Musician to ever play Rock and Roll! It’s too bad Purple MKII couldn’t decide to take 8 months off after the Japanese shows in 1973 after Gillan gave his notice to leave the band to get him to stay and take time off to give time for band members to record solo albums or just rest then get back together in Feb 1974 to start work on a new album and have MKII perform at Cal Jam. I love MKIII but nothing tops MKII IMHO.

  2. 2
    MacGregor says:

    Another gem of an interview with Jon Lord. Looking at those NME covers & news stories, Bowie, Focus, Tull supported by the Robin Trower band. Those were the days indeed. Oh & the Purple article of course. Deep Purple certainly did move into a less ‘frantic’ era immediately after this, well soon after. Did Blackmore get to do the solo trio thing he was mumbling on about? Well we know he didn’t, however that Rainbow was certainly beginning to appear on the horizon. When was it that Elf opened for DP, probably the tour coming up that Lord mentioned. Or maybe they already had supported them previously. Cheers.

  3. 3
    Ole Jacobsen says:

    Fun to practice early archeology (50 years back in time) 🙂

  4. 4
    James Steven Gemmell says:

    Of course, Lord knew about Gillan’s resignation. The letter was written in an Ohio hotel room in September ’72 and mailed in October of that year. The interviewed had to have been conducted months after that. And the article wasn’t published “mere weeks” before Gillan and Glover’s departures from Purple, but more than three months ahead of that.

  5. 5
    Uwe Hornung says:

    “One can not help but wonder, did he know at the time that IG had already submitted his resignation?”

    Huh?

    From what I read even as far back as in the Chris Charlesworth DP bio in the early 80ies, Ian Gillan handed in his resignation to the DP management A YEAR BEFORE HE LEFT, i.e. already in the summer of 1972. The DP management being what it was, they might have held that back from the band for a few weeks, but by the time Roger was told that his services were no longer required, if Ritchie was to stay in the band, everyone must have known.

    Glenn had been monitored and chased by Blackmore, Lord and Paice for a year (i.e. also beginning already in 1972) – they would show up at various Trapeze gigs individually “coincidentally” – before they broke the offer to him that he could join DP in NYC in April 1973.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M37Qt2MSd2o

    There is not a doubt in my mind that Jon long knew in March 1973 that Mk II was fast becoming history. Ian Gillan was by then travelling separately from the rest of the band (plus cutting his hair shorter and growing a beard knowing that Ritchie hated beards with him), Roger felt (and actually was) rejected and deep into depression because of it.

    Last but not least, Ritchie and Little Ian had already been moonlighting with Phil Lynott in the aborted Baby Face.

    I’ve never heard that anybody from the band actively tried to coax Big Ian back into DP after he had handed in his resignation. Ritchie wanted Paul Rodgers and even John Lawton (Lucifer’s Friend/Les Humphries Singers) was invited to a session in London with DP sans Big Ian when Roger still believed he had a role in the band (Lawton turned the invitation down, not knowing that DP were in search of a new lead singer and wanted to check him out – he had a gig with the Les Hunphries Singers and needed the money, but the postman rang twice for him a few years later when Uriah Heep hired him).

    It’s a well-known fact that by the sessions for WDWTWA in the summer of 1972 at the latest, DP were no longer a cohesive whole – and the press had gotten wind of that. Ian “ruined” a Blackmore composition in the eyes and ears of Ritchie when he recorded a vocal melody to Painted Horse that refused to conform to expectations – that is why the song was shelved.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ro_pznhkiAQ

    And re the assertion that DP relied too much on extensive soloing in the early 70ies – I think the virtuoso image DP (rightly) had was a key component of their brand and what set them apart from other hard rock bands. Led Zep had one virtuoso (Jimmy Page), The Who one (John Entwistle), Black Sabbath one (Tony Iommi), UFO one (Michael Schenker). Purple was the only hard rock band with two equally strong lead instrumentalists – Jon and Ritchie – AND a virtuoso drummer. Only outright PROG bands such as YES or ELP had as much individual instrumental talent in their ranks. It’s no coincidence that Jon’s name would populate the music papers together with Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman in the early 70ies as the “best”/most popular keyboard player. It was always those three leading the polls, but only Jon came from a hard rock band.

    Their instrumental brawn also gave DP respectability among people who were not exactly hard rock fans; it was widely accepted and grudgingly respected that DP were playing music well below their potential abilities as instrumentalists. That set them apart from bands like Nazareth, Uriah Heep, Grand Funk Railroad or Status Quo. But it didn’t always work in Purple’s favor, the “they really have the talent to do something else, they are only denim crowd-pleasers for the money”-sentiment was behind a lot of negative reviews Purple received in the press as well.

  6. 6
    Tommy H. says:

    #2 MacGregor:

    Elf supported Purple on two US tours in 1972: (1) August 22nd to September 3rd – so exactly right after the recording of Made In Japan and (2) November 9th to December 13th. In between, Purple mainly toured Great Britain. I don’t know if Elf supported Purple in 1973 (Rory Gallagher did for a while, by the way). But in 1974, they were definitely supporting Purple in the US quite extensively. That’s when Ritchie recorded Sixteenth Century Greensleeves with Ronnie, which led to first serious thoughts about what should become Rainbow.

  7. 7
    MacGregor says:

    Tommy H @ 6 – thanks for the information, much appreciated. I was going to look that up as my memory of Elf supporting DP was a little vague. Rory Gallagher bless him, supporting DP, what a gig that would have been. So many double acts back then were awesome to say the least.
    Uwe @ 5 – The chances of Gillan being tempted to stay was never going to happen, as we know from hindsight. Personality differences indeed, however I also think the screaming vocal at times was enough to prevent Gillan ever being approached again, (until 1983 & even the late 70’s with Rainbow, a dire event that would have turned out to be). Obviously Blackmore was over that by 1972 era & wanted a blues style vocalist to sing & ONLY sing. The hiring of Glenn Hughes really turned that one on it’s head. Worse screaming than Gillan at times. Regarding Painted Horse, a boring pedestrian track that is, certainly not up to the WDWTWA material to my ears. I often wonder what would have happened if Glover was still there with DP & Coverdale? Burn or whatever the next album would have been, definitely would have been different than what we know that’s for sure. Cheers.

  8. 8
    Rick says:

    @6 >>That’s when Ritchie recorded Sixteenth Century Greensleeves with Ronnie<<

    I thought RB & RJD first recorded "Black Sheep of the Family" together due to Purple refusing to record that song…or something like that. Recording "16th/Greensleeves came along later I recall reading.

  9. 9
    Martin says:

    Interesting version of Child in Time (Polish artists). Time for Ukraine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rsKkbud4GU

  10. 10
    Tommy H. says:

    # 5, Uwe:

    That was a great read, thanks a lot!

    # 8, Rick:

    I’ve checked it again. If I understood it correctly, they planned to release a single with “Black Sheep of the Family” (A-side) and “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves” (B-side) – both (?) recorded in late 1974. But that single was never released and therefore, both songs kick-started Rainbow’s debut studio album “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow” in 1975.

  11. 11
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Maybe, if Blackmore hadn’t himself shelved the idea of Stormbringer being a double album (sort of DP’s Physical Graffiti which the Zeps were working on around the same time), Black Sheep of the Family would have been recorded by the others. I don’t think it’s the greatest composition personally (and frankly sounded a bit dated even then), but I can envisage Mk III turning it into something with the Coverdale/Hughes twin lead vocal attack. David could have taken the verse, Glenn comes in with the bridge, they sing together on the chorus, Glenn doing the falsetto harmony vocals – a tried and trusted Mk III recipe, but always tasty, to me at least. No other hard rock band had that.

    I think come Stormbringer, relations within the Purple camp had once again deteriorated to a point where everyone was just trying to be obnoxious “if you’re not playing this, then I’m not playing that”. Blackmore has the undisputable talent to make even generally easy to get along with band members dig their heels in eventually. Stormbringer – by no means a bad Purple album (sounding a bit decadent and saturated like a lot of mid-seventies albums did) – could have been so much more.

    Sixteenth Century Greensleeves OTOH always sounded like an Uriah Heep – Gypsy rip-off to me, a glaring one at that, sledgehammer slo-mo riff, lumbering vocal melody and all. I really wouldn’t be surprised if that riff – which Ritchie already played in Mk II days – originated from the days when Heep amd Purple shared the same rehearsal location, both of them preparing for their respective debut (or new line-up debut) album. Gypsy was after all a key track on Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble, Ritchie must have heard the rehearsal room neighbors work on it – duh, duh, duh, du-duh … “It’s only been an hour since I feel in love with a gypsy queen …”

    ; – )

    The Heepsters should have really sued, but they probably felt guilty having themselves owed so much to Purple in their early days!

    And Glenn, I believe, would have winced at playing bass to a sluggish riff like 16th Century Greensleeves though he did his best to make Mistreated not sound quite as leaden on Burn (a feat no Rainbow bassist ever emulated).

  12. 12
    MacGregor says:

    Interesting comments regarding the Uriah Heep Gypsy riff comparison. A great song Gypsy by the way. I often think back to that Mandrake Root riff Blackmore ‘allegedly’ stole from that guitarist who’s name escapes me at present. A wonderful simple dirge driven riff it is. Didn’t Blackmore with his typical sarcasm say to that guitarist in later years, ‘thanks for the riff, do you have anymore of those’? I do remember Blackmore saying he liked Ken Hensley & Uriah Heep in certain ways. Of course Gypsy is a Byron & Box composition & no doubt Heep’s lyrics & fantasy style influenced Blackmore a little. Didn’t BN cover Heep’s Lady in Black?
    The riff & song 16th Century Greensleeves is another one that has that Heep influence no doubt. I am not sure about Stormbringer ever being a possible double album. I have never heard that before. They would have struggled for ideas for that me thinks, especially with Blackmore having one foot already out the Purple door. Even Zeppelin’s mighty Physical Graffiti has quite a few tracks from earlier albums on it. Stormbringer is still a good album for me, I just don’t listen to some of the funkier soul songs these days, like I used to. I definitely think Blackmore did the ‘correct’ thing in keeping certain ideas though for his ‘solo’ project. It lead to a few extended anthems, one on the debut album, a few on Rising & of course Gates of Babylon. The three Rainbow albums made into a double is a good disc for me. Cheers.

  13. 13
    Uwe Hornung says:

    They played with the idea that each writing member should get one album side to himself – a Jon-, a Glenn-, a Ritchie- and a David-side. The kind of thing established bands do when they no longer feel quite so cohesive as a unit – very mid-70ies decadence. Bit like what ELP released as Works I (a band side and three sides featuring the individual members).

    Considering that all post-split solo albums by individual members featured songs they had been carrying around for years and that a track like You Keep On Moving had been kicking its heels since the Burn sessions, filling those four sides would have been no issue. Jon could have even used some of his ideas that ended up on Sarabande.

    Ritchie wouldn’t have it. It sure would have been a diverse album.

    Initially, Stormbringer shouldn’t have had its fantasy art cover either, but a portrait shot of a female model. Blackmore was tired of albums with the faces of the Purple members on them which they had basically continuously done from In Rock to Burn

  14. 14
    Uwe Hornung says:

    It just occurred to me: I believe that Stormbringer (the album) was originally slated to be called “Silence” – probably one of Ritchie’s tongue-in-cheekers.

    The mock-up of the cover was more in a Roxy Music cover style femme fatale vein, would have certainly been a first for Purple:

    http://www.deep-purple.net/discography/stormbringer/Storm_Girl.jpg

    Trivial observation:

    The only album front covers between 1968 and 1977 that did not feature the band members were Book of Taliesyn, the Concerto and Stormbringer (I’m not counting compilations such as Purple Passages, Mark I & II or 24 Carat Purple). Even Mk I’s third offering featured the band hidden in the apocalyptic melee. 11 other album covers featured the band in some shape or form.

    Come the 1984 reunion, not a single front cover (irrespective of line-up) has ever featured band members again. It’s as if they made some collective decision to do away with personalized covers.

    Of the 70ies period, In Rock (an iconic pop art classic), Machine Head (that alienation via reflection was nifty) and Burn are my favorite covers. I thought those candle replicas (which weren’t yet the real thing, but only mock-ups, yet no one realized that until it was too late and the covers had gone to print) of the heads of the five members in dry ice cool, also how they were burnt down/molten on the back cover.

  15. 15
    Svante Axbacke says:

    Uwe, the band is on the cover of the original Concerto release. They are small and far away but they are there.

  16. 16
    MacGregor says:

    Pink Floyd’s double album Ummagumma sides 3 & 4 has the band members performing individual compositions. However that was at the start of that classic lineups journey & sides 1 & 2 were live recordings. I remember ELP & the Works album, a career ending Coda if ever there was one. Greg Lake said in his biography that they were ‘finished’ by 1974. Come to think of it so were Purple & isn’t it ironic that those two bands headlined the California Jam in 1974. However most bands from that era were either spent or taking a break from the hectic schedule of touring & recording. King Crimson disbanded around 1975, Yes were resting & recording solo albums, The Moody Blues also. Sabbath were pretty well finished by Sabotage & also Zeppelin at that time following the Physical Graffiti tour. The ‘classic’ era Uriah Heep lineup ended in 1974 with Gary Thain being electrocuted on stage at that concert.
    All those bands were ‘burnt out’ from the hedonism & shenanigans of the rock ‘n roll lifestyle it seems. DP & the MK 3 Stormbringer era recording a double album would have been a disaster I would think. I cannot imagine band members having a separate side each, well I can with Jon Lord & Blackmore, but not with Coverdale & Hughes. If that was ever going to be successful, Glover & Gillan would have been more productive with MK 2 doing it. And what about Ian Paice, sheesh the poor drummer gets left out. Even Nick Mason managed to get his solo drumming & percussion recording onto the Ummagumma record. Easier being in a four piece band though. I still remember reading that devastating headline in 1975, Blackmore quits Purple! Talk about the world coming to an end, it was unthinkable at the time. However as we know it was the correct thing to do & Lord & Paice regretted carrying on with the DP b(r)and. Regarding album covers with band members images on the cover. I always though it a bit over indulging in many ways with certain artists. Maybe at the beginning of their careers it was a statement & a identification necessity, but as time moves on with their careers I have always thought it unnecessary. DP In Rock is a classic cover though, a great statement of intent that was. I guess I just prefer artwork of some description or even a blank cover. No a blank cover is taking it too far & we remember a few of those. Cheers.

  17. 17
    Henril says:

    ‘Who Do We Thing We Are’

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