School Me: Deep Purple

220px-Stormbringer2009Welcome to School Me, wherein I your humble know-it-all admit to something I don’t know and then ask you, the readers, how to rectify my ignorance. Our first attempt at this is a doozy.

How is it that I don’t know more about Deep Purple? I know ancillary things like: “Dunh-dunh-DAHHH…dunh-dunh-DA-DAAH,” the lead guitarist was Richie Blackmore who left Deep Purple to form Rainbow, I like Rainbow more than I like Deep Purple, Steve Morse is the current guitarist for the band and is kick-ass, but I have little desire to hear what his DP material sounds like.

For some reason I always equate Deep Purple with Black Sabbath, but where Sabbath had a modus operandi that guided (sometimes misguided) them, Deep Purple never seemed to me to have a clear concept of what they wanted to be. Their identity was muddied more because of the seemingly endless revolving door of personalities involved with the band, and it became difficult for me to reconcile the concept of a galaxy featuring Glenn Hughes (who fronted both bands at times) and David Coverdale (later Whitesnake), and Joe Lynn Turner (also Rainbow which was once fronted by Ronnie James Dio, also of Black Sabbath and this is starting to give me a headache).

In keeping with the premise of this series I shall reveal I only know, with certainty, two DP songs: “Smoke On The Water” and “Highway Star.” I own Stormbringer but probably have only listened to it twice. This is not a judgment of quality or lack thereof but more a statement that I just wasn’t in the mood at the time. So I’m a total neophyte when it comes to this band, and I open the floor to you. Give me five earth shaking, can’t-live-without Deep Purple songs that will make me want to investigate further. Tell me something about their history that will stoke my curiosity. Agree with me that the album title Come Taste The Band is just crap. Let me know why I should not hold Blackmore’s Night against him and give this another shot, freed from the fear of Renn Faire nerds attacking me.

Your assignment starts…now!

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  • Chris Holmes

    Just listen to all of Machine Head. It’s one of the Holy Trinity of Rock/Metal from 1972, next to Led Zep IV and Paranoid.

  • walloffsound

    “Glenn Hughes (who fronted both bands at times) and David Coverdale
    (later Whitesnake), and Joe Lynn Turner (also Rainbow which was once
    fronted by Ronnie James Dio, also of Black Sabbath and this is starting
    to give me a headache)” ….

    i dare you to study this tree closely … and see if it actually relieves your headache or compound it further LOL

  • Michael Parr

    Wait, Satch was in a random incarnation of Deep Purple?!

    My head hurts … must turn off internet.

  • stereo dictator

    Amen to Machine Head being an all-time classic; as much for the lesser-known songs as the big ones.
    Five tunes besides Smoke on the Water: Space Truckin, Burn, Lazy, Perfect Strangers, Speed King.
    History: Their 1975 tour stop in Jakarta resulted in the band being ripped off for $750,000 (huge in those days) and a member of their crew dying under mysterious/possibly criminal circumstances.
    So many good tunes and a lot of genuine rock history accompanies DP. Haven’t even gotten to the gem that was “Made in Japan” or the late 80s reunion of the Mark II/classic lineup. You should not forgive Blackmore for Blackmore’s Night. Just ignore it.

  • Guy Smiley

    I’m not a terribly big fan of the “classic” DP. Sure, “Smoke on the Water” is cheesy fun and “Highway Star” and “Space Truckin’ ” are pretty cool jams. I like “Woman From Tokyo” too. But, for me, the DP I like is the original, “mark 1″ band.

    The first two albums, Shades of Deep Purple and The Book of Taliesyn are just crazy, over the top, late 60’s awesomeness. I wouldn’t call the original DP “metal” at all. Just pre-Zeppelin hard rock. Jon Lord’s amazing organ work is really the band’s lead instrument on the albums, and Rod Evans’ soulful vocals are truly underrated.

    The lyrics on the original compositions are a bit Spinal Tap-ish, and kinda hippy-dippy, but for me that’s part of the charm. Musically, those two albums are unimpeachable. And then there’s the cover songs. The big hit single “Hush” isn’t a DP original, but DP made it their own. One of the great jams of the era. I also love the radically reworked Beatles covers (“Help!” and “We Can Work It Out”), as well as a crazy “River Deep Mountain High.”

    But my favorite DP track of all? “Kentucky Woman.” Yes, that “Kentucky Woman.” The Neil Diamond song. It’s a completely different song in DP’s hands, the organ solo is out of this world. It lays on the cheese pretty thick, but damned if it doesn’t rock.

    I still need to check out the third and final album of the original DP, but make a point of checking out the first two for sure.

  • mc3

    It’s always fun to discover music you should have already known about. One of the best examples of this for me in 2012 was Deep Purple’s “Lazy” from the Machine Head album. A local radio station played this as a tribute to the passing of John Lord and I was blown away. Check it out here:

    And if you like “Lazy”, you may like this version as well. This one comes from the October 2012 album “Re-Machined: A Tribute to Deep Purple’s Machine Head” and features the guitar work of Joe Bonamassa and Brad Whitford along with vocals by Australian legend Jimmy Barnes.

  • Beau

    Remember the scene in Spinal Tap in which Nigel plays the beautiful piano piece, discusses it for a while and then reveals that it’s called “Lick My Love Pump”? That’s how I feel about Deep Purple’s Mark II reunion album “Perfect Strangers.” Everyone could play — Blackmore was brilliant, and Jon Lord won tons of praise before and after his passing from none other than occasional Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, who is not one to squander praise on inferior musicians.

    But just listen to “Knocking At Your Back Door.” It rocks, sure. They masterfully build and relieve suspense. For an English band, you know the lyrics are either going to be some obscure historical or literary tale … or the most ridiculous shoutouts to sex you’ve ever heard. In this case, it’s the latter. It’s almost a Weird Al style parody — the music’s solid, the lyrics are absurd.

    So for the most part, I think they’re sort of a musician’s band. In addition to Wakeman, check out what Geddy Lee had to say about them:

  • Peter Haas

    Yes, “Machine Head” is great and something you should get familiar with. But I’m a little surprised, shocked even, that nobody is mentioning “In Rock.” This is the ur-metal album of all ur-metal albums. In fact, I think it makes most other heavy metal albums and bands superfluous. You’ve got the quintessential lineup, including Blackmore, Glover, and Lord, vocalist Ian Gilian — fresh from or about to do great things on the original Jesus Christ Superstar LP — and the most memorable songs DP will ever do. I guess it helps if you’re like 13 years old when it comes out, but I do believe this one stands the test of time. And there is no better DP song than “Sweet Child in Time.”

  • EightE1

    Burn, from Burn

    Maybe I’m a Leo, from Machine Head

    Perfect Strangers, from Perfect Strangers

    Might Just Take Your Life, from Burn

    Child in Time, from In Rock

  • MB

    “Anthem” from Book Of Taliesyn in 1969 is my favorite Deep Purple song.

  • Jellyrollfortheearhole

    For me, the band’s classic period was the Ian Gilliam fronted version which is best demonstrated with the albums Machine Head and In Rock, which I think most agree are bonafide classics. In the early 70s this was what “hard rock” sounded like. Though perhaps compared to Sabbath were a milder salsa. Purple had keyboards which may be a bit too much for most metalheads to forgive.

    Outside of those two albums, they also had a number of great singles––Woman from Tokyo, Smooth Dancer, Fireball, Rat Bat Blue, Strange Kind of Woman, etc. They had arguably one of the best hard rock drummers (next to Bonzo), one of the most distinguished guitarists from the bloozey generation in Blackmore––his tone was friggin’ golden––and bar none the best of keyboardists, if you can get over such things, to ever play next to a a Marshall stack. The guitar and keyboard solos were often so good as to steal the show (to wit: Highway Star, Lazy, Burn). Gilliam as a vocalist had abundant power, tone, and range––his screams were sweet––and maybe a bit overwrought but then this is hard rock we’re talking about. (I won’t even mention the puerile drivel of the lyrics.) David Cloverdale’s voice I find harder to swallow and his bubble gum metal band that followed only makes things worse for me. That aside, from start to finish the “Burn” album is nearly as good as anything from the classic Gilliam period.

    By the time of Stormbringer (enough with the evil sorceress tales!) I was no longer interested, though… I might argue with you on Come Taste the Band. I’m an old guy and Purple was one of my high school faves. I remember a review of CTtB in the LA Times with the headline “A New High in Lows.” The album’s detractors were legion. Even I couldn’t bring myself to listen to it until about a year ago. I’m a fan of Tommy Bolin so I may be predisposed to his playing but i submit that his playing on that record may be the greatest ever for a guy stoned to near death. I thought Bolin’s funk brought a new dimension to the sound that might’ve served them well. (Funk Metal? Why not?)

    Their pre-Gilliam period had some jewels too. Singers aside, those cats could blow.

    My five songs:
    1) Child in Time, 2) Lazy, 3) Burn, 4) Woman from Tokyo, 5)

  • harryurz

    Most of the comments left thus far have recommended studio tracks; to concentrate on Purple’s recorded legacy is really missing the point. They were all most at home in the live environment -essentially a jamming improvisation collective who really thrived on the freedom the stage gave them. To fully appreciate what Deep Purple were about simply listen to any of the numerous live releases available, especially ” Made in Japan” or ” In Concert” (the BBC live recordings 1970-72). A better live experience is hard to find.