Why would I spend so much time researching, thinking about, and writing about a period of about a month in 2001 in the life of Deep Purple? It’s a question I have already been asked as part of my launch. Before I begin the project I’ve set forth, I might as well give some of the reasons I’ve chosen to do this.
I am a fan of the current lineup of the band. While there are enjoyable aspects of what came before in the studio and onstage, my greatest enjoyment is reserved for Deep Purple Mark VIII. As a fan, I delved into some of the history of this particular lineup, and what I found was amazing. Despite the seeming ease with which the eighth lineup of this storied band has managed to go about their business, their beginning came about quite unexpectedly in circumstances which would intimidate even the most seasoned performers.
That the longest-lasting lineup of the band began with an emergency last-minute substitution for one of only two remaining founding members of the band was a story I found remarkably compelling. Listening to recordings of those early concerts, scouring the depths of fansites for tidbits of information, and reading interviews of the involved personnel only introduced further parts of this amazing story. I believe it is one worth relating to others in a consistent manner.
I feel also that this project will fill a hole which badly needs filling. This era of the band, and indeed much of their history which involves Steve Morse and Don Airey in their respective instrumental roles, is criminally underrepresented in literature and retrospectives. The charitable interpretation of this oversight is because this lineup is still current and creating new work, making it harder to judge it in full.
A likelier reason for this is demand, or lack thereof. A great many fans act as though Deep Purple ended in 1993 with Ritchie Blackmore’s departure mid-tour, while many more express that they’d rather it had ended with that occurrence. Some people who do not follow the band as closely are often surprised to learn that there even still is a Deep Purple, much less one which puts out new music on a semiregular basis and spends a good portion of their time on the touring circuit. With this mixture of apathy and hostility towards some of the current membership, there’s little wonder why the music historians aren’t lining up to do projects on them.
That being said, it seems to me that when documentaries, historical books, and other sorts of representations focus solely on the first half of the band’s a rich history (and most within that focuses solely on the band’s output of the late 1960s and early 1970s), a sort of feedback loop is created. Of course the so-called “golden era” would receive the most focus if it’s so ubiquitous and easy to access. Meanwhile, the lack of focus on any events past the 1993 mark would naturally result in a subconscious sense of its inferiority, the idea that nothing worth writing home about has since happened to the band. In my opinion, the existence of this tour proves that idea is absolutely, categorically false.
Finally, a great deal of the time that has been focused on in historical writings is not necessarily the happiest of times for the band. For instance, two of major Deep Purple historian Jerry Bloom’s books focus on the first half of The Battle Rages On Tour, one of the nadirs for the band morale-wise as the group was on the edge of splitting up for good. This is the exact opposite of what the Mark VIII lineup displays every night, with five musicians who seem to really want to be onstage together. If for no other reason listed above, then the least I can offer as a reason for a greater study of this era is that it’s a time of joy which comes through in the music night after night.
I do not know how many people will actually bother reading even one of these pieces. I don’t know what will become of this work when I am done. Maybe it will remain in blog format, mostly unread and unremarked upon. Maybe I will be able to slowly augment it with the stories of Danish, Norwegian, Italian, Greek and other nationalities’ fans who managed to see the tour for themselves. Perhaps it’ll be available in print one day as yet another book on a small portion of Deep Purple’s history. What matters is that it will be here as a quiet rebuttal to the idea that nothing worth telling about onstage or in the studio happened in Deep Purple after 1993, that Don Airey and Steve Morse’s contributions to the band can be dismissed as poor substitutions for something greater, and that the three remaining “classic” members are just coasting.
I doubt that I will change many minds of listeners who have already formed opinions on this subject. I do not seek to do so; people have many reasons for their opinions, which I respect. Perhaps, though, I will have provided a starting point for newcomers to this band and future listeners. I hope that with this project these future fans may have a better understanding of how the band’s eighth lineup came to be, and just a few of things that make it so special.
Let it also be known at the outset that I am receiving no sort of compensation, financial or otherwise, to undertake this project. No one involved with Deep Purple is aware of it, so it is not sanctioned in any way (though if anyone involved with the band reads this, I’d love to get in touch!). Almost all of the research and all of the writing is mine, and I accept full responsibility for factual errors found hereafter.
With all of that out of the way, I look forward to revealing how the seeds of the longest-running lineup of Deep Purple were planted. Thank you for joining me on this journey.