Monday, April 07, 2008

Have We Got Our Freedom? No, No, No.

This blurb in Saturday's New York Times surprised me. Seeing Deep Purple’s 1973 hit “Smoke on the Water” at the top of a poll of greatest guitar riffs of all time was a shocker.

Don't get me wrong. I was a huge fan of the band... HUGE! But it started when I was about 12 or 13 which is not always a good omen (a couple of years earlier I was really into the Partridge Family and during the Deep Purple days I was fanatical about Three Dog Night!) and I always thought the band appealed to me for some inexplicable reason aside from simply possessing talent. They had what I thought was a pretty unique sound at the time. Raw, gritty and tribal. I also think the very heavy use of the organ set them apart from most of the other bands I liked.

One thing about Deep Purple that always made me categorize them as a 2nd tier band was that I wasn't equally fond of every album they released. If I recall correctly, Machine Head was the first album I bought, and I remember where I bought it: in the very small album rack at the "dime store" in my home town. I think I paid $4.97 for it. I just remember being thrilled to see something in the rack that I wanted as opposed to something like The Carpenters.

I'd heard earlier Deep Purple music on the radio and I'm not sure if I'd even heard "Smoke on the Water" when I bought the LP. That would soon change of course, and it was never my favorite song of theirs by any stretch of the imagination. I was frequently a bit befuddled by which songs on an LP became "hits" and rarely did it sync up with what I considered to be the best. I guess that's one reason why my record collection never included any "Greatest Hits" LPs although one could make the argument that Fleetwood Mac's Rumours was a collection of greatest hits even if it wasn't marketed as such. But I digress.

I later expanded my collection of Deep Purple LPs to include Fireball, In Rock, Burn, Who Do We Think We Are, Made in Japan, Come Taste the Band (absolutely hideous album art!), and Stormbringer.

And honestly, I can scarcely remember any tunes from any of those latter five albums. In Rock was pretty good but again, it would not have ranked in my list of desert island faves. Which leaves us with Fireball.

Great balls of fire that was HOT! I loved every damn song on the album, had to listen to them from start to finish as if it were one long piece and I would revisit this album in my college years and fall in love all over again.

The title track which was the first track on the LP came on so hard so fast it would always cause the needle to skip on my crappy turntable. I finally learned to put a penny on the tonearm to help steady it -- a technique which sometimes, but not always, worked for the opening track on Alice Cooper's Killer, a tune called "Under My Wheels." (Drums might be the culprit.)

Anyhow, after reading about the music poll of greatest riffs in rock & roll, it got me thinking about my favorite Deep Purple album and I found a video clip of them performing "No, No, No" live in 1971. As a young teenager I was dismayed that I never got to see any of my favorite bands so it thrills me now when I find a vintage clip.

"Looking at them all it feels good to be a freak."

Crossposted at Big Brass Blog

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