Well, well, well…. someone`s been a little naughty since I said that I would always post articles of the five bands/artists in my all-time hit-list on this blog. In the two days after I had a great number of hits on certain artists on my blog. I like it when people are a little naughty, trying to help their favourites up the list!
So status now is the following: Rainbow, Deep Purple, Lemmy, Ian Hunter and Steve Howe (Yes) is in at the moment.
Ian Hunter is a newcomer and Beck, Bogert & Appice just fell out from the top five.
The article was written by Geoff Barton. When the history of hard rock and heavy metal is written about 100 years from now – he will be among a small elite of writers they will mention. Still actively writing today for Classic Rock and with a great career writing for Sounds and as a founder and writer for Kerrang Magazine. He is, and will always be a true legend, as famous as the people he was writing about. Check this excellently written article as proof of his ability as a writer. Enjoy!
You keep on moving
Is the new Purple as good as the old?
Geoff Barton joins the band`s 24th tour of America to find out.
“This is my twenty-fourth American tour,” remarks Jon Lord, staring abstractly into his steadily diminishing glass of Cognac, “my twenty-fourth.”
Have they all been with Deep Purple?
He nods affirmatively, his empty gaze changing to one of mock despair, and finishes off his drink in one large gulp.
“But, you know,” he continues, “life on the road isn`t that bad any more. In the band`s early days, it was a trifle hectic. Now, eight years on, we can afford to relax a little.”
Indeed. A Deep Purple US tour is, today, a smoothly-organised, well put together affair – lots of long, black limousines which, even in the midst of a queue of similarly tank-like American cars, cause heads to turn.
No soundchecks, the roadies are veterans too, it`s a case of on the stage, off the stage, with a one-and-a-half hour set in between.
There`s even a customised plane, with the name `Deep Purple` emblazoned on its side, to fly you the 200 mile-upwards distances from gig to gig.
Yes, they can afford to relax a little – but they daren`t become complacent.
Jet lagged, weary and fighting off a flu bug, I arrive at the airport of San Antonio, Texas, in the early evening. Lois, Purple`s delectable American publicist, is there to meet me. The band, she informs me, are playing tonight. Did I want to go to the concert? Or would I like to go back to the hotel instead, to sleep off the journey and start afresh tomorrow?
The prospect of a soft bed sounds tempting… but no, although I`ll doubtless have several opportunities to see the band during my stay, curiousity gets the better of me. I`m interested to see new guitarist Tommy Bolin, I`m anxious to find out if the various disparaging reports about the band that have filtered across Britain since the beginning of this tour are founded and hold water.
“Deep Purple are going to break up,” a colleague had said, with a good deal of conviction, just before I left Britain for the States.
Certainly, it seemed possible, watching the band from the back of the stage on that first night. Tommy Bolin, with streaked hair, tight velvet trousers and snakeskin boots, seemed less than convincing in his role as lead guitarist, front man, mainstay of the outfit.
Vocalist David Coverdale spent an inordinate amount of time offstage, graciously allowing bassist Glenn Hughes additional singing space.
Jon Lord seemed only mildly interested in the proceedings, his keyboard solo, save for the endearing snatch he played of `Yellow Rose Of Texas`, being mechanical and uninspiring.
Only Ian Paice had a good time, battling it out with his drumkit, his wiry hair flying in the breeze of the fan behind him.
It was, in all, disappointing.
But now, looking back, having seen subsequent sets at Abilene, Fort Worth and with the whole trip culminating with a supremely powerful concert at Houston Coliseum, I can safely claim true enthusiasm for this incarnation of the band. There are some faults, admittedly, but overall, I`m happy to report, Deep Purple are alive and kicking. Often fiercely.
But it was rough to start off with, touch and go for a while. Much of my initial reluctance to accept Purple Mk. IV stemmed, obviously, from the absence of Ritchie Blackmore. Tommy Bolin`s talents as a guitarist are not in question here – it`s just that he often fails to impress a positive identity onstage.
He`s not flashy enough – well, maybe `flashy` is the wrong word. Let`s say that he fails to flaunt his expertise, inflate his ego, straighten his shoulders and say, `Hey, I`m Deep Purple`s new guitarist. I`m better than Ritchie Blackmore. Here, I`ll show you what I mean…`
It took the aforementioned Houston concert to fully dispel any doubts and completely lay Blackmore`s ghost to rest – up until that time, things had looked decidedly dicey for the band.
Flying to Abilene the next day, I voiced my fears, albeit in a restrained manner, to the now-bearded David Coverdale. I mentioned that, as far as I could tell, `Come Taste The Band`, the debut LP with the new line-up, had had a pretty cool reception from Purple fans and critics alike.
“The last thing I heard, which was at the beginning of December, the album had sold 130,000 in Britain,” Coverdale counters, “I think at one stage it was at number nine in the charts, which is cool, Christ, what do people want? Worldwide, the album had sold well. I, for one, am not complaining,” he concludes, brusquely.
I asked him for his honest opinion of the album.
“It`s the freshest thing Purple have done since I joined the band,” he proclaims, “possibly even since `Machine Head`. I can only speak personally of course, but I`m very proud of the performance of each musician on the album.
“I`m very happy with my progression as a singer and as a writer. `Come Taste The Band` has lyrically and melodically, my best work on it to date. I can still listen to it after six months of living with it, which is incredible, amazing.”
As I said before, Coverdale spent a large amount of time offstage during the San Antonio concert, allowing Glenn Hughes additional space to exercise his own vocal chords. I wondered if he found his role in Purple`s current stage show rather restricting.
“Oh yeah – but I have no-one to blame for that but myself. I suggested the songs without realising how limiting they were, for me at least. They`re very monotone. I miss doing `Mistreated`, we`ll probably get that together for the British tour. But after all, I`m one-fifth of a concept and at the moment it`s very frustrating for me, because I know I can sing.
“Also, at the moment, we`re trying to get Tommy Bolin across – a lot of the act is centred around him, the same as it used to be around myself and Glenn, when we first started.
“But it`s really been all right so far – this tour`s profitable musically and profitable financially, which makes a change. Socially, it`s a lot more pleasurable.”
As the conversation continues, it transpires that a solo project is uppermost in Coverdale`s thoughts at the moment. Indeed, the ambition to prove oneself as a performer in one`s own right is a current preoccupation of several Purple members.
As well as Coverdale, Hughes has a album forthcoming, as does Lord (admittedly, his fourth) and of course Bolin`s `Teaser` LP is currently on release. In many cases, these solo plans override any thoughts about Purple.
“I`m very keen to find out what I`m able to do in a studio, on my own,” Coverdale reveals.
“When I record my album, it`ll be without any members of the band, because if I used any of them it would be judged as a Purple recording, not my own. I`m going to sing on this album, rather than scream my balls off. I`ve been fucking screaming for years now, you know…”
That night, in Abilene, the gig goes OK. Not spectacularly well just OK.
Apparently, Texans are wont to do a lot of ski-ing at this time of year. Somehow, it seemed sadly ironic when, mid-way through Purple`s set, a victim of a ski-ing accident who was present in the crowd thrust up his crutches high into the air, in a gesture that was supposed to denote appreciation.
To me, however, the action epitomised the situation onstage – Purple in some plight, having been dealt a serious injury with Blackmore`s departure. They were limping along, struggling desperately to equal past glories and falling far short of succeeding.
The next day in Dallas, near Fort Worth, some personnel friction makes itself evident. The afternoon`s round of interviews and personal appearances takes Tommy Bolin and Glenn Hughes to two record shops, one a vast disc emporium, the other a more intimate concern. In both places, however, displays for Bolin`s `Teaser` album far outweigh those for `Come Taste The Band`. Hughes becomes, not surprisingly, a trifle annoyed.
In the first store, the record supermarket, the manager entices Bolin to climb a stepladder and autograph a six feet square, handpainted cardboard poster of his `Teaser` LP sleeve, stuck high up on a wall. In the second shop, matters become worse.
`The Teaser on Nemporer Records – here, in person, today. 6.30 thru 7.30.`
Runs the banner outside. The whole of the right hand shop window has been taken over by Bolin publicity material. A `Come Taste The Band` cover is displayed unceremoniously in another window, alongside many others. Hughes is understandably peeved.
Later, when Bolin is busy signing autographs in the store proper, it is `Come Taste The Band` and not `Teaser` that blares out of the shop speaker system. A token acknowledgement to Hughes` presence, a passing nod to the fact that Bolin is a member of Deep Purple. The atmosphere is tense.
However, when I eventually talk to Hughes about Bolin`s role within the band, his enthusiasm for the new guitarist seems to hold no bounds. If he does resent Bolin`s success as a solo figure and its apparent interference with his identity as a member of Deep Purple, he hides it very well.
“Tommy`s come a long way in a short space of time,” Hughes relates, “he hasn`t even started properly yet. I`m sure that, by the end of the year, he`ll be a force to be reckoned with.”
Deciding not to push the matter much further, I nonetheless suggest that, in Britain at least, people are sceptical about Bolin`s position as Deep Purple`s guitarist.
Hughes disagrees, “I don`t think British audiences expect Deep Purple to be Deep Purple as before. They expect to see a new show with some of the old guys and a new guy. I think they`ll accept the change, I really do. I think it`ll be knockout.
“The band`s a lot funkier now, we have to be, I can`t play any other way. At the moment, I`m doing as much as I can do within the band, I can`t go any further because then it wouldn`t be Deep Purple. I`m almost totally in R`n`B, so much that it sometimes hurts to play with this band.
“But still, I feel a lot freer in Purple now than I`ve ever done before. I`ll feel even better after I`ve done my own album in May – or maybe August, it all depends on the availability of the people who I want to play with me. I`ve been working on the LP for some time now at home in LA and I`ve put down a few basic tracks in Herbie Hancock`s studio. I`ve got a lot of people in mind to do the album with me – Tommy (Bolin) might play on a few tracks, Ronnie Wood too, maybe even John Bonham…
Bowie`s going to produce it, along with myself (Bowie and Hughes being close friends). The album will contain lots of personal songs, very much in an R`n`B mould.”
With this consuming love for R`n`B in mind I suggested that Hughes might feel somewhat frustrated, playing with Purple.
“I don`t like heavy rock music, believe it or not,” he says, matter-of-factly. “But `Smoke On The Water`, `Machine Head` and all that is Deep Purple, I can`t change it. I don`t feel frustrated onstage when I`m playing, but I do sometimes when I`m offstage and I begin to think about it.
“That`s why I have to do this solo album – I want to get into the whole lead vocal trip again. I need to sing, my whole life is singing. I have to sing onstage. There`s no competition between me and David, I just want to sing.”
The Fort Worth concert followed much the same pattern as the one at Abilene. I was getting a little disenchanted.
Houston, space age city, all towering tinted glass, was my last night with the band and it just had to be good. As I walked out to sit behind the mixing panel and see the band out front, I was mildly depressed.
My mood, if I`d bothered to analyse it, was, I suppose, one of cynicism. But happily, at the end of the concert, I was aglow. Archetypal high energy, loud volume rock`n`roll had blown my doubts to pieces. At last, Deep Purple had come on as a brash, arrogant, self-assured, supremely confident band. They played the proverbial storm. It was great.
The Houston Coliseum, a large, old-fashioned, dusty hall, set just the right scene. Its grimy, sweaty atmosphere was much more suited to a concert than, say, Abilene (a massive dome-like structure, stuck out with the cacti in the middle of nowhere) or Fort Worth (imposing and clinically-clean baseball stadium).
As always, Purple opened the show in fine style with `Burn`. The stage all in darkness, the orange lights suddenly flicked dazzlingly on to reveal, backed up by regimented amps and grinding guitar, five almost malevolent figures – Coverdale adopting his ramrod pose immediately, mike stand held high in both hands, horizontal above his head, flanked by Hughes to his right and Bolin on the left, a formidable threesome in themselves.
Bolin, as the number progresses, still seems to be content to play an economic role, somewhat afraid to assert the power at his disposal as lead guitarist, but he pumps out the licks with appropriate rapidity. The rest bolster the sound – Hughes, Lord and Paice battling it out, each seemingly trying to maintain dominance over the other. Coverdale howls. It is loud, the loudest concert so far.
At the end of `Burn`, the sound mixer, a Scottish gentleman, remarks, “There`s a bit of power in those speakers tonight, eh? This is real Deep Purple”.
And how right he is. A selection from `Come Taste The Band` follows – `Lady Luck`, the US single `Gettin` Tighter` and `Love Child`. Bolin is more at home with the recent numbers and actually begins to strut a little, some of his cocksure offstage manner beginning to seep through. Coverdale leaves the stage during `Gettin` Tighter`, allowing Hughes to play a short bass solo, to sing a little and do a voice-guitar exchange with Bolin, impeccably rendered.
Predictably, the biggest cheer of the evening comes with the announcement of `Smoke On The Water`.
“This song tells the story of an album we made in Switzerland…” declares Coverdale, back onstage. The rap becomes mildly ironic, however, when you pause to consider that only two of the current Purple line-up – Jon Lord and Ian Paice – survive from `Machine Head` days and experienced the events in Mountreux first-hand.
Although Bolin corrupts the famous opening chords slightly, the number is still very classy and full of dynamics. It`s here, for the first time, that I manage to accept Bolin as Deep Purple`s guitarist. Sure, it`s strange to see him crashing out what is essentially a traditional Blackmore riff, but tonight he attacks it with such gusto, such genuine exhilaration, that at last the absence of the man in black doesn`t really seem to matter any more.
Nevertheless, it`s unfortunate, but necessary I suppose, that Purple`s present set still pivots around `Machine Head` – three songs are included in all, and each make a far more definite impression upon the audience than any of the others.
`Lazy` follows `Smoke On The Water`, a loosely constructed rendition this, leaving space for two solo spots, Lord`s and Paice`s. Both offer powerful testimonies to their respective abilities, while adding little to their past, pre-Bolin showcases.
`This Time Around` is next, turning out to be the most successful number of the evening. Hughes` sophisticated vocals give way to Bolin`s perfunctory guitar spot. Introduced as `the best new guitar player in the world`, Bolin, finally, successfully proves equal to the big build up. His past solos have been mundane – fingers running up and down the guitar neck, plenty of heavy strumming, little else noteworthy, together with a general lack of dexterity.
At Houston, however, he was very much in control. It was good to see – there was some clever use of the echoplex, some deft picking, some macho string bashing. The crowd was responsive and Bolin, gaining confidence, shook his fist at them, then made a gesture for more applause and received it back in spades. Even from the mixing panel you could see his eyes flicker with delight as he suddenly realised that the audience was his, his to shape and fashion, to silence or to inspire to rapturous cheers. He was enjoying himself.
`Highway Star`, the encore, saw me up front, five feet away from the stage, in the middle of the surging crowd. It may not have been 117 decibels, but it was awful loud.
Alive and kicking. Fiercely.
Backstage after the encore`s echoes had died down, I remarked to Purple`s manager that, as Houston had been the last gig I would see on the tour, that the concert had been a good way to end.
He shrugged, “An end for you perhaps, but not for us. We just keep rolling on.”
Hmm. Although Purple may never again match the triumphs of the Blackmore-Gillan-Glover line-up, at least that twenty-fifth American tour is assured.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Evelyn Thomas & Ian Levine, Shaun Cassidy, Jimmy Page, Cate Brothers, Julie Tippetts, Adam Faith, Pat Travers, Yes, Jesse Winchester, Phil Collins.
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