What a great article this was! The unveiling of Coverdale and the start of what we know now of a wonderful career. At the same time we get an explanation from Blackmore of what was happening in the band around Gillan`s departure. I seem to remember that there were a couple of differing stories being told about this.
Enjoy this one and read on!
Purple, introducing the… err… unknown Mr. Coverdale
Tony Stewart at the unveiling of the new Deep Purple
PURPLE RECORDS took the press down to Clearwell Castle on the Welsh-English border last week to meet their new singer boy. The name of this new Deep Purple front man? David Coverdale.
Well, he was 22 last Saturday, comes from Saltburn-by-the Sea, with a rich Northern brogue as resplendent as the piles of chemical waste around Middlesborough. Just lately he’s been working in a boutique, and occasionally singing with a semi-pro bunch of locals who called themselves the Fabulosa Brothers.
According to the “fact-a-phrase” handout which somehow slipped into our laps with the whiskeys and delicate eatsies on the coach going down, he made his first public appearance in 1967, and one time appeared with an outfit called the Skyliners at Redcar Jazz Club, as support to Joe Cocker.
He has two pets — a Siamese cat and a young lady called Jackie. His Dad’s an electrician, and he hasn’t ever played the big time before.
Such is life. Certainly, some journalists must now be blushing after confidently forecasting such names as Paul Rodgers (and possibly Frank Sinatra when the gossip’s short list became ridiculous) as contenders for Ian Gillan’s vacated stage space.
By gum, a professionally inexperienced youngster scoring over in — guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s own words — “so called names in the business, who weren’t up to much”.
Coverdale has handled his swift escalation to fame rather well. Quite unabashed he posed dutifully for publicity shots down at the castle while a frightening posse of snap-shooters clicked Nikons and tripped over their flash bulbs.
In conversation too he controlled himself with dignity, although he probably gasped a secret sigh of relief over the fact that his appointment was now official. It didn’t show, however, although he was obviously thanking his lucky stars — literally.
“It’s got a lot to do with horoscope, I think,” he says with wide-eyed sincerity when confronted with a disbeliever. “My horoscopes were good for that week.
“I was so nervous because it is a big step. Everyday faithfully I bought the Sun and the Daily Mirror and read Virgo and Libra — which I alternate between — because I needed certain strength. I needed something behind me to push me”.
Alongside ex-Trapeze singer-bass player Glenn Hughes, whose ability incidentally almost deterred Coverdale from attending the audition, this is Purple’s new vocal front, which – states the group’s publicist — will operate in a similar way to the Blackmore-John Lord partnership.
In effect, the inference is that Hughes and Coverdale will strive to equal, or even outdo, one another — as the guitarist and organist are noted for attempting — with resulting better music. Coverdale has, you could say, picked up the glove confidently.
“I’ve been plucked out of a semi-pro environment and I’ve been put in the big-time, and I think I’ve got the strength to do it. And if I haven’t” — his tone impresses on one that it’s extremely unlikely — “the musicians in Deep Purple have the strength to push me to it. They’ve done it already, because I feel I’ve improved in the past week”.
Rehearsals have been going on at the castle for some days now, to get Hughes and Coverdale musically acquainted with the three remaining Purple old-timers, Blackmore, Lord and drummer Ian Paice.
Towards the end of the year they’ll start recording, and after a European run-in will be away over the Pond for a tour.
Quite naturally there’s excitement generating among the Purple men, now that the rejuvenation has taken place. And it’s probably the first time there’s been this atmosphere since June ’72 when the internal friction and weariness in the band was made public.
I don’t claim any inside knowledge of Purple’s career, but reading press clippings illustrates the story. Just before Christmas Blackmore spoke of his intention to leave.
“Yes”, he affirms as we sit overlooking the splendid lawns of their ancient rehearsal venue. “I did want to get out at one particular time, but when I’d heard that certain people wanted to leave, I thought I’d stick around and try and take it the way I wanted to.
“I wasn’t quite satisfied. The band was always a bit poppy,” he offers as an explanation.
“It was quite nice but it was too poppy. Now, it’s more into a blues-commercial pop thing. Our new singer has a more masculine voice, and with Glenn we hope to get a double type of feel. You could say a Beatles feel with a hard rock backing is the basic thing.
“There are now two other guys involved, so it makes it more or less a new band to me. It’s not Deep Purple anymore, although it’s still the same name. Really, it’s a completely different band.”
What the changes also mean, with Gillan and bass player Roger Glover out, is that now the past year of the band’s career can be discussed, and their current ideas made public and more certain. Certainly, up until June individual members expressed dissatisfaction with the group’s progress, without putting their finger on any one person. Although between the lines the implications were there right enough.
After his departure, Gillan said he felt the band had stagnated, and there had been little development from “In Rock” to “Who Do We Think We Are”. Blackmore dispenses with that suggestion almost effortlessly by saying — “that’s a typical cliche everyone uses when they can’t think of anything to say”.
And he defends their music quite vehemently.
“We’ve just progressed naturally. We haven’t tried to set any barriers because we’re not into that. I’ve just been living on and playing the music I want to. I wouldn’t stay with the band if I wasn’t satisfied with myself.
“Ian (Paice), Jon and myself know we’re good, but at the same time we don’t want people to pick up an LP and say ‘this is very progressive, we’re onto something new here’. Because whenever they do hear something progressive people say, `oh, I don’t like this because this is not typical of the band’. It’s something new and they don’t like it. Blackmore normally avoids being interviewed, on the principal that he’s a guitarist, not a speech-maker. But when he starts talking, he’s honest about the situation regarding Ian Gillan, and bears up well to what could be considered impertinent questions. However he often side-steps issues because of his loyalty to past members. “I could put Ian down”, he says hestitantly, “but I don’t think I want to get into that, because he’s never put any of the band down, and I don’t want to start putting him down. “Put it this way,” he says, returning to his own earlier intentions of quitting, “I wanted to leave basically because I didn’t think the vocal side of it was happening at all. I thought the instrumentation side was happening to a certain degree, but that couldn’t expand because the vocal, in my opinion, was too poppy. It was too cut and dried on top of what we’d done. “We used to lay tracks down, and Ian would come in the next day and say, ‘right, let’s hear the backing track’. We’d never got together on it for “Who Do We Think We Are”. “`Machine Head’ was done in Switzerland and that was okay. But the last album was done without me ever meeting Ian in the studio, accept for once when he said: ‘let’s hear the backing and I’ll put something over that’.”
Conversely, there are things to be said on Gillan’s side of things, or so it would seem looking in from the outside. Blackmore is certainly not being detrimental about Gillan’s ability — just stating the conflict of interests as it developed. And he does express gratitude for the following Gillan established for the band.
Jon Lord, however, has also stated at least once that he wanted a change of vocal sound.
Blackmore laughs about that and comments: “Jon is a very, very amiable person — to all of the band.
“I used to be the agressor”, reveals Blackmore. “I used to say, `I think that vocal is a load of shit’. And this is why Ian and I fell out. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken with Ian for the past year and a half. I’ve said hello at the airport a few times, and that’s about it.
“Jon likes to keep things together, and keep everybody happy. Whereas if I don’t like something I make it known, and make a big fuss about it.”
After a slight digression, Blackmore starts to explain the purpose of Purple.
“We make music for other people to listen to, and a lot of people liked Ian singing. It was just that after four LPs I personally — I can’t speak for the others, I don’t know how they feel about it — was tired of the vocal sound of it.
“So the others said they agreed, and we all got together and Ian said he wanted to resign. We thought that was fair enough because this was our chance to get a new vocalist. I’ve stayed around since then.”
Before David Coverdale was found, Purple did search extensively for Mr. Vocal Right. They approached Paul Rodgers, who considered the proposition, much to Purple’s surprise, and then turned it down.
“We heard a lot of other so-called names in the business,” he continues, “who weren’t up to much.
“I thought Ian was a very good vocalist,” he reminisces slightly, “and he had a great face and image. He got a lot of people interested in Deep Purple.
“But then his vocals began not to do anything to me.
“I think I was moved by about two tracks from every LP, and that was about it.”
“Now we expect a vocalist to take on the part of a lead instrument, and that’s why we’re quite knocked out with matey there.” And he nods his head in the direction of Coverdale.
“Who knows? After the LP I might be saying he’s a shitty vocalist as well. I’m not going to say he’s the best vocalist in the world, but when we heard him we thought, ‘Christ, he’s good’.”
Again he glances over at Coverdale. Maybe Blackmore’s counting the band’s lucky stars too.
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