When it comes to the British holy trinity of hard rock (Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin being the other two), Deep Purple may well be the lightest shade in terms of acclaim and recognition.
The band have gone through a string of line-ups throughout their coloured and somewhat chequered history, but their pioneering crossover between classical music and hard rock has afforded them a sound and legacy that very few bands could ever even dream of replicating.
Blues Rock Review takes a journey back through (child in) time to give you our top 10 Deep Purple Songs.
Before his descent into hair-metal and overindulgence in the lyrical realm of sexual innuendos and double entendres, David Coverdale could more than deliver a dark, brooding blues-rock vocal.
The masterful control on this sublime bluesy number will set your goosebumps off as Saltburn-by-the-Sea’s most famous son whines beautifully in seven and a half minutes of anguish, heartbreak and torment.
“Mistreated” builds to a spectacular crescendo with guitarist Richie Blackmore crowning a song that he had written a number of years prior to the Burn album by shrewdly accelerating through this slow burner into a dizzying solo.
9. “Space Truckin’”
With references to “the Borealice”, “Pony Trekker” and “the Canaveral moonstop”, strap yourself in for a wild voyage through space. Everything about this trippy, intergalactic closer to their iconic album Machine Head screeches great fun, but there’s no denying the calibre of the musicianship.
From the consummate backbeat to the wonderfully punchy and hard-hitting distorted organ that drives the song forward, you will find it hard to resist the commands of the trademark Ian Gillan banshee screams (“Come on, come on, come on, Let’s go Space Truckin”).
8. “Perfect Strangers”
After washing away with the Deep Purple palette in 1975, the MK 11 line-up reunited nine years later for comeback album Perfect Strangers. Lyrically pertinent (“I am returning the echo of a point in time/Distant faces shine”), it symbolises a clutch of ‘familiar outsiders’ that has snubbed the chance to paper over the cracks and instead are learning to move forward with a new-found sense of maturity.
One of the few Deep Purple compositions not to feature a guitar solo, it has some wonderful oriental-style phrasing and a gladiatorial break in the middle which adds further grandeur.
The third reiteration of the group spawned the albums Stormbringer and Burn in the mid-1970s. Often overlooked due to the magnificence of the band’s revered classic MK II line-up, it is the dynamic and energetic title track from Burn that overheats from a scorching Blackmore riff and blistering drum attack from Ian Paice with interspersing barrages of snare fills during the verses.
Featuring a then-unknown Coverdale on vocals and the evergreen Glenn Hughes on bass, this flame would prove to be the new incarnation’s high point.
Fireball was the follow-up to Purple’s breakthrough In Rock record. Even though it didn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor, the breakneck rhythm, frenzied singing and renowned double-kick beat that introduce this ball of energy are irresistible.
5. “Speed King”
Purple exploded out of the starting block on their In Rock album with “Speed King”. After an ear-splitting introduction of ferocious shredding guitar and Jon Lord’s injection of neoclassical organ chords, there is no let-up by any of the band as they appear to be possessed by Usain Bolt in over four breathless minutes of barnstorming power and borrowed snippets of old lyrics from rock ‘n’ roll hits (“Good Golly Miss Molly”).
4. “Pictures Of Home”
Arguably the most underrated song from the band’s masterpiece Machine Head, “Pictures Of Home” showcases every member of the band at their creative peak with its sweeping lead vocals and wonderful improvisation in the instrumental sections.
Blackmore breaks from the hard rock tradition with some bluesy flourishes, while Lord’s aristocratic prowess bring a smattering of prog to the Purple residence. There’s even room for a surprise bass solo from Roger Glover in this poignant portrait of studio paranoia and home nausea.
3. “Smoke On The Water”
Da da DAH, da da DA-DAA, da da DAH, DAH DAAAAA. The mother of all riffs. Iconic, but the very definition of overplayed (rumour has it that it is even forbidden from being played in guitar stores).
Inspired by the casino in the lakeside town of Montreux going up in smoke and skimming the waters that surrounded it, “Smoke On The Water” remains Purple’s most recognisable song with four two-note chords that still inspire every burgeoning rocker to pick up a guitar.
2. “Child In Time”
Iain Gillan, take a bow. Simply one of the greatest vocal performances in rock history. From his juddering wailing early doors to the numbing screams of pain during the finale, this rhapsodic centrepiece from the In Rock album is a psychedelic tour de force of mesmeric hard rock, prog, and neo-classic runs rolled into something quite astonishing.
Virtuoso Lord spearheads the operatic atmosphere of this epic as the listener is taken to the brink of exhaustion on a journey of dramatic peaks and troughs. A real fan favourite, “Child In Time” became a staple of their concert repertoire in 1970-73 and later after their initial reunion tours of 1985 and 1987-88. The song has been a rarity at live shows since 1995 and remains one of the final tracks where Blackmore used his Gibson ES-335 before moving over to the fleet-fingered fury of a Fender Stratocaster.’
1. “Highway Star”
Start your engine and prepare for life in the fast lane. “Highway Star” is the definitive driving song as Gillan goes full force about a man and his infatuation with his supersonic car (or is it a girl he’s referring to?)
The mesmeric soloing tussle (based on Bach-like chord sequences) between Lord and Blackmore is alone enough to power a battered 1970 Fiat 500 above the legal speed limit. This is Purple at their pulsating best, showcasing their distinctive blend of high-octane playing with neoclassical grace.
Widely regarded as one of the first speed rock/metal songs ever written, the lead-off track from the band’s landmark Machine Head shows no signs of slowing down in adrenaline or influence nearly half a century on.