Deep Purple are an English rock band formed in Hertford in 1968. Along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, they are considered to be among the pioneers of heavy metal and modern hard rock, although some band members believe that their music cannot be categorised as belonging to any one genre. The band incorporated classical music, blues-rock, pop and progressive rock elements. They were once listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as "the loudest pop group", and have sold over 100 million albums worldwide. Deep Purple were ranked #22 on VH1's Greatest Artists of Hard Rock programme.
The band has gone through many line-up changes and an eight-year hiatus (1976–84). The 1968–76 line-ups are commonly labelled Mark I, II, III and IV. Their second and most commercially successful line-up featured Ian Gillan (vocals), Jon Lord (keyboards), Roger Glover (bass), Ian Paice (drums) and Ritchie Blackmore (guitar). This line-up was active from 1969 to 1973 and was revived from 1984 to 1989 and again in 1993, before the rift between Blackmore and other members became unbridgeable. The current line-up (including guitarist Steve Morse) has been much more stable, although Lord's retirement in 2002 has left Paice as the only original member never to have left the band.
In 1967, former Searchers drummer Chris Curtis contacted London businessman Tony Edwards in the hope that he would manage a new group he was putting together, to be called Roundabout: so-called because the members would get on and off the band, like a musical roundabout. Impressed with the plan, Edwards agreed to finance the venture with two business partners: John Coletta and Ron Hire (Hire-Edwards-Coletta – HEC Enterprises).
The first recruit was the classically-trained Hammond organ player Jon Lord, who had most notably played with The Artwoods (led by Art Wood, brother of future Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, and featuring Keef Hartley). He was followed by session guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who was persuaded to return from Hamburg to audition for the new group. Curtis soon dropped out, but HEC Enterprises, as well as Lord and Blackmore, were keen to carry on.
For the bass guitar, Lord suggested his old friend Nick Simper, with whom he had played in a band called The Flower Pot Men and their Garden (formerly known as The Ivy League) back in 1967. Simper's claims to fame (apart from Deep Purple) were that he had been in Johnny Kidd and The Pirates and had been in the car crash that killed Kidd. He was also in Screaming Lord Sutch's The Savages, where he played with Blackmore.
The line-up was completed by vocalist Rod Evans and drummer Ian Paice from The Maze. After a brief tour of Denmark in the spring of 1968, Blackmore suggested a new name: Deep Purple, which was his grandmother's favourite song. The group had resolved to choose a name after everyone had posted one on a board in rehearsal, and second to Deep Purple was "Concrete God" which the band thought was too harsh to take on.
In October 1968, the group had success with a cover of Joe South's "Hush", which reached #4 on the US Billboard chart and #2 on the Canadian RPM charts. The song was taken from their debut album Shades of Deep Purple, which was released in July 1968, and they were booked to support Cream on their Goodbye tour.
The band's second album, The Book of Taliesyn (including a cover of Neil Diamond's "Kentucky Woman"), was released in the United States to coincide with this tour, reaching #38 on the billboard chart and #21 on the RPM charts, although it would not be released in their home country until the following year. 1969 saw the release of their third album, Deep Purple, which contained strings and woodwind on one track ("April"). Several influences were in evidence, notably Vanilla Fudge (Blackmore has even claimed the group wanted to be a "Vanilla Fudge clone") and Lord's classical antecedents such as Bach and Rimsky-Korsakov.
After these three albums and extensive touring in the United States, their American record company, Tetragrammaton, went out of business, leaving the band with no money and an uncertain future. (Tetragrammaton's assets were assumed by Warner Bros. Records, who would release Deep Purple's records in the US throughout the 1970s.) Returning to England in early 1969, they recorded a single called "Emmaretta", named for Emmaretta Marks, then a cast member of the musical Hair, whom Evans was trying to seduce. This would be the band's last recording before Evans and Simper were fired.
In search of a replacement vocalist, Blackmore set his sights on 19 year old singer Terry Reid, who only a year earlier declined a similar opportunity to front the newly forming Led Zeppelin. Though he found the offer "flattering" Reid was still bound by the exclusive recording contract with his producer Mickie Most and more interested in his solo career. Blackmore had no other choice but to look elsewhere.
The band hunted down singer Ian Gillan from Episode Six, a band that had released several singles in the UK without achieving their big break for commercial success. Six's drummer Mick Underwood — an old comrade of Blackmore's from his Savages days — made the introductions of Gillan and bassist Roger Glover. This effectively killed Episode Six and gave Underwood a guilt complex that lasted nearly a decade — until Gillan recruited him for his new post-Purple band in the late 1970s.
The band gained some much-needed publicity with the Concerto for Group and Orchestra, a three-movement epic composed by Lord as a solo project and performed by the band at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Malcolm Arnold. Together with Five Bridges by The Nice, it was one of the first collaborations between a rock band and an orchestra although, at the time, certain members of Deep Purple (Blackmore and Gillan especially) were less than happy at the group being tagged as "a group who played with orchestras" when actually what they had in mind was to develop the band into a much tighter, hard-rocking style. Despite this, Lord wrote and the band recorded the Gemini Suite, another orchestra/group collaboration in the same vein, in late 1970.
Shortly after the orchestral release, the band began a hectic touring and recording schedule that was to see little respite for the next three years. Their first studio album of this period, released in mid-1970, was In Rock (a name supported by the album's Mount Rushmore-inspired cover), which contained the then-concert staples "Speed King", "Into The Fire" and "Child in Time". The band also issued the UK Top Ten single "Black Night". The interplay between Blackmore's guitar and Lord's distorted organ, coupled with Gillan's howling vocals and the rhythm section of Glover and Paice, now started to take on a unique identity that further separated the band from its earlier albums.
A second album, the creatively progressive Fireball, was issued in the summer of 1971. The title track "Fireball" was released as a single, as was "Strange Kind of Woman" – not from the album but recorded during the same sessions (although it was included on the US version of the album instead of the UK version's song "Demon's Eye".)
Within weeks of Fireballs release, the band were already performing songs planned for the next album. One song (which later became "Highway Star") was performed at the first gig of the Fireball tour, having been written on the bus to a show in Portsmouth, in answer to a journalist's question: "How do you go about writing songs?" Three months later, in December 1971, the band travelled to Switzerland to record Machine Head. The album was due to be recorded at a casino in Montreux, using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, but a fire during a Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention gig burned down the casino. The album was actually recorded at the nearby empty Grand Hotel. This incident famously inspired the song "Smoke on the Water". Gillan believes that he witnessed a man fire a flare gun into the ceiling during the concert, prompting Mark Volman of the Mothers to comment: "Arthur Brown in person!"
Continuing from where both previous albums left off, Machine Head has since become the band's most famous album, including tracks that became live classics such as "Highway Star", "Space Truckin'", "Lazy" and "Smoke on the Water", the song for which Deep Purple is most famous. Deep Purple continued to tour and record at a rate that would be rare thirty years on: when Machine Head was recorded, the group had only been together three and a half years, yet it was their seventh LP. Meanwhile the band undertook four North America tours in 1972 and the August tour of Japan that led to a double-vinyl live release, Made in Japan. Originally intended as a Japan-only record, its worldwide release saw the double LP become an instant hit. It remains one of rock music's most popular and highest selling live-concert recordings (although at the time it was perhaps seen as less important, as only Glover and Paice turned up to mix it).
The classic Deep Purple Mark II line-up continued to work and released the album Who Do We Think We Are (1973), featuring the hit single "Woman from Tokyo", but internal tensions and exhaustion were more noticeable than ever. In many ways, the band had become victims of their own success. Still riding the wave of Machine Head and Made in Japan, the addition of Who Do We Think We Are made them the top-selling artists of 1973 in the USA. Ian Gillan admitted in a 1984 interview that the band was pushed by management to complete the album on time and go on tour when they badly needed a break. The bad feelings culminated in Gillan quitting the band after their second tour of Japan in the summer of 1973 over tensions with Blackmore, and Glover being pushed out with him.
The band first hired Midlands bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, formerly of Trapeze. After acquiring Hughes, they debated continuing as a four-piece with Hughes as both bassist and lead vocalist. According to Hughes, he was persuaded to join under the guise that the band would be bringing in Paul Rodgers of Free as a co-lead vocalist, but by that time Rodgers had just started Bad Company. Instead, auditions were held for lead vocal replacements. Two primary candidates surfaced: a Scotsman, Angus Cameron McKinlay, and David Coverdale. They settled on Coverdale, an unknown singer from Saltburn in Northeast England, primarily because Blackmore liked his masculine, blues-tinged voice, and Angus was eliminated.
This new line-up continued into 1974. The band played at the famous California Jam festival in Ontario, California on April 6, 1974. Attracting over 200,000 fans, the festival also included 70's rock giants Black Sabbath, Eagles, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Earth, Wind & Fire, Seals and Crofts, Rare Earth and Black Oak Arkansas. Portions of the show were telecast on ABC Television in the US, exposing the band to a wider audience. This lineup's first album, titled Burn, was a highly successful release (only the second album, after Machine Head, to crack the USA Top 10) and was followed by another world tour. Hughes and Coverdale added vocal harmonies and elements of funk and blues, respectively, to the band's music, a sound that was even more apparent on the late 1974 release Stormbringer. Besides the title track, the album had a number of songs that received much radio play, such as "Lady Double Dealer", "The Gypsy" and "Soldier Of Fortune". Yet Blackmore voiced unhappiness with the album and the direction Deep Purple had taken, stating simply, "I don't like funky soul music." As a result, he left the band on 21 June 1975 to form his own band with Ronnie James Dio of Elf, called Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, later shortened after one album to Rainbow.
With Blackmore's departure, Deep Purple was left to fill one of the biggest band member vacancies in rock music. In spite of this, the rest of the band refused to stop, and to the surprise of many long-time fans, actually announced a replacement for the "irreplaceable" Man in Black; American Tommy Bolin.
There are at least two versions about the recruitment of Bolin: Coverdale claims to have been the one who suggested auditioning Bolin. "He walked in, thin as a rake, his hair coloured green, yellow and blue with feathers in it. Slinking along beside him was this stunning Hawaiian girl in a crochet dress with nothing on underneath. He plugged into four Marshall 100-watt stacks and...the job was his". But in an interview originally published by Melody Maker in June 1975, Bolin himself claimed that he came to the audition following a recommendation from Blackmore. Bolin had been a member of many now-forgotten late-1960s bands – Denny & The Triumphs, American Standard, and Zephyr, which released three albums from 1969–72. Before Deep Purple, Bolin's best-known recordings were made as a session musician on Billy Cobham's 1973 jazz fusion album Spectrum, and as Joe Walsh's replacement on two James Gang albums: Bang (1973) and Miami (1974). He had also jammed with such luminaries as Dr. John, Albert King, The Good Rats, Moxy and Alphonse Mouzon, and was busy working on his first solo album, Teaser, when he accepted the invitation to join Deep Purple.
The resulting album, Come Taste the Band, was released in October 1975. Despite mixed reviews, the collection revitalised the band once again, bringing a new, extreme funk edge to their hard rock sound. Bolin's influence was crucial, and with encouragement from Hughes and Coverdale, the guitarist developed much of the material. Later, Bolin's personal problems with drugs began to manifest themselves, and after cancelled shows and below-par concert performances, the band was in danger.