In the last week, we lost another of those modern music legends, this time Jon Lord, one of the founding members of the legendary band Deep Purple. While this band is probably best remembered for one song, Smoke On The Water which has become such a monster smash, my favourite Deep Purple song is Black Night, the first of today’s two featured songs.
This video was posted to You Tube by oiesoudou
I have often said here with my music posts that you hear a remembered song, and it can take you back to a place and time when you first noticed that particular song, and again, this is another of those cases where a remembered song ‘takes you back’.
When a young man is in his late teens/early twenties, there are three important things in his life. His Mother, his first love and his first car, and not necessarily in that particular order. The Mother aspect is always with him, even if he doesn’t realise it fully, and the other two, first love and first car, are almost always linked together.
At the time this song was first released in June of 1970, I was a member of the Royal Australian Air Force, and I was stationed at a base in the State of Queensland. That base was (relatively) close to my home, and every weekend I would go home. I had my first car, a 1969 Toyota Corolla, a small car, which I purchased new off the Showroom floor barely eight months before. At the time I also had a girlfriend, who became my first love, even though I had a couple of girlfriends prior to this, but I didn’t know real love until I fell in love with this young lady.
So, having a car made that process a little easier. She lived close to where our family did, and I met her through our local Church Youth Group.
At this time I remember this particular song from, I was fortunate to win $300 in a small on base lottery for a social club. With the money, i purchased 5 new tyres for my car, in fact some Michelin XAs Radials, the state of the art car tyre at the time. I also had enough left over to purchase a radio for my car. This was in the days before cassette players became standard items, and in fact, quite a few cars came without even radios, as did my new Corolla. The radio was a good one and was mounted on a bracket under the centre area of the front dash, and had two speakers as well. This was even at a time when radio in Australia was just transmitted on the AM band, as FM radio was still ten years away. Even so, few radio stations transmitted on a 24 hour basis, as most closed down for the night around Midnight to 1AM.
I was an electrical ground crew tradesman in the Air Force at this time and I was posted to a Flying Squadron. We were at the end of a localised military exercise with another squadron, and that entailed night operations as well as normal daylight operations. Because it was under exercise conditions, hours were not rigid, and this was the last day of the ten day exercise. I was out on the flight line for this last night, and while the last of the aircraft landed at around 2.30AM, we, as ground crew, had to complete the aircraft refuelling, all the After Flight checks and then ‘bed down’ the aircraft for the night with all their covers.
So, by the time we actually finished work it was 3.30AM. We walked back to our rooms, showered and most of the guys went off to bed. As it was the last day of the exercise, we had the following day off, and as this was a Friday, that meant we effectively all had a ‘long weekend’.
With my home barely an hour and a half away, I tossed some clothes in a bag, and set off for home.
It was cold, in the middle of Winter in late July. The main road to my home took me almost into the State Capital city Brisbane, and then South to the Gold Coast where I lived. Because of this, that road was usually crowded during the normal peak periods when we usually drove it, late on Fridays normally, and the highway South was always packed with traffic, so, those of us who did travel from the Base to the Gold Coast had found a way home that was not so jam packed with traffic. It was through the back roads, and even though it was a little longer by around ten miles, it was always quicker to go this way than down the main highway.
So, at just on 4AM on this cold Friday morning I took off home and travelled down this back way, even quicker then at 4AM.
I finally found one radio station that was broadcasting and immediately following the 4AM news, the announcer introduced one of his regular sessions where he would play a whole album. A nice little ploy really, as he didn’t have to keep interrupting at the end of each song to give the time, station ID etc.
On this morning, the album that he featured was the new album that was selling well at the time, by the English band Deep Purple, that album being Deep Purple in Rock. As an introduction for the album, he played the song that was released as the single to support the album, oddly, that single not actually one of the songs on that album. That introductory song was this one I have featured today, Black Night.
There I was, driving in the cold through darkened back roads with this wonderful song playing loudly on my new car radio. Following that, he played the whole album, both sides, and then to fill out the time until the next news break at the top of the hour, 5AM, he played Black Night again.
I had heard the song being played many times on the radio, as it was fast becoming a hit here in Australia, but it was always just background music on the radio, and I had never paid particular attention to it before. I enjoyed most of the music at the time, but this song, at this particular time, and at this particular place impressed the song into my mind, and from that point forward, whenever I hear this one song it takes mt that that particular place on the cold Winter morning in the dark, on those back roads to home.
So, this week, when I heard how Jon Lord had passed away, I immediately remembered this one song.
Jon Lord was one of the three original members of the band, with Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Paice. The second lineup was the most successful when Ian Gillen and Roger Glover joined the band.
Lord was trained on the classical piano from the age of five, so he had an extensive musical background, which he utilsed as he moved towards Jazz, and The Blues.
With Deep Purple, Lord was one of the very early innovators with modern rock music. He was one of those early keyboard players from noted bands at the time to use Hammond Organs, now becoming popular with some of these big bands. He improvised with sound from the Hammond, and amplified that sound through a big Marshall amplifier setup. What this did most effectively was to bring keyboards almost on a par with electric guitar music, as it now had that distinct loud, and almost growling sound. With famed guitarist Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, Lord then moved in a new direction with keyboards as he used the play and reply method, where Blackmore would play a lead section on guitar, and then Lord would reply with a lead section on his Hammond.
As I mentioned, Lord was classically trained and he was one of the first of the big rock bands at the time to perform with his band, and also a full orchestra, even to the point of composing his own classical piece, and playing that with the band, and also an orchestra.
Their major hit at the time was today’s featured song, Black Night, and nearly every record collection at that time had a copy of their Deep Purple in Rock album, with that iconic cover of the band members etched into the rock in a similar fashion to what is seen on Mount Rushmore.
I couldn’t let any mention of Deep Purple pass without featuring that monster song of theirs Smoke On The Water, and that is the second of the featured songs for today.
This video was posted to You Tube by shaymcn3
This song features that guitar riff from Ritchie Blackmore that nearly every guitarist learns as their first riff.
The song itself is actually self explanatory, and is based on actual happenings.
Deep Purple rented a mobile recording van from The Rolling Stones, and were setting up to record their new album, the huge Machine Head. They were in the city of Montreux Switzerland on Lake Geneva. The van was using the facilities of the Montreux Casino. At that time, the band Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention were playing at the casino. One of the people in the audience let off a flare gun, and the resultant flames caught the ceiling on fire, and the Casino was burnt to the ground.
Hence we have smoke on the water(s) of Lake Geneva, and fire in the sky, and the biographical lyrics of the song itself.
This song features another example of the classic ‘ask and reply’ interplay between Blackmore on guitar and Lord on the Hammond.
So, while this legendary band has now long gone, we have a list of their wonderful songs, and these are the two that we most remember from this band.
Vale Jon Lord.