Recording Made In Japan
Recording Deep Purple’s Made in Japan
There is little doubt that Made in Japan remains Deep Purple’s second most famous album release, or that it rightly deserves a place high at the top of any ‘best live album’ poll (Classic Rock magazine excepted of course.) It was the only contemporary live album from the 68-76 era band ever issued (Made In Europe and Last Concert In Japan appeared only after the line-ups had gone) and while the subsequent archive releases have their place to a greater or lesser degree, no Deep Purple fan ought to be without Made In Japan.
Much about the tour which produced the album is well documented (in earlier CD reissues of the set if nowhere else), and the almost unplanned nature of the release only serves to add to the wonder at the remarkable quality of the performances. Deep Purple had planned to tour Japan earlier in the year – were those shows to have been recorded? Or was it only because the visit was delayed that someone at Warner Pioneer had time to suggest taping the rescheduled shows for a domestic release. It’s likely that because this was Deep Purple’s first tour of the country Warners wanted to do everything they could to maximise the impact of the visit and repeat the success of the group in Europe and the USA.
Live albums by visiting Western acts had been a feature of the Japanese record industry, right back to Cliff Richard who was recorded live there for an album as far back as 1967 (and incidentally again in September 1972 – just a couple of weeks after Deep Purple had toured), and B B King had issued a Japanese only live album in 1971. Live albums were seen by many labels in the West as a pain in the neck (Warners in America insisted on delaying Made In Japan until after Who Do We Think We Are came out, and probably would have passed had it not been for the imports), but Japan was far more open to the concept.
The DPAS recently corresponded with Ken Flegg, former senior technician in charge of the electronic section at Marshall, as part of our research for the ‘Wait for the Ricochet’ book. People at Marshall were very helpful, and Ken Flegg was able to shed light on the band’s equipment. During email exchanges, Ken mentioned in passing that he had worked with the group on behalf of Marshall on their Made in Japan tour. We asked Ken if he could tell us about his work at Marshall during this period. It turned out that Ken had designed the gear the album was actually recorded through! We couldn’t pass up a chance to ask him more, and he kindly sat down to recall what he could of the trip.
“In 1971 I designed my first solid state Marshall mixing console, for the Weeley festival. Barclay James Harvest had a full orchestra there so it was a mammoth task of some 42 channels. This started my interest in sound reinforcement systems, from then onwards I was mainly involved with making custom mixers for bands.”
Weeley was one of the big local open air rock festivals held in the UK in the early seventies when the festival movement was peaking across Europe. Put on over August Bank Holiday near Clacton on Sea with 140,000 people attending it was headlined by T.Rex and The Faces, perhaps an unlikely draw to us now, but had a very strong list of other groups from the period. Marshall were proud enough of their equipment at the festival to take out a trade advert about the gear soon after.
Ken was then asked to put together a new mixing desk for Deep Purple’s touring schedule in early 1972, and this was ready around June / July time. The Japan shows would be the first time they had used the desk.
“Having just completed the design, and manufacture, of a front of house mixing console for Deep Purple, I was asked to join them on their tour of Japan in August 1972 to make sure that everything was OK and to help Ian Hansford with the (front of house) mixing. If they had gone to Japan in May as planned the desk would not have been available and they would have used their 12 channel desk. The rest of the sound system they had been using for some time.”
“The mixer for Deep Purple’s Japanese tour was the third or fourth Marshall mixer Deep Purple had had, adding improvements and new features to every new unit. The learning curve was almost vertical at that time. If my memory serves me correctly the mixer for this tour was a 16 channel.”
Deep Purple kept this mixer up until 1975. After that Ken had set up his own company Gelf, and their next mixer was designed by Ken and Gelf to meet the requirements of Martin Birch.
“As I was the only person representing Marshall (on the tour) I arrived at London Heathrow Airport dressed in a suit, to which Ritchie pointed out that there was no reason to wear a uniform whilst with them! It was a long 23 hour flight, with one stop for refuelling at Moscow. It was an interesting stop as we all had to leave the plane and were then escorted to a solitary 2 storey building in the middle of the airfield. We were taken upstairs to a large room with a bar one end and nothing else, for a stopover of about an hour. To our amazement after about half an hour the bar was finally opened and as far as I remember the options were, Vodka, Vodka, or Vodka. However the stagger back to the plane was amusing (I remember Jon Lord complaining about his boot because someone had spilt their drink in it!). Nearly everyone went to sleep for the rest of the trip. When we arrived at Tokyo on the 13th August at around 4pm, I experienced what it was like to be mobbed by fans cheering and waving at all of us.”
Ken himself had not got any sleep on the flight and made straight for the hotel to crash out, after which he and Ian Hansford went off to help clear the equipment through the Airport customs. “This was quite a sight – reminded me of ants working – looking down into the warehouse watching numerous forklift trucks weaving in and out, missing each other by mere inches.”
“During a chat with Ritchie that day he said he could do with a couple of copy guitars to smash on stage. As I was going to see Marshall’s distributor in Tokyo later that day, I said I would see if they had any black Fender copies. Having being given a complete tour of the distributor’s warehouse, I asked about two guitars for Ritchie Blackmore. That was it! He was so pleased and proudly presented me with 2 Fender Strat copies absolutely free. I didn’t have the heart to tell him they were for breaking against an amp on stage. I did notice that when Ritchie used the first one on stage I saw him double check the guitar to make sure it was the right one to smash – the copies were so good.”
The band and crew set off for the first show in Osaka on board the famous Bullet Train, which impressed them all, though Ritchie managed to get up to tricks on the journey as usual.
“It was quite an experience – an extremely fast and comfortable ride. We were all sitting together on that trip, in rows. I know that when we started off Richie was sitting behind us, but he found a lever under our seat which he just had to press and this had the effect of revolving our row of seat 180 degrees. This was quite surprising when you didn’t know it was going to happen! After several rotations we continued the trip facing each other. There was a large speedometer in the bar, and it even had public telephones, unheard of here in 1970’s. We were also lucky on the trip as we had a perfect view of Mount Fuji; apparently it is unusual for the top of it not to be covered in cloud. Oh to have had the smart phone invented or camera with me! The band may have taken some pictures as Warners presented them with a camera each.”
“Deep Purple had most of their usual crew with them, Ian Hansford, Rob Cooksey, although Ron Quinton wasn’t there in Japan with the group (he caught up with them in the USA.) I can’t remember if Colin Hart was there (he was. Ed), but he could have been, overseeing the transportation and staging of the equipment and the local help. They did all the stage setting up for the first gig at Koseinenkin Hall in Osaka on the 15th August. Most of the Sound tests were done without the band but not all, which was normal then. As the reinforcement systems grew the groups found the importance of full sound checks before the gig started. At that time the British groups were only just getting to terms with large, sound reinforcement systems so they were not used to full sound checks. The feed for the recording unit supplied by Warner’s was I think split at the stage box.”
“The first gig went well but the audience was slow to react. I put this down to the sound not being as it should be. I felt it was a bit harsh, or toppy, but the sound reinforcement system was new, and the band now had individual stage monitors. They hadn’t used monitors to my knowledge before. The set up was I think, the desk had 2 foldback controls per channel, feeding 2 onstage monitor systems, but this did allow individual mixes on both systems. As far as I can remember, the mix was a full band mix to each. There was also the incident with Ritchie smashing his guitar on the stack. He threw the broken guitar into the audience, only to have it retrieved by the security men, in spite of shouting at them to leave it. It was thrown out twice more before they understood to leave it!”
”After the gig we returned to the hotel lounge bar for a drink, as we did after all the gigs. However, this first night we became creative. All the band were there, Martin Birch and myself, and I think Ian, Rob and John Colletta were there. I was somewhat inebriated that night. I must add by the end of the tour my body had learned to take that amount of drink. Every drink we had had a long plastic stirrer, and someone found by heating this it could be shaped, and these shapes could then be welded to each other. Thus the flair for creative art began. By the time we gave up drinking we had a statue that covered the table and almost reached the ceiling. During all this merriment someone had arranged for a masseur to visit our rooms, some of us did turn them away, but I don’t think they all did. Warner’s arranged a Geisha bathhouse visit but as I remember only two of the band went, there were four places, the other 2 being taken by members of the party. I must admit I was somewhat ill by the time I got back to my room!”
“The second gig at the Koseinenkin Hall Osaka on the 16th August was better. I took some of the highs off to null the harshness of the mix, this seemed to work and the audience was into the concert right from the start. The band was now trying to get the best from the monitors, with Jon and Ritchie each wanting more and more volume, which, from the engineer’s position, starts to become quite a problem. The trouble is if the volume is too high it will go into feedback and, especially when you know the gig is being recorded, that really is the last thing to have. You are walking a very fine line, so as an engineer you get a little tense. The band were very good to work with, and would listen and take on board any technical problems, and work with me to sort them out, we got on very well.”
“Whilst staying at the Osaka Hotel, Ian Paice and I went to the top of the hotel to the rotary lounge for dinner. We were stopped on entering the restaurant and told that we were not allowed in without a jacket. After a few words explaining who we were and pointing out that we didn’t have jackets, we were presented with a couple of white waiters’ jackets (that did not fit properly, we must have looked ridiculous in them, but as soon as we sat down we took them off and put them on the back of our chairs). Another evening I was walking to the lift on our floor when Ritchie called me over. He was struggling with a large plant in a pot, trying to pull it into the lift. After helping him with that, he also thought it would be fun to find out if it was possible to empty the ice machine of its contents into the lift. I think we must have spent over an hour at this, before we gave up and let the lift go, with its unusual cargo!”
“I spent some time with the band, sometimes all of us, sometimes maybe a couple of the band. Martin and I probably spent most time together. There was always the drinks after the gigs, we were also taken to good restaurants, had some incredible food, including Maatsusaka Steaks. Gillan had his girlfriend (Zoe) with him, and I got her to go shopping with me for a kimono for my wife, she also got me to buy Happy coats for my children.”
“The third gig at the Budokan in Tokyo on the 17th August went well with no significant problems, other than the acoustics of the hall could have been better. Possible because of this the subject of the monitors came up again and Ian Gillan asked over the mic before Strange Kind of Woman: “Yeah everything up here please. A bit more monitor if you’ve got it.” Then Ritchie asks “Can I have everything louder than everything else?” which Ian Gillan repeats “Yeah, can he have everything louder than everything else.” This remained on the final master.”
“After that gig, we had some time to chill out and listen to some of the recordings. To be honest it could have even been in New York on our way back but I think it more likely to have been in Japan whilst we had the tape machine. I do remember hearing some of it before my return though. We also had time for a little gift shopping and sightseeing.”
A woman from Warners has recently confirmed to us that she remembers the band and others listing to a playback of the first night’s recordings in a room inside the hall the following day, an experience she has never forgotten.
”Martin Birch and I were to fly back home (to England) after the Japanese part of the tour on the 21st August, but the rest of band pointed out that from Japan there’s no difference in price which way you travel back, so we decided to all fly back together via the USA, giving us a chance to complete our journey right around the globe. On arrival in New York on the 20th August (we had crossed the international date line and gained a day), we discovered that, due to it being August, there was high traffic through the airport and there were no seats available to England for a few days. So I spent time with Jon in New York, he took me to a well known beef restaurant and I ordered a rack of beef. I have NEVER seen so much meat on a dinner plate. Later on Martin and I ended up with Jon watching a film on the television. The band added Martin and myself to the flight to Washington, plus the Hotel and our return flight to JFK and took us on to Washington to see the gig there. After that Martin and I returned to JFK for a flight home on the 24th August.
”I worked with Deep Purple for many years, both with Marshall and my own company Gelf. They were a great group of guys over the time I worked with them, they have even shared their hotel rooms with me when there was shortages. The other good thing, I never saw any signs of drugs as I did with a lot of the bands I worked with, but they could drink. The band was easy to get on with, so much so that I would occasionally take my son with me to their rehearsals, he would have been 8 or 9 at the time, and they would make him very welcome. In fact on several occasions Ian would do his best to teach him drums, but I think that he was a bit shy of Ian. There wasn’t many bands that I would take Michael (my son) with me, but Purple was fine, as was Rainbow and The Who.”
Our thanks to Ken for his time, and to Stephen Clare for organising all this. Thanks also the UK rock festivals website. Marshall ticket courtesy Tonny Steenhagen.