Creators of hard rock’s most recognizable riff, home to some of the best musicians to ever plug into a Marshall stack, Deep Purple are just as important to the development of early heavy metal as their more hallowed brethren Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Like the high speed race cars they sonically emulated, their various lineups are known to fans as Mark I, Mark II and Mark III, but the core through their golden epoch was drumming powerhouse Ian Paice, groundbreaking organist Jon Lord and tempestuous sorcerer of the Stratocaster, Ritchie Blackmore. Members went on to serve in such esteemed outfits as Rainbow, Whitesnake, Captain Beyond, Black Country Communion and even the mighty Sabbath but it’s records like In Rock and Machine Head that place them in the ranks of rock’s greatest bands. These are the 10 Most Crucial Moments In Deep Purple History.
10. “Hush” single
Originally written by Joe South for American singer Billy Joe Royal, this 1968 cover was Deep Purple’s first hit record and the high water mark of their Mk I line-up. Initially envisioned as the “British version of Vanilla Fudge,” the band’s first three albums failed to take off, artistically or commercially, and when Blackmore and Lord wanted to get heavier, original singer Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper were sent packing.
9. The World’s Loudest Band
Many groups claim or have been proclaimed to be the “Loudest Band In The World” but Deep Purple were the first to be awarded the dubious honor in 1972 by the Guinness Book of World Records. A concert at London’s Rainbow Theater was clocked at 117 decibels, loud enough to “render three members of their audience unconscious. “ Unfortunately the record wouldn’t stand, being blown away a mere three years later by The Who and is currently held by metal warriors Manowar.
8. Perfect Strangers album
Nowadays band reunions are so commonplace it’s as if none of the great groups of yesteryear ever broke up in the first place. Back in the good old days of 1984 however, the reconvening of Deep Purple’s classic Mk II lineup made riff lovers rejoice. Fresh off his short stint with Black Sabbath, singer Ian Gillin briefly buried the hatchet with Ritchie Blackmore and the rest of the group gathered around a new set of classic tunes that resulted in a platinum-selling album and lucrative tour.
7. Deep Purple’s Academy of Excellent Guitarists
With his lightning fast medieval runs and mercurial temper, Ritchie Blackmore is one of the wizards of heavy metal guitar. From 1968 to 1975 his unique and memorable riffs powered the Purple and inspired generations of shredders before leaving to form the equally influential Rainbow. His replacement was the similarly fleet-fingered Tommy Bolin whose career was sadly cut short by a drug overdose in 1976. Blackmore was part of the band’s 1984 reunion but lingering tensions led to his departure in 1993 and replacement first by Joe Satriani and then current guitarist Steve Morse, both of whom rank among the 6-string elite.
6. California Jam & The Arrival of Deep Purple Mark III
When paint-peeling vocalist Ian Gillan left left Deep Purple in 1973 it took 2 singers to fill his shoes, lion-maned future-Whitesnake singer David Coverdale and shrieking bassist Glenn Hughes, late of Black Country Communion. Their weaving lead vocals were an essential part of DP Mk III records such as Burn and Stormbringer. Their live trial-by-fire baptism came in front of 250,000 rabid fans at the televised California Jam where they headlined over Black Sabbath and The Eagles in one of the biggest stateside music festivals since Woodstock.
5. Jon Lord Plugs His Organ Into a Marshall Stack
By the time he joined the embryonic Deep Purple, keyboardist Jon Lord was already a veteran of hard hitting Brit beat combos like The Artwoods and Santa Barbara Machine Head. His virtuosic and aggressive organ playing was always at the forefront of the group’s sound but when he plugged his Hammond C3 into a Marshall stack, usually the preferred amplifier for guitarists, things really started to fly. Much of the band’s heaviness is the result of his distorted lines doubling up Ritchie Blackmore’s Stratocaster riffs and live the two would trade licks spurring each other on to new heights of hard rock instrumentation.
4. Made In Japan Live Double LP
The Land of the Rising Sun is the gestational ground zero of many of metal’s great live albums including Scorpions’ Tokyo Tapes, Judas Priest’s Unleashed In The East and Iron Maiden’s Maiden Japan. Deep Purple’s double live opus Made In Japan was the first to be recorded there and arguably the best. Touring behind their landmark Machine Head LP, the group was firing on all cylinders storming through and stretching out on their biggest hits. Going Top 10 stateside upon its release, it cemented the band’s superstar status and is one of the best-selling live rock albums of all time.
3. Machine Head LP
The band’s most commercially successful release, 1972’s Machine Head, is neck and neck with In Rock as Deep Purple’s best album. The story of the strange circumstances of its recording gave the band its biggest hit in “Smoke On The Water,” and it also includes signature tunes “Highway Star,” “Space Truckin’” and the concert favorite “Lazy.” It is one of the most influential LPs in hard rock and heavy metal history and also rates as one of Ozzy Osbourne’s Top 10 favorite British albums.
2. “Smoke On The Water” single
The song that launched a million guitarists. It’s 4-note main melody is the most recognizable riff in all of rock. The song tells the true story of the band going to record at the Montreux Casino with The Rolling Stones Mobile Studio only to see their plans go up in smoke after “some stupid with a flare gun” at a Frank Zappa concert show accidentally set a fire that “burned the place to the ground.” Its popularity among beginning guitarists is somewhat belied by the fact that curmudgeonly guitarist Ritchie Blackmore insists most people play it wrong.
1. In Rock LP & The Arrival of Deep Purple Mark II
This 1970 steamroller was the full flowering of Deep Purple Mk II and their first classic album if not their career best. In singer Ian Gillan the band found a charismatic and powerful vocalist who could go the distance with his muso bandmates and bassist Roger Glover held down the low end and brought his songwriting skills to bear on songs like the furious “Speed King,” the wrenching epic “Child In Time” and the monumentally heavy “Into The Fire.” It was this lineup that brought a sense of almost classical level musicianship and a relentless need for speed to hard rock, forever changing its sound and inspiring countless future heavy metal bands.
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