Ian Gillan: The Day I Left Deep Purple

Ian Gillan onstage in March 1973, three months before leaving Deep Purple
Ian Gillan onstage in March 1973, three months before leaving Deep Purple (Image credit: Fin Costello \/ Getty Images)

It was bizarre, actually. Because I had actually handed in my letter of resignation to the band months earlier, while we were in Dayton, Ohio. I told them in this letter that I intended to leave Purple at the end of the next tour. But, at the time nobody said anything at all to me about my decision. We just got on with making the new album Who Do We Think We Are and then we went out on the road.

We went to Japan in June 73, and the last date was in Osaka on the 29th. That was the end of the touring schedule, and therefore my final show with the band. Still no-one said a word to me. We got onstage, did the gig, and… well, that was it! I left the venue on my own, and went back the hotel. There were no goodbyes from anybody connected to Purple. None of the other four in the band, none of the crew, nobody from the management. It was almost as if it had been swept under the carpet. As I said, the whole thing was bizarre. I never expected a farewell gift or an emotional outburst from anybody, but just to ignore the whole thing was really weird.

I never said anything after the gig. It just didn’t feel right that I should say something. The atmosphere at the time in Purple was just horrible, and for me it was just such a relief to have it all done and dusted. To understand what was going on in the band you’d need to be a trained psychologist. Everyone in the line-up at the time behaved like an asshole – and I am including myself here. I was as bad as the rest of them.

What wasn’t helping us at the time was that a lot of other people got involved, and they had agendas which meant we were worked to the bone. If we had been able to take a break, then maybe it could have been worked out. But we were on a treadmill, and I got to the point when I just had to leave. Which is why I gave in my notice by letter.

Maybe none of the other guys knew what t say to me, and I certainly didn’t know what to say to them. So that night in Osaka we all acted as if nothing was going, and everything was fine. Which it clearly was not.

The next day, I left for the airport by myself, got on the flight alone and came back home. It was as if the moment I came offstage, I was no longer regarded as a member of the band. Therefore, I was left to fend for myself. But that was no problem. Once back in England, I half expected somebody from the band to phone. However, nobody did. They’d moved on. Eventually, Roger Glover did call some time later, to tell me he’d been fired from Purple.

Ian Gillan was talking to Malcolm Dome.