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Deep Purple

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In May 1965, a band called Episode Six became popular on the British music scene and became particularly popular in 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.

Two years later, a band called The Flowerpot 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 have denied this. It featured Tony Burrows, Neil Landon, Robin Shaw, and Pete Nelson on vocals, Ged Stone on guitar.

In 1968, the group Roundabout formed, consisting of Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, Jon Lord on Hammond organ, Chris Curtis on vocals, and others.

After only a month of rehearsals, Blackmore and Lord split from the group. The two joined forces with vocalist Rod Evans, bassist Nick Simper and drummer Ian Paice. The new band was named Deep Purple.

In October 1968, the group had tremendous success in the US with its cover of Joe South’s “Hush,” taken from their acclaimed debut album Shades of Deep Purple. In 1969, two more successful albums followed: The Book of Taliesyn and Deep Purple, the latter of which contained a symphony orchestra on some tracks. After three albums and extensive touring in the States, it was the inclusion of vocalist Ian Gillan (who replaced Evans) and bassist Roger Glover (who replaced Simper) that created the essential Deep Purple line-up. Initially, this line-up released a landmark album in Concerto for Group and Orchestra a three-part movement written by Lord and performed with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold. It is widely known as the first successful collaboration between a rock band and an orchestra.

Shortly after the orchestral release, the band shocked the music world by creating extremely heavy, hard rock music, and thus becoming a pioneer in the world of heavy metal. Their heaviness was only rivaled by newcomers Black Sabbath. During this period, Deep Purple became one of the most popular hard rock acts in the world, releasing the highly influential and successful albums Deep Purple in Rock, Fireball, and Machine Head (the latter featuring their most famous song, “Smoke on the Water”), and the live album Made in Japan.

The classic line-up continued up through the album Who Do We Think We Are (1973) at which point both Gillan and Glover left. They were replaced by an unknown singer named David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes on bass and vocals. This new line-up continued seamlessly into 1974 with the album Burn, another highly successful Purple album. Hughes and Coverdale added a funky R&B/soul sound to the band’s heavy metal elements, a sound that was even more apparent on the 1975 release Stormbringer. Blackmore was not happy with the results, and as a result he left to form his own band Rainbow.

With Blackmore's departure, Deep Purple was left to fill one of the biggest vacancies in rock. The gap was filled by the prodigiously talented Tommy Bolin who had established himself as a vivid imaginative guitarist with acts, such as Zephyr, James Gang and Billy Cobham. On the face of it Bolin was just what the doctor ordered. However, the subsequent album, 1976's Come Taste the Band, for all its quality, proved unpopular with die-hard fans and didn't attract any new ones. Bolin himself turned out not to be ready for the job of filling Blackmore's shoes, suffering hostility from some crowds while turning in performances of highly variable quality. He had a drug habit, which made matters all the worse. After a particularly traumatic tour to promote Come Taste the Band, the band broke up. Later Tommy Bolin died of a drug overdose whilst on tour supporting Jeff Beck.

Subsequently, most of the past members of Deep Purple would go on to have considerable success in a number of other bands including Rainbow, Whitesnake and Gillan, while there were 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.

In April 1984, eight years after the demise of Deep Purple, it 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 and the tour followed, starting in New Zealand and winding its way across the world into Europe by the following summer. It was a tremendous success. The UK homecoming proved mixed as they elected to play just a single festival show (with main support from The Scorpions).

The line-up recorded and toured The House of Blue Light in 1987 though to lower sales; a live album Nobody's Perfect (1988) was culled from US shows on this tour. While in the UK a new version of “Hush” was released to mark 20 years of the band. In 1989, Ian Gillan quit the band again, as his relations with Blackmore soured. His replacement was former Rainbow vocalist Joe Lynn Turner. This line up recorded just one album, Slaves and Masters (1990), and toured in support of it.

With the tour done, Turner was forced to go as Jon Lord and Ian Paice realized they needed Gillan back in the fold. Blackmore relented and the classic line-up recorded The Battle Rages On in 1993. During the support tour in mid-1994, tensions between Gillan and Blackmore came to a head yet again. Blackmore walked out, never to return and leaving the band in a fix. Joe Satriani was drafted in, so the live dates (in Japan) could be completed. Satriani was asked to join full time, but declined. The band auditioned guitarists, and Steve Morse of Dixie Dregs impressed them enough to get the gig.

The revitalized band enjoyed success throughout the rest of the 1990s, releasing the critically acclaimed Purpendicular in 1996, and Abandon in 1998. Most of this period was spent on the road via constant 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 he was leaving the band to pursue personal projects (especially orchestral work). Rock keyboard veteran Don Airey (Rainbow/Whitesnake, etc.), who had helped 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 Bananas, and began touring in support of the album immediately.

Despite their association with the sub-genre, Deep Purple has never been purely a heavy metal band, though many later heavy metal bands cite their influence. The group has frequently changed styles and line-ups over the years, but has always included virtuoso players in its ranks and placed a high priority on musicianship. Some incarnations of Deep Purple have brought aspects of jazz to a rock context due to their frequent use of their songs as vehicles for extended and sophisticated solos.

Deep Purple, one of the most important and influential British rock bands of all time, has released Now What?! (2013), their newest album completely made of new studio material. After various songwriting sessions in Europe, the band recorded and mixed the album in Nashville with producer Bob Ezrin (in his impressive hit record:  Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Alice Cooper and many others). The album is rumored to be the perfect match from the original spirit of ‘70s Purple, and a fresh and modern production.


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