1969, Jon Lord, Ian Paice, Ian Gillan, Ritchie Blackmore and Roger Glover.
Origin England London, England
acts Rainbow, Whitesnake, Gillan, Blackmore’s Night, Tommy Bolin, Episode Six, Screaming Lord Sutch
Tommy Bolin (deceased)
Joe Lynn Turner
Deep Purple are an English hard rock band formed in London, England in 1968 (see 1968 in music). Along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, they are considered to be one of the pioneer contributors to the heavy metal and the hard rock genres.
(1964–1967) Pre-Deep Purple years
The band Episode Six released several singles in the UK during the mid-sixties. It featured Ian Gillan on vocals, Graham Dimmock on guitar, Roger Glover on bass, Tony Lander on guitar, Sheila Carter on keyboards, and Harvey Shields on the drums. Despite extensive touring, they never had their big break.
In 1967, a band called The Flower Pot Men and their Garden was formed, formerly known as The Ivy League. It was concentrated on a trio of singers. The new name was clearly derived from the children’s show The Flowerpot Men, with the obvious psychedelic-era puns on flower power and “pot”. The band’s most popular song was “Let’s Go To San Francisco.” Some listeners assumed that the song was a parody of Scott McKenzie’s “If You’re Going to San Francisco,” but the band has denied this.
It featured Tony Burrows, Neil Landon, Robin Shaw, and Pete Nelson on vocals, Ged Peck on guitar, Nick Simper on bass, Jon Lord on organ, and Carlo Little on drums. Jon Lord had formerly played in The Artwoods, Nick Simper had been with Johnny Kidd & The Pirates and Screaming Lord Sutch’s The Savages, where he also played with guitarist Ritchie Blackmore.
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. Curtis’ idea was that the members of the group would get on and off a musical roundabout, and suitably impressed, Edwards agreed to finance the venture with two business partners: John Coletta and Ron Hire (Hire-Edwards-Coletta – HEC Enterprises).
Curtis then set about building up the group, to be known as Roundabout. His first encounter was with Hammond organ player Jon Lord; then he persuaded session guitarist Ritchie Blackmore to return from Hamburg, Germany, to audition for the new group. Curtis himself, however, soon dropped out, but HEC Enterprises, as well as Lord and Blackmore, were keen that the project should continue, so firstly bassist Nick Simper, then finally vocalist Rod Evans and drummer Ian Paice (both of whom were from the group The Maze), were recruited. After their first few gigs on a brief tour of Denmark in the spring of 1968, the band agreed on a new name suggested by Ritchie, taken from a song composed by Peter De Rose, Deep Purple which was his grandmother’s favourite song.
In October 1968, the group had tremendous success in the US (but not the UK) with a cover of Joe South’s “Hush,” taken from their debut album Shades of Deep Purple, and they were booked to support Cream on their Goodbye tour. However they were soon kicked off the tour, allegedly because they were upstaging the headlining act. The band’s second album, The Book of Taliesyn, was released in the United States to coincide with this tour, 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).
After these three albums and extensive touring in the States, Rod Evans and Nick Simper were unceremoniously sacked, and replaced by vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover both ex-Episode Six. This would create the quintessential Deep Purple “Mark 2” lineup. Initially, this version of the band released a great single probably influenced by the then-popular stage musical “Hair”, a cover of a Greenaway-Cook tune titled “Hallelujah”, which flopped. 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 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.
 (1970–1976) At top of the world and breakup
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 and 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”. Blackmore’s and Lord’s guitar-keyboard interplay coupled with Ian Gillan’s howling vocals and the solid rhythm section of Glover and Paice, now started to take on a unique identity and become instantly recognizable to rock fans throughtout Europe.
A second album, the slightly more mellow and progressive Fireball (a favourite of Gillan’s but not of Blackmore’s), was issued in the summer of 1971, including a number of enduring tracks such as “Fireball”, “Demon’s Eye”, “Fools”, and “No One Came”. The band also scored another UK chart hit with “Strange Kind Of Woman”. Together with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, Purple were laying the groundwork for what is now called heavy metal music, although at the time, the phrase was still wholly unknown.
Within weeks of Fireball’s release, the band was 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 the show in answer to a journalist’s question: “How do you go about writing songs?” Three months later, in December 1971, the band found itself in Switzerland to record Machine Head.
The album was due to be recorded at a casino in Montreux, using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, but after a supposedly accidental fire during a Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention gig burned down the casino the album was actually recorded at the nearby Grand Hotel, empty for the winter. This incident famously inspiring the song “Smoke on the Water”. Gillan believes that he witnessed a man fire a flare gun into the ceiling during the concert, prompting Zappa to comment: “I see Arthur Brown is here tonight.”
Continuing from where both previous albums left off, Machine Head has since become one the band’s most famous albums, including tracks like “Highway Star”, “Space Truckin'”, “Lazy”, “Pictures Of Home”, and “Smoke on the Water”. 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 US tours in 1972, not to mention the August tour of Japan that led to a double-vinyl live release, Made in Japan. This 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 Purple Mk 2 line-up continued to work hard and record into 1973, releasing the album Who Do We Think We Are (1973), featuring the hit single “Woman from Tokyo”, as well as “Mary Long”, “Smooth Dancer”, and “Rat Bat Blue”, but tensions and exhaustion were more noticeable than ever. The bad feelings culminated in Ian Gillan quitting the band after their second tour of Japan in the summer of 1973, and Roger Glover being pushed out with him.
Their replacements were an unknown singer from Redcar in Northern England, David Coverdale, and Midlands bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, formerly of Trapeze. This new line-up continued into 1974 with the a more heavy blues-rock album Burn, another highly successful release, which contained the concert staples “Might Just Take Your Life”, “You Fool No One”, and “Mistreated”. Hughes and Coverdale added both harmonies and a more funky R&B/soul element 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 was not happy with the results, and as a result left the band in 1975 to form his own band with Ronnie James Dio and Elf, called Rainbow.
With Blackmore’s departure, Deep Purple was left to fill one of the biggest vacancies in rock music. In spite of this, the rest of the band refused to go down without a fight, and to the surprise of many long-time fans actually announced a replacement for the “irreplaceable” Man in Black; American Tommy Bolin.
It was Coverdale who had suggested auditioning Bolin. “He walked in, thin as a rake, his hair colored 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. Bolin had been a member of many now-forgotten mid-60s bands – Denny & The Triumphs, American Standard, and Zephyr, which released three albums from ’69-72. Before Purple, Bolin’s best-known recordings were made as a gun-for-hire on Billy Cobham’s 1973 jazz fusion album, Spectrum, and on The James Gang’s “Bang” (1973) and “Miami” (1974). He had also jammed with such luminaries as Dr. John, Albert King, 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 the US in October 1975. Despite mixed reviews, the collection revitalized the band once again, bringing a new, extreme funk edge to their hard rock sound, which contained the concert staples “Gettin’ Tighter”, “You Keep On Moving”, and “Drifter”. Bolin’s influence was crucial, and with encouragement from Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale, the guitarist came up with much of the material. Later, Bolin’s personal problems with drugs began to manifest themselves, and after problems with cancelled shows and below-par concert performances, the writing was on the wall for the band.
(1976–1984) Band split and side projects
The end came on tour in Britain in March 1976 at the Liverpool Empire Theatre. David Coverdale reportedly walked off in tears and handed in his resignation, to which he was allegedly told there was no band left to quit. The decision to pull the plug on Purple had been made some time before the last show by Lord and Paice (the last surviving original members), who hadn’t told anyone else. The break-up was finally made public in July 1976.
Later, Bolin had just finished recording his second solo album, Private Eyes, when, on December 4, 1976, tragedy struck. In Miami, during a tour supporting Jeff Beck, Bolin was found unconscious by his girlfriend. Unable to wake him, she hurriedly called paramedics, but it was too late. The official cause of death: multiple-drug intoxication. He was 25 years old.
After the break-up most of the past and present members of Deep Purple went on to have considerable success in a number of other bands, including Rainbow, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath and Gillan. There were, however, a number of promoter-led attempts to get the band to reform, especially with the revival of the hard rock market in the late 70s/early 80s.
(1984–1994) Reunions and breakups
In 1980, Rod Evans, along with a group of unknown musicians, toured under the banner of Deep Purple. As he was the only original member, and one little known to most fans, this band was instantly derided by press and fans as a fraud. The lineup performed concerts in Mexico and the USA before legal action was taken to deny them the use of the name. In retrospect, however tenuous the connection this band had to the name “Deep Purple”, it at least kept the name alive and in the media, albeit briefly. More information on this “fake” Deep Purple is available here and here.
However, in April 1984, eight years after the demise of Deep Purple, a full-scale (and legal) reunion happened. It was announced on BBC radio’s The Friday Rock Show that the “classic” early 70s line-up of Blackmore, Gillan, Glover, Lord, and Paice was reforming and recording new material. The band signed a deal with Polydor in Europe and Mercury in North America. The album Perfect Strangers was released in October 1984. A solid release, it sold extremely well, and included “Knockin’ At Your Back Door”, “Under The Gun”, “Gypsy’s Kiss”, and the concert staple “Perfect Strangers” – a track that owed more than a little to Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”. The reunion tour followed, starting in Australia and wending its way across the world into Europe by the following summer. Financially, the tour was also a tremendous success. The UK homecoming proved limited, as they elected to play just a single festival show at Knebworth (with main support from the Scorpions). The weather was famously bad but 80,000 turned up anyway.
The line-up then recorded and toured The House of Blue Light in 1986, creating a number of modern era classics (“Bad Attitude”, “The Unwritten Law”, “Dead Or Alive”, and “Hard Lovin’ Woman”). This was followed by another live album Nobody’s Perfect (1988) which was culled from several shows on this tour. In the UK a new version of “Hush” was released to mark 20 years of the band. In 1989, Ian Gillan was fired from the band, as his relations with Blackmore had again soured, and their musical differences had widened too far. Gillan’s replacement was former Rainbow vocalist Joe Lynn Turner.
This line up recorded just one album, Slaves & Masters (1990) and toured in support. It is one of Blackmore’s favourite Purple albums, though some fans regard it as little more than a Rainbow album. Despite the renewed excellence of the band during this period, many hard-core fans were unhappy with Turner, preferring Gillan.
With the tour done, Turner was forced out, as Lord, Paice and Glover wanted Gillan back in the fold. Blackmore relented and the classic line-up recorded The Battle Rages On in 1993, which included the songs “Anya”, “Solitaire”, “Ramshackle Man”, and “The Battle Rages On”. During an artistically successful European tour during the fall of 1993, tensions between Gillan and Blackmore came to a head yet again. Blackmore walked out in November 1993, never to return.
Joe Satriani was drafted in, so the live dates (in Japan) in December could be completed. Satriani stayed on for a European Summer tour in 1994, and he was asked to stay permanently, but his record contract commitments prevented this. The band unanimously chose Dixie Dregs guitarist Steve Morse to become Blackmore’s permanent successor.
 (1994–present) Revival with Steve Morse
Roger Glover and Steve Morse jamming during the intro to Highway Star
Roger Glover and Steve Morse jamming during the intro to Highway Star
Steve Morse’s arrival revitalised the band. In 1996 the critically acclaimed Purpendicular was released. Deep Purple enjoyed success throughout the rest of the 1990s, releasing the harder-sounding Abandon in 1998, and touring with renewed enthusiasm. In 1999, Jon Lord, with the help of a fan who was also a musicologist and composer, painstakingly recreated the Concerto for Group and Orchestra; the original score having been lost.
It was once again performed at the Royal Albert Hall in September 1999, this time with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Mann. The concert also featured songs from each member’s solo careers, as well as a short Deep Purple set, and the occasion was commemorated on the 2000 album In Concert with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Much of the next few years was spent on the road touring. The group continued forward until 2002, when founding member Jon Lord (who, along with Ian Paice, was the only member to be in all incarnations of the band) announced his amicable retirement from the band to pursue personal projects (especially orchestral work). Rock keyboard veteran Don Airey (Rainbow/Ozzy Osbourne), who had helped Deep Purple out when Lord was injured in 2001, joined the band. In 2003, Deep Purple released their first studio album in five years, the highly praised (but controversially titled) Bananas, and began touring in support of the album immediately.
In July 2005 the band played at the Live 8 concert in Park Place (Ontario) and, in October of the same year, released their next album Rapture of the Deep. Although recorded in just a few weeks, this was considered to be their most progressive and adventurous work for many years and was followed by the Rapture of the Deep tour.
Deep Purple continues to actively carry on in the studio and around the globe today.