Where there’s smoke there’s always water
THERE’S a myth that ageing rockers are brain- damaged old bores who drone on endlessly about their drugfuelled heyday. Even Paul McCartney admits he can be quite the drudge when reminiscing about the Beatles. But the members of Deep Purple, the metal, jazz and occasionally classical band of the 1970s, are pleasantly erudite. In fact they seem charmingly together in this oft- repeated documentary, which first aired in 2003.
As keyboardist Jon Lord, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, vocalist Ian Gillan, bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice reminisce about the 1970- 72 peak of Purple ( Deep Purple in Rock , Fireball , Machine Head ), they finish each other’s sentences with laser- like shared recall of how it all went down, man.
Which is not to suggest there weren’t conflicts, scuffles, fallings- out, tantrums and dummy spits: there most certainly were. But the strength of this program, indeed this series, is that band members are brought together to talk about the music, not the personalities.
Aspiring musicians will slaver over gigantic mixing desks and other exotic studio equipment, while the insights into the process of the creation of classic albums, from scratchy first drafts and fresh mined riffs to mixdown and mastering in the studio exert a fascination on fans that spans the generations.
Apart from the recollections of band members, further insights are offered by a passing parade of journalists, biographers, producers and general hangers on.
For example, biographer Chris Charlesworth tells us Deep Purple
weren’t a natural group of lads who’d met at school, like the Beatles and the Who. They came together as individually experienced musicians.’’
And if you thought song lyrics aspired to poetry, Gillan has news for you: The important thing about a lyric is that it sounds good. It’s got to have the right rhythm, the right sibilance.’’ No doubt thousands of rappers would agree.
Soon enough it’s on to the intriguing tale of Smoke on the Water , which contains one of the most distinctive rock riffs, played — and played wrongly, according to its author, Blackmore — by almost everyone who picked up a guitar for about 30 years after the release of Machine Head .
The way Ritchie plays the riff is not the way that two generations of kids have played it in guitar shops and driven everybody mad,’’ Lord says. Amen to that.
But the story Gillan tells about seeing roman candles shot by arrow into the rafters at the Montreux chateau while Frank Zappa was playing a matinee, and the Rolling Stones mobile recording unit waited outside full of Deep Purple’s gear, is the stuff rock dreams are made of.
Classic Albums: Deep Purple 4.30pm ( AEST), VH1
As they were: Deep Purple in 1972 with Ian Gillan, left, and Jon Lord seated