California Jam Book review / pics
There is a gallery of preview images further down the page. You can also view them as a slideshow at the bottom of the page.
As far as I can see there hasn’t ever been a Deep Purple book quite like this before. Indeed on some levels there never can be again. I can’t imagine there is another Deep Purple concert which attracted so much coverage for a start and even though many photographs taken that day have been lost or mislaid in archives over the intervening 40+ years, the publishers still had a great selection to choose from. The other unique feature is of course the signature page which marks out the very limited top edition.
Some people will remember the Didi Zill photo book of several years ago but that lacked any real context and was flawed technically as well. The publishers have worked hard here to make sure the same problems don’t arise here. This book not only contains a fantastic array of photographs – over 280 colour and black and white frames, many of them full page – but also puts them very much into the historical time frame of the band. Each section of the book has a header page giving continuity to the material. After a few introductory pages the text takes us through where the band were at in 1974, with the US tour covered, before looking at the entire build up to the California Jam in proper detail. This section is heavily illustrated with photographs and memorabilia (local press cuttings, adverts and posters) giving a real feel for the behind the scenes work which was going on to bring the concert off. The first stand-alone photo section covers Deep Purple’s rehearsal the evening before, with more unseen photographs. From there the day itself is documented from both the band, technicians and audience point of view, which gives us a real feel for the event and what people went through on the day. The build up and backstage argy bargy after Deep Purple’s arrival by helicopter and their delayed appearance are also seen from both sides of the fence (literally in some of the photos), rather than trying to apportion any blame. Certainly reading the thoughts of the concert producer and director you can begin to see why the tension was so high.
The book covers Purple’s set and the climax to their performance and again this section is illustrated with more photographs, site plans, tickets and other goodies.
Indeed all this takes up some 90 pages of the book before the real photo section weighs in. The quality here is very good indeed. I know a lot of work went into the scanning of old negatives and slides, many of which had to be colour corrected (the colour in slides does fade over time) and digitally retouched to remove years of ‘grot’ (as photographers are wont to call it), but it was well worth it as the pictures are mostly excellent on the page. Given that for most of us the show is known in print only though poor magazine and newspaper reproduction, it’s incredible to see the shots looking so good. Some of the full band photographs look fantastic, and where these have been used across a double spread, they have been cropped so none of the band themselves disappear into the binding of the book. I found myself studying the incidental detail in many of the photos – the lighting crew on the scaffolding, roadies peering out from behind speakers, ABC officials looking on, the press scurrying about in the fenced off area stage front. It really does give an overall feel for the experience which I hadn’t expected.
There is no doubt that Blackmore and Coverdale fans in particular are very well served, most of the photographers focused on them as the two front men for obvious reasons. Paice probably comes off worst as he was quite hard to snap, but the compilers have tried to make up for this with extra rehearsal shots. There are even photographs of the road crew – rarely seen unsung heroes of many a gig – and managers.
Naturally enough, the focus moves firmly to Blackmore for the last few pages – a stunning blow by blow sequence of the attack on the camera, the setting up and priming of the speaker cabinets (captured in unseen backstage views showing Ritchie in heated discussion with his roadie), the explosion itself and the final heaving over the stage of the remains. I’ve always loved black and white concert photography and I think these capture the atmosphere better than the actual video. Given that much of this took place over just a few minutes, hats have to go off to the photographers who managed to get such incredible images, especially in the pre-digital age, when you had to reply on experience to make sure the exposure was right. The vast majority of these images have never appeared in print anywhere before, while a few classic shots are here but look really good in such tonal detail.
The book brings us back to earth gently over 25 pages or so headed ‘the aftermath’, with some remarkable memorabilia from the archives of those on the front line, plus more great photographs. It’s easy to forget that Deep Purple were playing another gig 48 hours later, and the publishers have stuck in a few stunning pics from these shows as a bonus. Details of the recordings, bootlegs and official releases round the book off, along with a page of credits to the people without whom this project could not have happened.
The downside to all this is of course the cost. Having worked on and off in the print business most of my life, I understand that given the likely sales of such a specialist title, a conventional release would simply never have happened. Many art books of this size and quality sell for £80 or more when they do come to market, so the entry level edition of this isn’t far off the mark. If you have the extra readies to invest in one of the special hardback editions, I don’t think it will disappoint.
(I have tried to review the book dispassionately in order to bring this exclusive first look but do keep in mind I was involved in the writing, design and other aspects of the production).
The other day 6 kilos of Jam was delivered to my door. Of course I’m not talking about fruity jam, but jam from California of the Deep Purple kind in the form of the Rufus Stone special edition. One word pretty much sums it up: stunning!
I know, I’ve been involved a bit with this one, so I’m biased, however, this doesn’t stop me from being my usual ‘critical’ self. Yes, I’ve spotted a few missed typos, the enclosed poster should have been folded in a larger format and on thicker paper, I’d probably gone for another image for the outer sleeve of the LP and, having had a look around the net, it’s a shame a few other photographers couldn’t come on board – which I’m sure was to do with financial restrictions….
But all this pales into insignificance compared to the joy of holding this book in my hands, looking though it and feeling a sense of pride of actually being able to call myself a ‘fan’ of this band at this stage in their career. Didi Zill’s photo book from a few years ago was ok, but with many technical flaws. This one sets the standard. 10 out of 10! Fantastic job! Tonny Steenhagen.
More reviews in the comments section below