I have the image clear: about 7 years old in my older sister bedroom, her and her friends laughing and I’m twisting the long coil of the soup can style fat headphones (the fatter, the better. …I still stand by this, ear buds can’t hang …) and laying on the floor leafing through the LP covers as the vinyl discs get listened to and piled on top of the speaker, long dried wax and incense dust in a permanent drip on the space age black plastic stereo cover.
And though I know there was more, the art, the impossible comic book of album covers, of 4 records sticks in my head:
Black Sabbath ‘Volume 4’, Elton John ‘Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy ‘, Chicago….the chocolate bar covered one and Deep Purple ‘Made In Japan’.
Being 7 or so, the ‘Made In Japan’ cover fascinated me…..and in retrospect, maybe cause it’s the only of these records to show the band in photo. So you can imagine Highway Stars and Space Truckers and examine the front cover action shot and think ‘Yup. That’s what someone who drives a truck on space looks like.
What I did not know at the time was the Deep Purple I was listening too was as close to a true team of comic heroes Rock music would ever produce. And what they did would inform and inspire what I did for the rest of my life.
Because Deep Purple was unique and always would be. They were that Avengers style super team where each member was a fifth of the power, and without these 5 you have….oh I dunno. …Vanilla Fudge. Every member was necessary …. not the instrument they played…..them playing it.
And of course these 5 dudes created a song that went far beyond their generation, far beyond their own life span as a band….and surely as corporal beings. You know the tune. ‘Duh Dunh Dunhhhhh, Duh Dunh Dunh Dunhhhhhh….’ etc.
THE riff of Rock written by bass player Roger Glover, who wrote others. He was perhaps the most restrained, most common in appearance. …and there lied his mutant ability to produce timeless riffs.
Ian Paige was always a cult figure, a deeper Neal Pearl style worship amongst those who know. This was beat (in perfect paradiddle) into my head by my old friend Vic who was so stupidly talented, he learned these Paice driven monsters beat for beat. And to simply watch him play with (big and fat) headphones on was a revelation to me if what drums REALLY did if you watched someone who knew how to play them proper. Ian’s ability was to make it look easy and simultaneously impossible.
Jon Lord. He was the heart if this sound. This was not simple worship of Hammond B3. It was using it as a tool, and pushing the good taste and warm whirly tones into an over driven groans and wails and the low rumble of (big and fat) American automobiles. He was the strong one, the honorable one, the mad scientist who ain’t that mad.
And the difficult one, the dangerous unpredictable one. The one who played with black magic and risked his soul within the complexity of each incredible solo. And the one who started me on my vague obsession with megalomania. Mr Ritchie Blackmore. He was Dr Strange with a stratocaster.
And on vocals and bongo, Jesus Christ.
Ok. Ian Gillan was not actually Jesus Christ. But he did play him on the stage. And through this, at a later age than church would prefer, I came to know The Passion Of The Christ.
It’s hero worship. When your a fan. …a real fan….you track down where your hero’s come from. And in this fashion, me and my friends came to know Jesus Christ Superstar. And despite being Sabbath obsessed darklings, we came to know every word. Every plea, every plot of the Christ story. And to this day, this is where my true understanding of Christ came from.
But one doesn’t get defined by being Jesus. ….Jesus aside. Ian Gillan was one of the best singers in and out of Rock. And looked damned good doing it.
There is no band that ever sounded like Deep Purple. And there will never be again.
Jon Lord left this plane for farther shores. And I think he is still out there, awaiting the call to save us.