Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



UK heavy metal pioneers. Originally formed in 1968 to showcase former Searchers drummer Chris Curtis as a vocalist, they were backed by a wealthy industrialist. Their first stable lineup (originally named Roundabout) was Ritchie Blackmore, guitar; Jon Lord (b 9 June 1941, Leicestershire), keyboards; Ian Paice (b 29 June 1948), drums; Rod Evans, vocals; Nick Simper, bass. Paice and Evans were ex-Maze; Lord ex-Artwoods; Simper and Lord ex-Flowerpot Men. Lord said, 'We were going to be the English Vanilla Fudge.' First albums Shades Of Deep Purple '68, The Book Of Taliesyn and Deep Purple '69 sold well in the USA but the Tetragrammaton record company went broke, preventing the group from capitalizing on USA hit singles, covers of Joe South's 'Hush' and Neil Diamond's 'Kentucky Woman'. The albums were too reliant on obvious covers such as 'Hey Joe', 'We Can Work It Out', 'Help', etc.

Restructuring brought more secure identity with the arrival of Ian Gillan (b 19 August 1945, Hounslow) on vocals and Roger Glover (b 30 November 1945) on bass, both ex-Episode Six. The band moved from pop to heavier rock; after the Lord-inspired Concerto For Group And Orchestra '70 recorded live at Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold came arguably the most influential UK hardrock album ever, Deep Purple In Rock '70, establishing the formula of Gillan's wailing, high-register vocals, extended instrumental breaks, solid guitar riffs from Blackmore, and wild organ from Lord; it was no. 4 in the UK LP chart, with a no. 2 single 'Black Night'. Fireball '71 snd Machine Head '72 were no. 1 LPs UK but personnel problems (which lent tension to the music) were exacerbated by heavy touring/recording schedule: Made In Japan '72 was a live two-disc set of the band at their performing peak, but after Who Do We Think We Are '73 Gillan and Glover left. By that time the albums were top 20 in the USA too, and spawned single hits at home: 'Strange Kind Of Woman' and 'Fireball' both '71. 'Smoke On The Water' from Machine Head became heavy metal anthem, made no. 4 USA and brought the album back to the charts to sell four million. The addition of unknown David Coverdale (b 22 September 1951, Saltburn) on vocals and Glenn Hughes (b Penkridge, ex-Trapeze) had little effect at first on popularity: Burn made top ten USA/UK, Stormbringer top ten UK, top 20 USA (both '74).

But Blackmore left, protesting at 'funky' new musical direction away from heavy metal, the beginning of the end. American Tommy Bolin replaced Blackmore for R&B-flavoured Come Taste The Band, which just made the top 20 UK, only 43 USA. They split July '76. Gillan bought a studio with earnings from sessioning on Jesus Christ Superstar '72 and started his own group; Glover joined Blackmore's Rainbow; Paice and Lord formed short-lived Paice Ashton Lord; Coverdale formed Whitesnake, recruited Lord and Paice '78 and became most the successful Purple spinoff. Stories about Purple re-forming were rife in '70s; the group agreed to sue Rod Evans for touring with a group he called Deep Purple '80 but did not re-form until a shock decision in late '83: Perfect Strangers '84 with Lord, Paice, Blackmore, Glover and Gillan entered UK charts at no. 5 alongside Iron Maiden and other UK groups who had listened to Purple when spotty little kids. Further albums were The House Of Blue Light '87, Nobody's Perfect '88 (Gillan left '89 to form Garth Rockett and the Moonshiners, replaced by Rainbow's Joe Lynn Turner), Slaves And Masters '90 (Gillan came back, Turner left), The Battle Rages On '93. Hughes joined Black Sabbath '86.

Lord had been writing orchestral music since 1969, but was not in a big hurry to make a splash, and apparently needs less help in this area than certain other rock stars. His Durham Concerto is an orchestral suite of six movements grouped in pairs, Lord's Hammond organ featured in four of them; it was written and recorded live for the Avie label on the occasion of Durham University's 175th anniversary in 2007, by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Mischa Damev. Critic Rob Barnett at MusicWeb-International reached for the names of Thomas Tallis, Alan Hovhaness, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and several other mostly English influences, including Malcom Arnold; solo violin, cello and Northumbrian pipes were skilfully woven together. Lord's Boom of the Tingling Strings - for Piano and Orchestra (2002) and Disguises - Suite for Strings (2003) were released on EMI in 2008, having been recorded in 2006 by the Odense Symfoniorkester conducted by Paul Mann in the Carl Nielsen Hall, Odense, Denmark, with pianist Nelson Goerner. Boom is essentially a piano concerto in four wide-ranging movements, inspired by ‘The Piano’, a poem by by D.H. Lawrence, whose childhood images of the mother and the piano were similar to memories from Lord’s childhood. Barnett wrote that it was more outgoing and ebbullient than the Durham Concerto, finding possible influences of Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and George Gershwin as well as Arnold. The three-movement Disguises is dedicated to Arnold, who died in 2006: 'Music for Miriam' is a central adagio based on a six-note theme left to Lord by his mother, while Barnett compared the joyous third movement to Michael Tippett’s Concerto for Double String Orchestra (1939), one of the masterpieces of English string music.