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The loudest and longest encore

Bristol 24/7 has a review of a new book The West’s Greatest Rock Shows 1963-1978, complete with the cover photo of Deep Purple Mark 3 on stage in all their bell-bottomed and platform-shoed glory, and excerpts covering reviews of several local gigs, including said Mark 3 at the Colston Hall in Bristol, on May 20, 1974.

The Burn album was another commercial and artistic triumph for Deep Purple, but it was all change in the ranks for what’s become known as Mark III of the band. Out went Ian Gillan and Roger Glover; in came the phenomenal Glenn Hughes and the unknown David Coverdale (whose previous career highpoint, lest we forget, had been working in a boutique in Redcar). But behind the scenes, Ritchie Blackmore was expressing increasing disgruntlement. He was not happy with the soul and funk influences brought in primarily by Hughes, which he described dismissively as “shoeshine music”. And on this tour he was paying particularly close attention to aptly named American support band Elf – the most diminutive act to play the Colston Hall since the Small Faces. After his departure from Purple the following year, he would recruit most of them, including vocalist Ronnie James Dio, for his new band Rainbow.

Ian Gregory was at the back of the stalls. “There was no obvious sign then of the tensions,” he recalls. “Purple were on fire. The first half of the set was almost all of Side A (in old money) of the Burn album: Burn, Might Just Take Your Life, Lay Down, Stay Down. Ritchie teased Lazy before they played Mistreated and then went on the Mark II stuff. The interplay between Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale was electric. The people around me were in awe.”

The coalescing Mark 3’s stay at the nearby Clearwell castle gets some coverage as well:

At the time, the Grade II listed castle boasted a recording studio in its basement, which became especially popular with rockers, including Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Peter Frampton and Queen. Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath claimed to have seen a ghost there while recording Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Eventually, the band managed to spook themselves so much that they refused to stay overnight. “I thought, fucking hell: we got this place in the middle of nowhere so we could start writing, and everybody has terrified themselves that much that they’re driving home at night!” writes Iommi in his autobiography, Iron Man.

Purple were made of sterner stuff, though that didn’t stop notorious prankster Ritchie Blackmore attempting to terrify fellow members of the band – especially the new recruits. “Ritchie got there first,” writes Glenn Hughes in his autobiography. “I arrived second and got a good choice of bedroom, unaware that he had wired my room up and put speakers in the closet, and of course at three o’clock in the morning there were these ghostly wails. Blackmore had waited up to do it. When you’re in a 700-year-old castle and you hear that, it’s pretty spooky.”

Read more in Bristol 24/7.

8 Comments to “The loudest and longest encore”:

  1. 1

    No longer called the Colston Hall. It’s now the Bristol Beacon (naff name) for obvious reasons. I saw purple there in 2002. It’s our biggest venue at the moment and has just reopened after a very long and expensive upgrade. I prefer the O2 Acedemy.

  2. 2
    Uwe Hornung says:

    That was a good read – and not just the Purple-related stuff either.

    ‘Quo’ was indeed the heaviest Status Quo album – the one release where Francis Rossi was pushed into the background and only sang and wrote a minority of songs, with Lancaster/Parfitt staging a little palace revolution (and Francis did not like nor forget it).

    And ironically, Lou Reed’s mid-70ies sojourn into heavy territory aided by Bob Ezrin in his and the Alicep Cooper twin guitar team, which had the critics frothing at the time, is today viewed as one of his most classic and iconic phases!

  3. 3
    steve moore says:

    I went to see Purple the previous night in Bournemouth Winter Gardens which is no longer with us.They were tremendous that night and Elf weren’t a bad support band.

  4. 4
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Elf were a good band, full stop! The debut was still a bit formative, but Carolina County Ball/LA 59 and Trying To Burn The Sun rank among Dio’s best work. Before he retreated into that dragon cave of genre limitations he would spent the rest of his career in.



    What I liked about Elf is that they had an individual, pleasantly American style, yet were fearless in amalgamating all kinds of influences. They were individually all good players, had an exemplary band groove (still audible on Rainbow’s debut) and a great songwriting team with Dio/Mickey Lee Soule + Dio was a good and varied lyricist when he was not writing about maidens, dragons, tyrants and wizards.

    Speaking of Mickey, here’s a great interview with him, elucidating re early Rainbow too. He sounds like a man I would like to meet.


  5. 5
    MacGregor says:

    @ 4 – Thanks for the MLS interview & I didn’t know of his Purple connection later on at all, in the 90’s & onwards. Regarding the Rainbow debut & Soule’s comments, yes indeed the songwriting was the issue & obviously Dio recognising a golden opportunity for the classic ‘make or break’ scenario. Most people in that situation would have done the same if in the pursuit of a higher level of musicianship. As Soule says the songs, we didn’t have that killer song etc. From what I heard of Elf years ago left me cold. Sure they have to start somewhere, however Dio had already done that in certain aspects. He was over messing about. I really really enjoyed Soule’s comment bout Dio writing his best lyrics to date with the Rainbow debut. Cheers.

  6. 6
    Uwe Hornung says:

    I don’t have issues with the Elf guys accepting Ritchie’s offer (though Mickey’s qualms about it proved prophetic), I have issues how Ritchie coldly blew that band to smithereens in the aftermath, not even giving them a chance to tour. Driscoll/Gruber were an extremely nuanced and naturally tight rhythm section – their groove permeated the whole Rainbow debut (just listen to how they played Catch the Rainbow and how all subsequent Rainbow rhythm sections did). In comparison, Powell/Bain couldn’t find “nuanced” and if they tried to look it up in a dictionary. Powell literally hell-hammered with the devil and Bain’s bass playing wouldn’t have gone amiss in the New York Dolls (whom I love) or some Punk outfit.

  7. 7
    MacGregor says:

    I agree regarding the treatment of previous Elf band members, I also think that about Nick Simper & Roger Glover. I don’t like that sort of thing, however when we hear Rainbow Rising that says it all. Blackmore was definitely not in the mood to ‘swing’ etc. Especially after Stormbringer. Hindsight again but touring with the debut Rainbow lineup would have delayed the agenda we would think. Get out there & rock hard & make statement of intent. Dio also had an agenda no doubt, he was just taking the opportunity to get a proper start after so long in trying. He has said that he didn’t love doing that, but he had to think of his future. Rainbow & Sabbath were never going to last that long with RJ Dio, he is too strong a personality for that, ala Ian Gillan. When two strong personalities collide (Blackmore & Gillan) & again Dio & Blackmore, it is usually a short cameo of shorts. It is creative at the beginning, however. Alpha males or two roosters in the same yard, so many way to describe it. I have always enjoyed the debut Rainbow album for it’s softness & dare I say it, ‘swing’ he he he., for want of a better description. I have never thought that it wasn’t hard enough etc. It actually stands the test of time really well in my eyes & for many others, as you have also stated before. Cheers.

  8. 8
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Martin Birch’s production of the Rainbow debut was lackluster, it had no bite. Elf were no hard-edged outfit, true, but even the Roger Glover produced Elf albums had more balls than the Rainbow debut. It’s not like Elf couldn’t rock, but they rocked more like the Doobie Brothers than they rocked like Deep Purple.

    You’re right, that line-up wouldn’t have lasted more than a tour (but then which Rainbow line-up did? 😜) and Mickey Lee Soule wasn’t really a Hammond and synth player which is what Ritchie wanted/needed. But you can’t help but wonder whether Blackmore didn’t already right from the start have an orchestrated master plan to disassemble Elf in order to poach Dio. He certainly knew that band’s general groove from having seen them so many times opening for DP. He knew that they did not sound British or edgy. Richard the Ruthless!

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