Deep Purple - Perfect Strangers tour 1984/85

There’s only one national rock radio programme in Britain. Hosted by Tommy Vance, it’s tucked away late on a Friday evening when the powers that be figure it will do least harm. Nevertheless he tries his best, and perhaps in view of this he was privileged to be able to make the first national announcement of Deep Purple’s reformation - after having teased us with suitable classics from their past repertoire. April 27th 1984 - The day the perennial reunion rumours were finally laid to rest, in the best way possible.
Now, several months later and the air of disbelief fading fast as the magnificent new album begins to break, the ultimate proof is about to unfold on the stage in front of you: Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover and Ian Paice together again and about to slay a whole new generation of rock fans with the best live act around. This is how it came about…

Just ten day before Mr Vance’s announcement, the individuals concerned had arrived in Greenwich, Connecticut at the invitation of Ritchie and Roger’s manager Bruce Payne.
“ Once I knew they were all coming, I realised this was it” he said soon after, and when the meeting finished he was managing Deep Purple.

At last, after a decade of speculation, all five members felt that the time was right, and from that moment on it was full speed ahead. The band were quickly housed in the bass lodge, a house in Stowe, Northern Vermont, owned by the Von Trapp family, subjects of the Sound of Music movie. Ian Gillan recalls the initial moment: “I was there first, before everyone else in fact, and I thought “It’s one big joke - no one’s going to turn up” but Ritchie turned up with little Ian, and Roger shambled in after a while. Jon was a little bit late on the first day, he was reading a book. They just started playing. It wasn’t anything like let’s do an old number or let’s write a new song - Ritchie started doing a lick, Ian and Roger started pumping it out and Jon came in and they just played, getting the feel of the music and it was great. I just sat there in the corner. It was wonderful. I felt privileged to actually be there. The songs just sort of came together gradually over the rehearsal period. It was so completely natural”.

The building itself gave an impressive sound. So when the rehearsals ended around June 3rd they decided to tape the album there on a French Canadian digital mobile. Fate intervened in the shape of the Vermont State Authority who turned down their application, perhaps worried about what effect Ritchie’s guitar blasting around the valley might have on the locals. A new location was sought and found in the shape of a mansion called Horizons, close by. The group moved in on July 6th and recording began four days later. The material was all laid down by August 26th and the band reassembled in the Tennesse studio, Hamburg Germany a few days later for the mixing and final track choice, while a photographer captured the band for this programme. On September 20th Polydor ended speculation about who would issue the new LP by announcing their acquisition of the group in a four album 10 million dollar deal, the first of which was to be Perfect Strangers.

With the album finished, the group picked exotic Bedford, England to rehearse in: Jon - “There had been a feeling of not wanting to do one of the old number immediately. We purposefully kept away from it, almost like a voodoo thing. Let’s wait until we’ve got the new LP out of the way. Then when we got down here to Bedford… “Ian “Yeah, the first time we played any of the old songs, we thought, what shall we start with? How about Highway Star and none of us could remember what key it was in. It doesn’t matter to me, but…. “Jon - “I was convinced it was in A, Ritchie thought G and Roger said it might be in F”.

Once these minor problems were sorted out, most of their favourites from the classic stage act were rediscovered - No, we’re not going to tell you which - but there should be something in the set to please everyone, together with one oldie the band have never done before. For those of us blown away by the new album, they’ve rehearsed the majority of this too, so the show promises to be an awesome combination of old and new.

By the end of October the group wrapped things up with a few interviews, and Ian Gillan managed to persuade Ritchie and Roger to join him in a charity football match up near Liverpool on the 22nd. His team managed to go down 2-3 against the cast of a TV soap opera, the shame of it. Two days later it was back on a plane bound for America, an important press conference and yet more rehearsing for the upcoming world tour. They’ll be visiting America in the new year, wish shows across Scandinavia and Europe, not forgetting Japan and Britain, but there will be more than a few envious glances towards Australia as the band debut there.
They’ve been away a long time, and they’re gonna blow you apart - treat them well.

Off stage, Ian Paice likes to spend time with his family, or indulging his recent passion for horse racing. Put him behind a kit and it’s a different story altogether as with seemingly effortless precision he powers his way round his kit. It all began with a biscuit tin lid many years ago, and when his parents could stand it no longer he ended up with a proper looking kit to learn his way around. Before long he was playing Foxtrots and Tangos in his father’s dance band, but soon discovered other local musicians and with them formed Georgie and The Rave-ons. He cut his first disc with the The Shindigs, but it wasn’t until joining M.I.5, later known as the Maze that he turned in his civil servant’s job to go fully professional.

Like many other beat groups, they got work abroad, doing a season in Italy and making regular trips to the Star Club in Hamburg. Ian’s drumming was already attracting attention and one person in the audience at the Star Club was suitably impressed: Ritchie Blackmore offered him a job there and then in his new band. Ian realising that Ritchie didn’t actually have a band going at that point decided to opt for the continued security of The Maze. Barely a year later their paths crossed again as The Maze’s vocalist secured Ian an audition for Deep Purple. Whereas the other would be drummers had dutifully chugged along to some tune or other, Paice climbed behind the kit and went through a ten minute tour de force which secured him the job on the spot. With Deep Purple Ian tended to stay out of the limelight for much of the time, but on stage he was impossible to ignore - either with his almost telepathic anticipation of Blackmore’s solo’s, his mammoth drum solo’s or just the sheer stamina he exhibited during the shows. He gave 100% every night and continued to do so whatever the circumstances until the end.

From there it was into Paice, Ashton, Lord and the Whitesnake again alongside Jon. Frustration led him to move on to join Gary Moore, and in between times he employed himself usefully by doing drum clinics around Britain demonstrating equipment and techniques to audiences of astounded drummers. During these evenings the lengthy question and answer sessions would turn inevitably to the possibilities of reforming Deep Purple. “It may happen yet” he’d answer with a knowing look. When the call did come the response was immediate.

My hobby is racehorses. And there’s a saying in horse racing that you use when you’re watching a moderate race and suddenly a horse surges to the front of the pack and wins by several lengths. When that happens, you say: “That horse was in a different class”. And that’s what we are, not necessarily as individuals, we’re all good players, but when we’re apart from each other we each seem to lose that certain spark. But when we all come together as Deep Purple… that’s it. We’re in a different class”. Ian Paice is a proud man. Proud to be back and biting as part of Deep Purple reunited. Proud of the legendary legacy that the band enjoys. Proud to be playing once again with musicians with whom he enjoys an almost mystical rapport. Proud of the band’s new album “Perfect Strangers”.

“To me, the LP is a natural progression from those earlier records like “In Rock” and “Machine Head”… but with a decade in between. I tend to look back on the years we’ve spent apart as a kind of growth period, we’ve all been playing and learning and doing different things… but it was never quite the same, although I’m sure that our various experiences outside of Purple have made the ‘80s version of the band better than it ever was”.
Since Purple finally split in March ’76, Ian has beaten the skins with Paice, Ashton, Lord, Whitesnake and the Gary Moore Band. Obviously, he doesn’t regret being a part of any of those outfits, but Deep Purple was - and is - his first love.

“As soon as we got back together again it as just… so easy. It was such a refreshing feeling. Suddenly, I was having a ball. The ideas we were coming up with were great, the songs we were starting to put together sounded promising… there really wasn’t a minus point to it”.
Do you ever curse yourself for not initiating this reformation years ago? “Of course. But there are always ifs and buts in this life and… I wish we’d never broken up ever. I wish, I wish.
I’m just grateful that we have reunited once again. Because what we have here is something magical, something for which you can do no less than… thank the Lord. It works, we’re having a wonderful time and we believe that people will want to come and see and hear what we’re doing”.

Jon Lord’s unique Hammond keyboard sound was brought to the reformed Deep Purple only after he’d been convinced that the reunion was being handled properly: “I was reticent in that all the times I’d been approached by record companies and others it was just seen as a licence to print money, and I didn’t want to put the band together and become rock ‘n’ roll cabaret. I thought it essential to do an album of new music to show the band as it is in 1984, and to commit that band for a longer time than just a world tour. That was the way I felt it should be done, and when it came to the five of us sitting round a table talking, that’s exactly what everyone wanted”.

Initially a pianist with classical training, Jon moved to the organ after being turned on by the sound of players like Jimmy Smith. He joined a popular London based group called The Artwoods who had a good following on the R ‘N’ B circuit. As the style went out of vogue with the changing music scene in the mid-sixties Jon found himself doing session work for a variety of outfits and it was during this period that the connections were made which eventually resulted in the formation of Deep Purple in early 1968.

In his years with Purple Jon developed his abilities as a soloist - his nightly duels with Ritchie were some of the highpoints of their live act - but also learned how to integrate his keyboard fully into the groups sound. You might not always be listening for it, but try taking that unique sound away and you’d miss it at once. When the band folded, Jon took off with drummer Ian Paice to form Paice Ashton Lord, a short lived super group. From there he moved to Whitesnake, but still found time to record some excellent solo material and do the occasional piece of classical theme music. When the reunion invitation came, Jon found his views on the subject matched those of the other members: “At the meeting, after about, oh 30 seconds, it became clear that it was going to work. We couldn’t get the smiles off our faces and they stayed there throughout the rehearsals and the recording. We feel privileged that we’ve been allowed, or allowed ourselves to get back together. It feels damn good. I can’t find the words to tell you just how good I feel, and I honestly do feel that Deep Purple has just made its best album to date”.

One of the many highlights of Deep Purple’s “Perfect Strangers” album is Jon Lord’s keyboard playing. In these dark days of toytown synthesiser plinking, it’s a genuine, heart-warming pleasure to have that hulking great Hammond organ sound assault the ear drums once again. With his mighty solo passages adding grace and grandeur to the songs, with Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar riffs beautifully enhanced by his wonderous ivory weaving, it’s plain that Jon Lord is relishing his revitalised role in the reactivated Deep Purple. In fact, he seems to be having the time of his life. “Yes”, agrees Jon, “it was indeed a marvellous experience for me, recording “Perfect Strangers”. I haven’t enjoyed myself so much in years - and that’s not an anti-Whitesnake statement, it’s a statement of fact”. Ah, yes… Whitesnake.

Since the demise of Deep Purple - and, remember, this man was with the band from its genesis with Rod Evans on vocals and Nick Simper on bass, right up to the final line-up with guitarist Tommy Bolin - Jon Lord was probably best known for his keyboard contributions to David Coverdale’s reptilian rocks songs. While he’s anxious not to enter into a slanging match with ol’ DC (another ex-Purple person, incidentally) Jon will nonetheless admit to experiencing the occasional pang (Fang?) of frustration whilst a part of his outfit.

“Yes, it’s true, says Jon, choosing his words carefully, “It did get to the point where, in Whitesnake, I began to feel terribly restricted. Just to go back to Purple and be given a role more in line with my abilities and temperament… well, that’s worth its weight in gold”.
In particular, Jon is enjoying working alongside the explosive Mr Blackmore once more.
“ I learnt from Ritchie”, Jon relates, “I modelled my style on how best to surround what he plays with a complementary keyboard sound. In fact, when we began rehearsing with this line-up, one of the first things Ritchie said to me was: “Hey Jon, it’s amazing hearing you play again. You know I’ve spent God knows how many years in Rainbow looking for people who can get that sort of sound out of an organ. How do you do it?”
“ I said: “Well, you’ve got to be me, for a start”.

Dressed in his age old stage outfit, his trouser held up with a piece of string, basist Roger Glover must’ve presented a sorry sight to the rest of Deep Purple when he turned up to do a session for them in 1969. He needed the money, but even so when the others, impressed by his playing and also by his musical contributions in the studio, offered him a job - he turned it down. Happily he was persuaded to reconsider, and joined in time to contribute in no small way to the group’s first studio album, Deep Purple In Rock.

His career in music had begun with amateur groups in school and college, one of which eventually evolved into Episode Six. Here Roger began writing seriously, and several of the band’s singles contained his material while the surplus compositions were lodged with song writing agencies in London. As the ban ran out of steam towards the end of the sixties, Roger was seriously considering forming a folk group as an outlet for some of his material. Deep Purple eventually persuaded him otherwise. Roger has always been fairly modest about his bass playing abilities, though having seen him laying it down with Purple first time around, and again in Rainbow, while all around him went haywire, I think he underestimates his abilities.

Keeping the foundations of Purple going both on-stage and in the studio took its toll on Roger’s health though and he decided to retire from the hectic life on the road for full time work as a record producer. This kept him in touch with most of the band from time to time, and he also found time to record a brace of solo albums as well as the acclaimed music for the Butterfly Ball. It was his experience as a produced together with his writing abilities which prompted Ritchie Blackmore to call him up with an invite to join him in Rainbow, which Roger accepted. With the old team reunited, Roger realised how much he’d been missing live work, while his association with Ritchie later eased the way for the reunion. Of which he commented shortly after the first rehearsals earlier this year: “The music is flowing much like it did in the old days, and I’m sure we’re going to come out with an album that will please all our real fans. I’ve been listening to our old albums and I’d forgotten just how exciting we sometimes were. I’m pleased to say that the spirit is still there and to me, that is the most important this by far”.

Of all the Deep Purple members, I get the feeling that bass player Roger Glover was the one that had the most misgivings, the one that held out the longest against the possibility of the band’s reformation. “You’re right”, nods Roger. “You see, what worried me was that…. well, put it this way: I was sure that the initial tour and the first album would arouse an immense amount of curiosity. But it was what would happen beyond that which bothered me. I wanted to be sure that the group had sufficient strength, momentum and commitment to carry itself into the second tour and the second album. “What finally changed my mind was our first meeting, all five of us got together and, I don’t know, there was just a kind of magic feeling in the air. I know it sounds stupid to talk about something so intangible, but… as soon as we met I felt myself suddenly change from not feeling too strongly about the reunion either way to being about 70/30 in favour of it. And then, when we started jamming together, well… I was 100 per cent in favour. Straight away”. Besides being bass player in Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow for several years, in the intervening period between the split of the Mark Two Purple and the line-up’s subsequent reformation, Roger busied himself carving a name as a record producer and the whole caboodle went full circle, in fact, when it was decided that he should produce the Deep Purple comeback LP, “Perfect Strangers”.

“I’ve made a lot of albums”, recalls Roger, “and I’ve produced maybe 30 records, all in all. You can always tell at the end of an LP whether it’s been a good one or a bad one… and “Perfect Strangers” was most definitely a good one. It was an easy album to make, the ideas weren’t hard to come by, and once they were there it was relatively simple to knock them into shape. It’s so trite to talk about the chemistry that exists between all five of us…. But no other word is available. It’s like a love affair…. The ol’ heart’s pounding away once again and it feels so good”.

“ When we first got the band together I remember thinking to myself, I wonder if it’ll still work in the ‘80s? I wonder if it’ll be in vogue with what’s going on in other musical areas? And then I thought - sod it. It doesn’t matter, we’re just going to go out and do what we’re best known for - and that’s playing sophisticated rock”. “Sophisticated rock?” That’s a term that’ll probably freak out fans of heavy metal, that bludgeoning, axe wielding, whip cracking musical genre that attacks the senses but hardly educates the brain. Because Deep Purple, you see - despite what other, misinformed people might tell you - are not and never were a simple, straight-forward heavy metal band. Says Ritchie: “There is an art to playing heavy Rock ‘n’ Roll, there is more to it than just three chords and a few dozen pairs of spandex trousers. There are dynamics and certain progressions that you can utilise, there’s lot of movement, a lot of colour to it. And now that Deep Purple have reunited, maybe - just maybe - we’ll be able to make people more aware of these… other areas. Really, there isn’t that much sophisticated rock around there days. Without wishing to revel in my own artistic values, there’s much more to it than just simply playing loud”.

After he left Purple in mid’75, frustrated and annoyed by the Funky, Soulful direction the band seemed to be heading in, Blackmore formed Rainbow with ex-ELF vocalist Ronnie Dio and for several years enjoyed(arguably) the highest level of success of all the ex-Deep Purple people. Member came and went and one classic album “Rainbow Rising” - was made … but the memory of the glories of Deep Purple lingered on. “Rainbow was getting very ballad orientated, very AOR in its latter days”, says Ritchie. “And I was quite happy doing it, I went along with it for a while… but then, I don’t know, I just started to miss genuine hard rock so much…” The rest, as they say, is history. Blackmore is back where he belongs, more than pleased with the way matters have developed, more than happy with the Deep Purple comeback album, “Perfect Strangers”. “We wanted the LP to be a natural follow-on from “Machine Head”. Not too radical, not too controversial, just a … natural follow-on. I think we’ve struck the right chord and yeah, I think I like it”. And from Ritchie Blackmore, a more positive endorsement you couldn’t possibly ask for.

The last time Ritchie Blackmore was Down Under the sparks flew, not because of anything he’d done, but because of a much vaunted pyrotechnic guitar demolition which he didn’t do. As for what he has in store for you tonight, well your guess is as good as ours. Really though, it’s his playing that matters and when it comes to rock guitar there is simply none better. He channels into his playing an intensity and emotion which few others can match let alone sustain, yet he tempers this fiery work with gentler moments when even in the biggest of venues he seems to be playing to you alone.

Like the others in the band, Ritchie’s career has been long and eventful. Much of his stage showmanship was learnt with English rock eccentric Screaming Lord Sutch, who if he found Ritchie standing still at a gig would proceed to drag him round the stage by his hair. His guitar technique came from his idols of those days, both classical players and people like Les Paul, Scotty Moore, Tony Harvey and Jim Sullivan - coupled with hours and hours of practising. He cut his first discs with the Outlaws, and followed that with years of session work backing the likes of Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and Neil Christian both in Britain and Germany, where he eventually decided to base himself until the UK music scene proved itself more receptive to his type of hard rock. Calls from Jon Lord and others drew him back in early 1968 and Deep Purple were in business.

Here he at last found an outlet for the material he liked to play best, hard hitting no compromise rock. The early euphoria waned as the non stop roundabout of touring and recording went on. He carried on for a long time after Ian Gillan and Roger Glover had left, but before long he too departed to form a new band - Rainbow. Starting again from scratch he built the group up into one of the world’s top acts, aided on their later albums by Roger Glover. Having proved to himself that he could do it, he turned himself to the reunion with characteristic determination. “I’m totally committed to this project, and want to make Purple as successful as they once were. I’m not concerned with those who question the reasons behind it. The only thing that interests me is making the best music we can”.

“ Deep Purple is made up of five peculiar fellows. For some reason we agree on music and very little else.” Ian Gillan tosses back his magnificent mane of hair and laughs loud and long. He’s in good humour, infectiously glad to be esconsed once more in Deep Purple, the fighting, feuding, friendly home of finest quality hard rock. When I talked to the man during a break in rehearsals for the Deep Purple World tour the first thing he did was to freely admit that, so far, he hadn’t actually sung a single note. “I’ve just spent most of my time listening to the rest of the guys play. I stand here with my mouth wide open watching these people… in total awe, you know? I haven’t missed a moment. OK, so I’m the singer with this band…but I don’t treat it as a job, I’m here because I’m a total fan of the music we play. Honestly, some of the stuff we come up with really thrills me.”

Since the break-up of the Mark Two Deep Purple (unquestionably the classic line-up, now reformed for ’84) Ian Gillan forged a career for himself fronting his own band, with varying degrees of success. Starting off in an experimental Jazz/Funk style, he slowly, steadily returned to his Rock ‘n’ Roll roots before calling it a day and deciding to join Black Sabbath in early ’83. “I had a good time, singing with Sabbath,” Ian assures me, “but ultimately the whole thing was destined only to last just over a year. Basically, the chemistry wasn’t right. I think we realised pretty soon that a certain magic was missing.” And now? “And now the magic’s back. I’m absolutely delighted with “Perfect Strangers”. I’m ecstatic to be a part of this band once more. Each one of us is playing better than we ever did… the level of enthusiasm is incredible, simply incredible. In fact, I’d say it’s at a higher level than when this line-up first came together, back in 1969.” What do you think is the reason for this?
“ Every single one of us, since leaving this band in the first place has been searching for something that we already had with Deep Purple. Whether is was with Rainbow, with Whitesnake, with Gary Moore or with the Ian Gillan Band, we were all searching for the… unobtainable. If you like, the Deep Purple factor. And now that we’re back together, suddenly… we’re not searching any more.”

Ian Gillan: Vocals, hardly seems an adequate description of his contribution to that unique Deep Purple sound, his powerful stage presence, that legendary scream and his excellent lyrics are an indispensable part of the band. Ian’s early influences centred on Elvis Presley, Little Richard and the like and he soon began covering their material in a band called The Javelins. He moved on to Episode Six, an excellent pop band who never really got the breaks they deserved. However it did team Ian up with bassist Roger Glover, and Roger it was who persuaded Ian to begin writing his own lyrics after finding some of his poetry hidden away. The result was a songwriting partnership which continued for many years. Time and money was running out for the band when Ian found himself backstage after a show at the Ivy Lodge Club in Woodford Green being introduced to Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord. Three days later he was in the studios with Deep Purple. The next four years saw Deep Purple rise to the very top of the ladder, but for Ian the fun began to go as the work load became heavier and heavier, and when Ian was unable to persuade his managers to call a halt he decided to leave. For a time he left the music business almost altogether save for running his own studio. Slowly he edged back into the scene, and cut an album with Roger Glover’s help before forming his own band.

Over the years Ian and Ritchie’s paths crossed several times, the most famous being when Ritchie joined Ian for encores at a couple of shows in London. Ironically Ianäs own band ended up working even harder than Purple had done and in the end he was forced to call a halt to rest his voice. After a brief uneasy spell with Black Sabbath Ian was more than happy to join the others and discuss a reunion. His exuberant singing on the new album illustrates this better than any words could. “The chemistry of this band is something that was always very strange. There are five very strong minded people, and we come back together now as great mates - we really do enjoy each other’s company. We’ve spent the intervening years since Deep Purple enjoying ourselves, and all being very proud of what we’ve done. I feel there was an element of having to prove something, and we’ve all done it. More importantly we’re all looking at each other with a great deal of respect. I look at Jon, think of what he’s done, I look at Ritchie, and I stand in this group of musicians and feel totally overawed that I’m in such company - the greatest rock band in the world.”