Words and Music

Words and Music / Michael Anthony – ISBN (978-0-9572528-0-6)

Deep Purple and their fansIf I’d realised Michael was going to splash some of my thoughts on his book over the back cover when it was printed, I’m sure I would have tried to come up with something more erudite. Too late. As Ian Gillan once screamed.
Anywho, Michael has put together a wordy tome in which he attempts to put into words what rock music means to him, and by inference to the rest of us. A tall order indeed but over 350 pages he gives it a good shot. And if at the end of the book my initial reaction is to pull Made In Japan off the shelf and give it another blast, then that cannot be bad (especially as these days I find myself listening to a smaller group of discs but more frequently).
Michael has used his own experiences of first hearing rock music, going to gigs, and meeting like minded people as the basis for the book, so it’s often quite a personal slant but one we can all empathise with. From here he goes further and ruminates on a variety of rock music themes, often with a couple of his favourite bands underpinning the arguments.
What brings the book into our sphere is his love of just about all things Deep Purple. His telling of seeing older relations freaking out to Made In Japan behind closed doors to finally being able to borrow a copy, and then playing it non-stop every day after school for about a fortnight, will resonate with a lot of fans.
Indeed for the first third of the book, Deep Purple crop up with alarming regularity (I just hope his listing of their various accomplishments at one stage doesn’t put less enamored readers off!), while Deep Purple fans may well look on with envy at the chapter on how Marillion look after their supporters.
What’s good about the book is they way most of us will be well able to relate to the unfolding story and it isn’t written in the ‘trying to be clever’ way of some writers who use rock music to underpin their work (I’m thinking of Nick Hornby here). It’s rare to find book which looks at any aspect of being a rock fan without the writer taking the piss somewhere down the line, so on that basis alone it deserves a mention here.
Deep Purple and their fansThe book did spook me once or twice with stories which seemed cribbed from my own life, albeit ten years further down the line, but that alone illustrates the shared experiences so many rock fans have, knowingly or otherwise.
Brownie points docked for the lack of pictures (I love the shot shown here of Mike and his mate meeting Steve Harris from Iron Maiden backstage. They had time for one photo. And the flash failed to go off.) but more than awarded for keeping it local plus the sheer amount of effort which has gone into it. And of course his cogent thoughts on Deep Purple when they appear. Michael has kindly allowed us to print an extract, so I’ve chosen this part (edited down so as not to spoil the book) where he riffs on that eternal theme of Deep Purple vs. Led Zeppelin.

Details of where to buy are available via the link to the author’s own site  (http://wordsandmusicbook.wordpress.com/) on which continues the themes in the book. Any problems getting copies let me know.

“Who’s the greatest heavy rock band ever?” my friend Harvey once asked me. I thought for a while and, not without reservation, answered “Deep Purple.”
“Nah. It’s Led Zeppelin,” Harvey grinned back, “people who say Deep Purple always have to think about it first. Zeppelin fans know that it’s Zeppelin. Purple were always a bit too arty for my liking, but Zeppelin just get you. Man, no one plays the blues like Led Zeppelin.”
I think Harvey had a point or two. I recognise, for example, the power of Led Zeppelin and the sensual pull of the band. I recognise too that while Zeppelin are a very direct and hard-hitting band, Purple have a more varied and arty approach that does give pause for thought. When you answer “Led Zeppelin” to Harvey’s question you are shooting from the hip. When you answer “Deep Purple” you must first draw the disparate elements together, with the cerebral exercise required inevitably introducing a hint of hesitation. It should be said that Led Zeppelin were always very good at creating a mystique around themselves that has been preserved over the years by the clever management and marketing of their image and their back catalogue. It’s not that the history of Deep Purple is without incident or intrigue – think, for example, of the sad and senseless path travelled by the late Tommy Bolin – but it is surely true that Purple’s reputation was built on music alone and was not augmented by the dark and demonic associations and tales of general decadence that seemed to follow Led Zeppelin around.  I am not suggesting that Led Zeppelin lacked substance in any way, but they certainly knew how to package and present themselves to maximise their impact. By simply letting their music do the talking, Purple failed to capitalise on the kind of image and product management that would have made it easier for them to preserve their own status and reputation. How often I’ve wished that the band had been able to prevent the release of all of those pointless post-reunion compilations, and how often I’ve wished that I could remove ‘Smoke on the Water’ or ‘Black Night’ from all those crappy rock compilation albums you find in the bargain-bin in supermarkets.
Of course, Deep Purple have sometimes been their own worst enemies. While Zeppelin maintained the same line-up throughout their entire recording career, in-fighting and seemingly frequent changes in personnel have not helped Purple’s cause.
I don’t want to get drawn into a divisive Purple versus Zeppelin debate. To my mind they are both great bands who should be treasured and respected by us all. I do, however, want to say a little more about Deep Purple because it seems to me that while Zeppelin’s position in rock history is assured, and even Black Sabbath’s flailing reputation has been restored, Purple do not get the credit and recognition they deserve.
It almost goes without saying that the impact of the Mk II line-up on the early 70s rock scene was immense. The bludgeoning power of In Rock, the experimentation of Fireball and the classy rock perfection of Machine Head , rightly established Purple as one of the greats. If they’d recorded nothing else ever, these three albums alone would represent a phenomenal achievement, and a legacy of which the band could be justifiably proud. But how many modern day music fans realise just how popular Deep Purple were? Indeed, the exertions of the Mk II line-up made Purple the biggest selling album band in the United States in 1973, with the band outselling even Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.
I know of no other ‘mainstream’ rock band (with the possible exception of Queen) that has blended rock with such a range of musical styles with such stunning creative success. Check out the back-catalogue and you’ll see, for example, the strength of the classical influences from the very start. Outside of Purple, Blackmore’s own classical interests found expression in some of his Rainbow-era musings. A guitar player I met once told me that a lot of the time Blackmore’s playing is based around arpeggios. “That’s not uncommon, is it?” I asked. I lacked technical understanding but had read about the then-current fashion for ‘Bach ‘n’ Roll’, and the playing of people like Yngwie Malmsteen. “No, it’s not uncommon,” he replied, “but the thing about Blackmore is that you don’t realise they are arpeggios or what he’s really playing until you try to learn the songs.”
Beyond Purple most of the band’s musicians have taken creative turns that are further testimony to the talent and musicality of this unique band. It’s well worth reminding ourselves just how popular Purple and the ‘splinter bands’ were around the time of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and of the esteem in which they were held by some of the bands who emerged around that time or soon after. Saxon, for example, name-check Purple on ‘Play it Loud’ from the Denim and Leather album, while Iron Maiden and Metallica made no secret of their admiration for Purple’s achievements. Even now it is not unusual for contemporary musicians to acknowledge their debt. In the credits to their excellent 2005 album Second Life Syndrome, for example, Michal Lapaj of Polish prog-metal band Riverside gives “a big bow to Jon Lord for all my keyboard playing.”
And, of course, it’s not over yet. Purple are still out there and doing it, releasing the occasional album, undertaking massive world tours and playing to decent sized crowds everywhere. They even headlined the re-launched Monsters of Rock Festival at the Milton Keynes Bowl in 2006. If I have a criticism at all it is that they still appear to rely too heavily on Machine Head for much of the live set, choosing to ignore some superb material from more recent albums like Purpendicular and Rapture of the Deep.
For me it is the breadth of the music and the willingness to experiment across styles and genres that makes Deep Purple (its musicians and its splinter groups) so special.

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12 Responses to “Words and Music”

  1. Lee Says:

    The 10 reasons, in chronological order, why the ‘legend’ of Deep Purple isn’t as revered as that of the vastly inferior Led Zeppelin.

    1. Not splitting up for good when Blackmore left in 1975, and replacing him with Bolin, RIP.
    2. The debacle of the Come Taste The Band world tour e.g. one-armed guitaring in Japan 1975 and the final humiliation at Liverpool in 1976.
    3. Reforming the Mk II line up in 1984.
    4. Allowing Roger Glover to produce Perfect Strangers instead of someone then at the top of their game like Martin Birch, Flemming Rasmussen or Chris Tsangarides. It’s a good album, but it could have been a classic. However, it is ruined by Glover burying Jon Lord in the mix for most of the tracks and producing the worst drum sound of Paice’s career. The toms and cymbals are inaudible due to the snare and bass drum being mixed right up. This is Paice, the Jazzer, not Bonham or Simon Kirke hitting a wardrobe with a sledgehammer!
    5. Not splitting up for good (again) after Knebworth 1985.
    6. Sacking Gillan, replacing him with JLT.
    7. Sacking JLT, replacing him with Gillan.
    8. Not splitting up for good (yet again) when Blackmore left in 1993 and replacing him with the unsuitable Morse. Good guitarist but should be in Skynyrd or The Eagles, not Purple. If only Satriani had stayed. Malmsteen, who was well up for the job at the time, would have been better than Morse.
    9. Allowing Gillan to take control of the band after Blackmore’s departure, just as the singer was developing a ‘cold’ that has lasted for 20 years. Croak!
    10. Not splitting up for good (for the fourth time) when Jon Lord, RIP, left the band. At least they replaced him with someone decent in Don Airey . His recent two solo albums are better than anything Purple have released with Morse.

    So there you have it! If they had split up in 1975 when Blackmore left, they would still probably be mentioned in the same breath as Zeppelin. Even if they had have stopped after Knebworth in 1985 they still might have got away with not tarnishing the legend. However, it is too late to reverse the damage now.
    Before you all launch into me, I want to state that Deep Purple 1968 – 1985 are my favourite band of all time. I don’t own any Led Zeppelin albums either, although I am very familiar with their work thanks to my ‘friends’. Also, I’ve seen the Morse line up live 3 times, including the Concerto at the RAH, so I’ve witnessed its shortcomings.

  2. Keith Wolton Says:

    Love both, there doesn’t have to be an us or them, the music of both bands still stands proud. It was the Stones for me and Mk3 Burn that stands out. Love Tommy Bolin’s playing on Teaser.

  3. Tom Dixon Says:

    Just got my copy on the strength of your review – signed by the author too.
    Nowhere near finishing yet, but I have read enough to see myself in nearly every page. If only I had the time (& the skill!) to a similar job… Purple would be there gig by gig & then, to court discussion, I would throw in a load of real blues. The sort that rock music drove my interest to research. The Robert Johnson et al legacy is well worth exploring. Marillion not withstanding (never did, or do it for me), this is a well written & fascinating tome. As for the Zep vs Purple argument which will roll on forever – the blues research I did revealed their blatant copying & claiming as their own (as opposed to borrowing & acknowledging. Listen to Johnson to hear the very first utterance of “squeeze my lemons ’til the juice runs down my leg” & remember this was in 1927!!)… so, in summary, we are right, they are wrong. Simples!!
    Thanks for the recommendation Simon & good to see your review listed in the book.

    • simon robinson Says:

      I’ve noticed on more recent releases of Zeppelin material (the BBC Sessions in particular) that the original writer is now usually given a co-credit which was missing first time round.

  4. Roy Says:

    Simon, The Firm only made one or two albums. I got them back in the early 80s. Page, Plant, and even J. P. Jones did put out some decent solo work with Page’s “Outrider” being a great blues CD. But still, when you compare that to all the masterpieces that the ex-DP’s have put out, well, numbers speak for themselves…. The only difference was that LZ had strong marketing support in the US, which was their $tronghold. But as Blackmore once said: people in the US are so dumb that they’ll buy whatever is played to them on the radio, no matter if it’s rubbish or not…

  5. Roy Says:

    Well, but at least Deep Purple can pride themselves with having contributed to the creation of so many bands owed to their multiple lineup changes, or not? Led Zeppelin, a great band notwithstanding, cannot take pride on having such offsprings as Ian Gillan band, Whitesnake, Rainbow, Tommy Bolin Band, Nick Simper and Nasty Habits…

  6. Dave Stoddard Says:

    Funnily enuff MIJ was the first album that lit the flame for me, probably Dec 73, but Burn was the album that cemented my ongoing interest for the band.
    On the subject of “who’s the greatest of them all” – I seem to remember that Zeppelin were shoved in my face by all the music papers of the time as though they were the only band on the planet, so I opted for Purple, prob like a lot of people went for the Stones rather than the Beatles ten years earlier.

    • simon robinson Says:

      Yes, Zepp were rather lorded over us even back in the mid 70s an you’re right about the Stones / Beatles rivalry – most people went for one or the other as kids (though probably sneakingly liking the other in private!).

  7. Gregory J Cummings Says:

    Screw Zepplin! I’d take ONE Purple over the ENTIRE Zeppelin catalogue!

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