Ramblin’ on: Deep Purple and the State of Music

Adele’s new album broke records and that is one of the best music related news I’ve heard in ages.

Genre-wise, Adele’s music is as far removed from my tastes as possible, but like millions of us out there I am in awe of her voice. And her personality — or at least her public personality. Seeing her successful makes me happy, because that is the only way we are going to get rid of non-music occupying the music industry.

But I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about Deep Purple.

I saw Deep Purple for the seventh time last night at The O2 in London.

(As much as I admire what they’ve done with the venue after the Millenium Dome fuck-up, I think it’s a horrible place for gigs as it is devoid of any atmosphere whatsoever. But that’s for another story.)

Deep Purple are my favourite band in the world. Ever since my dad bought me a double-CD anthology of theirs back in late 90s, saying I was now old enough to appreciate their music (I was 15 or 16 at the time), I have been obsessed with the band. I haven’t gone bootleg-crazy on them, but there is a sizable portion of my music collection dedicated to everything Deep Purple and the family of bands they’ve spawned.

Last night the band proved, to me at least, why they deserve such an accolade: being a “subjective greatest band ever”. The band are so loose on stage, yet they are so tight. Having played for decades (on and off) means they know every bum note each of them plays and every stroke of genius that is followed by that bum note. And they adjust so effortlessly that you can sense the calmness and camaraderie underneath the scary technical abilities they all possess.

The songs … well, they are classics. Perhaps no Deep Purple song other than “Smoke on the Water” has entered public consciousness, but for rock fans — and for the fans of the band like myself — there is a cornucopia of phenomenal music buried deep in their back catalogue. Last night the band freely chose some of the more obvious ones — and some less obvious. Although they have played “Hard Lovin’ Man” before, it is still refreshing to hear a gem like that live when you see your favourite band for the seventh time.

They played some newer stuff too, particularly from their most recent album Now What?!. “Vincent Price”, the single from that said album, sounds as wacky and heavy as it did when they played it in Roundhouse last year and the band were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

I don’t know if any uninitiated would have been converted right there and then — this wasn’t a special moment in their history. Just another gig among the thousands they’ve played over the years. But it was so good and worth the money and the time that you spent that it made me think — how could any band top this? Subjectively, of course. What Deep Purple means to me is probably similar to what someone else feels about Adele — and that’s absolutely fine.

One thing to note, however, is that once Deep Purple call it a day — and they soon will — are there any bands that will take their place?

No.

Musicians don’t get to become as ingrained in public consciousness with their songs as the likes of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, or Black Sabbath did back in the day. The cultural shifts that these bands, and their predecessors, have started cannot be replicated because of the immediate decay of art these days. That’s not a particularly negative thing per se — it’s just the way things are at the moment.

But music will not die once these bands decide to spend their retirement in their beach homes, away from the spotlight (literally and figuratively) and listening to a world less loud than they are used to. There are some very good bands that have the potential, talent, and the drive to equal or one-up the greats. Whether they will (or can) is speculation, of course. But saying they can’t is delusional.

Examples? That will be the subject of the next post. :)