Revised by author Chris Charlesworth from his original 1982 text, with intro and outro sections added, and written with the full cooperation of Deep Purple – this is the story of a band who during the time span the book covers became one of the biggest bands in the world and, alongside Led Zep and Black Sabbath, helped to forge the template for hard rock. With albums like In Rock and Fireball their influence on the genre is hard to understate. Similar to Zeppelin they were feted for the brilliance of the musicians in the line-up… though Sabbath were less so, with Ritchie Blackmore heralded as being a bonafide guitar great, and the classically trained Jon Lord, who helped write the book about the Hammond organ in rock. In terms of musicality, was easily on a par with Wakeman and Emerson, though without their flash and chutzpah.
Between 1968-76, Purple released ten studio albums, a couple of which are rightly heralded as classics of the genre, plus a ‘Concerto for Group and Orchestra’ in 1969, a ‘live’ album, Made In Japan released in 1972 when they were arguably at the top of their game, with the album achieving platinum sales status. Plus another ‘live’ album, Made in Europe released in 1976 when the band was in the final throes of its existence, barely reaching the top 150 in the US. They split soon after, reconvening again in 1984.
But, unlike Led Zep and Sabbath and other major bands of this era, who mostly kept stable line-ups, Purple’s recurring issue during the period between 1968-76, when they were one of the greatest hard rock bands on the planet, was in the turn-over of musicians. Constant personnel changes meant, not just a change of musician, but also a change of musical style. No other major band can point to a career where press/fans refer to a band’s line-up as Mk1 or Mk 2, with fans having their own favourite era. Zep remained constant throughout, and even when Dio replaced Ozzy, Sabbath still rocked. Whereas, when Ian Gillan and Roger Glover were replaced by David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes respectively, the music shifted from the hard rock flavour of In Rock, favoured by Blackmore, towards the more funk-soul flavour of Stormbringer, with many reviewers saying Purple had lost their edge, and dissatisfied with this change of direction, Blackmore leaves, replaced by Tommy Brolin for their 70’s swansong album, Come Taste The Band.
Unlike many other similar books about bands of this stature, this isn’t just a collection of pictures. The contents are divided up under a series of headings from Deep Purple’s inception in 1968, examining every ‘mark’ stage up to 1976, including albums and personnel, and incorporating comments from and details of everyone who played in Purple in this period, including how they joined the band, plus details of short-lived members like Nick Simper and Rod Evans. Ritchie Blackmore gets a 30-page spread and, if you look closely, you’ll even see him smiling in one of the pictures. The book’s mostly factual, with Charlesworth rarely incorporating his own views about whether a line-up change had improved or detracted from the band. Nonetheless, this is still an interesting read with a few surprising little nuggets of information … Rod Stewart, when with the Jeff Beck Group, being looked at as a possible frontman when the band’s being put together in ‘68? Glenn Hughes approached to join the embryonic ELO before joining Purple?… and for Purple fans young and old, there’s something here for you all to enjoy, not because the book is amazingly brilliant or rammed with controversial comments, but because it’s an enjoyable trawl through the first eight years of a remarkable band. It’s a safe bet their story from 1984 onwards will be nothing like as exciting a ride as their ’68-76 period.