Why Deep Purple have not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…

To know why Deep Purple matter, you just have to listen to the blistering, gonzoid opening of Speed King.

If you can, do it now. This was 1970 – when people still thought Roger Whittaker was edgy. Nearly 42 years later, it’s still as joyful an explosion of noise as you will ever hear. Released just after Led Zeppelin 2 and Black Sabbath’s debut, Purple were the third of the Great Originators of hard rock. Where Sabbath were wonderfully sludgy, and Zeppelin in thrall to the blues, Purple were flashy and turbo-charged. For my part, I was three months old, and failed to persuade my mum to buy me a copy of the classic “In Rock” album upon release.

I had to wait fourteen years, when the reforming of Deep Purple made a huge impression on the minds of about 0.5% of the UK, with the rest wondering “who are Deep Purple?” if they noticed it at all.

It was big news for me because a friend was a big fan, and had a ticket for the Concert Of The Decade at Knebworth Park.

I didn’t have a ticket. But I did know the “Black Night” song that Laser 558 played late at night. My friend was insistent that this was Big News, and lent me Purple’s comeback album “Perfect Strangers” which I agreed to give a go on the condition that:

  1. It was going to be better than the last album he lent me: the (in my mind) hippy warblings of Rush, and
  2. It had songs on it like Black Night.

When Stuart told me “Mark Two” was best and “Mark One” not worth bothering with, it took me a while to realise he was talking about the Band’s line up, and not Ford Escorts.

One-time Guinness World Record holders of “Loudest Pop Band”, the reformed Purple was the classic Mark Two line up of Ian Gillan, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Roger Glover and Ian Paice.

English: Deep Purple, December 1, 1970 Nieders...
Gillan does his dalek impression little realising the image would end up in Wikipedia

Gillan, who played Jesus in the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical had a Christ-like impact on the band’s popularity. Purple had been a rather lifeless prog rock band until Gillan raised it from its sick bed.

Unfortunately the role of Messiah had already been taken by The Temperamental Ritchie Blackmore, a man who could start an argument in an empty room.

Blackmore’s solution to his inability to get on with his lead singer was to sack him after four albums and get two lead singers to replace him: the mk. 3 line up of David Coverdale (later of Whitesnake) and Glenn Hughes (later of Sabbath and er, KLF).

Having two lead singers to argue with was initially enjoyable for the famously moody Blackmore, but he eventually decided you could have too much of a good thing. He left the band to form Rainbow in order to exact his revenge upon all lead singers in a Miss Havisham-esque period during which he broke the hearts of more lead singers than Paula Yates and Patsy Kensit combined.

The reformed mk. 2 line up famously wrote the song “Smoke On The Water” after Frank Zappa burned down the casino at Montreaux after his flares caught fire a flare set the building alight. Famously easy to learn how to play, this famous riff has subsequently been played badly in more guitar shops than any other and cemented the band’s place in rock history.

In retrospect, Perfect Strangers was actually a decent comeback album. The title track was good in a Kashmir sort of way and the lead single Knocking on your Back Door had a killer introduction. The rest was certainly far better than anyone had any right to expect from a band whose best days were supposed to have passed a decade before.

Given the success and popularity of contemporaries Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath in the last few years, it is odd how the popularity of Deep Purple is roughly where that of Phil Collins would have been had he left Genesis to become a phone-hacking News of the World journalist and part-time MP.

Their 1985 comeback tour was the second highest grossing tour of the year behind Bruce Springsteen, and their influence on rock music up until grunge was palpable. Certainly more so than Black Sabbath, who were tremendously unfashionable even within rock circles until Nirvana adapted their riffs…

Deep Purple however? They don’t even garner a mention in the current Rolling Stone Album Guide and still await induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame – 18 years after they became eligible. They influenced the likes of Iron Maiden and Metallica not to mention a hundred hair metal bands – and perhaps there’s the rub. When you are held partly responsible for unleashing a hundred hair metal bands, perhaps people are not yet ready to forgive and forget.

Record #19: Deep Purple – Knocking on your Back Door


9 responses to “Why Deep Purple have not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…”

  1. 80smetalman Avatar

    I always thought Perfect Strangers was a decent album and I saw them live in 85. They were phenomal and I give an account of it in Rock And Roll Children. The reason why they’re not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is that they’re not Duran Duran enough.


    1. simon robinson Avatar
      simon robinson

      The reason is they refuse to be inducted as a heavy metal band! Or that the list is chosen by people who write Rolling Stone. Or that Blackmore refused to join the others for the award so nobody got to go. Take your pick!


      1. 80smetalman Avatar

        Probably all of the above!


  2. KamerTunesBlog (by Rich Kamerman) Avatar

    Great write-up. I’ve wondered for years why Deep Purple has been largely ignored, not just by the ridiculous Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame but by radio and critics as well. Not only did they have some amazing musicians in their ranks throughout their various lineups (with Ian Paice being a particular favorite of this drummer), but they’ve recorded some amazing songs that have never gotten any wide exposure. It seems like their output has been reduced to a handful of “classic rock” songs. Even a nomination for the Hall Of Fame would raise their profile, which should be up there with their contemporaries (Zeppelin and Sabbath, as you mentioned above), but they really should be a no-brainer for induction.


    1. every record tells a story Avatar

      Completely agree! They must be the most long-standing and high profile omission out there…too bad Blackmore just bit the head off his lead singers rather than off bats and mudsharks…


      1. KamerTunesBlog (by Rich Kamerman) Avatar

        I love your point about Blackmore biting off the heads of his singers. Very funny AND true. Four other long-standing, high-profile artists who deserve HoF recognition…all of whom started their careers at around the same time as Deep Purple…are Yes, King Crimson, Jethro Tull and Chicago. All of them have gone through numerous lineup & stylistic changes, had success over a long period of time and have influenced countless musicians. In Chicago’s case, they lost some credibility because of their pop success, but their first 7-8 records are pretty groundbreaking. Otherwise, the fact that these artists have been overlooked is baffling to me. (Then there’s Rush, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Stevie Ray Vaughan, etc. The list goes on & on).


  3. Simon Avatar

    Ok. here goes…
    Hammersmith Odeon 1986. Motley Crue Theatre of Pain tour. Me and a friend had row DD tickets which were second row from the back in the stalls. Having been to many gigs at the Odeon and noticed the near stormtrooper like behaviour of the security we were resigned to watching the show from those seats. Indeed we watched the support (an excellent Cheap Trick) from those same seats. But as mentioned, having been to many shows at the venue, we came up with a plan to get to the very front. During the interval there were Ice cream sellers at various points in the venue. One being right down at the front. Convincing a bouncer we wanted refreshment we managed to get down to the front, and timing it to perfection (just as the lights went down for the main act) managed to stay there as in the melee of the main band coming on, the bouncers wisely retreated assuming naturally, that those at the front were meant to be there! result.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Great work – a textbook manoeuvre. The old “ice-cream dodge”. I recently saw someone try this at the O2 Arena, where there is a bar in the standing area. It failed miserably – so kudos to you. For those about to rock… We salute you!


  4. Carlos Avatar

    The reason is simple: bands like Deep Purple, Genesis (they have been inducted just by the 80’s era…), Yes, Gentle Giant, Frank Zappa are the result of the 70’s way of thinking, a very strange decade when complicated (not just virtuosic) bands were successful. That is not going to happen again, never, Deep Purple and Progressive bands will have recognition within 50 years among cult people and specialists in XX century music, overtaking the 99% of the rest of bands that have recognition today, which will be forgotten, but the massive success of ELP, Deep Purple or King Crimson will not repeat until 50 or 100 or 500 years, very rare thing.

    Anyway, we know how good they were, and we enjoy this music, the rest not, so we are lucky people.

    Sorry for my english.


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