Deep Purple released Bananas on this day in 2003.
This album marked a notable change in the band’s history. It was the first album to feature Don Airey on keyboards after he took the job from a retired Jon Lord. Lord actually received writing credit on two songs on the album, “Pictures of Innocence” and “I’ve Got Your Number”. Another interesting note with regards to writing credits is that Michael Bradford, the album’s producer, also received writing credits.
Airey later admitted that he was a bit anxious about the sessions as a new member of the group. The band revealed just this year that the sessions themselves were sometimes testy. Airey and Steve Morse, who were at this point unused to each other, apparently clashed. However, in spite of all the negative feelings, the group managed at least some good moments in the studio. Ian Paice has recently begun sharing footage of his own experience while recording the album.
Bananas split fans from the very start due in part to its unusual sound for Purple’s canon. Songs like “Never A Word” feature among the band’s gentlest pieces overall, a departure from their previous album Abandon, which had had a much heavier sound. Meanwhile, the title track, “Bananas”, is simply an unusual piece of music; it features a time signature alternating between 7/4 and 5/4 and a chordal structure pinched from “Big Bottom” by Spinal Tap.
Mixed in with all these things was one of Deep Purple’s most emotionally-charged songs ever, “Contact Lost”. This was written in honor of the victims of the Columbia shuttle crash, which occurred late in the process of the album’s recording. One member of the crew in particular, Kalpana Chawla, was an avowed member of the band. Among the things she took into space were CDs of Deep Purple’s Machine Head and Purpendicular, and Down To Earth. These were recovered from the Columbia crash site.
In the charts, the album reached highs as far as #3 in Germany and lows like #85 in the UK. In Finland, it peaked at #6 and spent three weeks total on the chart, Deep Purple’s highest-charting album in that country until 2017’s Infinite. It was certified gold in neighboring Russia, signifying over 10,000 units sold. Some fans immediately declared it a classic, while others were fairly negative from the start. To this day, it often is at the bottom of lists ranking Purple’s whole canon.
As I’ve pointed out, the album is, admittedly, unusual. It’s comparatively hard to find on the internet. The cover does it no favors as a selling point. It’s the first album to feature only a single remaining founding member, something many listeners are still coming to terms with. The cover certainly does it no favors. For me, none of that matters. I find myself coming back to it often, listening some song or other on loop and appreciating different aspects of the songs. Then I will go on my way until the fancy strikes again–and it always does sooner or later!
- Airey Remembers
- Heatley, Michael. The Complete Deep Purple.
- Edit on 2020-09-03: Added information about Finnish chart performance.