While co-headlining with Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Deep Purple showed their culminating frustration at the end of their set at the California Jam, at the Ontario Motor Speedway on April 6, 1974. Mainly it was guitarist Ritchie Blackmore freaking out at the end of the day — the Deep Purple guitarist never wanted to perform at the festival in the first place. He also claims that his bandmates were right behind him. And when there were scheduling problems ... well, there was added spice to the end of the band's performance.
Listen to Blackmore explaining his opinion of the scheduling problems and, ultimately, performing at the California Jam festival, below.
You really don't need to hear Ritchie explain how he felt about the California Jam. You can watch the actual footage, as he smashes several guitars and then proceeds to throw guitars, amps, monitors and pretty much anything that's not nailed down into the audience (below).
You really wonder how no one in the crowd complained (especially with the jagged bits of smashed guitar parts flying in the air). But it was the '70s. Things were more bacchanalian, free-flowing, less mainstream, litigious and corporate, and, well... just plain adventurous when you went to a festival or concert.
Back to Ritchie: Was it the expression of pure anger or sheer entertainment — and some say it was a little bit of both (as it did upstage ELP!). It was the combination of spontaneity and hastily planned high jinks. There were explosions at the end of Ritchie's musical tirade, but not really professional pyrotechnics, as the roadie doused gas on the amplifiers right before the band performed.
Ritchie raged against the machine (and even the cameraman!) for almost 10 minutes! The film camera was dented by (literal) axe-wielding and the cameraman's hearing was temporarily damaged by the explosion that blew a hole in the stage. The cops were called but by the time they had arrived, Ritchie and the gang had made their way out of the festival by helicopter.
Lets face it, no festival will ever be the phenomenon known as Woodstock, a concert of total peace and harmony (relatively speaking, of course). Even though admission at the California Jam was reportedly 250,000, and it has ben stated that the festival set records for the loudest sound system, the highest "paid" attendance, and the highest gross of — cha-ching! — money in music history up to that time.
So, overall, the festival was a success, but you really wouldn't know it by listening to Ritchie. His antics during the show, however, go down as an exciting exclamation point in the annals of rock history.