On April 18, Lou Reed, Green Day, Ringo Starr, Joan Jett and others will be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, joining everyone from The Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Who to Kiss, Metallica, ZZ Top and, er, ABBA. But what about all the bands this US institution has overlooked, ignored or wilfully snubbed over the years? The giants and innovators of rock, prog, punk, blues and more who weren’t deemed important enough, cool enough or American enough to warrant entry through those hallowed portals. Nearly 50 years after forming, Deep Purple are the greatest band not to be in the official Hall Of Fame. They are one of a diminishing handful of bands who formed in the late 60s who are still active today, who are not content to rest on their laurels and who still exist in a meaningful and creative way. While many of their peers are content to play the chicken-in-a-basket circuit – their tour posters emblazoned with monochrome mug shots of how they looked back in their bushy-tailed heyday – Purple have matured like a fine, expensive wine (a Sweet Burgundy, as their former guitarist, the late, great Tommy Bolin, might have it). From 1968’s Shades Of Deep Purple to 2013’s NOW What?!, Purple’s passage through time resembles a mountain range of breathtaking highs and turbid lows. Via a series of interviews with every key member past and present, we celebrate Purple’s extraordinary, multi-decade career. We highlight the radically different personalities of the musicians who have impacted on the band, and marvel at how these contradicting characters were able to gel musically. We examine the mysterious – and occasionally devious – workings of this at times most volatile of bands. We analyse the contributions of alleged bit-part players including Nick Simper, Joe Lynn Turner and the aforementioned Bolin. Plus much more besides. This is Deep Purple dissected, deconstructed and laid bare. (Oh, and we only mention Smoke On The Water once.)
When was the first time you saw Deep Purple play live?
At Wolverhampton Civic Hall in 1972. Very shockingly brilliant soloing. They were all going off in different tangents: drum solos, keyboard extravaganzas and Blackmore’s wild, free, amazing guitar technique. It was a truly virtuoso display.
When you joined Purple a year later, did you feel intimidated or were you invigorated?
I was invigorated. Don’t forget, I had previously been a member of Trapeze, who were very popular in certain parts of America, particularly Texas. So I had experienced a certain level of acclaim and I was ready to step up to the plate. Fame was never in my dialogue, I just really enjoyed playing music. Me and David, we were just two northern lads doing our thing upfront there – and doing it well.
Tell us about the personalities within Purple.
Ritchie was sort of dark, but I found him to be very frank and honest. Paicey was a pure musician – there was no hidden agenda with him. Lordy was the nicest guy, a real gent. He was probably the one who tipped the scale for me to leave Trapeze, because he was so kind and came up to see me at my folks’ house in Cannock. Joining Purple wasn’t an easy thing for me to do. I knew the money would be amazing, but I never came at it from that angle.
How easy was it for you to bring your own musical ideas to the fore?
I was full of anticipation and I had no fear. As as I say, I was ready. People called me cocky, but I was never out to impress anybody. Unfortunately, drink and drugs ultimately got in the way. Kind of pitiful, but I did not sign up to join Purple to become that man. The alcoholism, the addiction, that was in my blood when I was born. It’s not really something I’m proud of, that I spent a huge amount of money on drugs. It’s not the way I wanted it, it really isn’t.
Do you think Purple Mk IV is unfairly overlooked?
Yeah. Because now you’ve not only got Glenn and David, you’ve got Tommy Bolin, who wasn’t really a rock guitar player like Ritchie was. Tommy was into Peruvian music and jazz, and he played with Jan Hammer. It was a different Purple, but it was still a damn good Purple.
Does it surprise you that Purple are still going today?
I haven’t heard any new Deep Purple music in twenty years. It’s not on my radar.