INTERVIEW: Ian Paice on the Jon Lord tribute show

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On April 4, 2014, some of the world’s top rock musicians assembled at London’s Royal Albert Hall to pay tribute to Jon Lord, the late, great Deep Purple keyboard legend. Event masterminds, Purple drummer Ian Paice and wife Jacky, recall a magical evening that also helped bolster the coffers of charity organisation the Sunflower Jam.

How did you go about nailing down the programme for the evening, given Jon’s prolific output?

Ian Paice: We wanted to incorporate a little bit of each incarnation of Jon’s successful musical life, from The Artwoods onwards. We wanted everybody on stage to be connected with Jon, either musically or personally. We needed to have that sort of camaraderie on stage. Luckily, it seemed to filter through to the audience as well. It didn’t feel like an audience of strangers, it felt like an audience made up of friends. It was a totally unique night. So we had a shortlist of songs and we nudged a couple of artists in the right direction. We nudged Paul Weller into doing The Artwoods’ stuff because we thought his voice would be perfect. And again with Phil Campbell from the Temperance Movement, he’s the only guy we had there who had a raspy voice like [Tony] Ashton’s. So he delivered those Paice Ashton Lord songs.

Paul Weller was a bit of a wildcard, though?

Jacky Paice: No, as soon as I phoned him up he said: “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.” IP: That came from the first Sunflower Jam in 2006, when Paul and Robert Plant both kindly offered to help. At the end of the night there was a big jam and Paul found himself on stage with Jon and me. So, when we lost Jon and Jacky was putting this together, Paul was one of the first guys to say: “I’ll be there.”

On the night, was it always your intention to make a distinct split between Jon’s classical and rock’n’roll personas?

IP: The more we thought about it, the more we realised that the evening couldn’t run chronologically. We decided that all the orchestral things, all the more lyrical things from Jon’s solo projects, should be in one single set. Then we decided to bring in a couple of rock’n’roll sets to give a natural crescendo to the night. It couldn’t have been a mix of classical songs one minute, rock’n’roll songs the next. The logistics for the sound guys alone would’ve been huge.

The evening comes to a terrific finale with a riotous rendition of Hush.

IP: That was just a great homage to the keyboards. The wonderful duel between Rick [Wakeman] and Don [Airey] on the first hit Purple ever had. It seemed like a logical conclusion to the night, to finish with the song that first made people properly aware of Jon Lord.

Did you ask Ritchie Blackmore if he’d like to perform?

IP: Ritchie would have been more than welcome. It may have created some problems in the end but that wasn’t the point. JP: He was invited but he declined. IP: He chose to do his own contribution in his own way. He wrote a lovely piece of music and dedicated it to Jon. That’s what he wanted to do and that’s fine. He’s a man who drives his own course through life anyway.

And David Coverdale?

IP: As far as I know he was working [in the studio]. He just couldn’t be there. Everybody was invited and we were amazed that so many people were able to turn up. If you’re on tour in the middle of Australia, you just can’t be there. Business has to come first, that’s the nature of the game.

Do you think the classical side of Jon is often unfairly overlooked?

JP: Well, it really touched my heart when he did Sarabande, his second solo album [1976]. He wrote some really, really clever things, some beautiful things. At the Albert Hall, I think the opening classical segment surprised many people. Because Jon wrote every single note for every single musician in that orchestra. Everything, for an 83-piece orchestra. IP: That’s the dichotomy with Jon – 40 years playing rock’n’roll but that love of classical music and composition for orchestras was always there. And remember, the Mk II Purple had only been going for a year or so when he decided to make us do Concerto For Group And Orchestra. And he made us do it! [Laughs]

**Why was there nothing from Concerto For Group And Orchestra on the night? **

IP: Just by virtue of the fact that there are enough versions of it around. There are other pieces of music that maybe deserved a listen. No black thoughts about Concerto… but it’s there, people know it, let’s choose some other things that were dear to Jon’s heart as well. JP: We need another concert really, to do justice to the rest of Jon’s music. IP: The resulting recording, both video and audio, does Jon proud. Although the man’s gone, everything he’s been involved with… isn’t. And that’s the point. That’s the point of any artist. With a little bit of luck, everyone who buys the damn thing will be contributing to an ever-increasing fund to try and beat the cancer that took Jon. So it’s a no-lose situation.

Celebrating Jon Lord – Live At The Royal Albert Hall is out now via earMUSIC. To find out more about the Sunflower Jam, visit www.thesunflowerjam.com.