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It all started in 1968 when Chris Curtis, an ex-Searcher, formed
a group with Dave Curtiss (no
relation, note different spelling) on bass, Bobby Woodman-Clarke on drums and
brought in ex-Artwoods organist Jon
Lord (born 9 June 1941, Leicester, England) and ex-Johnny Kidd
and The Pirates bassist, Nick Simper
(born 3 November 1946, Southall, Middlesex). Nick had survived the car
crash that had killed Johnny Kidd in 1966. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore
(born 14 April 1945, Weston-super-Mare, England) joined in rehearsals
for this new act initially dubbed Roundabout. Curtis dropped out within
days, and when Dave and Bobby also proved incompatible, two members of
Maze, Rod Evans (born 19
January 1945, Edinburgh, Scotland; vocals) and Ian Paice
(born 29 June 1948, Nottinghamshire; drums), replaced them. Having
adopted the Deep Purple name (apparently inspired by Ritchie's
grandmother's favorite song) following a brief Scandinavian tour in
April 1968 (where they played as Roundabout, "in case they flopped"),
the quintet began recording their debut album, which they patterned on
USA group Vanilla Fudge. "Shades of Deep Purple" thus included dramatic
rearrangements of well-known songs, including a faithful cover of
Hendrix's version of "Hey Joe" and the Joe South-penned, Billy Joe
Royal hit "Hush", the latter hitting US #4 in 1968 but not troubling
the UK chart-compilers one bit. Lengthy tours ensued as the group,
all but ignored at home, steadfastly
courted the burgeoning American concert circuit. "The Book Of Taliesyn"
and "Deep Purple" albums also featured several excellent reworkings,
notably "Kentucky Woman" (Neil Diamond) and "River Deep Mountain High"
(Ike And Tina Turner). The lengthy intro section to "River Deep" was a
dramatic work-out of the theme from the then recently released Stanley
Kubrick sci-fi classic film "2001: A Space Odyssey". This piece was
based on Richard Strauss' "Thus Spake Zarathustra" and Jon Lord's
classical leanings would soon culminate in a self-composed full-length
work performed at the Royal Albert Hall in September 1969.
The band also drew acclaim for their original material and the
interplay between Lord and Blackmore. In concert these guitar/organ
duels could go on for over 20 minutes! In July 1969 both Evans and
Simper were axed from the line-up, which
was then buoyed by the arrival of Ian Gillan (born 19 August 1945,
Hounslow, Middlesex, England; vocals) and Roger Glover (born 30
November 1945, Brecon, Wales; bass) from the pop group Episode Six.
Acknowledged by aficionados as the "classic" Deep Purple line-up
(forever onwards known as Mark II), the reshaped quintet made its album
debut on the grandiose "Concerto For Group And Orchestra", scored by
Lord and recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by
Malcolm Arnold (later sir Malcolm). Its hard rock successor, "In Rock",
established the group as a leading
heavy metal attraction and introduced such enduring favorites as "Speed
King" and "Child In Time." Gillan's powerful silver-throated vocals
brought a third dimension to their sound and this new-found popularity
in the UK was enhanced when the single, "Black Night" reached number 2.
"Strange Kind Of Woman" followed it into the Top 10 (reaching #8 in Feb
1971), while "Fireball" and "Machine Head" both topped the album
charts. The latter included the riff-laden "Smoke On The Water", based
on a real incident involving Frank Zappa and The Mothers and an
infamous Montreaux concert.
Although the platinum-selling "Made In Japan" captured their live prowess in full flight, relations within the band grew increasingly strained, and "Who Do We Think We Are!" would be the end of this highly successful line-up. The departures of Gillan and Glover robbed Deep Purple of an expressive frontman and imaginative arranger, although David Coverdale (born 22 September 1949, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, Lancashire, England; vocals) and Glenn Hughes (born 21 August 1952, Penkridge, Staffordshire; ex-Trapeze, bass & vocals) brought a new impetus to the act. "Burn" and "Stormbringer" both reached the Top 10, but Blackmore grew increasingly dissatisfied with the group's direction and in May 1975 left to form Rainbow. US guitarist Tommy Bolin (born 18 April 1951, Sioux City, Idaho), formerly of the James Gang and who had impressed Coverdale with his playing on Billy Cobham's "Spectrum", joined Deep Purple for "Come Taste The Band", but his jazz/soul style was incompatible with the group's heavy metal sound, and a now-tiring act folded in 1976 following a farewell UK tour. Bolin died of a heroin overdose within months of Purple's demise. Judicious archives and 'best of' releases kept the group in the public eye, as did the high profile enjoyed by its several ex-members. Successful off-shoot bands include Whitesnake, Rainbow and Gillan. Pressure for a reunion bore fruit in 1984 when Gillan, Lord, Blackmore, Glover and Paice (the original Mark II) completed "Perfect Strangers". A whole new generation of fans discovered Deep Purple through this release and subsequent US, Japanese and European tour. A second album, "The House Of Blue Light", followed, but recurring animosity between Gillan and Blackmore resulted in the singer's departure following the disappointing live album "Nobody's Perfect" which included a 1988 rehearsal re-working of their first hit "Hush".
Joe Lynn Turner, one of Blackmore's many Rainbow vocalists, joined and
gave the band more of an AOR (Adult-Orientated Rock) direction. After a
disappointing Slaves & Masters album released in 1990 (though Fire
In The Basement is classic 70s Purple), better sense prevailed. Gillan
was re-admitted for his third stint, uncomfortably sharing stage and
studio with Blackmore. The line-up remained stable while the band
recorded "The Battle Rages On" album released in 1993, but Blackmore
jumped ship once more during the tour that followed. The tour was
completed courtesy of US guitar whizzkid Joe Satriani. Contractual
obligations however, meant his tenure could only be short-term and
Purple hurriedly enlisted Steve Morse (ex-Kansas, Dixie Dregs, The
Steve Morse Band, et al) (born 28 July 1954, Hamilton, Ohio) as his
replacement to record Purpendicular released early in 1996. Setting off
on tour again, they took a fresh look at their 70s
repertoire; tour highlights were captured on the "Live at the Olympia"
CD (1997) with forgotten favorites jostling for position against new
material from the "Purpendicular" set. Suddenly they felt they could
have fun again, and the concerts were enlivened by dropping old faves
like "Lazy" and "Space Truckin'" in favour of new material and songs
from the back catalogue that had seldom if ever been played (such as
"Bloodsucker", "No One Came" and "Rat Bat Blue"). 1998's
"Abandon" album had all the classic rock attitude, nasty guitars,
pounding drums and driving bass to scratch that R.O.C.K. itch. The
album included a brilliant reworking of "In Rock"'s "Bloodsucker"
(retitled "Bludsucker") and the Floydish-style "Watching The Sky"
amongst other driving rock tracks. In 1999 Deep Purple had a very
successful tour of Australia and Europe. Jon Lord retired in 2002 and
was replaced by journeyman keyboardist Don
Airey. This new line-up, which left Ian Paice as the only original
member, released the stunning "Bananas" album in August 2003. Both a
return-to-form and a look to the future, the "Bananas" album was
well-accepted by the rock community at large. The Legend marches on...
Newcomers to Deep Purple with a big budget should start with the 1999 "Shades (1968-1998)" 4CD box set released by Rhino Records. Praised by critics and fans alike as an excellent retrospective of this great band, with all their classic tracks as well as enough rarities to keep collectors happy. Those of you on a tighter budget would do well to start with "Made In Japan", the 1973 live album recorded on tour in Japan in August 1972. Arguably one of the all-time greatest live albums ever. In 1999 EMI released "30: The Very Best Of Deep Purple" compilation CD which is as good a retrospective on 1 CD that one can hope to find ("Child In Time" is edited though... horror!). It is also available as a double CD with more tracks and longer versions of a number of their classic singles. Also recommended: Machine Head, Fireball, In Rock, Bananas, Burn.
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