One of the very best interviews from someone from Purple that I have reprinted on this blog. Very interesting and a very good read overall. Thank you for this one, Mr. Norman.
Purple won`t split, says Lord
By Tony Norman
SUCCESS WITH Deep Purple has given Jon Lord a spacious house in Barnes, just five minutes from the Thames. Because of his work schedule he doesn’t get much chance to sit back and relax with his wife Judith and daughter Sara. But when I called on Saturday afternoon, he was doing just that.
He led the way into a long, high room where we could talk. In one corner stood an ornate piano which once belonged to Shirley Bassey. By the French windows, a rocking horse silently gazed out on to the garden.
Lord himself looked fit and well. A recent trip to the South of France had left him with a rich, even tan. Life, it seemed, was treating him well. But was that just a superficial impression?
The night before, Purple had gigged successfully at the London Rainbow. Another good show was only hours away. But so many rumours about the band have been circulating recently that I wondered how much longer they could stay together.
How had the rumours started?
“I suppose an unguarded word can start them,” said Jon, thoughtfully. “Ritchie, for instance, did an interview recently and must have been feeling a bit pissed off about something. He said something about, this next album could be our last. That got used as the heading. Maybe that started something.
“There have been a couple of rows in the group. You can’t exist together as a band for four-and-a-half years without some kind of policy rows blowing up?. There have been arguments. Ritchie is a very strong personality. So are a couple of the others in the band.
“But as far as the rumours are concerned, they are basically quite unfounded. We’ve discussed them among ourselves, obviously.
“I don’t think the next album will be our last. In fact, I’m damn sure it won’t be. I don’t think Ritchie will leave. I know for sure I won’t. That goes for the others, too.
“He will forgive me for saying this, but I think the one guy in the band who might leave is Ritchie. That’s all I can really say about it because I don’t know any more. But I do know, for instance, that the rumours that he and I are going off to form a band are completely untrue. The rumours that he and Ian Paice are starting something new together are, at the moment, completely untrue. I believe that if Ritchie did leave, Ian might go with him. But, at the moment, we are committed by contract well into the beginning of 1973.
“Now, everyone in the band was asked about that work and we said we wanted to do it. I don’t really see the band splitting anyway, at least until then. Which is spring next year. That’s a fair way ahead and who knows what will happen between now and then?”
At the moment, is there any “atmosphere” in the dressing room?
“No”, he replied, “none at all. There was, a short time ago. We’ve had atmospheres over various internal problems. Things have been pretty sticky for us over the past nine months. We’ve had two quite severe illnesses in the band. Two cancelled American tours. A lot of bad luck, like the fire in Montreux (when they were recording “Machine Head”). That cost us a lot of money.
“Roger had a succession of rather strange illnesses, which couldn’t be accounted for. He would come off stage in agony with stomach pains. In the end he found out they were psychosematic. He had treatment and now he’s fine.
“But all these things add up. There was a point where Roger thought he couldn’t carry on. When Ian Gillan got hepatitis, we didn’t know how long he was going to be ill — whether we could hold ourselves together while he was off.
“Obviously, with a run of bad luck like that, things tend to build and create a great deal of tension.”
Has there ever been a time when he thought someone would definitely split?
“Well, there have been the odd moments when arguments have led to: ‘All right. Fuck you! I’m leaving.’ But we weathered them. Everyone weathers those. They are just tantrums.
“But when we had to cancel the second American tour because of Ritchie’s illness, I think everyone was down. Really down. We just looked at each other and said: ‘What do you do? Shall we carry on, or what? That was probably the worst time we’ve had.
“We were in Flint, Michigan at the time, in some horrible Holiday Inn. There was a howling blizzard outside and the phone call came through from New York, where Ritchie had been to the hospital the day before. They said the tests were positive. Ritchie had hepatitis. He had to go home immediately.
“It really cut us up. We were sad for Ritchie and it just seemed like we were never going to shake the bad luck. We were less than halfway through the tour. We did try to carry on and do some crucial dates with Al Kooper, who’s a friend of ours. We rehearsed together and it could have been okay. Next day he rang up and said he didn’t feel too good. Two days later he was in hospital with food poisoning.
“Next we got a guy called Randy California to play with us. We really wanted to do a show in Quebec, you see. In the end the concert was good, but the rehearsals were crazy.
“To make us feel better the record company had hired us a couple of limos to go to and from the rehearsal hall. Coming back the first evening, the limousine we were in caught fire. So the other car picked us up. It got four blocks, then burst a tyre.
“It was all building up to the point where we said, ‘I just want to go home and be a chartered accountant? We just wanted to forget it all! But I think we weathered that one.
“When we got back to England we had to wait for Ritchie to get better. It was terrible just sitting around. It was a very crucial time for us all. Ritchie felt terrible. He had a diet of boiled chicken or fish… for four weeks. So naturally he was feeling a little down afterwards.
“But then we went back and did America and that eased us back in. It was a good tour. A successful one. It made us all feel better. Now we’ve done the Rainbow and we’re happy about that. We’ve got the States again, then we’re going to Italy to make an album. After that it’s back to America, then Japan and in the autumn we start a 20-concert tour of Britain.
“It looks nice. It feels nice. Everyone is feeling a lot better. The rumours about the split came out of the time when we weren’t so happy. An unguarded, drunken word in the Speakeasy could have started it, then people started to add two and two together and get four-and-a-half.
“Like I went to the South of France for a holiday, but that ended up as I’d gone to live there and had left the band. Ian and Roger went to America to produce an album for a little New York group. So people said Ian and Roger have gone to America to live and form a band.”
But the rumours have been insinuating that an imminent split is being covered up, I pointed out.
“Well, that is totally untrue. As far as anyone in the band can see, there is no reason to expect an imminent split. But on the other hand we have been together for coming up to five years. It’ll be five years just after Christmas. That’s a long time. So maybe next year… who knows what will happpen?”
We turned to more concrete things. The previous night’s Rainbow gig. The audience were totally enthusiastic and long before the last number they were jumping and clapping round the front of the stage.
“I was knocked out to see it,” smiled Lord. “It’s always nice to see that kind of reaction. We thrive on that. We need it. It puts the icing on the cake at a show.”
But could this kind of reaction at a London gig mean that at last we are coming to the end of the Age of the Cool?
“Yes. I’m pretty sure that’s true. It’s certainly coming to an end in America, where it was rife. We did a beauty in Chicago. That used to be such a ‘cold’ town. Ian ended up dancing in the crowd. Really friendly, happy thing, which never would have happened two years ago.
“It used to be, ‘Hey, pass the joint man, ‘and slow, lazy applause after songs. Now the audiences are more alive and responsive. It’s a good thing and I think bands are starting to realise they need to really put on a show for the kids. It’s not just an audio thing any more. The visual side is very important.
“We’ve always tried to make the visual thing come out of the music. We didn’t want to ‘stick it on top’, as it were. If I’m gonna leap about I have to feel I want to do it. It has to be natural.
“Generally, I can feel a slight and rather pleasant change coming on. Looking around last night, it was a very young audience in places. Great blocks of kids who couldn’t have been more than 14. Some of them got into the dressing room. They were asking for old cigarette packets, old pens or pieces of our hair.
“It reminds me of the last time I was at the theatre. It was the Finsbury Park Astoria then and I was with the Artwoods on the P.J. Proby tour. He used to get scenes like that.
“It was much more a teeny-bopper thing in those days. Little girls wetting their knickers. Now they are more into the music. There are a lot more fellas, too, who really want to talk to you about how to play guitar or drums or whatever.
“So yes, things are changing. We’ve got away from that dreadful cool, blase period. I think that for both audiences and bands, that can only be a very good thing.”
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