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Album Talk – Deep Purple ‘Machine Head’


Music genres and their sub-genres have an ever-evolving pattern. Rock music is said to have the most sub-genres. One of them being heavy metal which was said to have originated from hard rock pioneered by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple.

Deep Purple is one of the granddaddies of hard rock. The band has inspired many acts and artists with some path-breaking songs and albums. The album ‘Machine Head’ by the band is a monster of an album even by today’s standards and features some of the biggest hits in rock music history.

To discuss this superb album for this week’s Album Talk, I called up fellow cowboy and musicpedia Narendra Kusnur one early morning at 11.30 am!

Note: Language may be altered to suit the platform’s requirements.

Me: One of the ‘unholy trinity of rock music’, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple.

Kusnur: They were the founders of hard rock which eventually became heavy metal.

Me: ‘Machine Head’ must be one of their most successful albums.

Kusnur: In that phase, yes. This album featured the ‘Mark II’ line up which consisted of vocalist Ian Gillan, Roger Glover on bass, Jon Lord on the keyboard, drummer Ian Paice and of course the great Ritchie Blackmore on the guitar. This was also Deep Purple’s most successful line up which released four albums during this phase, ‘Deep Purple in Rock’, ‘Fireball’, ‘Machine Head’, and ‘Who Do We Think We Are’.

Me: Which album featured ‘When A Blind Man Cries’?

Kusnur: It wasn’t on ‘Machine Head’ but they included it in the anniversary edition of the album.

Me: I always thought it was on this album.

Kusnur: No, no. They used to play it in their live shows but apparently, Blackmore didn’t really like the song. It was Blackmore who decided the setlist so they hardly played it. But after he left the band, Deep Purple played it regularly.

Me: It’s a good song.

Kusnur: Unlike ‘Child In Time’ it doesn’t slow down the tempo. Of course ‘Child In Time’ is a different monster altogether.

Me: And a certain music director made a Frankenstein out of it.

(search for ‘Child In Time’ Bollywood version, that’s if you don’t know it already!)

Me: This album had two singles, ‘Smoke On The Water’ and ‘Never Before’.

Kusnur: ‘Never Before’ is a slightly commercial track and that is why they released it as the first single.

Me: It is a short song.

Kusnur: Ya and a bit ‘poppier’ if I may say. If you look at the other songs on this album, Deep Purple have experimented a lot in all of them. ‘Highway Star’ is about sheer tempo. I don’t think anyone can match Ian Paice’s drumming in this song. Also the guitars, vocals everything.

Me: It doesn’t slow down at all.

Kusnur: It doesn’t, not many songs can match up to it. Maybe Zeppelin’s ‘Rock n Roll’. It was not an easy song to perform while ‘Never Before’ was easier to play and on the ears too. The second single was ‘Smoke On The Water’.

Me: It was about their experience while recording the song, the casino going up in flames, and other accidents.

Kusnur: They were at a concert in Switzerland where Frank Zappa was the last performing act. At the beginning of Don Preston’s synthesizer solo on “King Kong”, the place suddenly caught fire when somebody in the audience fired a flare gun at the ceiling.

Me: Hence the line “some stupid with a flare gun”.

Kusnur: Yes. They were sitting far away from the stage but they could see the smoke over the waters of Lake Geneva.

Me: So the name of the song ‘Smoke On The Water’. The most cryptic song on this album is ‘Space Truckin’’.

Kusnur: These three are the biggest hits from the album. They are performed at almost all their concerts and will also be a part of 9/10 Deep Purple fans’ playlist. On ‘Space Truckin’’ they were experimenting with sci-fi and space sounds and all.

Me: It might not have sounded that great in the studio but it worked out well. Even the lyrics,

“We’re Space Truckin’ Round The Stars
Come On Let’s Go Space Truckin’”

Kusnur: One of my picks from this album is ‘Lazy’, it has a superb intro. Blackmore is totally in his element.

Me: I think it is the longest song on the album and has a pretty long intro too.

Kusnur: It’s a very artistic song, not very radio-friendly.

Me: It’s a song aimed at critical acclaim, no wonder you like it. The music critic in you must be delighted. I really like ‘Pictures From Home’ from this album.

Kusnur: That is my second pick. It’s beautifully made. The band was so balanced during this lineup.

Me: One can make out the difference in the sound between the ‘Mark II’ line up and the rest.

Kusnur: Inspite of having giants like Blackmore, Jon Lord’s contribution was as much as others. Ian Paice and Ian Gillan were greats in their own rights. Though people don’t appreciate the bassist much, the kind of work Roger Glover has done on this album is phenomenal.

Me: We have spoken about the undervaluing of bassists earlier too. What was ‘Maybe I’m a Leo’ about? It was written by Glover.

Kusnur: I think it was written for Gillan whose star sign is Leo.

Me: The riffs to this song are fairly similar to Lennon’s ‘How Do You Sleep’.

Kusnur: Lennon had written this song as a dig against Paul McCartney after The Beatles split.

Me: So the ‘diss track’ tradition dates back to rock music and not the new age rappers.

deep purple

Do you know any more rock songs which were made to take a dig at someone?

Let us know.

Until Then, Adios! Amigos!!

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