Week 12 : 25th March 1972 : Machine Head is 45 years old

Accompany music : Smoke on the Water

As you will have seen this blog, is running about 3 weeks behind the album date, due to outside circumstances whether its the work or social life or a lack of materials or music. The delay gives a little time to plan (I always have two blogs playing in my head at same time, and probably designs for the creative elements of the next two) and also recover after a mistake. I had planned out week 12 meticulously, created a stonking pop-up and was about to write a post regarding live albums and the wonders of ACDC…. the only problem was I had the wrong date completely. So hopefully ACDC will follow later into the year.

So I had to come up with a replacement and Deep Purple Machine Head became an obvious choice. I could make a card easily and I had a copy….. or I thought I had. Searched high and low and couldn’t find it, so ended up buying a new vinyl copy to play. It was the night of a Mr Draytons record Player (For reference it was Arctic Monkeys) and as usual people ask about what I have bought, sharing the ACDC/Deep Purple mix up story with a friend Christian we discuss the grand British Hard Rock/Metal trio of Sabbath, Zeppelin and Purple and wondered why neither of us had that much Deep Purple.

I was kind of stumped by this. I have all the Led Zeppelin albums and all the Sabbath albums that appear in the timeline below. But I have only ever owned 4 Deep Purple albums. In Rock, Machine Head, Made in Japan and Perfect Strangers. All three bands are so influential to the music that becomes British Heavy Metal, all brought out influential albums and created tracks with amazing unforgettable riffs that are amazing to air guitar to and impossible not to hum along to. All this starts late 60’s/early 70’s.

I am going to take us back to week 7 blog about Black Sabbath debut and the birth of Heavy Metal and start adding Zeppelin and Purple to the mix. We will go into Zeppelin in much more detail in a later. For now I will concentrate on the period 1968 when all three bands emerged to 1972 (Purples Machine Head). I have created a  timeline detailing their albums and some of my favourite tracks which happen to have one distinct feature, Amazing riffs.

Lets start in 1968, all three bands form in one way or another. Deep Purple release their first albums of mainly Psychedelic music but contains a version of the song Hush. By 1969, Zeppelin release their first two albums with tracks such as Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, Dazed and Confused and Ramble On, taking Blues rock to a far more heavier place. Purple are experimenting with orchestral pieces.

As you may have seen in the week 7 post, Black Sabbath thunder into the scene in 1970, release their debut (with their eponymous track and NIB creating that heavy metal sound), closely followed by Paranoid (with the classic title track, Iron Man, War Pigs). The third Led Zeppelin album appears with the small but loud Immigrant Song and the heavy blues of Since Ive Been Loving You. Deep Purple release ‘In Rock’ which starts to define their sound to a harder edge with tracks BlackNight, Speed King and Child In Time. This coincides with the reshaping of the band and the creation of the classic Deep Purple Mark II. Featuring Blackmore (Guitar), Glover (Bass), Paice (Drums), Lord (Keyboards) and Gillan (vocals). This 5 piece would help shape rock for the next 3 years.

In 1971, all three bands again bring out albums, Led Zepelin IV will become an all time classic mainly due to Stairway to Heaven, but also the other high quality tracks such as Misty Mountain Hop, Black Dog and Rock in Roll. Sabbath release Masters Of Reality with the stunning Children of The Grave on it. Meanwhile Deep Purple release Fireball with the explosive title track and the mercurial hard blues of Strange Kind Of Women.

So we reach 1972, Sabbath release Vol IV with Wheels of Confusion and Snowblind and Zeppelin have their first year off. Purple meanwhile have been through a turbulent process in 1971 on Lake Geneva recording their Machine Head album which is released on the 25th March 1972.

Starting with one of my favourite Deep Purple tracks, after the initial warm up, this track delivers exactly what the title Highway Star promises. That build up of acceleration at the start of guitar, bass and drums is built upon my Lords keyboards and Gillians first screams. The whole drive of the song is that of power and speed, with the stop start riffs and screamed choruses seem to add bursts of acceleration. Blackmores solo at the end, on top of Paices constant powerful beat gives the impetus to race towards the chequered flag. Maybe, Im a Leo is a lovely little downbeat track featuring a big blues riff, a great vocal performance by Gillan and opportunity for all the band whether it be Blackmore, Glover, Lord or Paice to show their skills.

Pictures of Home, Paices drumroll seem to ignite a sweeping rock track which seems to float on amazing Hammond organs, driven by drums and Blackmores guitar. Gillans vocals take on a progressive/psychedelic feel. Lords and then Glovers solos are excellent as well as Blackmoors stop start solo. Never Before, starts with disjointed blues riff but it is given urgency by Gillans vocals. The choruses are very 70’s pop/rock whilst the harmonised bridge is a nice surprise. Once again the combination of Blackmores guitar and Lords Keyboards add so much passion and groove to this song.

So side 2, and Smoke On The Water. That unmistakable legandary guitar riff is given enough space on its own to sink in, rising in volume with drums and keyboard. But its Glovers bass line that moves the song on and makes this one of the best intro’s of all time. Once we get into the verses, its brilliant storytelling of the problems of making of this album. Lords Hammond organ plays alongside Gillans vocals, and solid bass and drums throwing fills. The returning riff is never far away at the end of each verse. Blackmores solo drifts backwards and forwards, sometimes intersecting with the other musicians but mostly not. I love the breakdown at the end where confines of the riff are lost. This song is played far too much (almost too comfortable with it) but it is epic.

Church like organ heralds Lazy, changing into  pulses and distortion. Soon the keyboard is exchanging notes with guitar, and then Blackmore is away with a jaunty blues riff, supported by Hammond organ, and stepping out bass and driving drums. It takes about 4 minutes for Gillans first vocals and harmonica to appear. Its a track that swings right to the end.

This album is bookended by two great driving tracks. Space Truckin is just a little bit madder. Big bass line up front, joined by power drums and chugging keyboards and guitar. The verses have an awesome huge riff which all components play their part to create. Gillan really lets himself go in this track, whether its the powerful menacing vocals in verses or the choruses that get more shouty and then screamy at we reach the crescendo at the almost hypnotic end.

And there we have it, stunning musicianship and vocals abound. Its interesting that the thing most people know about this album, is that opening riff of Smoke on the Water. It is so much bigger than that, riffs play a huge part in this album,. Blackmore of course is epic at creating catchy bone-crunching riffs in tracks such as Highway Star but then can experiment at will on a blues riff or spiral off into his own world on a solo. The role of Lords keyboards especially the Hammond organ creates a stunning backdrop creating the mood and groove of this album. Paices drumming is powerful, driving tracks along but also delivering clever fills when required. Glovers bass does the same, as I said above the bass line in Smoke of the Water moves that track along, like so much on the album. Every so often, you can catch little pieces where the bass trickery hiding in the mix. Finally Gillans stunning vocals are measured when they need to be or at Gale Force 9 when expected.

So why have I not got more into more Deep Purple. To be honest I think its possibly because the classic Mark II period didn’t last much longer. There is only one more studio album with Gillan and Glover in this period, Who Do We Think We Are. Until they come back for Perfect Strangers in the 1980’s. I have brought the majority of Mark II albums but never really felt enthused to explore early or later reincarnations. There are some great tracks but there isn’t the consistency I would like. It says it all, that many years later I saw modern Purple play without of course Blackmore and Lord (Morse and Airey took their place). It was nice, but very safe and we walked out before the end. It just didn’t feel right…. now Rainbow thats a different story

Alright, my replacement card project turned out to be very easy. At Christmas I created a series of cards based on Christmas based themed place names in America. Of course there was a north pole, a santa claus, a reindeer hills and half a dozen places named Christmas. But there was also an elf and an eggnog. I  looked for a map of the area, with the name highlighted, cropped the picture and then added it to the front of the card. I then added an appropriate christmas item to the front above the place name creating a quirky yuletime card.

So for Deep Purple, I took the most played classic element of this album and used the same methodology as above. I searched for a map section of Lake Geneva in Switzerland with the city of Montreux highlighted. This was cropped, printed onto write card and cut out leaving a small white border. This is stuck onto a purple card. A purple pin is printed, cut out and stuck using an adhesive riser above Montreux. Above this the opening chords to Smoke on the Water are stuck in the same way. So we have a map with the riff attached to this… maybe this can become a trend…. Johnny be Goode riff in Lousiana anyone.

Billy (aged 4 at time of album release)


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