I n our college days, Rock music was always very hard to
find in the record stores of the city. So it was a godsend when my cousins
landed up from the States with a stack of the finest of Rock albums. We were
constantly in their house by the sea, listening to the latest Rock music of
that time. In retrospect almost all the albums they had were the very best of
what is now termed "Classic Rock". A sampling would include all the
Doors albums released till then, "Tommy", "Steppenwolf",
"Cream", "Byrds" etc. Among all these albums, there was
this unknown band that always intrigued me because their tracks featured long
original introductions to reworked popular songs. The tunes were treated in a
quasi-classical manner that featured some fabulous guitar work backed by an
"I'm so glad", the Willie Dixon blues, was the name of the Purple song that won Velvette Fogg, my band, it's very first Simla Beat Contest and Michael, our organ player, had mastered the long Hammond introduction to perfection. We recorded this song for EMI-HMV in the Simla Beat compilation LP album that was released as a part of the promotion for winning bands. Imagine my surprise when a few days back, a net friend informed me that a German record company has actually reissued the CD and you can order it on the net from www.pyschedelic-music.com! To the credit of the Indian Rock scene of that time, the site says that dealers and collectors have voted the CD as the best re-issue ever! "I'm so glad" was typically vintage Purple, at it's very best and featured what became to be called the very first edition of the Deep Purple band. Richie Blackmore, the guitarist and Jon Lord, the organist, were the stars of this outfit while Ian Paice, the drummer kept a strong steady beat. These three were to form the genesis of almost all the other editions of Deep Purple in the later years. At least, the ones that influenced me the most!
The second edition of Deep Purple saw the addition of Ian Gillian as vocalist and recorded probably what became the defining albums of Classic Hard Rock in history. Gillian was already familiar to me with his fantastic singing performance in the album for "Jesus Christ Superstar". So it was no surprise when he truly excelled himself in what was to follow. "Deep Purple in Rock", "Fireball", and "Machine Head" were the names of the albums that were to storm Rock fans in quick succession and these albums contained songs that were to become rock anthems for millions of kids like me from all around the world. "Speed King", "Child In Time", "Black Night", "Strange Kind Of Woman" "Smoke On The Water" were some of these songs and in those days, no Rock show in India would be complete without bands doing some or all of them! Deep Purple has usurped the No 1 position for the Rock loving kids of the world and would do so for many more years.
Unfortunately, this fantastic combination of musicians had to come to an end as relations within the band soured beyond redemption. Blackmore and Gillian could not see eye to eye, which resulted in Gillian and Roger Glover, the bassist, leaving the band. It was time for David Coverdale on Vocals and Glenn Hughes ex- Trapeze, bass to take over. Two big selling albums "Burn" and Stormbringer followed and although both the newcomers were consummate artistes, Purple seemed to lack the magic of the earlier combination. For me, it was all downhill from then on onwards and although an occasional masterpiece would filter through the albums they recorded thereafter, nothing seemed to match the consistency and longevity of their earlier efforts. Later, there would be further changes in the lineup with Blackmore leaving the band to form Rainbow and Gillian rejoining the band etc. but the turmoil within the group just would not allow the birth of another "Machine Head".
Deep Purple will always be remembered as one of those bands that crafted heavy rock to a fine art. One of the foremost English bands in the history of Rock, it was an absolute delight to hear them live in Mumbai a few years back, when they performed with their latest lineup which included Gillian and Steve Morse (ex Dixie Dregs) on guitar. This has been one of the finest concerts that I have had the pleasure to witness and I have seen quite a few! It was a near perfect performance from all members, with great sound and lights and although Blackmore could never be replaced, Morse managed to pull through with grace. Along with Led Zeppelin and the Who, Deep Purple will always remain for me this genre's undisputed leaders. Rock On!