Deep Purple holds the distinction of having the most simultaneous entries on the Billboard music charts in history. The British hard rock band’s heyday was the the late 1960s to the early 1970s, when they surpassed even the mighty Led Zeppelin in popularity. Internal conflicts led to a long hiatus and, since their reunion in 1984, multiple lineup changes, most notably the 1993 departure of founding member and guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore, and the 2002 retirement of another founding member, keyboardist Jon Lord (who died last year).
The last founding member still in the band, drummer Ian Paice, is 65 years old. Lead singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, both of who have been in the band, mostly continuously, since 1969, are both 68. Yes, they are senior citizens, but they can still rock. They may have lost a step and no longer crank up the decibels quite as loudly as they did 40 years ago – when they held the Guiness Book of World Records’ distinction of being the loudest band in the world – but they can still rock!
They even released a new album this past spring, their 19th studio album, called Now What?! Alas, it only reached as high as #110 on the same U.S. Billboard charts that the band used to dominate. Oh well, some might surmise, they’re just over the hill – time for them to pack it in. That would seem to be the case, except for the following details: In Germany, Austria, Norway, and the Czech Republic, the album was #1! It was #2 in Switzerland, #3 in Russia, #5 in Poland, and in the top 20 of numerous other countries throughout the world, including #13 in Greece.
Why, then, such disrespect in the United States? Obviously, the band can still play, as evidenced by their having headlined a rock festival in Germany this summer with a crowd 0f over 80,000. Have Americans simply changed their taste in music? Not really – it is more a case of the radio stations that essentially censor classic rock bands.
Oh, they still play the classic rock hits, including some of Deep Purple’s songs – most famously “Smoke on the Water,” which includes the quintessential three-chord riff that inspired countless contemporary musicians to pick up their first guitar. The problem is, the stations will not play any new music from many classic bands.
The formula is very simple: new bands are played on new music stations. Classic bands are played on classic rock stations – but only their songs from yesteryear. Heaven forbid the stations play any of their new music!
The video featured above is from Now What?! A subdued piece, especially compared to their record-breaking decibels of the 1970s. But a good indicator of why in countries where the radio stations actually play good, new music without punishing classic bands from continuing to create it, the album has soared to the top of the charts.