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Dave Hodgkinson — gone, but not forgotten

Dave Hogdkinson

David Hodgkinson, who has died aged 58, was a technologist, programmer, and software engineer. Quite possibly, he will be remembered more for his huge footprint in the online fan community for veteran British hard rockers Deep Purple. This is certainly the case for most readers of this obituary, published as it is on the website he initiated, and which he and I created together nearly 30 years ago.

Dave Hodgkinson (right) and Trond Strøm backstage at the Brixton Academy in London, March 9th 1996. Photo: Håkon Vold-Johansen Dave Hodgkinson (right) and Trond Strøm backstage at the Brixton Academy in London, March 9th 1996. Photo: Håkon Vold-Johansen

I met David – or Dave, as he will be referred to from now – online during the summer or early autumn of 1993. I had just finished my librarian college education and had a temporary position at the Oslo University Library. I’d worked there as an extra for some months before finishing my education, and so happened to witness the launch of the World Wide Web (WWW) – or the Internet, as we’ve come to know it – with the launch of the first graphical web browser, NCSA Mosaic.

The Newsgroup

I soon found that there was something on the Internet called the Usenet, which had lots of newsgroups for a far range of subjects. Basically, it was the 1993 equivalent of Reddit. But I could not find a group dedicated to Deep Purple, which was what I wanted to discuss with other fans out there. Eventually, quite a few like-minded people descended on an unsuspecting newsgroup called alt.music.rock-n-roll, or something similar. The Brit Dave was one of the guys and (occasional) gals I found in that group who shared my urge to discuss Deep Purple.

At the time, Deep Purple’s classic Mark II lineup – Blackmore / Gillan / Glover / Lord / Paice – had released a new album, after a none-too happy interlude with another vocalist. And so, the most legendary Deep Purple lineup was touring Europe during the Autumn of 1993. A planned US tour had been cancelled. Rock legends in their late 40s weren’t necessarily a commercial success at that time in history.

When I saw them at Oslo Spektrum on November 15th 1993, I was aware through the newsgroup that guitar legend and compulsory difficult human being Ritchie Blackmore had handed in his resignation letter. But somehow, the tension resulted in a great concert. Far better than the first time I saw them in Oslo, six years earlier.

Around that gig, one of the Purple people hanging out on alt.music.rock-n-roll and myself managed to create a dedicated Usenet group for Deep Purple fans: alt.music.deep-purple – more colloquially known as amd-p among friends and fiends.

Through amd-p, a community of fans could communicate around the world. While Blackmore leaving the band hardly was mentioned in the general press, we could follow Deep Purple playing in Japan, with contemporary guitar hero Joe Satriani stepping in as the guitar player in December 1993. We saw a European summer tour with Satriani being announced in 1994. We got reviews of the gigs, and some of us managed to arrange a trip to see a concert, even though the tour didn’t visit our hometown. Some audience recordings might have been distributed as well.

Near the end of 1994, we got reports of low-key concerts in Mexico and Texas with Deep Purple trying out the new permanent guitarist, Steve Morse, of Dixie Dregs and Kansas fame.

The Webpage

During the first part of 1994, Dave approached me regarding setting up a web page for the band. He was a programmer, and had a job at some financial institution whose name now eludes me. That company had a web server. This was back when you probably could count the number of web servers around the globe in hundreds or thousands. The WWW was so small that trying to arrange a catalogue of all web pages seemed like a good and feasible idea. Dave had the skills and the hardware available. And back then, I was good at remembering stuff that interested me when I read it, so in the community I was regarded as an authority on the factual stuff concerning the band. Dave convinced me that learning how to code web pages in HTML was easy. And indeed, back then it was. The website went online on April 11, 1994. «It's all a bit thin at the moment», Dave wrote in his initial announcement. But it would expand.

The typical early workflow would be Dave setting up the website, and me creating much of the content. (Some of it is still up on the web page, like a partially very outdated FAQ.) But there’s also lots of concert reviews submitted by amd-p members around the world from that period, which today give important insights into this period. In the very early days, much of the web page content originated from the alt.music.deep-purple newsgroup.

The Band Shows up

When Deep Purple played some low-profile concerts in Florida in March 1995, testing out some songs from the album they were recording at the time, things took a new turn. Bassist Roger Glover’s stepson found reviews of the concerts online, and showed them to Roger. And suddenly Roger, keyboard legend Jon Lord, tour manager Colin Hart and the band’s manager Bruce Payne turned up in the newsgroup.

Direct access to communication with musicians in a band which had been one of the world’s biggest bands for some years during the 70s, and had made a massive comeback in the 80s, was basically unheard of at the time. And this made the online community very special.

The idea of a 70s hard rock band ending up as pioneers in rock band online presence was not at all obvious. These days, artists may be available readily through various online platforms. But back in the 90s, communicating with musicians you related to was unusual.

We got insights into the creative processes in the band, and we could ask about things we’d wondered about from the band’s history. Also, you might find yourself at the end of a well-formulated scolding from the master of the Hammond organ, if you had posted some stupid rumour you had heard.

The newsgroup was a vivid and good community for some years after this. Eventually, the trolls would destroy it, and Usenet newsgroups generally became obsolete, but that’s another story.

The first big amd-p gathering at a pub relatively close to the Brixton Academy, March 1996 The first big amd-p gathering at a pub relatively close to the Brixton Academy, March 1996. From the left side: Svante, Trond (me), Christer, Anders, Garry (I think), Tom Eirik, Erik, Dave, Håkon, and Colin. (Photo: Private)

Purpendicular Daze

The first Deep Purple album with Steve Morse as the guitarist was eventually released in February 1996. We followed the creation of the album from the sidelines via studio reports which the producer himself, Roger Glover, posted on amd-p. (These were later also published in the tour program.)

The band kicked off a tour promoting the album Purpendicular with a long UK tour. The two concerts at the Brixton Academy in London, March 8th and 9th, also turned out to be the first big physical gathering for the amd-p newsgroup. People from all over Europe met up. Dave arranged an amd-p meetup before the first concert at the Hope and Anchor pub, not too far from Brixton Academy.

(This was before Google Maps. Well, before Google, come to think of it. Dave chose the pub looking at a small-scale map. Turned out it was a fair walk from the concert venue.) And many of us would meet backstage after the concerts as well.

Trond J. Strøm, Mike, dave Hodgkinson at the Hope and Anchor pub near Brixton Academy, 1996. Myself, Mike [I think!] and Dave at the Hope and Anchor pub near Brixton Academy. (Photo: Håkon Vold-Johansen)

As a twist in the tale, this would end up being the only time I met Dave in person. But he would continue to arrange meetups like this. I think the next big one was in Hartford, CT, USA in November 1996. Swede Svante Axbacke, who was in the web page editorial team by then, remembers them creating the design for the rebranded web page as «The Highway Star» in an Italian restaurant in New York. The design is still in use.

«I still have the napkin somewhere», Dave would say.

Svante, Roger Glover, Dave backstage at a US gig in November 1996Svante and Dave – with some funny guy – backstage at a US gig in November 1996. (Photo: Private)

There were several meetups at different locations over the years, possibly with the anniversary shows for the Concerto for Group and Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in 1999 as the largest gathering.


Myself? I was busy starting a family and drifted out of the running of the web page quite early, and I didn’t have the economy to go travelling around the globe at the time. I eventually ended up as a researcher and journalist in a Norwegian newspaper.

Even though we didn’t stay close, there was always some contact with Dave, for instance via a mailing list for the old web page crew and eventually social media.

It must be said that Dave’s written communication at times could be a bit confusing. Especially for us non-native English speakers. He could be very brisk, and probably ended up annoying people at times.

Of course, there were disagreements and fallouts in the community as well. And Dave could easily be at the centre of them. At the same time, he would be very open and welcoming when including new people in the online fan community.

I also witnessed some strange phases he went through on his social media. For instance, for a period, he was convinced there is no human-created climate crisis, contrary to all scientific proof. But he did come to his senses on that subject after a while.

On the more sensible end of the spectrum, one of his last personal campaigns on Facebook was posting news reports of American religious leaders etc. accused of sexual violations, under the hashtag «not a drag queen» – a none-too-subtle commentary to the neo-conservative moral panic over trans rights and drag artists in the USA.

Dave took some detours from his work with programming and coding. In the early 2000’s, he tried running a corporate web page for Deep Purple for a few years. The original web page, The Highway Star, continued as a fan-based page. [Huge kudos to Nick Soveiko in Canada for keeping The Highway Star alive over the last couple of decades are due!] Dave also had a period where he tried his hand as a professional concert photographer.

But he mostly worked with information technology. He moved several times between the UK and Amsterdam in The Netherlands. In 2022, he found himself in Amsterdam again, after his second marriage had dissolved – quite surprising for him, it appears in a blog post he wrote.

Many of the old amd-p people gathered for a Deep Purple concert in Copenhagen, Denmark in October 2022. It was the first big gathering for this community which I attended since the mid 90s. I met people I only had communicated with online decades ago for the first time. I was in touch with Dave regarding this gathering, but sadly he couldn’t make it.

But last year, the two of us did a common project again. And it worked out just like 30 years ago. Dave sent me a spreadsheet where he’d started gathering a list of Deep Purple live videos online. I extended and organized the list. Dave wrote some code to have it published. It’s up on The Highway Star.

But now I don’t know how to update it… [We’re working on it — THS]

Near the end of 2023, Dave had moved back to the UK. In a message on his Facebook page after his untimely passing, his daughter writes that he moved back to Bath to live closer to her brother and herself, his children from his first marriage, Ed and Grace. Sadly, Dave’s time on this planet was running out. During the first half of December 2023, he unexpectedly passed away.

Many people in our loose online community have been deeply moved by the message of Dave’s death. I know I was.

As a staunch atheist, he wouldn’t have had thoughts about an afterlife. But I do know that lots of people around the world will remember him for years to come. And as long as a person is remembered by someone, he is not gone.

Trond J. Strøm

25 Comments to “Dave Hodgkinson — gone, but not forgotten”:

  1. 1
    MacGregor says:

    Vale to Dave & all his good work & dedication. Sad when good people pass on but he will survive in other ways. RIP

  2. 2
    Gerriet says:

    RIP Dave and thank you for all your contributions in those early times of DP online fandom. I fondly remember amd-p (the good years) and the early THS. Thank you Trond for the lovely eulogy.

  3. 3
    Doug MacBeath says:

    Thanks Trond – Beautiful words, and many, many memories.

  4. 4
    Max says:

    Thank you for the well put words and the interesting in-sight … I remember the early days so well, finding out about The Highway Star and not believing how lucky I was … a forum for DP maniacs around the globe to discuss things properly. (Or not so properly in some cases that is – as sadly Ian Gillan’s chat room in the early days had to close down due to bad behaviour of some folks involved) … The Meeting after the Albert Hall show … the DPAS-meeting as well. Great memories really and many heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped make it happen!

  5. 5
    Marcelo Soares says:

    Thank you for all the memories. Dave was not Martin Birch, but he was a catalyst indeed.

  6. 6
    Rasmus Heide says:

    Beautiful words, Trond. Dave was a pioneer and we’re all grateful for his enthusiasm, vision and determination. One to remember.

  7. 7
    Mark Bryant says:

    I was a member of the amd-p and Dave was the reason. When the WWW first started, the first subject for which I looked was Deep Purple. I was a member of the DPAS, but those magazines were few and far between and any communications I had was telephonically. Then, I met Dave. As I recall, he was disgruntled by amd-p because the subject always turned back to RB leaving the band and how the bad was done and etc. Dave wanted a place for TRUE FANS to congregate and discuss THE BAND as it was constituted along with memories of those “Hungry Daze” sprinkled in where appropriate. Well, he found it at THS and another place for the truly loyalists. I will always be grateful to Dave. Even though we disagreed on political subjects, Deep Purple was our safe haven and thankfully we spent more time there than anywhere else. Rest in Peace Dave. Rock on!

  8. 8
    Amit Roy says:

    Beautifully written Trond. Thanks for capturing all the memories. He will be missed.

  9. 9
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Thank you for having left something lasting, Dave.

    Und vielen Dank, Trond, for the enlightening obituary.

  10. 10
    Elinor says:

    The unforgettable Dave. Excellent obit. Great memories of the 90s too. Thanks Trond and thanks Dave.

  11. 11
    AndreA says:

    I’m sad for him, TOO much young after all..

  12. 12
    timmi bottoms says:

    To young only 58

  13. 13
    jose galván says:

    I’m really moved by those words from Trond. and I think that last sentence is taken from a Carlos Ruiz Zafón book, La sombra del viento (Shadow of the wind): “Existimos mientras alguien nos recuerda”.
    I will, for sure, make a big effort not to forget who Dave was.
    All the power to the Purple people.

  14. 14
    DeeperPurps says:

    RIP Dave Hodgkinson. And a great big thank you to him, as well as to all the other internet pioneers / Deep Purple devotees & website coordinators who created the sites that would eventually became this Highway Star page which we know and love.

  15. 15
    Deep Diography says:

    Despite the sad reason, thanks for shedding a bright light on the team behind and the history of The Highway Star.

    Thanks to Dave for his contribution and my condolences to his family.

  16. 16
    Fedor de Lange says:

    Thank you Trond for writing such a warm in-memoriam. At least I can say I was around when it started in the nineties, being an early fan of the work you guys put together. Last time I met Dave was October 2022, backstage at a Purple show in Amsterdam. Never would have thought that this would be the last time… farewell buddy.

  17. 17
    Nick Brown says:

    RIP Dave, thank you for your great work over the years and I often wondered how the Highway Star started and who ran it. To think Deep Purple were at the forefront of the digital age before social media took over. Thanks Trond for sharing. It’s a great resource for those who follow the band and we couldn’t get by without it.

  18. 18
    Lars says:

    Thanks Trond for the summary of THS history. Those were the days when JL would personally try to fend off the troll(s) in amd-p.
    Weird how all those THS names sound so familiar even though we’ve never met in person.
    Thanks Dave for the legacy. THS is and always has been the place to go for DP news.

  19. 19
    Andreas Thul says:

    If I remember correctly, it was Dave who invited me to the THS team back in 1996. Thank you Trond for sharing your memories.
    RIP Dave

  20. 20
    Dr. Bob says:

    My deep condolense to Trond and anyone in this community who knew Dave.

    I can’t remember how long I have been coming to this site and engaging with Deep Purple fans, but it’s probably been most of THS 30-year History. But I have to admit that I didn’t know anything about the creators and history of THS. I appreciate Trond telling us the story.

  21. 21
    Albania says:

    Thank you, Trond, for this beautiful, insightful, and enlightening note on Dave.
    On the flight from New York to Maui (via LA) I watched a few movies, including Blackberry. And I could not help but liken the computer engineers/nerds (lol) that got Blackberry started to Dave and the rest of the crew that gave birth to THS, which I have been privileged to benefit from for almost three decades.
    Thank you to all the THS founders like Dave and you, and to everyone else that continues to carry the ever burning torch. I am eternally grateful.
    RIP Dave. Gone, but not forgotten, indeed!

  22. 22
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Don’t remind me of Blackberry smart phones, Albania, I still hurt from no longer owning one! I had nearly all of their types for ages and loved them – and then our firm stopped supporting them and I had to make the dreaded change to the DARK SIDE of the iRealm …

  23. 23
    Peter Miller says:

    Vale Dave. Simply, thank you.

  24. 24
    Albania says:

    @22, LMAO…
    I can so relate, Uwe. Between my wife and me (both bankers) we have every single model somewhere in storage LOL
    The day the last model launched I walked into the Verizon store on 42nd/Lex and bought it, only to find out upon calling the tech team of the bank that I worked for that it had suddenly dropped Blackberry from the platform in favor of the forbidden fruit. I was in shock as the Pentagon was still using Blackberry. But if you are a large investment bank 70,000 strong, worried about RIM no longer able to push itself to new heights and you want to position yourself for future business/banking deals with the Blackberry killer, you simply cancel your contract without any care for whether the dark side will be worth it.
    Uhh, just another day in Wall Street LOL.

  25. 25
    Chris Stobart says:

    Very sorry to read of your sudden loss. This site has always been a great one stop shop for all things Purple and full credit to Dave for his part in that.

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