Like some of my previous entries in this series, reducing the essence of a major artist’s career down to just ten songs is never easy. As on my earlier Black Sabbath piece I wanted to avoid a list containing ten obvious standards and nothing else, so I missed out very well-known songs such as “Smoke on the Water” to make room for a couple of lesser known and often overlooked gems.
There were a few songs that picked themselves. “Eyes of the World” was one of those songs that changed my life, so it had to be there. Likewise, the towering “Stargazer” could not be omitted. I did consider including representatives from his 1960s session work, and from the more recent Blackmores Night so as to cover his entire career. But in the end I decided to focus entirely on his prime years from 1970 to 1984.
Quite a few of the alternative suggestions in the comments did actually appear in earlier drafts of my list, including “Child in Time” which I eventually left out in place of “Speed King”, and the live version of “Catch the Rainbow” which one commenter described as the nearest thing rock guitar ever came to Coltraine.
It’s 1985. Thirty years ago today, as I write this. I’m a student in Sunderland and I’ve just passed my 20th birthday. And I have only recently been introduced to rock music by the people I’m living with. I grew up without much knowledge of contemporary music at all. I listened to my parents’ music. My sister bought all the pop records in the household, and I didn’t think much of most of them. I listened to classical music, some folk, some jazz, and mostly what these days they would call the “Great American Songbook”. So I’m only just starting to listen to rock music, and deciding that while a lot of it is rubbish, some of it might not be bad at all. The first rock LP I buy is something called Bat Out Of Hell, and I think it’s incredible. My friends go up to rock gigs in Newcastle every few weeks and come back telling me it was the best concert they’ve ever seen (which seems a silly thing to say; how can they always get better and better?) but I never want to go with them. It doesn’t seem like it would be my kind of thing.
So there’s suddenly this buzz about an old band called Deep Purple who have reformed and are going to be playing a big show in someplace I’ve never heard of called Knebworth. I’ve heard Deep Purple: a friend loaned me a compliation called Deepest Purple last summer, and some of it is not bad at all. More intriguingly, Meat Loaf, the Bat Out of Hell guy, will be on the bill.
The whole thing is well worth a read.
Almost every rock fan I know seems to have been at that gig. It was the hard rock equivalent of that much mythologised Sex Pistols gig in Manchester, except that everyone who claims to have been there actually was.
The thing we all remember the most is the rain. And Meatloaf being absolutely God-awful, And the rain. And Mountain missing out the good bit from “Nantucket Sleighridge”. And the sun coming out briefly during Blackfoot’s excellent set. And then the rain came back. And The Scorpions, at the peak of the powers, stealing the show from the headliners. But most of all, the rain.
The other thing that sticks in the memory is walking back from Kings Cross to Paddington, covered in mud, and having to cover two and three quarter miles in 45 minutes to catch the last train back to Slough at 1:40am. We made it with just seconds to spare.
I’ve seen Deep Purple a couple of times far more recently, but it’s still the only time I have ever seen Ritchie Blackmore live.
Jon Lord, best-known as the keyboard player for Deep Purple, has passed away at the age of 71.
Deep Purple have always been a major part of my musical life – One of the first albums I ever bought was the live double “Made in Japan”, and I loved the way he incorporated classical motifs into heavy rock and turned the organ into a lead instrument. He had a healthy respect for classical, jazz and rock’n'roll and frequently managed to fuse all of them into something that could often be more than the sum of the parts. I still like his “Concerto for Group and Orchestra”, composed in 1969, all-too-often condemned as a pretentious folly, as well as other rock and orchestral crossovers such as 1976′s excellent “Sarabande”.
After retiring from touring with Deep Purple a decade ago, he spent his final years as a classical composer, with works such as the acclaimed Durham Concerto.
I saw Jon Lord live three times, once with Whitesnake at the 1980 Reading Festival, and twice with Deep Purple; the infamous 1985 Knebworth mudbath, and again and most memorably at Manchester Apollo in 2002, on his very last tour with Deep Purple.
At that Reading Festival, when he started his lengthy classically-derived keyboard solo, I remember a guy next to me saying “Oh no, twenty minutes of boredom”. Even as a teenager I remember thinking “That guy just does not get it”.
Here he is towards the end of his time with Deep Purple, in Moscow in 1996, when Steve Morse had replaced Ritchie Blackmore on guitar.