November 1981
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DEEP PURPLE

Fireball - Archive Feature

Fireball is unbelievably ten years old this year. Always one of my favourite (if not, the favourite), I thought it would be nice to mark the occasion with some details on the recording of it, together with a useful interview.

Deep Purple In Rock's success took the band somewhat by surprise. They had built up a good following by the constant touring which preceded it but had never expected it to stay in the top 30 charts for a whole year. Towards the end of 1970, the time came to think of a follow-up. The band were still filling the demand for concerts which In Rock had caused, and were expected to somehow break off to do an album without having had any time to think about what they wanted to do. Not only that, but there was the additional pressure of having to follow In Rock. So, in September 1970 they found themselves in the studios, and more or less at a loss for ideas. As an indication 'Anyone's Daughter' was the first track they laid down! It was just a fun song really, to get the sessions going - Ritchie came up with a country and western backing, Ian wrote some appropriate lyrics, and they recorded it almost live.

The next visit to the studio didn't take place until January 1971. This time the bulk of the album was completed, and 'The Mule', 'No One Came', and 'Prostitute' - soon rattled 'Strange Kind Of Woman', substantially finished, and three other numbers worked out: 'Distilled' (which become 'Fireball'), 'Slow Train', and 'Born To Live (Freedom)'. Hoping to finish the LP, they even re-scheduled the first four dates of the UK tour at Leeds on January 29th, and the first taste of the new material came out on Dec 12th in the shape of 'Strange Kind Of Woman' / 'I'm Alone'. 'I'm Alone' made use of an older riff which had been titled 'Grabsplatter' (issued on an EP in 1980). The band returned to the studio after the tour to do 'No No No' and 'Fools'. As yet, we can't say at which studio the various numbers were done. Roger indicated that 'The Mule' had been done at Olympic, whilst most of it was done at De Lane Lea with engineer Martin Birch, whom they'd discovered during In Rock's recording.

A live gig at London's Roundhouse on April 30th as part of the Camden Arts Festival saw the band trying out 'No One Came' on-stage, probably the only time it was done live. The tapes were finished in time for the group to issue Fireball over in America in July, coinciding with an important tour there. At the request of Warners, they included 'Strange Kind Of Woman' on it. The album was finally issued in the UK in September, with another UK tour the same month. Although the band had talked of including a new version of 'Strange Kind of Woman' here, this was never done. Instead we got an extra track called 'Demon's Eye', probably the last track to be taped for the album, nearly nine months after the first had been done!

Because it had taken so long to do, the album was in some ways squeezed out of the live shows, and few of the songs were done on-stage; only 'Fireball', 'No No No', 'The Mule' and 'Strange Kind Of Woman' were used regularly. The reason was quite simple, the band were already writing material for the next album, and two of these numbers - 'Highway Star' and 'Lazy', were being done on a tour which should have been promoting Fireball!

The LP went into the charts replacing In Rock, and stayed there for about ten weeks. This wasn't a bad showing, but the longevity of In Rock made it seem less of a success I suppose. That, coupled with adverse comments on the album by the band, tend to give Fireball a rather poor reputation today, whereas in reality it is a superb LP, but one which many people - expecting more of the same after In Rook, failed to appreciate.

Certainly there is no denying that due to the length of time it took to do, the album lacks the unity of purpose which marked In Rock, and some of the later LPs. The end result was a number of individually excellent tracks which didn't combine to make a strong album because they all seemed different. This was something all the band saw as the main drawback to the LP: Jon Lord - "I think it was a better album than a lot of people said it was, musically, but it lost a lot of balls. There was very little linkage between sessions. With In Rock we were trying to make a point. Fireball is a much more melodic album, funkier. It's closer to what I would want from a rock album than In Rock was". Ritchie however was hard on the album right from the start - "I got kind of bitter, and threw ideas to the group that I had thought up on the spur of the moment. I said if you want an LP you've got to give us time. We made virtually everything up in the studio, we never had any time to sit back and think. There are only three tracks I think are good: 'No No No' 'Fools', and 'Fireball' itself". He also got in a dig at John Peel, who had been slagging Purple off in the press; "We work around riffs. Y'know, we ring up John Peel and ask him if he's got any good riffs!!

Roger too came down on the album, and tends to feel in retrospect they maybe progressed too far with it. It's a bit sad to hear this about your favourite album! Only lan Gillan seemed to be positive about it, and still is today - "I personally prefer it to In Rock, but the rest of the group prefer In Rock. Fireball was a little more introvert, yet it was just as heavy. I thought there was more to it, though I suppose it wasn't very together as far as the feeling of the album as a whole goes".

To me it just seemed right; a natural progression to In Rock. It had different moods, so you could play different tracks at different times. In Rock was a very positive album, but tended to stick to the one theme. Fireball doesn't get played all the way through as often, but the individual cuts are singled out more frequently. The band seemed to be satisfied with what they had said and done on In Rock, and settled down to produce an album for themselves, not worrying too much about how it would be received. The musicianship was superb, with good performances from everyone. It was balanced too, with less emphasis on solos every number. One track in particular, 'No One Came', illustrates just how well they were playing. A brilliant bass line from Roger, with a slightly synthesised tone to it. Ace drumming from Paicey (who discovered during the sessions, as he wandering about the corridor banging a snare drum, that he got a much better sound out there than in the studio room. As a result his kit was installed outside for the duration, and later on Machine Head, for the entire LP).

The guitar solo hardly seems like a solo, it blends in so well. Ritchie had abandoned his "faster than thou" approach for a much more subtle and emotional technique which I find stunning. Lordy simply moves in as Ritchie ends, and with some brilliant organ work takes the number to a climax, before lan Gillan returns for the punch line. lan's lyrics are easily some of his best ever. A clever and witty use of words to put across an idea which on paper seems to mean nothing, but when he sings it, makes perfect sense.

I could ramble on about all the tracks. It was an album you could play at school with pride, stuff the common room trendies, this is what a good band sounds like. The disc came in a luxurious embossed sleeve which you could almost caress, some neat photos inside, and a lyric sheet. It just seemed to yell "class", and later won a design award. If I had to choose between this and In Rock for my desert island, I still don't know which I would pick. Dig it out and see what you think; and if you don't have it, forsake the much touted, but more clinical Machine Head et al, and put this top of your shopping list!


Fireball - NME Article, August 14th 1971

"This album is more mellow than Deep Purple In Rock. When we recorded that we were a bit angry at the world because we didn't have a name, we weren't big, and we just wanted to smash it through that we played rock. Now we're not as angry, this is a sit of sit-back album, but not in the sense that we're trying to prove all the things we can do. It's just easier going Deep Purple. It's just a natural progression I think."

    Roger Glover, back the day before from an arduous tour of America and Canada, was talking about Purple's new album. FIREBALL. He contributed a lot of background information and expressed opinions on the improvement of various members of the band.
    The album begins with FIREBALL, a helluva rocker. lan Paice's fierce, fast drumming spurs on the guitars of Glover and Richie Blackmore, and lan Glllan sings with controlled force. There's a typical Gillan scream among the frenzy, then he continues the tale of a woman who is doing him in. Paice's drumming, specially the bass work, is excellent rock and roll of the calibre not heard much these days unfortunately. Jon Lord has a period of pounding individual notes before we return to the main theme.

ROGER (referring to what sounded exactly like a lead guitar solo): Weird bass solo that, that's a bass, doesn't sound like a bass does it?

NO, NO, NO is slow (it had to be after the last track), with a plodding beat interspersed with almost funky passages from Richie Blackmore's lead. His solo has a lot of echo and not a little feel, Glover maintaining an effective heavy beat throughout. The lyrics are simple and not the best ever written but they fit the style of the number. Lord is almost Jimmy McGriff-ish in his approach to his solo contribution which builds on a chord at the end.

ROGER: See, Richie is very influenced these days by Shuggy Otis, that's what all those bits are. A lot of it is very understated, it's not flash, very coolly played. It's amazing how little Ian has changed, when I first joined the band he was... (he waved his arms about to Indicate frenetic drumming) now he's.... (gentle rhythms with the hands) Just listen to it. It's about the most complicated bass pattern I've ever used, usually I just plod along and leave it to the others. It occurred to us that it might be a great audience participation number, we'd just shout out obvious things that the audience wouldn't like and get them shouting 'no no, no.' I don't know if it will work. We'll just have to wall and see.

DEMON'S EYE: a medium- paced rocker with Gillan doing his sexual groan routine. There's a fair bit of fuzz on the guitars, especially noticeable during Lord's solo which is high-pitched in contrast. It's one of those numbers that has Deep Purple stamped all over it and marches on steadily, leaving deposits of evil in its wake.

ROGER: The whole album was going to rest on one track, Fireball. We couldn't think of one track on Deep Purple In Rock that it could rest on. If they played Fireball on the radio it would be a great selling point. Actually we'd decided on the title of this album before we'd written the words.

ANYONE'S DAUGHTER. All sorts of country-style tinklings that sound like tuning-up time have been left on at the beginning. It's a spoof of so many C&W numbers but at the same time a considerably good track. Lord throws in some nice studio boogie piano almost nonchalantly and Blackmore adds some repeated phrasing, mainly in the background, with some licks up front. The lyrics are amusing and delivered in a semi-serious manner while, as the track progresses, the music becomes more involved, only to fade on a short piano run.

ROGER: The reason we left all this rubbish on the beginning was we'd got used to hearing it playbacks so many times it didn't seem right without it. This is very strange, this track, because it was recorded the day after we'd had a big discussion about being exciting and heavy. It's difficult to keep excitement going, you could easily fall back and let things go along normally. If we wrote ballads it would be very simple. We were sitting round the studio waiting for inspiration and Richie just started tinkling around with that chord thing and we joined in, it was a fun.

THE MULE: Again Paice's drums are immediately noticeable, flitting from speaker to speaker. The music almost drowns out the lyrics and has a weird spacey quality which sounds as though it's been achieved by a novel use of an organ-lead-guitar combination. Blackmore takes over and the drums speed up over a continuous drone. I was reminded of Sabre Dance at times. Not for the musically squeamish.

ROGER: The lyrics aren't very important in this number. That's why they're sort of set back, it's more of a mood thing. We had so much trouble mixing this one, I'd sit up until six every morning doing it -it'd start with the whole group there and one by one they'd yawn and go 'there's not much I can do to help' and they'd drift off and leave me on my own. I'm still not happy with it, I'd like to do it again.
   
It's musically great and there's a lot of excitement there, I don't want to bring it down in any way, but I'd like to bring the excitement out a bit more. It's a whole weird thing this. (He paused and added with a laugh) A weird trip, man!

FOOLS. The opening bars are reminiscent in a strange way of 'Child In Time'. It's all very deceptively modest until the breakthrough, when the heavy rock smashes through the surface. A repeated guitar riff lends considerable weight to Gillan's vocals. Midway Blackmore uses alternating volume control to create a cello effect. Back to the lyrics which says a hell of a lot in terms of trying to put put people straight, and a spot of bass organ with a cathedral-like effect totally suitable for the mood.

ROGER: This is one of my favourites. It's quite deep really, very loosely it's about a guy who dies and he's looking back and can see the world is run by fools. What he's saying is 'I'm dead. But if I could only communicate with you, you'd be so much better off.' It's a protest song in a way. Ian's voice has changed a lot, especially on this one, it's thickened. He's proved he could scream but this one is middle range. This is another example of little Ian's' subtleness and we've been using this guitar solo on stage for some time, we never thought it'd work on a record but it's worked great. None of it is worked out, he's making it up as he goes along. It's completely ad lib. The electric piano chords were on afterwards. I think the same thing's happened to Richie that's happen to little Ian, he doesn't have to go out and prove he can play fast, consequently there are little licks and runs that are pure tasteful. The words were written by Ian and myself, most of the words on the albums are written by him but occasionally we get together.

NO ONE CAME is no-holds-barred fury. Gillan packs spit into his voice. Glover underlines the whole shebang with simple but effective bass line work and Blackmore has an almost lyrical solo that explores a number of suggestions before petering off, leaving the way clear for the organ to take up the lead and guide everything along. While all this is going on the drums pound out a steady rhythm there's what sounds like some organ experimentation of a curious nature - (Roger was to prove me wrong on this later) - which fades leaving you wondering what's going to happen next. But isn't that sometimes the best way?

ROGER: This is my favourite number on the album. It's got that weird beginning that throws it, it comes in on the on-beat. These are some of the best lyrics Ian has ever written, they're autobiographical to a certain extent, with a little embelishment. Some of the best drum sounds I've ever heard on this track, that and 'Demon's Eye.' Very simple bass line that, one note. We took the first verse without the words and put it on the end, just a load of rhythm, that's backward piano. It's just pure chance the way it fits.


California Jamming - Archive Feature

Without doubt, the most important release of late has been that of the first official Deep Purple video cassette. Even though I know only a small minority of you have access to a machine, it can't really be ignored! I hope most of you got to hear the tracks aired by Tommy Vance on the radio, and I've no doubt tapes of the soundtrack will start to circulate if EMI still persist in their idiotic stance of only issuing studio quality material on disc (surely just a limited pressing is feasible?). For those of us without the video, I hope the inclusion of the following series of photographs will be some consolation, but first some details of the actual festival. Deep Purple Mk 3 began their first US tour with a gig in Phoenix, Arizona on February 3rd 1974, coinciding with the release of Burn. It was a long tour, but a successful one, making the band the biggest selling group in the States that year. The tour headed towards a climax in April, with a massive outdoor festival at the Ontario Speedway on April 6th 1974. The band had known about the festival for some months, they'd been booked even before Mk 3's lineup had been finalised - attracted by an undisclosed fee, and the impressive publicity it would generate.

The Ontario Speedway is near Los Angeles in California, and the concert was promoted by ABC TV. They hoped to make a killing by filming the entire event, and then screening it on TV. In the event, they made a profit on ticket sales alone, with a crowd of 200,000 people attending. It was due to last twelve hours, and Deep Purple were supposed to be co-headliners with Emerson Lake and Palmer. Lower down on the bill were Black Sabbath, Black Oak Arkansas, The Eagles and more. There was apparently a soundcheck the previous day, for pictures have been seen showing the group tuning up on stage, and in different gear to the actual show. The stage was built around four railroad box cars, with scaffolding around it for the lights etc. and a massive wooden painted rainbow spanning the back of the stage. It was this rainbow by the way which gave Ritchie the idea for his electronic version when he formed Rainbow in 1975.

Stories abound about the group, the main problem arising when the show ran early, and Deep Purple were asked to go on while it was still light. Ritchie Blackmore: "We were headliners - and we were supposed to go on the stage at dusk: 7.30pm. We arrived early to tune up and the promoter says 'you've got to go on'. We outright refused. It was 6.30, and we weren't about to do anything of the sort. I just ignored him. He said we'd be off the show if I wasn't on-stage by the time he counted 30. He hadn't t reached 15 when I had him thrown out". Purple got their way and went on as it got dark. The set followed the normal order,and it went down well with the crowd. During 'Space Truckin', Ritchie began to ask one of the camera men to move back, as he was coming right onto the stage and blocking people's view. He did so, but began to edge on a little later. Eventually Ritchie began to break his guitar up over the camera, and rammed it right into the lens. "I hadn't planned to go for the camera, I was out to kill this guy who gave me the countdown! Anyway, I couldn't spot him, so I had a go at the camera". The audience loved it! At the end of the number Ritchie's amps were totally ablaze, and he was rushing around like a demon.

ABC TV sponsored the US TV show "In Concert", which showed various groups live once a week. The California Jam was filmed specifically for the show, and screened over four weeks. The first week saw a compilation of all the bands, intercut with interviews etc. On this show they used an edited 7 minute version of 'Space Trucking', just the demolition sequence. A follow up programme showed more or less the whole of Deep Purple's set, and was broadcast in conjunction with ABC FM radio stations. It was repeated at least four times over the years, but never taken up by UK TV stations. A couple of cuts managed to sneak out on two bootlegs, and that was it. A couple of years later in London, Tony Edwards managed to get the 7 minute edit of 'Space Trucking' included in a Deep Purple compilation which he assembled for European TV stations. Again it was ignored in the UK. It wasn't until 1980, and the release of the Deepest Purple compilation by EMI that we got to see any of the video. The album was to be heavily promoted on TV, and casting around for some exciting footage, they eventually used 30 seconds or so of the California Jam. To see it, we had to sit through hours of commercials! To get the video transferred onto the UK video system Tony Edwards had used the facilities of the BBC. It turned out that they were planning their first video cassettes for 1981, and so a deal was arranged whereby they could issue the entire concert. It wasn't a straight forward task by any means. The footage was at times poor, and had to be beefed up. ABC had erased the master tapes of Deep Purple's set (in revenge for the loss of their TV camera!), so the sound had to be taken off the existing video soundtrack instead. However from what I heard on the radio, they have done a very good job. The music was also much better than I had expected. The vocals are some of the best we've heard from Coverdale's Purple days, and both Paice and Lord get well mixed up. Blackmore is rather subdued but seems to take heart when they reach 'Mistreated' - and although the intro doesn't quite scale the heights of Perks & Tit, the rest is excellent. So all in all, it's a good video debut for the band.

1974 US NEWSPAPER ARTICLE

"Perched high in the air on a giant TV crane, Diane Biederbecke aimed her ABC-video-taping camera at the stage far below. The crowd at the Ontario Speedway was growing impatient as the next attraction, Deep Purple, stalled and waited for the sun's last rays to disappear beyond the horizon. On the stage itself the video cameras were poised for action. At last Deep Purple sauntered out before the massive crowds and struck their thunderous opening chords. The TV tapes flicked into action and Diane, like the eye of a tremendous iron snake started to swing on a wide arch toward the intensely engrossed musicians.

Deep Purple's fury grew, until guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, feeling his characteristic surge of pure violence, lashed out with his axe at the unblinking eye of the video camera nearest him. For those watching In Concert on their television sets at home, there was a vision of shattering glass and chaos. "I think I'm personally responsible for Blackmore hitting the guitar against the camera," remarked Josh White, the boyish director of In Concert's "California Jam. Part I and II." "Because I saw him the night before. Deep Purple did a technical rehearsal, and I said 'are you going to smash your guitar?' And Richie said, 'yeah, maybe. I dunno. what the hell.' He was kind of irked about a dozen things having nothing to do with me. And I said. 'Well, listen, if you do it, favor the camera. I'll get a good shot of it and it'll look great.' He favored the camera all right" Josh laughed, "to the tune of $8,000 in damages."


The First Clean Up - Bootleg Album Review

The First Clean Up ED 129:1981.
A curious new item, originating in Europe, with a collection of items from the numerous Purple cassettes floating about. The plain white sleeve just has the words "The Unreleased Album, Deep Purple, First Clean Up, Live, Limited Edition" on, and, according to people over there, is one of a series of similarly packaged albums by various groups. Pressed in red vinyl, the label has tracks and dates on.

Side one contains 'Ricochet', from the BBC archive session. It's one of the items we rescued from the BBC when working on In Concert, but didn't think worthy of release. It's the 'Speed King' tune with improvised lyrics, and was taped in 1969, 'Mumblin' Thing Blues' follows, taped in Koln, 4.4.70. It has been bootlegged before, on a long deleted record called Back To The Rock, but this seems to be slightly better quality. The song is a loose jam. There's very little guitar on it, but it's interesting for real fans. 'Joddle King', from Offenbach 10.4.71 turns out to be 'Speed King', prefixed by the 90 second yodel which the band did for a time in 1970, taking the piss out of The Equals. I guess Joddle = Yodel! It's a good item though, with some crazy out of tune guitar, but nice interplay between Jon & Ritchie in the middle, getting quiet "you can hear a zip being undone", as lan puts it. 'Maybe I'm A Leo', the only unreleased number from the In Concert album, closes the side. It was a toss up between this and 'Never Before' when we did the LP, and this lost. An average performance, but as they only did it live once, it's one for collectors. Recorded in March 1972.

Side two is generally poorer quality, being mostly audience recordings except for the opener 'No No No', taped for German TV in 1971. Always a sad song live I thought, lan sounds a bit hoarse, but there's the nice funky bit near the end where he yells "do you like me? No No No", and seems to mean it. 'Fireball', taken from Sheffield City Hall, Oct 5th 1971 is from my first ever Purple concert. Quite haunting to find it on vinyl ten years later. They used to take the song at twice the studio speed, and how they kept it going I'll never know. "This is the fastest song we do,cos it kills us" lan once put it, and wasn't far wrong. There is a stunned silence before the crowd erupt at the end. 'Mary Long' is next, a poor version - the band were after all only a couple of months away from splitting at this time - it was done at Wien, 14.3.73. The disc ends with an early Mk 3 song, from 11.12.73 at Gothenburg; 'What's Going On Here', only done live a few times. Distorted vocals, but very loud guitar - you can hear the amps buzzing quite clearly.

Mainly for hardened collectors then, if you can find it (don't write to us) - and I've just noticed it's arranged in chronological order too!


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