Rock Hall of Fame in a Haze Where Deep Purple is Concerned

The powerful Deep Purple has thus far been denied entrance to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
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The "classic" Deep Purple lineup recorded this 1970 album

(No. 25 in a continuing series on artists who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are not)

By Phill Marder

There is no question Deep Purple belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. At least from this writer’s viewpoint.

“Who is Deep Purple?” is the question.

As far as I can determine, and feel free to send in any corrections if necessary, there have been 14 different members of Deep Purple, including three different lead singers, since the band’s chart debut “Shades Of Deep Purple” in 1968. With some members coming in and out more than once, there have been seven (I think) five-man combinations, all of which have been successful.

Ironically, the only member who appeared in every version is drummer Ian Paice. Ironic because it was Searchers’ drummer Chris Curtis who formulated the original concept for the band with himself as the lead singer, then wound up never being a member. Ironic also because Paice has been the most maligned of the group members, critics often denigrating his drumming prowess. In fact, I remember Paice once being called the worst drummer of any major rock band. That’s just another example of a music critic not knowing which end of the drumstick is up.

As a drummer myself, I can assure you Paice is terrific. As is the rest of the band.

But back to the question. If Deep Purple is inducted into the Hall of Fame, as they should be, just which members should be included?

The first combination of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, bassist Nick Simper, organist Jon Lord, Paice and lead singer Rod Evans saw its first albums and singles chart, but, strangely, only in the United States, where the initial album, powered by the No. 4 single “Hush,” reached No. 24. The next two releases didn’t do as well, though, and Evans and Simper left, being replaced by vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover.

Gillan, Blackmore, Glover, Lord and Paice became the band’s classic combination, taking Deep Purple to new heights from 1969 to 1973, coming back from 1984 to 1989, and again from 1992 to 1993.

This was also the conglomeration that broke the band in the United Kingdom market, where it has enjoyed tremendous success since. The first effort, Lord’s “Concerto For Group and Orchestra,” a live effort performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall, didn’t do much in the States, but became the group’s first UK chart effort, hitting No. 26. Then the fun started.

“Deep Purple In Rock” had a weak showing in the US, but bolted to No. 4 in the UK and a single - “Black Night” - just missed being the band’s first chart-topper in their native land, reaching No. 2. Meanwhile, Gillan, playing the lead role, took place in the recording of the album “Jesus Christ Superstar,” earning rave reviews as the two-record set topped the US charts for three weeks.

The next single “Strange Kind Of Woman” reached No. 8 in the UK. Included on the US version of the ensuing “Fireball” LP, it helped bring the group back in the States, the LP hitting No. 32, while becoming the group’s first No. 1 album in the UK.

“Machine Head,” generally considered Deep Purple’s finest hour, appeared in 1972, topping the British charts for three weeks and soaring to No. 7 in the US. But the group’s signature song, the single, “Smoke On The Water” on which Blackmore introduced one of Rock’s most instantly identifiable guitar riffs, didn‘t gain release in the US until a year later, eventually getting to No. 4. Even stranger, the song didn’t hit the British chart until 1977, peaking at No. 21.

And even stranger was the fact that all this was happening after Gillan and Glover had quit the group, though the live “Made In Japan” and the studio “Who Do We Think We Are” had continued their run of success. In fact, by 1977 there was no group.

At the close of 1974, David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes had moved in on vocals and bass, respectively, and the next two LPs, “Burn” and “Stormbringer” reached the UK top 10 and did almost as well in the US. But when Tommy Bolin replaced Blackmore in 1975, the band’s fortunes suffered an immediate downturn. By the end of 1976, the band had disintegrated and Bolin was dead from a heroin overdose.

Various releases, compilations and old live recordings, kept Deep Purple alive on the charts, but it wasn’t until 1984 that the group reformed, the classic lineup intact. Two smash albums, “Perfect Strangers” and “The House Of Blue Light” ensued. After the live LP,“Nobody’s Perfect” did ok as 1988 ended, Gillan left again, replaced by Joe Lynn Turner.

With Turner out front, the group had moderate success with 1990‘s “Slaves and Masters“ album. Eventually, Gillan came back again in 1992, Steve Morse joined on guitar in 1994 and Don Airey came in to replace Lord on keyboards in 2002.

All told, Purple’s remarkable career has produced just six hit singles in the UK, but 21 hit albums, including three that topped the charts. In the United States, only three of the group’s singles could be considered hits, but they put 20 LPs on the Top 200, 11 reaching the top 50, with three climbing into the top 10.

The majority of Purple’s success is due to the five members of the classic lineup. Those five must be inducted. But Coverdale and Hughes also should be considered for induction for their contributions to three major albums, though their relatively short stay with the band diminishes their credentials. And certainly Evans and Simper must be taken into consideration for getting Deep Purple off the ground with three hit albums and two hit singles. Morse and Airey also must be considered for helping to keep Purple alive today.

While Deep Purple has remained a still-potent concert attraction, Purple fans also soon may be treated to a new recording as Gillan said just last month, “…we’re going to get together and have a writing session real soon.”

“We’ll see how it goes,” he added. “…we’re getting poked by various connections who would like to see another Deep Purple record. So I think it’s about time.” Blackmore also remains active with “Blackmore’s Night” touring and the “Autumn Sky” LP released last year.

It’s also “about time” the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In the 70s, the Guinness Book of Records called Deep Purple “the world’s loudest band.” That alone should merit induction, but Deep Purple’s credentials speak with just as much volume.