August 24, 1985
By David Huff
Deep Purple Roars Back After Decade of Silence
"If I was to ever be involved in a reunion of Deep Purple in whatever formation of that. I would want the motives to be absolutely crystal clear. No. 1 on those lists of motives would have to be that it would be musically viable, musically interesting, and it would have to give something. It would not, and could not, be just another license to print money. " -- Jon Lord, founding member of Deep Purple in an interview printed in the November 1980 issue of JAM Magazine responding to rumors of yet another Purple reunion.
I have reread the four-year old interview I did with Jon Lord over and over again since it was announced last spring that Deep Purple would indeed reform as a band. I've had questions gnawing at me for months as to how exactly did this reunion come together in the first place.
Like most people that heard the announcement of the reunion, I was overwhelmed, overjoyed and a bit confused. I was confused by the fact that Whitesnake founder, and former Deep Purple vocalist David Coverdale, was mentioned by Lord as one of the principle people that would be involved in reuniting the band of the group if it ever reached that stage. I was confused that Ian Gillan, who had a stormy relationship with, and was kicked out of Deep Purple by Blackmore himself, was instrumental in bringing everybody back into the fold, particularly Blackmore. And I was especially confused by the fact that bassist Roger Glover repeatedly told the press he would never be involved in a reunion of Deep Purple of any sort, yet there he was back in the fold.
You can imagine my anticipation as I cornered Lord backstage after Deep Purple had just finished rocking the rooftop off a sold out Reunion Arena providing one of the most awe inspiring shows ever seen.
"I know what we talked about," answered Lord as he read his comments of yesteryear, "but you must allow me my mistakes. Like Roger has said, I have got mud on my face for what I said about Deep Purple getting back together.
"If you talk to a rock musician and it goes in print, or it goes on one of those damn things (tape recorder), then I don't have the right of retraction because you say, 'Ha, on this November day 1980 at 8:30 at night, you said...' and that is it. You could say that you didn't like Coors beer in April of 1979 and if no one wrote down that you said you hated the beer, you would have the right to change your mind at a future date. Do you understand what I am saying?
"What we do and say is what we feel at the time. When you come back at me going, 'Well, you said...' it is like someone slapping you on the wrist saying 'you naughty boy, you lied to me.' I didn't lie, we didn't predicate. People print what you say at the time, and I reserve the right to change my mind at all times."
It’s a point well-taken by Lord, but not an issue to so easily dismiss. After all, the musician admitted feeling deeply hurt by Blackmore’s decision to leave Deep Purple in order to pursue his own destiny with singer Ronnie James Dio in 1975. It had left and empty void in his life that simply could not be filled.
"Ritchie was very much Deep Purple," summed up Lord in the 1980 interview, "and we never recovered from his loss."
After the 1974 Stormbringeralbum and tour, only Ian Paice on drums and Lord on keyboards remained from the legendary Deep Purple Mach II lineup. The band, for all intent and purpose, became nothing but dust in the wind. How does Jon Lord forget that betrayal? How does Jon Lord account for the sense of emptiness and lost direction his musical wonderings took him on for the better part of a decade?
"To be a rock and roll musician is a privilege," responded Lord as a small crowd gathered around. "To get the kind of reaction we got from this crowd tonight, that was a privilege, not a right you demand because of who you are. I like to think of myself as humble with a sense of humility left. I have been ready for something like this to happen for a long time. No, I haven't felt comfortable the past few years though I have enjoyed myself. Jon Lord the musician was so very much lost."
Lord revealed that talks for getting Deep Purple back together again were initiated three years ago by vocalist Ian Gillan.
"Ian had been after me for two or three years," said Lord, "and he asked Ritchie about it two years ago. Ritchie agreed to reform the band, but he had a two album contract and a tour with Rainbow he had to honor and it was locked into in writing. Ian Paice was locked into a commitment. I was locked into the Whitesnake thing, so we couldn't do it.
"If there was going to be a reunion, it had to be the band that you saw before you tonight. To me, that was Deep Purple, the real Deep Purple. The others that have been in Purple in the past were good, but this is the band that invented the identity, the sound of Deep Purple. We started together. When we stopped touring and recording together, it was a bad feeling."
Lord also revealed that Deep Purple may have been able to avoid the break-up that occurred over ten years ago had the band taken time off to rest after the Made In Japan album and not rushed out immediately to tour after releasing the classic Machine Head follow-up.
"Deep Purple had to happen again," stated Lord firmly, "and when it did, it was the best time for everybody mentally, physically, and emotionally.
"Let me point one thing out. Ritchie is not the whole band. What makes Deep Purple work is the interaction and chemistry of the five of us onstage. In Ian Paice, you have one of the finest drummers I have ever worked with in my entire life. Roger Glover makes playing the bass so incredibly simple. Ian's voice is as powerful as you'll find anywhere. And then there is Ritchie Blackmore."
And then there's Blackmore.
"I have missed playing with that guy," said Lord sincerely. "When he is playing on stage, he is a genius some nights or just good. And actually, when he is just good, he is pretty damn marvelous. I hated him in the old days, but not this time however. It's like now, I will put my arms around him and go, 'Hi mate. How are you doing?' That never, ever happened before."
Perhaps this Deep Purple thing really is the genuine article.
"This is the real thing," Lord said emphatically. "This is for as long as we can all do it. We signed a recording contract which commits us to four albums including this one. You are talking a minimum of three or four years including tours.
"We never talked about this openly in the press (getting back together) until we were sure we actually were going to do it. We committed the band by signing those contracts. Those signatures on the contract were a commitment to putting a rock and roll band back together again."
Deep Purple, particularly in heavy metal circles, are considered the forerunners to the heavy sounding, hard rock and roll that was a Purple trademark in their heyday.
"There is no burden for us to live up to our name," answered Lord. "If we allowed it to, there could be maybe. One of the worst things you can do is walk on stage and say, 'Hey, I am a legend.' What you have to do is walk on stage and say, 'I am a musician and I am going to play for you.' You can't walk around with the premise, 'Remember me, I was the father of heavy metal.' That's bullshit. If you allow that to go to your head, you've lost it."
Talk of the Purple reunion had been making headlines for years. Lord had heard them often. A bitter, turbulent relationship had destroyed this particular combination before, and though Lord won't deny that the reunion was inevitable, he wanted some answers before he would commit himself.
"The questions I had to have answered,” insisted Lord, “were one, could Deep Purple make good viable music in the '80's? Two was that we not reform just for the sake of money. Every doubt had to absolutely be erased from my mind before I would sign on."
The reformed Purple album, Perfect Strangers, erased all of Lord's doubts about the band's capability to produce viable music to compete in today's marketplace. It also proved to the tens of thousands of Purple fans throughout the world the British heavy metal heroes of yesterday were back. The band could pick up where they left off and claim their rightful place atop the peak of the rock and roll mountain.
"We had to make an album," stated Lord, "that categorically would assert the name Deep Purple as happening now, not something from ten years ago. This band was not a one shot deal. We saw no reason why we couldn't go on as a band while we were all interested. This is a group of five very strong personalities. There's going to be arguments. We can't get by without them. Only now, the discussions center on music, about direction and what we are going to do tomorrow rather than the destructive past repeating itself."
Lord hesitates for a moment when he's asked to recall the first song the band played together after a decade of separate ways.
"Nobody's Home," was the reply. The onlookers nodded in unison as though they were quite familiar with the song. They most assuredly were not.
"I could not give you the words,” continued a beaming Lord, “to describe how I felt after we finished playing this record. Fantastic, great and wonderful are three that come to mind. You'll have to accept great and wonderful because I mean, it was fantastic. There is a certain type of chemistry with this band I have never really felt with any other collection of musicians before.
"I have been on the road for a long time, and no band has ever stretched me the way Deep Purple does. The biggest compliment I can pay this band is that it allows you to be flexible, change daily and enjoy it. We know that people want to see this band. Our shows are breaking attendance records everywhere we go, and that is not a vain boast. We were not the best thing ever, but we always made a lot of people feel very good, and to Deep Purple, that is what rock and roll has always been about."