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.)
Did you know much about Deep Purple before you joined?
I certainly wasn’t aware of them. The first time I heard about Purple was actually from The Sweet. Their singer, Brian Connolly, was one of my best mates. He told me he’d seen this band Deep Purple, they all wore black and dyed their hair black. A couple of months later, when I’d joined the band, I saw Brian and said: “By the way, I’ve left Episode Six for Deep Purple.” His reaction was: “Oh no. That’s the end of Deep Purple, then.”
Critics used describe to Purple as a prog rock band.
Purple were initially seen as prog rock for two reasons. One, because the level of musicianship was high, and two, because we’d done Concerto For Group And Orchestra, which could be viewed as some sort of prog rock experiment. But the Deep Purple In Rock album changed everything. Ritchie realised that simple, memorable riffs were much more important than showing off.
Describe how you felt in the company of talents such as Blackmore, Lord and Paice.
The first year or so I was in Purple I certainly felt intimidated. I wasn’t a master of the bass in the same way that they were masters of their instruments. They were absolutely brilliant musicians, and I came from a simpler background. Luckily I had a deal of influence on the songwriting, which made me feel a little better.
Purple endured a punishing touring schedule. How did you keep yourself sane?
It was hard. All I can remember are brief moments of euphoria followed by long periods of boredom. Endless touring was pretty gruelling. Once, I found myself sitting in a gutter somewhere, crying uncontrollably, not really knowing what I was feeling. I suppose that’s why a lot of bands get lost in drugs. Fortunately we were just a drinking band. Drugs really didn’t come into it in those days.
There’s a new Purple live album out, Long Beach 1971, recorded while you were touring the US with The Faces. Any memories?
It was a very good tour for us. I remember someone taking Rod Stewart to one side and telling him: “Have you seen Deep Purple? No? Well they’re cleaning up.” The concerts were chaotic. It was just a free-for-all and anything could happen. In those days long jams were the reason we existed. The songs were a sort of by-product. We’re much more of a showbiz act now.
It must have felt like a kick in the teeth when Glenn Hughes replaced you.
I had no intentions of leaving. I was on some kind of fantastic express train going north. To be kicked out in a year when we’d sold more albums than anyone – Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, anyone – was pretty tough. That was the lowest moment of my life.
How do you feel about Purple in 2015?
It’s turned into something like a force of nature. It astounds me that I’m still here, enjoying being in the band.
How about the band dynamics now?
I feel like I’m the conscience of the band, and Paicey feels like he’s the driver of the band. Gillan falls somewhere in-between. And Steve and Don are keen to put their imprint on things too. It’s an interesting balancing act. We just see ourselves as a family that makes music.