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Archive “Smoke on the water” is the world hit of Deep Purple. The band wrote the song 50 years ago, right after one of their concerts was abruptly ended by a fire. The song made it onto the band’s new album at the last moment. After the fire disaster, the band’s career took off (picture alliance / AP Photo) It is one of the most famous stories in rock history. The organizer of the Montreux Festival, Claude Nobs, had invited Deep Purple before the old casino on Lake Geneva went on winter break to give one last concert there. Deep Purple sat in the audience when Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention were on stage in front of about 2000 people on that December 4, 1971. The owners of the casino had had the doors locked with chains because more and more young fans wanted to get in. When the synthesizer solo in “King Kong,” Frank Zappa’s encore, sounded, an audience member fired a flare gun into the casino’s wooden ceiling, and a short circuit occurred.

Silence on stage, panic in the audience

Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover had seen with his own eyes what had happened: “A gentleman of Oriental or Asian descent had fired the flaming projectile. The whole roof caught fire and everything went up in flames. I looked at the band and everyone was looking toward the exits, then I heard a crashing sound, the building was ablaze. I waited seven minutes and went outside aimlessly like the others. A few minutes later, everything was burned.” The band saw sparks flying, but it didn’t look dangerous yet, and they continued playing while panic broke out in the audience. Some audience members tried to storm the stage. Everyone ran away, and in a few minutes the entire building was evacuated. The burning balustrade had fallen on some rows of seats, and the old wooden structure burned to the ground. Deep Purple had planned to record their new album under quasi live conditions, but the fire foiled their plans for the time being.

Fire as inspiration

Then promoter Claude Nobs found them an old theater downtown, Le Pavillon, with the faded charm of a ballroom. It was there, after the fire, that the most popular of all Deep Purple hits was born. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore had found the riff. But it wasn’t until after midnight that the arrangement was finished, a few takes were recorded. It resounded far through the small town on Lake Geneva until the neighbors complained about the nightly noise. Deep Purple’s roadies heard the police approaching and braced themselves against the doors so work could continue inside. When the instrumental version was in the can, the doors opened and the police searched for those responsible for the noise. Bassist Roger Clover says he muttered the central line of the chorus in a dream (picture alliance/AP Photo) Bassist Roger Glover later said he dreamed of a fire at night and muttered “Smoke on the water” in his dream. It became the chorus for the song about the disaster, for which Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan wrote the lyrics. Originally, “Smoke on the Water” was not supposed to be part of the new Deep Purple album. The band sent a cassette to promoter Claude Nobs to get his opinion. Nobs was enthusiastic and said that this song absolutely had to be on the record. Months passed before the new work, entitled “Machine Head,” finally appeared and gave Deep Purple their first American tour – thanks in no small part to “Smoke on the Water.” Archive The presidential reliefs of Mount Rushmore served as the cover template for the long-playing record that was to be the turning point for the British rock band “Deep Purple”. After personnel changes and a musical change of direction, the fourth album became a milestone in rock history. The LP “Deep Purple in Rock” on the record shelf (dpa / picture alliance / Daniel Kalker) For some it was infernal noise, for others an artistic revelation. With a wild, ingeniously staged cacophony, “Deep Purple” wanted to make it clear right from the first track of their new long-playing record where this album was headed: in the direction of hard rock – without compromise. “The whole world was just in a great upheaval. Five years earlier, in 1965, the Beat bands “Hollies”, “The Kinks”, the “Beatles” were still performing together in suits. Well neat and the hair well blow-dried and well laid. That’s suddenly all very different now,” says Bonn musicologist and rock expert Volkmar Kramarz. “The Free, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath will make Paranoid this year. It is a year for me of unbroken virtuosity. This was the breakthrough into a new, progressive era.” Creative reboot as opportunity The three co-founders of Deep Purple, organist Jon Lord, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and drummer Ian Paice, wanted to be part of this new movement. They were also disappointed by the failure of their first albums, which had received little attention in their native Britain and the rest of Europe. Only in the USA had they been noticed. The three musicians saw their only chance in a creative new start. They wanted to do without the interwoven psychedelic sounds and the borrowings from classical music that had characterized the style of their first three albums. And they no longer wanted to cover foreign pieces by the “Beatles”, Joe South or Neil Diamond, but to write exclusively their own songs. For the new musical direction Roger Glover had joined the band as bass player and singer Rod Evans had been replaced by Ian Gillan. Together with the three original members, they formed the legendary top lineup, which is considered the best in the band’s history so far. Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan at a concert in Milan in 2015 (picture alliance / NurPhoto / Mario Cinquetti) Volkmar Kramarz: “Let’s start with Ian Gillan, the singer. He could sing incredibly high, he could hit the notes. Ian Paice on drums together with Roger Glover as bass player. What a pounding, really speedy rhythm section. And then Ritchie Blackmore. He belongs right in the middle of this top ten of insane guitarists forever. And then, of course, Jon Lord on organ. And all of them together brought those talents to all the pieces respectively.” Recording work of six months Such musical duels between guitar and Hammond organ developed from then on into a trademark with “Deep Purple”. Jon Lord, who died in 2012, once humorously described them as loud arguments between himself and Blackmore for supremacy in the band. “To me, the meat and potatoes at the center of “Deep Purple” is Ritchie’s and my sound in the way it hangs together. And sometimes we have a loud discussion about presidency.” Ian Paice (l) and Roger Glover 2017 in Berlin (picture alliance / Jens Kalaene) Volkmar Kramarz: “The one that naturally stood out as a monolith from the whole record was “Child in time”. This build-up, this slow, this voice rising higher and higher, then these iridescent ecstatic solos. Those were real works of art for us. Those were modern-day symphonies for us.” The recording work for “Deep Purple in Rock” took six months. For their debut, the musicians had needed just three days, for the two successors three months studio time each. But this fourth album, released in Germany on September 1, 1970, was to become a masterpiece. It brought the quintet great commercial success, worldwide recognition and is still considered a milestone in rock history. Jon Lord: “An album is first of all only a piece of popular culture for the time in which it was created. With luck, it will outlast the years and endure into later eras.” From the beginning, Deep Purple had much less sex or horror than its competitors. Nevertheless, the new album briefly overtook even Schlager and Deutschrap in the German charts. The question is: just why? It is impossible to talk about the English rock band Deep Purple without mentioning how old its musicians are. Ian Gillan, son of a London warehouse worker, first major appearances in the mid-sixties, still sings at 75. Three other group members have passed 70, guitarist Steve Morse is the youngest, at 66. All of which is no argument against being at the top of the charts: Since the beginning of August “Whoosh!” appeared, the new, altogether 21. Studio record of Deep Purple, it is in the top ten of the German album charts, sailed at the beginning briefly even past folk music and German rap at number one. In the first two weeks alone, around 150,000 copies were sold worldwide, the record company reported on request, which is immense by today’s standards, especially for a band about which quite a few may have been uncertain recently whether it still exists at all. Even in Great Britain the record reached number four, although for Deep Purple their home country has long been a rather hostile market. Ear Music, the label that has exclusively represented the band since 2005, is based in Hamburg.

Their toughness seemed more like an enervated conclusion from hippie culture

In contrast, what even young Siberian ear doctors or trainee teachers from Switzerland know of Deep Purple comes from a narrow, far-off window of time: songs that can be sung with you-don’t-don’t-noise, “Child In Time” with its organ and howling, the robotic guitar riff of “Smoke On The Water,” powerful stuff from the early seventies birth pangs of heavy metal. At the same time, Deep Purple had from the beginning much less sex or horror than the competition, presented their virtuoso hardness, their demonstrative non-groovy-ness more like an enervated conclusion from the hippie culture. The cover of their famous 1970 record “In Rock,” for which their faces were copied into the presidential rocks of Mount Rushmore, earned them much ridicule. Probably because these images don’t tell of excess and possibility, but of the seriousness of life. Today, Deep Purple actually consists (still and again) of three-fifths of the personnel of the great, range time. Their genre has survived in many, comparatively small biotopes, i.e. in the pee breaks of “Wetten, dass …?” broadcasts, for example, and playlists of oldie radio, in the multi-purpose hall festivals of medium-sized cities and the online forums that use Comic Sans typography but where thousands passionately waste their nights. That they are now becoming so visible again as a critical mass of record buyers is astonishing. “This is not a song you just cobble together from sound snippets on your PC,” writes user Theo74, for example, about a track from the “Whoosh!” album, in one of the now already nearly 300, almost entirely enthusiastic customer reviews. What’s at stake here is not a refusal of progress or cultural pessimism, which the funny old rockers in their leather vests like to be accused of – but defending an artistic ideal, a dream, a particularly good illusion, which a guy like Ian Gillan can still embody relatively easily. Many already admit that the new music is nowhere near as good as the early classics. They give the full score anyway, out of principle.

Sometimes old heads are the more meticulous, crash-proof computers

Question to the record company boss, by mail: Why is this ghostly presence of Deep Purple actually so appreciated in Germany, of all places? “If you compare historical developments, British pop culture, for example, is almost obsessed with youthfulness,” answers Max Vaccaro, CEO of Ear Music, “German audiences, on the other hand, are generally known to be very loyal and faithful.” For Vaccaro, it’s also a misconception that only the generally suspected boomers would listen and buy records here: In South America or Italy, he says, he has seen triumphant concerts with many younger fans. “The band has crossed the line beyond which artists are no longer perceived as old, but as timeless.” Elsewhere, after all, people retire at 65 because it’s suspected that their senior ideas hinder rather than promote technological and process progress. From this point of view, Deep Purple continue to live from the advantage that even in 1968 they didn’t radiate much youth and potency, more European classical than blues, more symphonic than operatic, which later made David Bowie or Queen pop stars. On “Whoosh!” you have to listen through a whirlwind of rocked phrases, through anthems for small beer receptions and clap-alongs – until you reach the complex monster song mountains towards the end, multi-part existentialisms like “Man Alive”, pleasantly bad-tempered short-cycles like “The Long Way Around”. A terrain in which these old guys admittedly know their way around a hundred times better than the striving progressive offspring. This was not clicked together on the PC, because sometimes old heads are the more meticulous, crash-proof computers. Naive or oblivious to history, this music is not, even if its fans sometimes seem so. The big song about the hopelessness and brutality of existence could also be a white, leathery, male rock song, because nobody sings about redemption here. Maybe that’s why they just keep going. Rock band Deep Purple presents a biting performance at their concert in the Hanns Martin Schleyer Hall on Friday night in Stuttgart. Jefferson Starship play some classics in the opening act. Deep Purple are conviction offenders, Deep Purple return again and again. In Stuttgart, the British hard rock legend was almost regularly on stage for years. Then came Corona. Now Deep Purple have played again in the Hanns Martin Schleyer Hall – and something is different. Steve Morse, who played guitar for them for 28 years, has left. His place is taken by Simon McBride. McBride was born in Belfast in 1979. Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ian Paice and even Don Airey, on keyboards for twenty years now, are long past seventy. Deep Purple have proven time and again that they still have bite and joy in playing. Now young blood has joined them: Simon McBride is not only a brilliant guitarist – he also leads the band back to the harder sound of earlier days. His much older bandmates interact perfectly with him, give him space, are noticeably proud to introduce him. And 7100 fans in Stuttgart are first excited – and finally thrilled.

Stage also belongs to other old stars on Friday

But before that, the stage of the Schleyerhalle belongs to other old stars on Friday. When Deep Purple was founded in 1968, Jefferson Airplane had long been famous. They came from San Francisco, played psychedelic rock, and changed to Jefferson Starship in the 1970s. Then in 1985 they stormed the charts as Starship, light years away from their beginnings. To this day, a band tours under the name Starship featuring Mickey Thomas – and won’t be on stage Friday night in Stuttgart. There play Jefferson Starship, which were already 1992 by Paul Kantner, guitarist already with Airplane, again founded. And this is also an event. David Freiberg, formerly of Quicksilver Messenger Service, has been with the band from the beginning and has continued to lead the band since Paul Kantner’s death in 2016, with Donny Baldwin, Chris Smith, Jude Gold and Cathy Richardson. Songs like “Sara” and “We Built This City” are not absent from their set list; Jefferson Starship play them their own way. Airplane classics “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love,” however, shine brighter. David Freiberg, 84, is in good voice; Cathy Richardson is cool and fierce as Grace Slick once was.

Many classics in the new guitar sound

The Californians are leaving, the British are coming, an excerpt from Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite “The Planets” announces them. God of war Mars fills the hall with his thunder, then you hear drums, grinding organ sound, fast rhythm, the guitar: “Highway Star” is the introduction to this concert as well. It will last about a hundred minutes, bring many of the classic Deep Purple songs in the new guitar sound. There is no studio album with Simon McBride so far – on Friday the band will play the tracks “Nothing at all” and “No need to shout” from “Woosh!” (2020), the last album with Steve Morse, also “Uncommon Man” from “Now what?!” (2013). There are no songs from the cover album “Turning to Crime”. But instead: a trip into the past, loud, fast, dangerous. Deep Purple play as if time had stood still – sometime, fifty years ago. Ian Gillan, however, has not sung “Child in Time” for a long time, with good reason. In “Lazy” he still flirts with his more modest vocal range – but gradually he goes beyond his limits, absorbed in the music. Don Airey, as Jon Lord’s successor, again explores the whole spectrum of progressive rock music – and suddenly starts playing strange songs in Stuttgart, in the midst of a round dance of classic rock. Not only “On the Swabian Railway” comes flying in as a good-humored instrumental, but also the melody of the German national anthem, Joseph Haydn’s Kaiserquartett. British humor?

Simon McBride comes to the fore again and again

Roger Glover will stand out with his massive bass on “Space Truckin'”, then in the encore, between “Hush” and “Black Night”. But again and again Simon McBride moves into the foreground, and again and again it becomes clear what has happened there, in his old age, with this band. Steve Morse appeared with Deep Purple as a gifted string artist, who directed the sound with finely chiseled play in spheres to which many fans of the band often did not want. Simon McBride brings Deep Purple back to earth with every hit. Perfect Strangers”, “Smoke on the Water” – they all sound more powerful, the guitar digs much deeper, screams brighter. And Steve McBride not only plays massive, he plays fast – his fingers race across the fretboard, his solos flash through the songs. Deep Purple will return, that may be sure: After all, they have just rejuvenated.

Band history

Deep Purple Deep Purple was formed in 1968 in London and released more than 30 albums. Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord (1941-2012) and Ian Paice were among their founding members, with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover joining in 1969. In 1976 the band broke up, in 1984 they got back together, celebrated one of their greatest successes with the album “Perfect Strangers”. Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple in 1993, Steve Morse joined in 1994; Don Airey took Jon Lord’s place in 2002. In the spring Morse announced his retirement for personal reasons; since September 2022 Simon McBride is an official member of the band. Jefferson Starship Jefferson Starship were formed in 1974 by Paul Kantner, Grace Slick and David Freiberg, had emerged from Jefferson Airplane, main representatives of the rock scene in San Francisco in the late 1960s. They wrote music history like hardly any other band and are considered pioneers of modern heavy metal: Deep Purple have been among the most important figures in the music business since the late 1960s. The founding story of the band is rather unusual, because in the beginning there is a clever idea of two English businessmen: The Londoners John Coletta, an advertising specialist, and Tony Edwards, a textile wholesaler, commission the organist Jon Lord with the formation of a rock band, because they smell a good business. In no time at all, Lord gathers musical companions and in 1968 the first line-up of Deep Purple (then still called Roundabout) is formed.

Deep Purple’s albums are milestones in rock history

In addition to Jon Lord, the original lineup of the English troupe includes singer Rod Evans, bassist Nick Simper, Ian Paice on drums and Ritchie Blackmore on guitar. In only three days they record their first studio album. Although the makers orient themselves on the style of the Beatles, nevertheless, already on “Shades Of Deep Purple” first approaches of the harder rock music are to be recognized, which should become the characteristic sound of the band. Immediately with the first album – more precisely, a single release from it – the formation creates the breakthrough in the U.S. and Canada. “Hush” lands there at number 4 and number 2 in the charts respectively. Also in 1968, Deep Purple’s second album followed. With “The Book Of Taliesyn” another trademark of the band comes to the fore for the first time: the combination of rock with elements of classical music. A year later the band line-up changes: Simper and Evans leave and are replaced by bassist Roger Glover and singer Ian Gillian. Together, the band released “Deep Purple In Rock” in 1970. This not only marks a turning point in the musicians’ life story, but also sets a milestone in international rock history.

Band members come and go, but success remains

Above all, “Child In Time,” a protest song against the Vietnam War, becomes a success and makes the band famous worldwide. The record cover of “Deep Purple In Rock”, which shows the four musicians as a relief in the rock of Mount Rushmore, also contributes significantly to their international fame. In the following years the band released one album after the other and one Deep Purple tour follows the next. This does not pass without a trace on the musicians: It comes increasingly to friction within the band. In 1973 Deep Purple recorded the album “Who Do We Think We Are” – but the band members went into the studio separately. Due to the constant quarrels Roger Glover and Ian Gillian leave the band and are replaced by singer David Coverdale and bassist Glen Hughes. Only two years later Ritchie Blackmore also said goodbye to the formation. In 1984 there is a reunion of Deep Purple. This time Jon Lord, Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillian, Roger Glover and Ian Paice are with them. In general, the history of the band is characterized by several lineup changes, which, however, also contributes to the dynamics of their sound.

Experience the “loudest band in the world” live

No matter in which formation the band is performing: A Deep Purple show is always an experience. So it’s no wonder that Deep Purple has taken home quite a few awards over the years. These include more than 60 gold records in various countries and in 2016, the induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.. In 2020, the band released “Whoosh”, their 21st studio album, followed a year later by “Turning To Crime”, which Deep Purple also presented on a worldwide tour. Ian Gillian as singer, Steve Morse on lead guitar, bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice take the stage. Don Airey, who has been part of Deep Purple since 2002, sits at the keyboard. The unmistakable hard rock style, carried by guitars and the Hammond organ, is as rousing as ever. This is especially true of the live shows: if you have tickets for Deep Purple, you can experience classic rock stars who have held the title of “loudest band in the world” in the Guinness Book of Records since 1975. Show more Deep Purple Menu.

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