Classic Rock Profiles: History of Deep Purple

Deep Purple at a glance

Deep Purple are a British classic rock band founded in Hertford, Hertfordshire, England in 1968. Together with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, Deep Purple are considered to be the pioneers of heavy metal and hard rock although the band’s music changed over the years; they are also seen as a progressive rock act. Deep Purple are also considered the loudest band ever, according the to 1975 edition ofThe Guinness Book Of World Records. They have experienced a lot of personnel changes since their inception in 1968, originally as Roundabout. The original lineup consisted of Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, lead singer Rod Evans, Nick Simper on bass, keyboardist Jon Lord and drummer Ian Paice; but the second reincarnation of the band – featuring Ian Gillian on vocals, Roger Glover on bass, Lord, Simper and Paice – brought the band to its commercial success in the 70s music era. Most famous for their US Top 10 hit and now-oldies music favorite “Smoke On The Water” in 1973, Deep Purple have sold over 100 million albums globally, their most commercially successful being 1972’s platinum-selling album Machine Head The band split in 1976, but amidst the revival of interest of hard-rock music, reformed in 1984 with most of the classic lineup getting together again. They recorded and released the Perfect Strangers album which became another platinum seller. Since their reformation, the band have released a several compilations and boxed-set albums, and performed on several sell-out tours. Despite the death founding member Lord from pancreatic cancer in 2012, Deep Purple soldiered on, releasing their latest studio album Now What?! in 2013.

The Birth and Rise of Deep Purple

Since their inception in Hertford, Hertfordshire, England in 1968, Deep Purple has undergone countless personnel changes over the years. This sometimes undermined the quality of their music, but up to present they’re still soldiering on.

The band first started as Roundabout, originally as a session band for Chris Curtis, former drummer of the Searchers. The initial lineup consisted of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, vocalist Rod Evans, bassist Nick Simper, keyboardist Jon Lord, and drummer Ian Paice.

The band later got the name “Deep Purple” from the song of the same name performed by the musical duo Nino Tempo & April Stevens. The said song was a favorite of Ritchie Blackmore’s grandmother. Aside from Deep Purple, there were also other bands that got their names from famous songs. You may read our article, Popular Bands with Names Taken from Famous Songs, for more information on these bands.

Eventually though, the band was starting to come out on their own rather than remain a session band. In 1968, they released their debut album Shades Of Deep Purple, which made much more noise in the US (on the label Tetragrammaton) rather than in their homeland. It peaked at #24 on the Billboard 200, spurred by their first charting single “Hush,” which topped off at #4 on the US pop chart.

A US-only follow up to their debut album The Book of Tailesyn was released later that same year. It went to #38, and its single, their cover of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman,” also reached #38.

In 1969, Deep Purple released their self-titled third album, which marked the band’s metamorphosis into true performers. This led to turmoil among the band members, eventually leading to the replacement of Simper and Evans with newer members Ian Gillan (vocals) and Roger Glover (bass). Both of these artists had been with a previous group Episode Six. Around this same time their American label Tetragrammaton folded.

With Deep Purple starting anew once more, they released the live album Concerto for Group and Orchestra in an attempt to marry classical influences with rock music. This was done in similar fashion to what makes up the predilection of other progressive rock bands. Unfortunately, this ruse didn’t work and this led to Blackmore taking over the creative control of the band. He changed again the direction of Deep Purple’s sound into a more heavily guitar-driven hard rock. The new style worked, and this marked the beginning of the band’s critical and commercial success.

Their 1970 album Deep Purple in Rock took that approach. Over at home, it sold a million copies, peaked at #4 and went gold; it likewise went gold in the United States as well. The non-album singles “Black Night” (1970) and “Strange Kind of Woman” (1971) went to #2 and #8, respectively, on the UK singles chart.

In 1971, they released their follow-up album Fireball, which was a more decent hit in the US at #34, but it lorded over the UK album charts, spurred by title track which went to #15 on the singles chart.

“Smoke on the Water” — Deep Purple’s singnature song and a rock classic.

The group was due to record their next album (which was to be Machine Head), but at a casino in Montreux, Switzerland an accidental fire during a live performance by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention burned the venue down. However, the incident further inspired Deep Purple to write a song called “Smoke on the Water,” which would be the group’s most famous song.

“Smoke on the Water” was included on the Machine Head album, and went to #4 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. It has become a veritable rock classic. The success of the single spurred Machine Head into Deep Purple’s highest-charting album in the US to date, peaking at #7 on the Hot 100. The album sold over two million copies in the US alone, going double platinum in the process.

In the UK, Machine Head topped the charts for the second time, going gold. The follow-up to Machine Head which was Who Do We Think We Are, reached #15 on the Hot 100 and #4 on the UK album chart.

Split, reformation and numerous personnel changes

Despite their success, the creative differences sent the band members apart. Gillan and Glover were out, and David Coverdale (vocals) and Glenn Hughes (bass) were in. In 1974, in yet again another change in the band’s lineup, Blackmore also quit, going to form another band Rainbow with singer Ronnie James Dio. Tommy Bolin, a guitarist from the previous band James Gang, filled Blackmore’s position. However, these frequent changes affected much on the band’s music, and they Deep Purple split in 1976.

In 1984, however, Deep Purple reunited with the classic lineup of Blackmore, Gillan, Lord, Glover and Paice. They released their new album Perfect Strangers, which did well on the charts. It went to #17 on the US Billboard Hot 100 (going platinum there), and #5 on the UK singles chart.

However old tensions rose again that led to Gillan exiting again in 1989. Joe Lynn Turner (of Rainbow) was recruited for Deep Purple’s next album Slaves and Masters in 1990. But in 1993 Gillan returned in time for the band to record their next album The Battle Rages On…. Blackmore left, to be replaced by Joe Satriani for a while.  Both Ritchie Blackmore and Joe Satriani were regarded as two of The 10 Best Guitarists of the 1980s.

Steve Morse took over the guitar duties; his presence revitalized Deep Purple creatively. The re-formed band once more released Purpledicular in 1996, which was well-received among long-time Deep Purple fans in particular. It was followed by Abandon in 1998, and a live album Live at the Royal Albert Hall the following year.

Into the 21st century, Deep Purple have remained active despite their numerous lineup upheavals. They released their last three albums to date Bananas (2003),Rapture Of The Deep (2005) and very well-received Now What?! (2013). Many best-of compilations have been issued, most notably the boxed set release Shades 1968-1998.

The current Deep Purple lineup now consists of newer members, with Ian Paice the only remaining original member still active.

Deep Purple has been eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction since 1993. But it was only in 2012 where the band was nominated for the first time but not inducted, and for the second time in 2013. There have been strong criticisms among fans and peers about Deep Purple still not having been inducted into such honor.