DEEP PURPLE – ” Machine Head “

Posted: April 28, 2023 in CLASSIC ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Deep Purple’s “Fireball” was the second album recorded with the Mark II line-up. It was another No.1 hit in the UK, but despite its success there was a nagging feeling within the band that the best was yet to come. As 1971 drew to a close, it was time for a change of scene.

After four years, five albums and some line-up changes, Deep Purple finally hit their stride on ‘Machine Head.’ “Smoke on the Water” instantly made the Guitar Riff Hall of Fame, and the remainder of the record – especially the opening “Highway Star” – made the band one of the biggest on the planet. More records and more line-up changes over the years haven’t dulled the impact of ‘Machine Head.’

Roger Glover (bassist): We needed to make another record, and we’d become pretty successful, and accountants and lawyers and management said: “You know, if you record outside of England you pay a different tax rate.” And that’s the reason we were in Switzerland. It could have been Germany or France, anywhere as long as it was out of England. 

Jon Lord (keyboard player): We’d heard the Rolling Stones had a wonderful mobile studio, so we contacted them and we were able to get hold of that. And the reason we went to Montreux was because we were going to be in America at the end of 1971, but Ian Gillan got ill. It was hepatitis, I think – which was the disease to have at the time. 

“…Machine Head is a stroke of genius…Even if the Purple hadn’t recorded a note and “Machine Head” had been released as a 12” empty cardboard sleeve with that title on it, then that would have been enough”

Glover: “Highway Star” is the opening track on the album. Ritchie is the driving force behind this. He plays with such precision – that driving, machine-gun effect. I came up with the title and a couple of lines. Most of he song is Gillan’s, and everyone joined in on the arrangement. The thing that really impressed me when I first heard it again after so many years was Paicey is swinging – and we’re all playing straight. And that’s the essence of rock’n’roll. 

Bach goes heavy rock on the opening track from the classic album “Machine Head” by Deep Purple, released this month in 1972. Both Jon Lord’s organ solo and Richie Blackmore’s guitar solo borrow heavily from the arpeggiated baroque styling of the classical composer.

Blackmore: “I wrote that out note for note about a week before we recorded it. And that is one of the only times I have ever done that. I wanted it to sound like someone driving in a fast car, for it to be one of those songs you would listen to while speeding. And I wanted a very definite Bach sound, which is why I wrote it out—and why I played those very rigid arpeggios across that very familiar Bach progression—Dm, Gm, Cmaj, Amaj.

Ian Gillan (vocalist): “Fireball” gave us a chance to actually bring out what I always call the funk in the band, instead of just pure English rock. However, when we got to doing “Machine Head”, there was a lot of pressure to do what most people saw as a follow-up to “In Rock”. We’d got to get back to doing that rock stuff, and that was pretty much how we approached it. 

Jon Lord worked his part out to mine. The keyboard solo is quite a bit more difficult than mine because of all those 16th notes.

Blackmore: We did “Smoke On The Water” there, and the riff I made up in the spur of the moment. I just threw it together with Ian Paice. Roger Glover joined in. We went outside to the mobile unit and were listening back to one of the takes, and there was some hammering on the door. It was the local police, and they were trying to stop the whole thing because it was so loud. We knew that they were coming to close everything down. We said to Martin Birch, our engineer: “Let’s see if we have a take.” So they were outside hammering and taking out their guns… It was getting pretty hostile.

Blackmore: With “Space Truckin”’, I remember in the early sixties there was a TV series called Batman. And I had this riff that was similar to the theme tune, and I saw how simple that was. I came up with this riff and took it to Ian Gillan and said: “I have this idea and it’s so simple and so silly.” I went over into the corner and played it to him very quietly – I was very shy – and he grasped it immediately, and said: “I think we can use it.” And that turned into “Space Truckin’

Paice: My favourite track rhythmically on “Machine Head” is “Space Truckin’, because of its solidity and simplicity – it’s about the only time Ritchie played block Chuck Berry chords, four to the bar.

Over the years, I’ve always played that solo note for note—again, one of the few where I’ve done that—but it just got faster and faster onstage because we would drink more and more whiskey. Jon would have to play his already difficult part faster and faster and he would get very annoyed about it.”

Ritchie Blackmore – guitar, Ian Gillan – vocals, Roger Glover – bass, Jon Lord – keyboards, Hammond organ, Ian Paice – drums, percussion

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