Mark time

Some fans have been puzzling about what, who, when or where the Deep Purple “Mk” designation comes from or applies to. It’s hard to remember exactly when the idea of naming each original line up Mk 1, Mk 2, etc. arose.  It was certainly in vogue by the time Geoff Barton did that post-split special Deep Purple tree supplement in the Sounds newspaper around 1977. However the German double album compilation Deep Purple Mk I and Mk II issued in 1973 seems a good candidate for one of the earliest uses of the idea, although prior to this there were references to the two ‘fase’ or phases in German magazines.

Purple Mk 1 and 2 front.jpg

Deep Purple Mk I and Mk II is of note for being the first-ever (of goodness knows how many) European compilations, and was issued in Italy, New Zealand and elsewhere. About the only excitement for collectors was in trying to find the Dutch version (released in December 1973 in time for the Christmas market) which had photos of the two line-ups inside (the others edition didn’t).

Mk 1 2 back.jpg

EMI in the UK didn’t release the set, perhaps there was some idea of it ‘devaluing’ the catalogue here, but it did appear widely as an official (and pricey) import for some time in UK shops. The set must have sold well because as early as January the following year EMI presented the band with a gold disc for sales.

EMI Bovema in Holland did also use “Hoofdstuk 1, 2 and 3 in a late 1973 press advert (which included the Mk 1 and 2 album), this translates as Chapter 1, 2, 3.

Dutch advert Mk 1 and Mk 2.jpg

But if the double LP does mark (sorry) the debut of this system of identifying the different line-ups, then the next problem is how do we apply this system to the reunion?  Ian Gillan has said that the Abandon album track Seventh Heaven was about Steve Morse (“but don’t tell him”). As Tim Summers says, “I take this to mean that Gillan considered the Purpendicular / Abandon line-up as being Mk 7 (I’m in seventh heaven now).”

From this we note firstly that at least one of the band was keeping count (!) but also that Ian Gillan considers the first reunion line-up from 1984 to 1988, and the much briefer 1993 episode, to be Mk 2 (or as Pete Frame has it “Mk 2 again”). I think most fans have settled on this as well, certainly it remains our favoured system through Darker Than Blue writings, sleevenotes, etc.

Not all the band ran with the idea though. Jon Lord was quizzed about which mark of Deep Purple was then current in an interview in South Africa in 1995: DJ – “Is this ‘Mk 5’ or ‘Mk 6’ of Deep Purple?”  Jon – “It’s ‘Mark time!” Roger – “We’ve lost count, I think.” Jon – “We’ve never used those appellations – which is a range of mountains (laughter) – we’ve just called ourselves good old Deep Purple.”

Jon’s quipping aside, if we agree on what is covered by Mk 2 then the rest follows, with the Turner line-up Mk 5, Satriani Mk 6 and Morse Mk 7. It also means that the current line-up is Mk 8 from when Don Airey joined full time in 2002. We can argue later about what the short lived Airey / Lord variant should be called, if anything (Mk 8a?).  We should add that the occasional one-off line-up when someone from the band was poorly or missed the plane does not justify a Mk…

Somebody did ask if any others bands with a similarly chequered history have used the Mk concept to ID the changes, but this appears not to be the case (though Matt Kean points out The Stranglers referred to themselves as Mk 2 after Cornwell left, but have not carried on so doing).  We used the idea in the Whitesnake biography just to help us keep tabs, but Coverdale himself never has.

Thanks to Tonny Steenhagen, Matthew Kean, Tim Summers and Stephen Clare for chipping in on this.

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