Deep Purple: The Rodney Dangerfields Of Rock Finally Get Some Respect!

I'm going to tell you a little secret about myself that I've never told anyone else: I'm a big Deep Purple fan. Always have been.

From the moment that the "Smoke In The Water" 45 rpm record -  with the studio version on one side and the live version on the other - found its way into the family house, it was impossible to deny the carnal assault of that iconic opening riff, the song's full frontal rock stomp, or the story of how the band's planned sessions at a Montreaux casino were thwarted by "some stupid with a flare gun" during a Frank Zappa that "burnt the place to the ground".

The next thing I did was go out and buy the rest of the album, Machine Head, and fall head over heels for this five-piece rock juggernaut. These days, they get lumped in with Sabbath a lot but the bands are literally nothing a like,

Sabbath's dark imagery appealed more to the kids in my school who would later go on to a life of breaking and entering. Deep Purple, meanwhile, were every bit as muscular, but they also had a slyly esoteric side that gave the songs a swing that no other heavy bands at the time could bring.

As a result, between 1972 and 1974, the band launched five albums into the U.S. Top 20., including the absolutely essential live album Made In Japan. 

By 1975, success and excess were on the verge of ripping the band apart.

First Gillan left and then the band decided two singers were better than one, hiring bassist Glenn Hughes (ex-Trapeze) and frontman David Coverdale.

As admirable as it may have been to try two lead singers, the message you do not want to send to fans is that you needed two guys to fill the void left by Gillan, no matter how true it might be.

Then Ritchie Blackmore left because Coverdale and Hughes were pushing a truly misguided funk/soul direction on him.

Filling the guitar slot with Tommy Bolin could and should have been a masterstroke, but bringing a junkie into an already tense situation would ultimately be the band's undoing. Less than six months after the band's split,, Bolin would die suddenly from "multiple drug toxicities" at the age of 25.

Eight long years later, the original line-up returned for 1984's Perfect Strangers and rightfully reclaimed their place at the top of the rock scene. Anyone who doubts this need only look at the year's concert tallies and realize that Deep Purple were second only to Bruce Springsteen for the year's highest grossing concert tour.

1987 brought another fine studio album, The House of Blue Light, followed by the live album Nobody's Perfect in 1988. With continuing success on the worldwide concert circuit, it was only a matter of time before trouble reared its head yet again. Inexplicably, the growing musical differences between Blackmore and Gillan was such that the voice of the band chose to walk away.

In came journeyman vocalist Joe Lynn Turner to fill the void and the band released Slaves And Masters in 1990 to little fanfare. While the band's world tour receipts remained strong, the band's record company let it be known that it would be in their best interests to bring back Ian Gillan.

Blackmore's resistance was such that he flat-out refused to work with Gillan unless the band deposited $250,000 into his bank account, which they did.

The result of this fragile reunion was the 1993 album The Battle Rages On...,; the title of which would prove prophetic, as Blackmore's anger over Gillan's reworking of many of the songs that had been written before his return led him to leave the band in the midst of their world tour, never to return.

Sadly, from this point on, digging Deep Purple quickly went from a no-brainer to "guilty pleasure" to "yikes", but the band's first fourteen studio albums are truly a majestic musical statement that deservedly won them a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The question on everyone's lips, though, is which members of the band will be inducted?

The correct answer is: the band's Mk II line-up; Gillan, Blackmore, Glover, Paice, and Jon Lord, may he rest in peace, but what the band and RRHOF committee decide remains to be seen.

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