Going Bananas with Deep Purple’s Steve Morse
April 30, 2004
By Matthew Shapiro
When most music fans hear the name Deep Purple, undoubtedly the opening riff of “Smoke on the Water” immediately pops into mind. The song was inspired by a Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention concert that went awry and burned down a Switzerland casino the night before Deep Purple was set to record there. It has become one of rock’s greatest anthems, containing one of the most identifiable riffs in rock history. Listeners who are only familiar with “Smoke on the Water” probably do not realize that over the last 35 years Deep Purple has been among the most experimental, innovative, and jam oriented bands on the global rock scene. The band’s sound combines straight ahead rock along with a myriad of influences including classical and jazz. Not only have they helped lay the foundation for hard rock and heavy metal, but were also a major influence on progressive “art rock” bands such as Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer and Yes. The band continues to influence many of today’s alternative and jambands (recent Deep Purple covers include “Hush” which was a 1998 hit for Kula Shaker and “Maybe I’m a Leo” which was included on Gov’t Mule’s “From The Deep End, Volume 1” and featured Purple Bassist Roger Glover who has appeared with the Mule several times on stage). Deep Purple is now on their eighth line up, but continue to put out solid albums while relentlessly touring the world, delivering shows that remain wildly experimental.
Deep Purple was founded in 1968 in England by Ian Paice (drums), Jon Lord (organ), Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), Nick Simper (bass) and Rod Evans (vocals). The initial lineup was together a little over a year. In that short time they released three albums that blended originals with psychedelic-flavored covers of artists ranging from the Beatles (‘Help’), to Neil Diamond (‘Kentucky Women’) and Ike and Tina Turner (‘River Deep-Mountain High’). ‘Hush’ was the band’s first major hit. The Joe South cover, reached number four on the U.S. pop charts in 1968, long before they garnered success in their native land. It was an unusual pop hit as it featured a ninety second organ solo, which was unheard of at the time. It was clear from the get go that Deep Purple was not going to be your run of the mill three chord rock ‘n’ roll band.