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Baby Face: The supergroup that almost was

Phil Lynott
(Image credit: Fin Costello / Getty Images)

In issue 249 of Classic Rock we explore the Deep Purple family tree, from Rainbow to Whitesnake, from Hughes/Thrall to Dio and beyond. Amongst the trees' myriad branches you'll find Baby Face, the band that could have been but wasn't. Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice tells the story...   

“Deep Purple constructed music in a very specific way,” Ian Paice explains. “‘Limiting’ isn’t the word, but it was a little more arranged. Ritchie and I thought it would be fun to have the freedom of a three-piece band, where basically everything was up for grabs musically – you could change every song every night, which we couldn’t really do in Purple. 

“We’d see Phil Lynott with Thin Lizzy at the Speakeasy club in London really early on in their career, and we thought: ‘Wow, what a fantastic voice.’ But we didn’t actually pay a lot of attention to his bass playing, because he was such a great vocalist. So we thought we’d try something out – me, Ritchie and him. We got a day together in a studio in Holland Park in West London, and we just started to mess around to see what happened. 

“We started jamming some new stuff and seeing what happened, which is what we do with Purple anyway, though obviously the Purple set-up with very different. The stuff we were jamming was bluesier, more in a Cream or Free vein, that kind of idea. 

“Well, Phil’s voice was staggering, wonderful. But he couldn’t play, at least not to the standard that we needed if it was just Ritchie, myself and a bass. When there’s only three of you, everybody’s got to be really good on everything they do. Really, the bass playing had to be on a par with someone like Jack Bruce. And, God bless him, Phil wasn’t there yet. He was pretty simple, and quite often out of tune and out of time. And although he became really, really good at everything he did, at that point he wasn’t. 

“Ritchie and I looked at each other and went: ‘It’s not working. It’s a nice attempt to try and do this three-piece thing, but let’s go and rethink it.’ But we never did rethink it. We got back on the road with Purple and it just sort of disappeared into the mist. 

“I saw Phil a couple of times after that, but it was always really in passing: ‘Hey, how you doing? Gotta go. Bye bye.’ But the ship had sailed by that time. 

“We actually recorded the session. The tapes got lost somewhere along the line, but really there was nothing to it. We didn’t even bother mixing it. It just wasn’t happening.”

Read more about the Deep Purple Family Tree in Classic Rock 249, on sale now at all good newsagents, or available directly from us.