Setting the Stage: Deep Purple Past and Present in 2001

2001 marked a monumental year in the history of music; iTunes had been released in January of that year, marking a major turning point in the digital revolution. Within the world of Deep Purple, another seismic shift was on the horizon. By the beginning of July, there was no sign whatsoever of this impending change.

Deep Purple Mark VII

I’ll have to admit that I have not been a big fan or follower of Deep Purple’s music… until today, that is. These guys were by far the best band of the day.

From a review of Deep Purple’s July 8th performance at Arrowfest in Houston. Retrieved from here.

Halfway through 2001 saw Deep Purple having just completed a successful run of dates in the United States, the last being on July 8. Earlier in the year, they had performed in Australia and Japan, as well as in less-commonly visited places like Malaysia and India. All along, they received positive reception from the fans who attended their gigs, praising their energy and song selection. They were even continuing to pick up new fans!

Some of these 2001 dates, namely the ones in Japan, marked the end of their orchestra tour which had been intermittently occurring since 1999. During this tour, took Ronnie James Dio and an orchestra with them and performed their old “Concerto For Group and Orchestra”. Along with this, they performed a few numbers from Roger Glover’s The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast, for which Dio provided vocals, and a number from Jon Lord’s recently-released solo album Pictured Within.

The orchestral tour was sometimes very difficult to make work, with the problems reportedly particularly affecting Lord’s morale. Some more conservative fans, such as the ones who ran the Darker than Blue Magazine, also didn’t necessarily take to it well. However, general reviews of the orchestral sections from this year were also quite positive, and the band finished it on a strong note.

Poster for a pair of Japanese shows from 2001. Retrieved from here.

The other dates of the year, specifically the ones in the U.S., were more traditional for the band. 2001 marked 30 years since the album Fireball was released; two numbers from the album which had seen relatively little time onstage made their way onto the setlist, “Fools” and “No One Came”. Otherwise, the group were playing many of their old hits, including “Highway Star”, “Smoke on the Water”, and “Black Night”. Even “Speed King” made an appearance.

By this point in their existence, Deep Purple were on their seventh lineup. The fan-favorite Mark II lineup had been defunct for almost eight years after increasing backstage tensions had begun spilling onto the stage. While not all fans had accepted this change, the band as a whole had not let the loss of one of their members slow them down overmuch. If anything, they stepped up a notch; with the release of interpersonal tension came something of a renaissance for the group. Since the beginning of Steve Morse’s tenure in 1994, they had toured extensively each year, visiting fans across the globe.

In between all these live dates, they’d still found time to release two albums, Purpendicular in 1996 and Abandon in 1998. All of their work was refreshingly democratic, with all five members of the group more or less contributing to studio work and giving their all onstage. By 2001, the group had become very comfortable with one another, with review after review noting how much fun they seemed to be having. Backstage video from the time presents a similar lighthearted vibe as was seen onstage.

A look at Deep Purple behind the scenes, courtesy of Ian Gillan’s camera footage.

Dramatis Personae

As of 2001, the band composed of:

Ian Gillan (member 1969-1973, 1984-1988, 1992–)

Early into his third period as Deep Purple’s vocalist, Ian Gillan compared working with Deep Purple to meeting up with an ex-wife, only meeting up occasionally for some fun. The implication to these statements, despite the fact that they were a followup to Gillan’s comment that the tour he was currently on was the most fun he’d had with Purple in a while, that this third time wouldn’t work either.

History certainly bore this grim conclusion out, as Gillan is one of only two people to officially leave the band twice. He is also the only person to have returned for a third go-around. As the saying goes, the third time’s the charm. Eight years after giving the aforementioned interview, Gillan was still going onstage with the group. In fact, for better or worse, fans looked at him from Blackmore’s departure onwards as the band leader despite his having second-shortest tenure of remaining members.

2001 saw Gillan bringing his conga drums and tambourine to the stage. What he also brought, according to reviews from the time, was a renewed vigor and stage presence. He would also use his typical bizarre sense of humor throughout the sets to introduce songs and bandmates.

During the band’s seventh lineup, Gillan had participated in the occasional solo project, notably Dreamcatcher. He had also found time to release his autobiography, the majority of which focused on his activities up to 1993.

File:Ian Gillan dreamcatcher alt.jpg
Album cover. Retrieved from here.

Roger Glover (member 1969-1973, 1984–)

In many ways the unsung hero of Deep Purple and its extended family, Glover had in his original tenure with the group written riffs, collaborated on lyrics, and even named “Smoke on the Water”. After being forced out in 1973 by a disgruntled bandmate, Glover had climbed into the producer’s chair. Over the years, he produced the Ian Gillan Band, Whitesnake, and Rainbow among others; these experiences had made him the member with the most experience with non-Deep Purple extended family bands up to this point. He’d continued his writing and producing with Purple for their latest two albums; Abandon would turn out to be his last production credit with the band.

By this point, as well as being known as a peacemaker in the band, Glover had taken on significant authority within the band as an ambassador to exterior parties. It was he who had done most of the legwork and outreach which had culminated in Steve Morse’s recruitment into the band back in 1994. This was a role he would soon take on again in the summer of 2001. He has also gained much respect from the wider Purple community over the years; many of my discussions with fans which contributed to this project cited Glover as a primary authority.

In musical terms, Glover also had a forthcoming solo album, Snapshot, which would be released in 2002. This saw him getting to work with a particularly special collaborator, his eldest daughter Gillian.

Signed copy of Snapshot. Retrieved from here.

Jon Lord (member 1968-1976, 1984–2001/2002)

Lord, born in 1941, was the oldest member of the band, having turned 60 early in June of 2001 while the group was on tour. He was also one of the last two remaining founding members. Lord had earned a vaunted position among rock keyboardists by 2001; his name was often mentioned in the same breath as Rick Wakeman’s or Keith Emerson’s. While his career with Deep Purple, Paice Ashton Lord, and Whitesnake had given Lord a lot of street cred as a hard rocker, Lord had never forgotten his roots as a classically-trained keyboardist. The recent revival of his Concerto for Group and Orchestra, had was apparently made him start contemplating what he wanted his career to look like outside of the band which had brought him such fame in the first place.

Lord had released his most recent solo album, Pictured Within, in 1998. With its release so close to that of Abandon, Lord had apparently split his attention, and was noted in reviews of Abandon to have a significantly reduced presence compared to his instrumental co-lead.

File:Jon Lord - Pictured Within CD cover.jpg
Album cover for Pictured Within. Retrieved from here.

Steve Morse (member 1994–)

Steve Morse first joined the band for a three-date secret tour in Mexico and the American Southwest in order to test the waters with Deep Purple. Although he was the unanimous choice by the membership of the group, he himself had been uncertain, as he knew little about them. The end of the first jam had let him and the rest of the band alike know that they needn’t have worried. By 2001, the new kid on the block had been with the group for seven years straight. In that time, he had come to be an integral part of their new studio sound.

Like Tommy Bolin before him, Morse dealt with a good deal of abuse from fans unable to get past his predecessor’s absence. However, his sheer prowess and electric playing won a great many over. While he still dealt with a good deal of unpleasant behavior, including having objects thrown at him and even being spat at, he entered his seventh year with the band with a smile on his face and a positive attitude at every gig.

Morse was the single busiest member of the band, having not one but two secondary projects while still keeping up with Purple. He remained an active member of the Dixie Dregs, the band with which he had begun his professional career; he had even toured with them earlier in 2001. At the same time, he headed the Steve Morse Band. Funnily enough, the Steve Morse Band was used as an opening act to the aforementioned Dregs tour. A live album with the Dixie Dregs had been released the previous year, which had also seen a solo studio album. The next Steve Morse Band album would be released the following spring. The day it was released, Morse was on tour with Purple in Russia.

Album cover of Steve Morse’s then-forthcoming album with the Steve Morse Band. Retrieved from here.

With all these projects, it’s a miracle Morse kept all his music separate. By his own admission, the other members of Purple originally offered him a chance to bring some of his other work onto the stage with them. He had turned their offer down, however; when he was with Deep Purple, he was with them all the way.

Ian Paice (member 1968-1976, 1984–)

Along with Lord, Paice was the only other remaining founding member of the group. As a total counterweight to some of his band members who’d gone to university for music, Paice was entirely self-taught, having become one of the most well-regarded drummers in rock ‘n roll entirely under his own power. The passing of Keith Moon, John Bonham, and most recently Cozy Powell had also left him as one of the longer-lived.

In foul and fair weather alike, Paice’s explosive but steady drumming had kept the band on course onstage; throughout the years he had consistently received top marks from listeners and reviewers. Even during such rough periods as the Come Taste the Band Tour, Paice could always be counted on onstage. While 2001 had thus far been one of the band’s easier years, he still got great reviews from listeners.

Of any of the members, Paice had the smallest non-Deep Purple career. He had mostly playing one-off charity concerts or drum clinics when not with the band. The only time he had meaningfully stepped out of the Deep Purple extended family after a stint with Whitesnake had been for a short collaboration with Gary Moore in the early 80s. This had yielded an excellent set of albums and some truly memorable stage work. He had also provided guest appearances here and there over the years, including a collaboration with Sir Paul McCartney in 1999.

Album cover of Run Devil Run, solo album by Paul McCartney featuring David Gilmour, Ian Paice, Mick Greene, and others. Retrieved from here.

Everyone Else

While the band had not slowed down, other former members of the group were hard at work themselves. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore had left the group in 1993. He later left rock ‘n roll altogether after releasing one album with his resurrected Rainbow, Stranger in Us All. He had since been working with his musical and romantic partner, Candice Night, on a renaissance-themed pop outfit. They had released an album on July 10, 2001.

File:Fires at midnight.jpg
Cover of Fires at Midnight, the album released by Blackmore’s Night in 2001. Retrieved from here.

Glenn Hughes, former bassist of Deep Purple, had similarly kept himself busy. He had struggled greatly with substances in the 70s during his time in Purple, but had been sober for at least a decade by 2001. September of that year saw the release of a studio album, Building the Machine.

File:Glenn Hughes - Building The Machine.jpg
Retrieved from here.

David Coverdale, who had moved from Purple to a successful career with Whitesnake, currently had his most famous band on hiatus. In 2000 he release a solo album, Into the Light; it was his first solo record since 1978. While he was fairly quiet in 2001, the next year would see him return to Whitesnake for yet another reformation.

File:Into the Light.jpg
David Coverdale’s most recent solo album. Retrieved from here.

Former singer Joe Lynn Turner also had continued with his solo career since his firing by Deep Purple. He would also release a solo album in 2001, Slam. It was his sixth solo album since his membership in Purple and his seventh overall.

Retrieved from here.

Even Nick Simper, one of the first ex-members of Purple, was still hard at work as a musician. While his activities in 2001 were not as significant as some of the others on this list, he had still recently been involved with various projects. One such project was Quatermass II, a short sequel outfit to the band Quatermass from 1970. Quatermass II had released an album, Long Road, in 1997.

This is not the last time this album will be discussed during this project…Incidentally, Nick Simper can be seen second from left. Retrieved from here.

Joe Satriani, the most recent ex-member of Deep Purple, was also busy in 2001. He would be nominated for best rock instrumental performance both for the 2001 awards (for “Always With Me, Always With You”) and the 2002 awards (for “Starry Night”), winning for neither. He also toured with his rotating guitar extravaganza ensemble G3; the summer of 2001 saw G3 composed of Satriani, Steve Vai and John Petrucci. He would be joined by Steve Morse for one special date on July 22nd in Orlando. This came just days before Morse would embark on his next tour leg with Deep Purple.

Two Purple guitarists for the price of one (plus major non-Purple talent)! From left to right: Joe Satriani, Steve Morse, John Petrucci, Steve Vai. Photo by Jose Baraquio. Retrieved from here.

All of this is simply to say that Deep Purple and its extended family were still alive and thriving in 2001, with recently-released albums, tours underway, or new projects waiting in the wings. Far from being relics of a bygone era of music and at best considered a tribute act to the glory days, the group and its former members were very much alive and well.

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