Deep Purple are probably the most likable of the hard rockin' bands. It's easy to picture people hating Metallica and Iron Maiden for being too heavy (or propagating Satan), Led Zeppelin for being too shriek-y, Black Sabbath for being too dark, van Halen for being too showy... Whatever. But it's hard to imagine a 'I hate Deep Purple' consortium, innit? From 16 year old school kids pretending to be metchul, to corporate uncles well into their 40s, sipping fine whisky - the appeal of the band is tremendous.
As far as favourite songs are concerned: Other bands may have points of contention - LZ2 or LZ4? Master of Puppets era or Load era? But for Purple, there really is no contest - in the 1969 - 1972 era, they were kings (the classic lineup of Gillan, Lord, Blackmore, Paice and Glover being called the Mark II lineup), producing music of such brilliance that it would not just immortalize them in the pantheons of great rock bands, but also act as a burden against which the rest of their catalog would forever be compared. And that burden sadly was never shaken off - 1973's Who Do We Think We Are? onwards has had it's moments of brilliance, particularly in the Coverdale era. But take anyone's top 10 Deep Purple song collection and - I'm willing to trade my Grados on this - majority of the songs will be made up from those three albums. More specifically, Machine Head, which stands with Led Zeppelin 4 and Paranoid as the holy trinity of British hard rock.
Post sporadic brilliance from the Coverdale era, the what-should-have-been-mind-blasting reunion of the Mark II lineup was nothing but. A couple of good songs later, the band was bickering, lineup changes happened again - and quite honestly, a once legendary band looked like a mess. Once Blackmore left the band, doom was predicted, but surprisingly (or perhaps not so much), they churned out their best albums post Machine Head with Abandon and Bananas, with Steve Morse doing a fabulous job replacing the legendary axeman.
Enough of history, now. So, what are the 20 songs I recommend you start off with?
(As always, videos from YouTube are linked)
20. Speed King: A few experimental albums (including an orchestral ones), left people thinking Deep Purple weren't really rockers. Their response was nothing short of VenkateshPrasadtoAamirSohailish. The first song on Deep Purple In Rock (which, like Kochi Tuskers Kerala - leaves no room for doubt as to their direction). What a perfect precursor to what the band was about to do in the next few years, this. The birth of the legendary Jon Lord-Ritchie Blackmore jugalbandhis started here for all practical purposes.
19. Bloodsucker: Immediately following Speed King in chronology, Purple make their intentions known. And that bloodcurdling scream at 0:23? Why, that's just Ian Gillan showing that he's one of the greatest vocalists in rock history. Of course, this vocal performance was just a warm-up to what comes next on the album - rated much, much higher on this list of course, so we'll get back to that later.
18. Fireball: Getting increasingly comfortable with their new hard rock avatar, the next album's title track sees a more refined effort. Ian Paice (the only constant Deep Purple member till date) makes his presence felt on the skins.
17. Hush: The most famous song from the early Deep Purple era, also the first song on their discography. In many ways shows what the band was about to do - lovely groove, shades of individual brilliance, cheeky lyrics. But they wouldn't do that chorus thing too many times. But you can't help loving that organ sound in there. (PS: The video is a slightly hard-rocky version. Check it out)
16. One More Rainy Day: Also from the same album comes this quite melodious sing-along. The highlight here once again is the chorus singing and Lord's organ work.
15. Anthem: Almost Elvis-like is Gillan on this track. But this song - again an early gem - belongs Lord who not just pulls of stellar organ work, but also orchestrates a string arrangement in the middle of the track.
14. The Spanish Archer: We're jumping a few years here - we're off to 1987's House Of Blue Light where this little ditty is buried. By this time, the Mark II reunion was hanging by a thread. All the more reason to admire these tracks - that this lineup could create such tracks in acrimony, that most other bands would struggle to create even in perfect friendship. Blackmore shines in this track - the outro and the haunting riff.
13. Hard Road (aka Wring That Neck): Unlike Pink Floyd - whose first few albums I consider rubbish - Deep Purple's first few albums are filled with hidden gems. Especially if you like keyboard-based rock. This was a band searching for direction, yes - but boy, did they sound good doing it. This is one of my favourite tracks from that era. It's an instrumental - so you get to hear Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore in all their blues-sexin' glory.
12. Soldier of Fortune: Deep Purple were as brilliant mellow as they were hard. And they've had the immense fortune to have two fantastic vocalists. The lesser known of those, David Coverdale owns this track. Totally. Sadly, the next album was considered one of their worst, and led to disbanding, before the Mark II era reunited with questionable success. But for most listeners - it starts with Speed King and ends with this, chronologically.
11. Lazy: With all the brilliance on either side of this track (see the track listing?), it's easy to ignore it - much like a newcomer in the 2000s Australian bowling lineup. That buildup. That riff of lazy elegance. That organ solo. That mouth organ. On any other album, it could have been a marquee track. The Stuart MacGill of Deep Purple's discography, this.
Okay, let's move on to the big guns now.
10. Burn: With the departure of one of the best vocalists in rock history, what could Deep Purple do? Answer: This song. Hello, David Coverdale. Also, hat-tip to some of Ian Paice's busiest drumming.
09. Stormbringer: My personal favourite of the Coverdale era. And why not? He sounds more a part of the band than ever before, and would not have been out of place on Machine Head. Dominating guitaring by Blackmore, and that wah-based organ riff.
08. Sail Away: Deep Purple is full of hidden gems - and you discover a new one with every listen. One such is this piece of brilliance from Burn - probably one of the best tracks in rock history that use two vocalists (of course, there was this minor classic). This is probably one of their grooviest tracks.
07. Space Truckin': Ian Gillan's interplanetary travelogue is blessed with some incredible songwriting and a monster riff. The album closer of their best album, it deserves no less. However, the Made In Japan version of this, a gargantuan 19-minute piece, is sheer organ orgasm.
06. Pictures of Home: Again suffering from the Stuart MacGill syndrome is this hidden gem, featuring my favourite lesser known Deep Purple riff. Also featuring a cute little hey-the-song-has-ended-haha-not-really moment.
05. Perfect Strangers: OMGOMGOMGBBQOMG! THE CLASSIC DEEP PURPLE LINEUP IS BACK! SURELY THAT MEANS ABSOLUTE PWNAGE OMGOMG! Well, not really. But atleast they had the good sense to leave us one absolute classic before slipping into mediocrity. And what a track they left us! No solo on this one, but. that. riff.
04. April: Remember how I said Deep Purple is full of hidden gems? Look no further than this. Songs like this just make you want to find the guy who first thought of putting blues to an electric guitar and proceed to blow him. Or buy him a beer.
03. Smoke On The Water: Yes yes, the track that everyone knows. But for a minute let's step back and appreciate the beauty of this track. Riff that every kid who buys a guitar will want to learn first? Check. Lyrics that are easy to follow and are funny? Check. Brilliant blues solo from one of the best guitarists of all time? Check. This had 'classic' written all over it. But it's all about that riff. So for all you Deep Purple geeks, here's Blackmore and Glover talking about the riff.
02. Aisa Zakhm Diya Hai: One of the biggest collaborations ever in the musical world, when director Mansoor Khan contacted his favourite band and asked them to score a piece for his Aamir Khan-Manisha Koirala strarrer, for which lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri penned his classic lyrics. No, really. Unless, of course, you're telling me that Anu Malik ripped off a song from the band. Now, that's just laughable. Ha!
Real 02. Child In Time: One website ranked this track the #1 most under-rated track of all time. I don't think that's quite right, for two reasons: 1. People who regularly listen to rock will definitely know of its existence and would have rated it high enough. 2. Casual listeners of rock would not be able to appreciate it enough. In that regard, maybe the more 'accessible' Pictures of Home would be underrated.
Anyhow, enough pfaff. I wish I could go on and on about this song, but I don't need to. Instead, I will provide this ratio that should about sum it up -
Shane Watson's 185 :: Australia's chase :: Ian Gillan : Child In Time #PureDominationEdition
One of the greatest vocal performances, ever. Which now brings us to ultimatepwnz0r of all Deep Purple tracks...
01. Highway Star: THE hard rock song. Mean machine-based lyrics. Adrenaline. Guitar. Organ. Running bassline. Muted rhythm guitar. Opening one of the greatest albums of all time. But the definitive moment of this track, and perhaps Purple's career - is between 3:46 and 5:05, where Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore launch into an astonishing, jaw-dropping synchronized solo that brings to mind images of Wasim and Waqar at their best tormenting English batsmen in tandem. Or Goscinny and Uderzo getting together to make glorious visual puns. Or Bischler-Napieralski's world-famous synthesis of 3,4-dihydroisoquinolines from the β-ethylamides of electron-rich arenes using condensation reagents such as P2O5, POCl3 or ZnCl2.
So there you have it. A few salient take-aways:
1. Top 20 Deep Purple Songs = Machine Head and friends.
2. A song I would have included at #21: Mitzee Dupree. What a fun song! Superb stuff from their 'decline' era.
3. Only at this point did I realise I forgot 'Black Night'. Lesson learnt: Look at all the albums, not just the studio version. I'd probably put it in at #7 or 8 or something. Sorry 'bout that. Sigh.
3. To all those narrow-minded idiots who think keyboards have no place in rock music, I have three words for you: Jon. Fucking. Lord.