Deep Purple

  • British hard rock band formed in 1968 from London England. The classic lineup from the early seventies was Ian Gillan (lead vocals, harmonica), Ritchie Blackmore (guitars), Jon Lord (keyboards, backing vocals) Roger Glover (bass guitar) and Ian Paice (drums). All members contributed to songwriting.
  • In 1967, drummer Chris Curtis approached some businessmen with an idea to create a supergroup of rotating musicians named Roundabout. Jon Lord was Curtis’ roommate, and Lord was recruited for keyboards. Nick Simper was a bandmate of Lord’s, and Simper suggested that Ritchie Blackmore audition for the group. Meanwhile, the businessmen managing the group dismissed Curtis due to his heavy LSD usage, and Bobby Woodman was brought in for drums. By 1968, the group needed a vocalist. They auditioned dozens of singers (including Rod Stewart), and they chose Rod Evans. Evans brought with him Ian Paice from his previous band, and Paice became the drummer when Woodman left, complaining about the music they were writing. Thus, the initial lineup was Lord, Simper, Blackmore, Evans and Paice.
  • In April 1968, during a brief tour in Denmark and Sweden, they decided to change their name to something other than Roundabout. Blackmore suggested Deep Purple, which was the name of his grandmother’s favorite song. After considering the name Concrete God, they went with Deep Purple, thinking that Concrete God was too harsh.
  • Their work got the interest of a record label, and in the summer of 1968 they released their debut album, Shades of Deep Purple. It included a cover of the Joe South song Hush – Deep Purple’s version went to #4 on the Hot 100, but they had no success outside of America. They quickly recorded a second album, and The Book of Taliesyn was released in October 1968. They had a minor hit with a cover of Neil Diamond’s Kentucky Woman, but the band was losing momentum, and their third album, the self-titled Deep Purple, failed to chart. When their record company folded, their future was left at a crossroad.
  • Lord, Blackmore and Paice decided that they wanted the band to move to a heavy rock sound. They realized that Simper and Evans were not a good fit, and both left the band. They discovered Ian Gillan from a band called Episode Six, as well as that group’s bass guitarist, Roger Glover. This new lineup recorded a song titled Hallelujah, which flopped. They received some publicity in September 1969 by recording a Lord-penned classical concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The album charted in the UK, though the band was concerned that it would get in the way of their hard rock aspirations.
  • Determined to focus on heavy rock music, they had their breakout with a non-album single released in 1970 – Black Night. It reached #2 in the UK. They followed the single with an album titled Deep Purple In Rock – the cover of the album depicts the five members of the group with their faces chiseled in stone, a la Mount Rushmore. The album reached #4 on the UK album chart.
  • Their next three albums cemented their legacy as metal rock innovators. Their Machine Head album reached 2x platinum status. It included their highest charting single with Smoke On the Water – the song reached #4 on the Hot 100 in 1973. The song became iconic as one of the earliest heavy metal songs. Other songs during this time established Blackmore as one of the greatest hard rock guitarists ever, including Highway Star and Woman From Tokyo. 
  • Heavy touring and internal conflict ultimately led to changes. Gillan quit in the summer of 1973, and Blackmore forced Glover out soon after. They hired Glenn Hughes for bass guitar and David Cloverdale for lead vocals. This lineup released two albums in 1974, and their sound moved to more of a progressive rock feel. They sold relatively well, though for the most part, singles did not chart. After the second album, Blackmore had had enough, and he left the group to start Rainbow.
  • Deep Purple decided to continue, and they hired Tommy Bolin as their new guitarist. Their next album, 1975’s Come Taste the Band, incorporated funk with hard rock. Listeners were not impressed, Bolin and Hughes were hooked on drugs, and their final show was in March 1976. By December that year, 25 year old Bolin was dead due to an overdose.
  • In 1984, the classic lineup of Gillan, Lord, Blackmore, Glover and Paice reformed the group. Their first album as a reunited group, Perfect Strangers, was certified platinum and the single Knocking At Your Back Door reached #7 on the Top Rock Tracks chart. Twelve studio and over fifteen live albums were released between 1984 and 2022. Gillan, Glover and Paice remain with the group in 2022. Blackmore left in 1993 and Lord left in 2002 to focus on orchestral works (Lord died in 2012 of pancreatic cancer).
  • Deep Purple is considered one of the three original metal bands, along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Controversially, they were excluded from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for many years – they weren’t even nominated for twenty years after they were eligible – but finally they were inducted in 2016. The inductees were Paice, Lord, Blackmore, Glover, Gillan, Evans, Cloverdale and Hughes. Prior to the ceremony, Gillan announced that he would not allow Hughes, Cloverdale, Evans or Blackmore to perform at the event. Blackmore and Evans didn’t bother to attend the ceremony. Here’s a live performance of Smoke On the Water – it includes the back story on what the song is all about.

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