All the hard rock, heavy and metal after 1970 has its roots in three legendary bands: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. To the former we have already dedicated a special with our favorite songs, we have also talked about our favorite riffs of the second and now it's time to review our 10 favorite songs of the band that compete for the title of having the most number of different line-ups in the history of rock.
The original line-up of Deep Purple (Rod Evans as singer, Ritchie Blackmore as guitarist, Jon Lord on organ, Ian Paice on drums and Nick Simper on bass), is neither the best known, nor the most appreciated; which is understandable when you consider that the best was yet to come - but if it wasn't for that monument called Smoke On The Water, Hush could be considered the best song of their career. An ode to Jon Lord's Hammond - from a wonderful song composed by Joe South - it gave the band, still on psychedelic ground, the first big hit of their career in 1968 when it broke into the top five US singles chart. Although Lord is the real star, one could already sense the enormous talent of Blackmore, who here uses the fundamental guitar of those early years, a Gibson 335 (although in the hilarious video used to promote it, the guitarist comes out with a Telecaster). In the 90's it returned to the limelight thanks to a faithful cover version by Kula Shaker.
Black Night (1970)
After that first psychedelic stage Ritchie Blackmore listened to the first Led Zeppelin records and knew that the future for his band was there. Evans and Simper were replaced by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover and the most mythical of the band's line-ups appeared, the one known as Mark II. The first thing they did was the single Hallelujah, halfway between their psychedelic past and their future hard rock, then came Jon Lord's project, Concerto for Group and Orchestra; but it would not be until they started recording the mythical In Rock that they would find their definitive sound. In the same sessions they recorded this single that gave them their first hit in their own country, England, and in which you can already appreciate the clear influence of Zeppelin, with a riff that could have been written and played by Jimmy Page himself, although, in reality, the band took it from the bass of the cover version of Summertime that Ricky Nelson did in 1962.
Speed King (1970)
Speed King opened the stellar In Rock by breaking all speed limits, with a riff inspired by Hendrix's Fire and a tribute to Little Richard in the lyrics of a Gillan who has already begun to add his high-pitched screams (to which I admit not liking much, which is why Child In Time does not appear on this list). Of course, the song is unstoppable and exudes an inhuman force. Speaking of kings of speed we can not forget Ritchie Blackmore; before Eddie Van Halen no one could play, at that time, as fast and precise as the guitarist of Deep Purple.
Strange Kind of Woman (1971)
As had happened with In Rock, Fireball, Mark II's second album, was preceded by another stupendous single, the masterful Strange Kind of Woman, by which time Blackmore had already switched to his trusty Stratocaster, like a '68 model he got through a roadie who had been given it by Eric Clapton, and was roaring his Marshall at full volume, competing with the shrieks of Gillan, who wrote a lyric that, originally, was called, not very subtly, Prostitute. It was another big hit for the band, and sneaked into the British Top Ten, although its best-known version is the one that appears on the legendary Made In Japan from 1972.
The song that opened and gave title to the second album of their mythical line-up is proof of Paice's excellence as a drummer; it is also brutal in its strength and precision and foretold Thrash Metal. Not surprisingly, this was the album that changed Lars Ulrich's life, after he got hold of it the day after seeing them in 1973. It was also the song that inspired a young Yngwie Malmsteen to pick up a guitar, which again gives us proof of Blackmore being the forefather of all subsequent 'shredders'.
When A Blind Man Cries (1972)
As happened with the previous albums, Machine Head also had its advance single that, despite being recorded in the same sessions as the album, was not part of it. The only change is that this time I have opted for the song that appeared as a B-side. And it's not that I don't like the A-side - you have to remember that the band saw in Never Before more commercial appeal than classics like Smoke on the Water, Highway Star or Space Truckin' - it's just that the B-side, When A Blind Man Cries, is, quite simply, the most beautiful song of their career. Deep Purple were not very inclined to ballads, but here they embroidered it, with an exemplary Gillan and a feeling close to soul, with a great solo by Blackmore. In spite of that, the guitarist did not especially like the song and the band never played it live while he was there. The only occasion in which they did was on April 6, 1972, when Randy California replaced an ill Blackmore.
Highway Star (1972)
1972 was the great year of Deep Purple's career, because not only did they release their great masterpiece, Machine Head, but they also put out the glorious single we were talking about before and the most legendary live album of their career, Made In Japan. Suffice to say that they were in a state of creative frenzy, seeing how they composed one of the three best songs of their career. While they were traveling in the bus a journalist asked Blackmore how they composed songs, and without thinking he took an acoustic and started to play the riff of Highway Star, and soon Gillan began to improvise the melody and part of the lyrics. That same night they had already finished it and they played it for the first time live. It is the most powerful theme of the band and shows clearly the classical influences of its two main soloists, Jon Lord - who is inspired by baroque for his solo -, and Blackmore - who responds by mixing Johan Sebastian Bach with Hendrix. For many the definitive version is the one that appears on Made In Japan.
Smoke on the Water (1972)
The SONG - like this, in capital letters - of the band, built on one of the three riffs on which the cathedral of Heavy was built (along with Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love and Black Sabbath's Iron Man) and with lyrics referring to the fire at the Montreaux Casino, the place they had rented to record Machine Head, during a concert by Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention. The author of the mythical riff, Ritchie Blackmore, has declared on more than one occasion that it came from decomposing the beginning of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, although we don't believe that Ludwig's heirs are going to ask for any royalties for it...
Might Just Take Your Life (1974)
Mark II came to an end because of exhaustion (four albums in little more than three years and continuous touring) and because Blackmore wanted to get rid of Gillan, and also Glover. The guitarist was crazy about acquiring the services of Paul Rodgers, ex-Free, but the latter decided to go for his new band, Bad Company. In the end the chosen one was the unknown David Coverdale, who also had a more manly voice, and was joined by the also excellent vocalist Glenn Hughes, who also played bass. The first album of this new line-up was Burn, from 1974, and it was introduced with this brilliant piece. The song opens with a cool intro by Lord on organ, which is followed by Paice's superb drumming. By the time Coverdale's voice enters, it is perfectly understood why Blackmore wanted Paul Rodgers as singer, with Coverdale totally convincing in his new role.
The song that gave title to the eighth album of Deep Purple saw them flirting with ‘the fashionable style’ in those years, progressive rock, although seeing their legendary performance in the mythical California Jam festival (in which Blackmore destroyed three Strats and made a Marshall explode) it can be confirmed that these monsters of rock were light years away from the pedantry of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who were the other headliners at that festival where Black Sabbath, the Eagles, Rare Earth and Earth, Wind & Fire also played.