Here’s a little something you may not know – I spent nearly a decade working in the world of rock radio. It was a dream come to true for a music lover like myself, who memorized obscure bios and lyrics and moments in rock history. However, in all that time I spent working in the biz, I don’t think I once heard Deep Purple’s Burn on the radio.
Burn, the great track featuring David Coverdale on vocals. Wait a minute, you don’t know that song? You didn’t know that David Coverdale, future frontman for Whitesnake frontman and one-off Jimmy Page collaborator was even in Deep Purple???
It’s true, folks. Contrary to what rock radio in North America will tell you, Deep Purple is more than Smoke On The Water and Machine Head.
For whatever reason, we live in a musical world where Deep Purple is really only known for a handful of songs and that one, quintessential. It’s funny, because I spent so much time immersed in the world of classic rock and I don’t think I heard Burn or Stormbringer until after I was out of the biz and working both on Biff Bam Pop. Hard rocking, amazing songs that would sound great coming out of your radio. During my brief return to radio last year as a writer, I tried to work on a show that would highlight these songs and the almost unknown legacy of Deep Purple, but it just wasn’t to be. Maybe next time.
Instead, I can at least give you the head-up on a few cool Deep Purple releases from the past year that fill in some blanks and tell stories you won’t necessarily hear. For instance, there’s Phoenix Rising, a massive DVD from 2012 that tells the story of Deep Purple Mark III and Mark IV. See, that’s how the band differentiates the various incarnations they’ve had. Mark III is the one that recorded the classic Burn and Strongbringer albums, which featured Coverdale and new bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, alongside Purple stalwarts Ian Paice (drums), Ritchie Blackmore (guitars) and Jon Lord (keyboards), while Mark IV would see Blackmore leave and Tommy Bolin brought in on guitar.
Each line-up had it’s own success and drama, and Phoenix Rising puts it all on display, told with interviews from Hughes and Lord (Bolin passed away years ago and the rest of the band declined to participate in the documentary). Those first tours together, the legendary California Jam ’74 performance, the drugs and death – it’s all covered, and for newer fans like myself, it’s all a revelation. As someone who has recently come to appreciate the work of David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes, hearing the stories behind this amazing line-up of musicians made for captivating watching. North American radio and the industry as a whole has pretty much ignored Glenn Hughes (up until his recent supergroup Black Country Communion, that is), while Coverdale’s legacy has been three songs and Tawny Kitaen – totally unjustified. These are master musicians who have made some amazing hard rock albums – at least two of them as members of Deep Purple.
So thats Mark III and Mark IV, but there’s been more “marks” since. This spring, Deep Purple Mark VII rereleased a live album from their 1999 Austrailian tour. Recorded while the band was on tour in support of their 1999 album Abandon, the Total Abandon live set features the line-up of Lord, Paice, bassist Roger Glover, quintessential vocalist Ian Gillan and guitarist Steve Morse in place of Ritchie Blackmore. On this tour, the band is firing on all cylinders, with Gillan especially singing better than frontmen half his age. Songs from that era (Ted The Mechanic, Bloodsucker) sit comfortably alongside classic like Smoke On The Water, Strange Kind of Woman and others (of course, you won’t find any Coverdale/Hughes era music on here but that’s to be expected).
That’s two eras of Deep Purple, and neither of which gets enough mainstream recognition. If you like hard rock or appreciate the history of rock music, I suggest checking out either Phoenix Rising on DVD or the Total Abandon album on CD or iTunes. It’s music from a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame worthy band that definitely has more to it than you might think.