On The Roundabout With Deep Purple
by Kieron Tyler
Deep Purple were on top of the world in June 1973. Smoke On The Water was climbing the US charts. They were news wherever they went. Dates in Germany were regularly accompanied by rioting audiences, with police and water cannons on stand by. A two-month American tour had just been completed and the band were in Japan topping off an incredibly successful three years. Yet within the band relations were plummeting to an all-time low. "The idea of going to Japan was presented to us at a band meeting,' remembers Purple's bass player, Roger Glover. 'Ritchie Blackmore said 'I'm not going. I didn't say you couldn't go to Japan, I just said I'm not going.' Ritchie didn't care what anyone else thought, he had his own path."
pressure had already begun taking its toll.
That June became Glover and singer Ian Gillan's final month with the band. Frustrated with Blackmore and constant clashes with the band's management, Gillan had handed in his resignation letter the previous October. Glover joined him in leaving because he realised that Blackmore wanted him out. Not that Blackmore had bothered to tell him. "Ritchie only said one thing to me, at the last gig in Osaka," recalls Glover. "I passed him on the stairs leading to the stage. There was no one else around. He said, 'by the way, it's nothing personal, it's just business.'"
It was nothing new. Since the beginning, Deep Purple had ruthlessly hired and fired in their pursuit of the ultimate line up. Whenever it seemed as though the band had settled down, someone else was pushed over the edge, becoming yet-another ex-member of Deep Purple. The pattern had been set right from the start, before the band was called Deep Purple, from when it was Roundabout, an outgrowth of a still-born vehicle for ex-Searchers drummer Chris Curtis. Even in its prehistory, the story of Deep Purple is of business over friendship, at whatever the cost to band-members livelihoods. Roundabout was apt name, for that's what most of the musicians were on.
The hard-rock Deep Purple of In Rock, Fireball, Child In Time and Smoke On The Water was light-years from what the band might have been. What became Deep Purple arose from a series of chance events that had been seized upon by Tony Edwards, a budding entrepreneur with his eyes on the golden prize of Swinging '60s pop success.
1966 Edwards was working in London's West End for Alice Edwards Holdings
Ltd, his family's clothing company. He'd turned his hand to the pop
scene after coming across a singer-turned-model named Ayshea (later
familiar to pop fans from compering the '70s tea-time pop show Lift
the brief encounter with Curtis, Edwards knuckled down to keeping the
fashionable customer satisfied. But,
the time Curtis was planning his return to pop, Jon Lord was also pondering
his future. He had recently left jazzy west London R&B outfit The
Artwoods, a band formed around Art Wood, brother of future-Face and
Rolling Stone, Ron. Despite being a live draw and having released an
album in 1966, The Artwoods were going nowhere. An attention-seeking
name change to St Valentine's Massacre, matched by a new gangster-suited
image, hadn't clicked with record buyers - except in Denmark. "I'd
pushed the boundaries of The Artwoods as far as I could go," says
Lord. "I was sticking Bach and Tchaikovsky into my organ solos
and I think it rather frightened them."
While Lord was marking time with the Flowerpot Men, Chris Curtis had decided how his new band was going to proceed. "He said, 'I've got this band,'" remembers Edwards."I said, 'where is it, can I see them?' He tapped his head, 'that's where they are.'"
first encountered Curtis at a party hosted by the ubiquitous Vicki Wickham:
few weeks later Curtis was living in my flat,"continues Lord. "I
don't know how it happened. There were limousines picking him up, I
was tremendously impressed. He told me that he had met a businessman
who was really interested in putting up 'the bread, man'."
was soon clear that Curtis was on a very different level to everyone
else around him, not least his flatmate Jon Lord: "I came back
from being up north for a few days with The Flowerpot Men, and my entire
flat was covered in silver paper. The tables, chairs, the toilet, the
toilet seat. The lightbulbs, which blew every time you turned them on.
Windows, everything. Chris came out of the loo and said, 'hey man, what
do you think? New
bailing out, Curtis told Lord that he had a guitarist in mind for Roundabout.
Ritchie Blackmore was already a veteran of both the Joe Meek-produced instrumental band The Outlaws and Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages. His wild solos were the most striking thing about most of Heinz's Meek-produced singles. Blackmore had gone to Germany in 1966 with Neil Christian and the Crusaders, and liked it so much that he stayed there with a band called The Three Musketeers. When they split he tried to form a new combo, Mandrake Root.
to Lord, Edwards had already sneaked Blackmore into the UK to check
out a Flowerpot Men gig. Edwards recalls Blackmore as "dark, saturnine,
brooding, with a great charisma. I can't remember him saying much. He
looked around. Searchingly. But Chris disappeared back to Liverpool.
Blackmore went back to Germany. The whole concept fell into disarray."
should have been it for Roundabout. Chris Curtis may have vanished and
Ritchie Blackmore had returned to Germany, but Tony Edwards had been
bitten by the pop bug.
again, Tony Edwards got his cheque book out and for a second time brought
Blackmore back from Germany, this time for keeps. It was December 1967.
decided that he was in all the way and began committing himself to the
nascent band, still named Roundabout. "I financed the concept.
All my personal shareholdings in the family business were there as collateral
was duly summoned from France and the search for more band members continued.
Next up was bass player Dave Curtiss, who had led early '60s beat outfit
Dave Curtiss and the Tremors and was also currently resident in
however, had limited time to find out what - if anything - was happening
with the new band:
Curtiss gone, Lord and Blackmore were back to looking for a bass player.
This time around the suggestion came from Lord. "Nick Simper was
the next on board because he was also in The Flowerpot Men," remembers
Lord. "He had a penchant for frilly shirts. Ritchie thought he
looked pretty cool. Ritchie was very much into the way things should
With the line up settled at Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Nick Simper
and Bobby Woodman, all Roundabout needed was a singer. The musical direction
could come later.
Tony Edwards would come down to see what he had wrought and he would
walk away looking very puzzled," says Lord. "Vanilla Fudge
were very much an influence. They'd appeared at The Speakeasy, and had
amazed me. I had a long chat with [Fudge vocalist and organist] Mark
Stein that night. I learnt a couple of tricks that I put to use."
double-handed solution to the singer/drummer issue turned up in the
form of Rod Evans and Ian Paice, singer and drummer in a band called
The Maze. When Rod Evans arranged to audition for Roundabout, he was
asked to bring his band's drummer along.
Although Ian Paice had been waiting in another room during Evans' audition,
he was soon called in for a try out. "Ritchie and I and Nick Simper
auditioned Paicey on Bobby's kit," recalls Lord. "We did Watermelon
Man and he was brilliant. The next day we had to tell Bobby."
finally had a viable line up: Ritchie Blackmore, Rod Evans, Jon Lord,
Ian Paice and Nick Simper. Now all they had to do was sort out the music
and the live act.
close attention to the rehearsals was Derek Lawrence, an independent
producer who Blackmore knew from his days with Joe Meek. Lawrence took
the band into the studio in late March 1968 to record some demos, amongst
which was a cover of Billy Joe Royal's Hush. "Nick Simper and I came
up with Hush," recalls Lord. "It was very big in the clubs at that time,
The Cromwellian, Blazes."
The quintet got their first chance to play before an audience in April
1968 during a short string of dates in Denmark - familiar territory
for Lord, who had made some impact there the previous year with the
St Valentine's Day Massacre version of The Artwoods. The major advantage
of playing Denmark was that it was out of the spotlight.
For Ian Paice, however, it was the band's arrival in Denmark which left a lasting impression: "We took the boat from Harwich to Esbjerg. You needed a work permit and ours wasn't quite in order. I was taken from the docks to the police station in the back of a police-dog van, behind the wire grill. Which was a very auspicious start. When I got out, I was smelling somewhat canine."
Roundabout became Deep Purple and Hush became their first single, released
by EMI's Parlophone label in June 1968. It was a stunning debut: driving
and hard, funky and melodic. Although Hush didn't trouble the British
charts, it reached number 4 in the American national Top 40.
Another early promotional stunt was even sillier. "We also appeared on The Dating Game," continues Lord. "There had never before been a rock band on the show. One of us had to play the game and I didn't step back quickly enough. Deep Purple didn't mean a great deal to the rather preppy girl. One boy was a college guy from Encino, then there was Jon, a musician from England. One question was, 'if you came round to pick me up and my father appeared at the door and said, get your hair cut. Would you do it for me?' I said 'absolutely not, if he and you couldn't like me for what I am, then I don't belong there.' I was pissed off I wasn't chosen, she was very beautiful."
Back in the UK, EMI didn't seem interested in Deep Purple. Their first
album, Shades Of Deep Purple was issued in America in July 1968. In
Britain, it was released in September 1968. The disinterest was underlined
after the release of The Book Of Taliesyn, the band's second album.
Issued Stateside in October 1968, it hit the UK's shops in July 1969.
"We were big business in America," says Simper. "EMI did nothing, they
were stupid old guys."
Deep Purple spent the last three months of 1968 in the States, playing huge venues like Los Angeles' Inglewood Forum (with Cream) and returned to the UK in the New Year to find themselves booked at the likes of Goldsmith's College student's union in south London. It just wasn't the same. Relations in the band weren't quite the same either. "Once we started making money the friendship went out the window," recalls Simper. "Ritchie was particularly incensed because Rod Evans and Jon Lord had got the B-side to Hush and got a few bucks coming in. Ritchie said 'all Rod Evans does is write bloody words.' I said, 'well any idiot can write a guitar riff, you try and write some meaningful lyrics.' He wasn't very pleased."
March, April and May 1969 were spent touring the US. Before returning to America Deep Purple had recorded their third album 'Deep Purple'. As usual, it was released at home months after America. More importantly, by the time the album was issued in the UK, it was out of date in more ways than one. A new Deep Purple had already been created. Rod Evans and Nick Simper were touring America with no idea that their days in Deep Purple were numbered. Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord and Ian Paice were secretly plotting their demise.
Paice: "The three of us had a discussion in New York [in late May 1969].
We thought that Rod and Nick had gone about as far as they could. Rod
had great ballad voice, but the limitations of that were becoming obvious.
Nick was a fine bass player, but his loves were in the past not in the
future. We decided that if it was going to be a break, it was going
to be a substantial one to refocus the band to look forward, to break
this feeling of stagnation."
A week after returning from America, in early June, Deep Purple were
set to record their next single, Hallelujah. Simper had heard rumours
that he was being dumped: "I had been told, but rubbished it and said
there's always rumours."
Six were a pop group making a living slogging around the ballroom and
club circuit, but had made no impact on record buyers.
Ian Gillan accepted the invitation to join Deep Purple and invited Glover to meet Jon Lord, who was looking for songs. "Ian had become my songwriting partner," explains Glover. "I went along to meet Jon Lord. In person he wasn't anything like I imagined. He was such a nice man. I was blown away with his geniality. We nervously played our songs, about monkeys and lions - monkeys always appeared in our lyrics those days. But there was nothing that interested him. He played a demo of Hallelujah and said 'what do you think of that? Do you think it's a hit?"
As a result Glover was invited to the recording session for Hallelujah,
an off-the-shelf song composed by Tin Pan Alley writers Cook and Greenaway.
Nick Simper still had no idea that his replacement was playing with
Deep Purple. Roger Glover, however, realised that he was about to join
Nick Simper and Rod Evans, however, remained ignorant about their fate.
If it seems amazing that Deep Purple could record a single without telling the singer and bass player that they had already been replaced, consider this as an insight into the band's people-management skills. After recording the - flop - Hallelujah single, Deep Purple were secretly rehearsing by day at west London's Hanwell Community centre with Gillan and Glover, and playing shows in the evening with the still-in-the-dark Evans and Simper. "It was normal behaviour for Purple," says Glover. "I became aware that the modus operandi for Deep Purple was if there is a problem don't talk about it. Management is what you rely on to sort things out, musicians tend to shed their responsibilities as human beings once they're in a band. You have this cotton-wool surrounding you. I felt very bad about Nicky and Rod and felt they should have been told."
Ian Gillan and Roger Glover had joined a band that was running out of steam in the US and had little identity in the UK. Post-Hush singles had fared less and less well in the American charts. Before Evans and Simper had been given the boot, Jon Lord had put an idea to the band's management that was very attractive, particularly as it had some potential for increasing Deep Purple's media profile.
"Jon Lord said to me at the end of an American tour, that he'd always dreamed of writing a work that could be performed by a rock group and a symphony orchestra," recalls Tony Edwards. "I just said 'how long would it take?' I came home, booked the Albert Hall and he was appalled. Once he'd got over the shock, he thought it was wonderful. And it came to pass." It was to become the Concerto for Group and Orchestra.
"I'd had the idea when I was in The Artwoods," explains Lord. "Based on an album I'd heard by Dave Brubeck, called Brubeck Plays Bernstein Plays Brubeck. When Purple began gathering steam I realised I was in the right band to do it. Ritchie was all for it. Just after Ian and Roger joined, Tony said 'were you serious about that? I've booked the Royal Albert Hall and the London Philharmonic Orchestra for September 24th' So I had about three months to write it, and I did. I'd get back from a gig and go to work."
Deep Purple's publishers engaged Oscar-winning composer Malcolm Arnold
to oversee the creation of the concerto and conduct the orchestra.
The band's management found sponsorship from The Daily Express and British
Lion Films, who filmed the event. Ian Gillan and Roger Glover had been
in Deep Purple for only three months and were expected to play at London's
most prestigious concert venue with an orchestra.
Concerto achieved what it set out to do and, when released, became Deep
Purple's first UK chart album. But, as Ian Paice says, it confused both
the audience and the focus within the band.
"The Concerto was a dream, but it didn't mean I wanted the band to be
prog rock," explains Lord. "I fully recognised the massive opportunity
we were given when Gillan and Glover joined, to realise this harder-edged,
more crazy music." That
opportunity was fully realised in late 1969 when Deep Purple began recording
the classic In Rock album.
When the band's management decided there was no single on the album, Deep Purple were frog-marched back into the studio to record one. Black Night was the result, and became Deep Purple's first UK chart single and calling card for their future world-wide success. In time, album tracks like In Rock's Child In Time became as familiar as any hit single, blaring out of the bedrooms of teenage boys everywhere. In Rock began a new cycle for Deep Purple. Between its release in June 1970 and Gillan and Glover's departure in June 1973, they released three albums, never stopped working, toured constantly and became the Deep Purple familiar to millions.
touring might have almost killed the band off, but any signs of problems-to-come
weren't immediately apparent. "We weren't aware of the pressure," says
Roger Glover. "We were on tour forever and it became a routine, and
routine kills. But we dwell on the negative, because that's what people
want to hear. By and large Deep Purple was a happy experience."
It didn't stop for Ian Paice and Jon Lord until July 1976 - when Deep Purple split they were the only survivors from the early days. The name Deep Purple was always more than the sum of its parts.
Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Gillan declined the invitation to be interviewed for this article. Thanks to Samantha Gallop at EMI, Joni Hollar, Simon Robinson of The Deep Purple Appreciation Society (www.deep-purple.net) Mark Stratford and everyone who gave the time to be interviewed. Rod Evans: if you're out there, get in touch.
copyright, Kieron Tyler
dpas note : Kieron Tyler's article was published in Mojo Magazine, Jan 2003 issue. The magazine's editors decided they wanted more on the subsequent history of the band and less on the formation. Kieron thus offered deep-purple.net his original draft.
DPAS/Darker Than Blue.
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