The last article I posted with Ritchie Blackmore as the subject was the most successful in the history of this blog.
Much of that success (number of readers was about 2400 the first day) was probably because the Official Blackmore page on Facebook chose to post it at their site. There are a lot of fans of his out there, but there are also a lot of Deep Purple fans out there too, many of them the same people, so will this post enjoy the same success? We will see!
Bolin`s zip gun does the trick
They were Deep. And very, very Purple. And very, very, very rich. Then somebody left. Then somebody else left. Finally Ritchie Blackmore left. Now there`s only two originals left. The whole thing is, can David Coverdale be said to be on a good screw and has the Bitchfinder General got the whole world sussed out?
Charles Vergette (in California) report.
“David Coverdale? No, never heard of him, I`m afraid,” says the Bob Haldeman lookalike, coming over from washing his car. “Are you sure you`ve got the address right? You might try down there,” he adds having to raise his voice over the sound of the thundering Pacific surf.
“He`s in a rock `n`roll band, Deep Purple.”
“Oh yeah,” comes Haldeman`s reply, his eyes flickering in recognition. “It`s down there alright, I`ve heard a rumour that there`s somebody down there like that.”
We finally locate the premises, right next door to Plum-Mouth. Thanks, man. Coverdale sneaks his head round the door. “You didn`t tell anybody else where the place is, did you?” he asks worriedly. We didn`t.
“I spend most of my time down here nowadays. I don`t like to go out much. You either go to a place that won`t let you in unless you`re wearing clothes to suit them or you go somewhere where people recognise you, come over and start laying down all sorts of shit on you about this and that,” says Coverdale as he leads through the kitchen into the living room.
It`s very chic: white furniture, white carpet, white walls, white table, white kitchen. Only a stack of records and the regular battery of tape recorders, amplifiers and a turntable betray the feeling that the place is best suited for a 40-year-old member of the nouveau riche.
Purple`s new guitarist, Tommy Bolin, walks in, his multicoloured hair glowing. It looked far more radiant in the afternoon sun than it had at the previous night`s lacklustre Bad Company show at the Forum where we`d first met.
How time flies! It`s nearly two years since Coverdale picked up his last boutique pay check before taking over Ian Gillan`s position as Purple`s lemon-squeezer extraordinaire.
Now Bolin`s the new boy with just three weeks of Purple membership behind him. A month ago the former James Gang/Billy Cobham axeman was sitting on his butt searching out a gig. Today he`s in the hot seat, having taken over the spot vacated by Purple`s founder, that doomy, dark and moody King of Heavy Metal Guitar, Ritchie Blackmore.
After a couple of hours drinking and enjoying the more exotic fruits of rock `n` roll success, the mood is hardly conduscive to serious conversation, but we try. Seems that Coverdale and I will make it, but Bolin is a little further out into the cosmos.
“Ritchie was worried about the direction he thought the band might be headed in,” opens Coverdale, getting straight to the cause of Blackmore`s departure, a move many had expected for months. “He didn`t like the soul that was creeping into the band. See, what Ritchie regards as funk are things like “Sail Away” and “Mistreated” and that`s the direction the rest of us saw the band headed in.”
Indeed, those two numbers, the bouncy “Hold On” and the haunting acoustic “Soldier of Fortune” on “Stormbringer” all marked changes for Purple, changes that the strongwilled Blackmore found hard to tolerate.
It was undoubtedly the introduction of bassist Glenn Hughes and Coverdale himself in 1973 that caused the marked realignment in Purple`s approach. First came “Burn” which saw a hint of the band`s infamous zomboid inhumanity being eaten away in favour of a more earthy approach. The pattern was exaggerated by months on the road to prove the worth of the new-look outfit. As confidences grew, Blackmore`s strangle hold over the band began to weaken.
Then came “Stormbringer”, a surprise to many die-hard Purple-haters. It served as consummation of the redirection its predecessor had pioneered. In essence, Blackmore`s guitar no longer held the rest of the band at gun-point.
Glenn Hughes` bass had created a far stronger rhythm section with Jon Lord`s organ and Ian Paice`s drums. Not only stronger musically, but stronger mentally. The Blackmore regime was over.
“Sure,” Coverdale agrees, between sips of white wine. “He was worried that the next album would be even more bass-oriententated. He wanted to go out and get the things he really wanted to do, the guitar things, out of his system so that he could get into being a fifth of Deep Purple without feeling compromised. So he went out and decided to do his solo album.”
Yet it`s hard to imagine Blackmore, ego and all, wanting to return to Purple if his solo venture worked. Once he saw new influences coming into the band that he didn`t like, and saw himself outvoted by the others, there was no way he could stay.
“Yeah, a lot of the songs on his album were ones that we all rejected for `Stormbringer`,” Coverdale concedes again, yet still adamantly refusing to say anything derogatory about his former boss. “He put forward a lot of ideas he knew we wouldn`t be interested in.”
Rumours started flying, each one adamantly denied by Purple management – who seemed to take any suggestion that Blackmore might split as a personal insult. The reason for the denials, says Purple manager Rob Cooksey, was that Blackmore had not yet decided to quit.
However when Rolling Stone quoted Blackmore as saying he considered “Stormbringer” a “load of shit” it seemed the end was nigh. “Ritchie never said that,” insists Blackmore`s mouth-piece, Cooksey. “It was a terrible piece of misquoting. The writer didn`t even put his name on the piece. Ritchie was really upset about it, especially because of what the other guys in the band must have thought.”
“We started the last European tour with Ritchie still a full member,” says Coverdale, explaining the final split. “After we`d done a couple of dates I began to feel strange vibes and knew something was going on. I went to see Rob Cooksey and I could just tell from his eyes that he was keeping something from me. I could sense that he didn`t want to commit himself because Ritchie had told him something in private and he didn`t want to break that confidence, even though it concerned us all business-wise.”
It finally transpired that Blackmore had finally reached the point of quitting.
“Now he can do exactly what he wants. I think he`ll be happier now: he`s got much more control with the people he`s working with. Instead of turning round to Jon and telling him what to play and Jon saying `I prefer it this way`, he`s got players who`ll do exactly what he tells them to,” says Coverdale adjusting his glasses, adding, “They`re good players too.”
The singer`s immediate reaction was to get on the phone and begin organising his own band. True to his soul roots, he got a horn section and chick back-up singers together first. “Then I suddenly realised I was calling Jon to play organ, Ian to play drums, and Glenn to play bass, so I thought, `what`s the point of doing it solo, why not keep the band together`?”
With Blackmore, the founding member, now joining the ranks of Purple refugees, some suggest the band should break up or at least change the name.
Coverdale gets very defensive about such talk. Very defensive indeed. “We still own the name Deep Purple, as far as people and musicians. We decided to keep it going because we wanted to keep working together, nothing else. We can keep it going without Ritchie. I think Glenn and I proved the band could keep going and maintain its validity with new members,” he says, getting edgey.
Ooops, sorry David.
Anyhow, having decided to keep it together, the first priority was to locate a new guitar player. Problem. Love him or hate him, Blackmore is a very distinctive player; those spine-searing, ear-bending riffs don`t come easy and though thousands tried to copy him, nobody got close.
Each member drew up his own list of choices and the names were pooled. Jeff Beck topped the popularity polls but, as Coverdale put it so succinctly, “He`s very much his own man and it would have been like taking on…” An even more determined Blackmore?
“Exactly, excellent! He`s very individual. It`s generally accepted that he`ll form a new band every month, go on the road or record an album, then disband it. It`s Jeff Beck and whoever else is with him is incidental.”
Next choice was Clem Clempson who was flown over from England to audition. He failed. “I think he`s suffered through his associations with Steve Marriott in Humble Pie. He`s just been a bandsman for too long, like a horn player with Duke Ellington`s band. He didn`t have the magic that we needed to inspire us all. You gotta remember man, that to replace Ritchie… well, you know. He wasn`t just anybody and you can`t get just anybody to replace him.”
Next in line to the throne was Bolin, an undisputed punk.
“I got on the phone to our agent in New York to find him because I thought he was an East Coaster and he told me Tommy was living just five miles away from me in Malibu. The management were a bit scared when they heard he`s played with Cobham: they thought, …`Oh no, a jazz-man`. But I called him up when we were both really stoned and we talked for half an hour about curry and chips and finally invited him down to a session.”
At the mention of his own name and getting stoned Bolin comes to life, brushing his peacock hair from his dilated pupils. The former replacement for Joe Walsh in the James Gang, then guest guitarist on Billy Cobham`s excellent Spectrum, Bolin tried to speak; “Uh… I`d been up all night… like… and I … er … wanted to call it off… but when we started playing…”
“He kept apologising,” interrupts Coverdale with a grin. “Saying `I`m sorry, really sorry, I haven`t played in ages` and I was just standing there going `Jesus Christ, there`s this phenomenal sound coming out, he hasn`t got his right guitar and hasn`t practised in months`.”
Bolin joined Deep Purple.
“Blackmore put a good word in for me, didn`t he,” he asks rhetorically.
“No, nobody said anything,” says Coverdale, slightly taken aback.
“You liar Blackmore… you lying…”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Rod Stewart, Ray Thomas (Moody Blues), Speedy Keen, Ian Dury, David Bowie, Larry Parnes, Rainbow, Gil Scott-Heron, The Flamin` Groovies, Amos Garrett, Steve Hillage, Maria Muldaur.
The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!
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