The Deep Purple Falls Over Sleepy Garden Walls
It’s a dull dismal grey Northern English day, one that L.S. Lowry would recognise all too easily. Colour, waterproof gortex, umbrellas, and ruby tail lights glistening on rain washed streets. Mid-morning Sundays always dead time, too late for car-boot sales, too early for beer, sips and chats, no Brunching munching here. Finished reading ‘Is this the way to Amarillo’, George Miller’s Southern States musical sojourn, and regretting not snaffling Stuart Maconie - ‘The Peoples Songs’, in a charity shop, thinking barely, an earworm slunk into my ears, brain, and memory.
D4 F4 G4 – |D4 F4 G#4 |D4 F4 G4 yeup theee classic rock intro, I’d say even Ancient Champion could manage that on his Baby Taylor… It’s up there with Layla, Brown Sugar, and All Right Now, Smoke on the Water, Deep Purple, haven’t heard that in years, well maybe I have, from local bands in this rocking blues town, it’s fav here. Baby Boomers, reliving their youth, mind wandered, remembered ‘Deep Purple – Made in Japan’ was one the first Vinyl LP’s I bought as a 14 year old. What a great record, well it was in 197??, 2/3 sometime in the ‘looking for identity’ age, pubescent mid teens. The ear worm still burrowing killed Sunday morning’s lethargy, and had me fingering a rack of Vinyl.
There it was, gold cover, red and purple photo, scribbled notes inside sleeve, Fiona and a phone number,
Fiona, long time gone, but a school name for sure, record would have been just tooo uncool to lend at College, no face came to mind, stylus hit the groove, crackles and pops, keyboard doodles, audience expectant, shouts...
"... monitor, I want everything louder than everything else..." Vocalists, don’t they talk bollocks?
Muffled words, chords, and audience roar, and I was there, live with Deep Purple, not in Osaka Japan, but the town’s 1,200 seater Theatre, 45 plus years ago, God I feel ancha-cha-chient.
Dad was on early shift at the paper, ideal for lift, dropped at the box office, no buses that early, late Spring morning. Crisp, shivering as I queued, jumping in with a couple of old school friends, we’d split to different schools, catchment areas for senior schools, Stuart, Lee, and Donald shoulder touching hair length noted, mine was the shortest. School chatter, subjects for “O” levels, soon to be GCSE’s, me and Don wordsmiths, Stu and Lee craftsmen in the making. The queue rapidly grew, Lee and Stu had seen them before, more pocket money, more maturity, early into music, older brother, nwah, older brothers NEVER took younger brothers to gigs, Big Bruv would never live that down with his mates in the pub on a Friday night lad’s beer chase around the town.
Lee in particular wetted appetite, dry ice, smoke, keyboard rocking, glitter balls, spinning lights, screaming guitar and voice duets, Ian and Richie, the men I wanted to see and hear in the flesh. At least now I had an idea what to expect, until then live music was Top of the Pops, “they all mimed” were “teenyboppers”. Old Grey Whistle Test, weird Neu, Tangerine Dream, posers, Greenslade, Genesis, in a studio, Grand Funk Railroad, The Who in some American stadium, all grainy and shakey cameras, sound? Worse than on my Christmas present transistor radio. But Lee and Stu spelt it out Loud, denim, and hair, head shaken, defiantly, NOT stirred.
Within the hour the Queue snaked way past the theatre doors, round the corner, there were girls, boys, younger, older than me. Men, beards to the collar, hair to the waist. Denim patches, scrawled ‘Zepplin’, Sabbath, ‘Hawkwind’. A tribe, an army, a few dangers, skinheads, suedeheads, a cassette played ‘Black Night’ one tribe, one happy mass.
Watches checked, the city wakes, buses and cars stream past, murmers, excitement, anticipation.
“Doors open soon” pockets checked for the umpteenth time, yes cash still there, waiting for surrender for a ticket. Where to sit, chatter, in the stalls at the front, closer to the band and the music, closer to the speakers, Stu was all for that.
Don wanted the middle row of the stalls, “near the mixer, the sound’ll be better”
A derisive Stu, “It’s volume and bass”, a glance “at the front, rush the stage, get close…”
I looked to Lee, “you’ll see more an’ hear more, front of the circle,”
“Who says you get a choice” a older voice intoned, we all looked around, he was ancient, at least 20,
Stu piped up, “there’s only a few in front so we’ll be ok”, turned “so where’s it to be – doors open soon”
Chatter, pros and cons, decisions, decisions, big ones for a 14 year old.
More conferring - so that was it, three of us, centre circle best seats we could get, leave Stu to the stalls and the sound, mayhem, and earache.
“Its open…” Shuffling feet, shoulders pushing, aggression, hands holding cash, passport to hope, happiness, and sound explosion, we edged, pushed Stu ahead, he was on his own, we three hang back.
“Four Centre stalls,”
“Two Centre stalls,”
“Two Centre stalls,”
Tickets handed and pocketed.
“One Centre stalls” Stu was done,
“Three front row centre circle…” Lee was at the window
“Only got sides first two rows” no discussion, no debate,
“Three together centre...”
A nod, cash to Lee, tickets clasped. Checked and pocketed, secured and we were out, it was ½ term, no school, so where? It was what 9-20, 9.30, wandered around town, cafes all looked, well too grown up,
“Tea Cakes are crap,”
“You a millionaire? you paying?”
Ended up in Woolies cafe, along with what looked like half the Purple queue, tea and toast shared,
“You seeing Sabbath as well?”
Head shake, “Not my thing but got tickets for “Wishone” (Ash), laughs from Lee and Stu…
“So who else you into?”
“Well not Yes, and ELP, but like Neil Young, and Lynyrd Skynyrd”
Laughs, more band names exchanged between tea sips and toast, plates finger wiped.
Telephone numbers passed, meet up sorted.
“7-00 pm bus to town” there we were, a Purple foursome.
The theatre was huge, ceiling sky scraper, I’d been there before, works pantomime treat with mum, and pantomime with neighbours. The stage packed, speakers, guitars, speakers, drums, speakers, keyboards, speakers, mics, speakers, wires, speakers, speakers. Lights down, audience bays… Calls… Yells… “Wally, Richie, Highway Star”
“Purrr – puu -ll”, “Gill – an”, “Rich - hiee, Richie, Richie”,
Arms high, waves, yells, excitement, “T” shirt, denim, tie-dye, patches, hair flying, arms waving.
Feet, denim legs, leather pants they were there, on stage, heroes, stars, guitars, Gillan, mic stand gripped
“’ow are ya, great to see ya” a roar straight out of a football goal.
A chord, cymbal smash, screams “Sweet child in time” swirling keyboards, pounding drums, driving bass, and they were there, live and direct, lights flash, thunder flash, scream, and screaming guitars, beer bottle down the neck, rocking keyboards.
Sweating shirts, dry throats, dry ice, Burn, Lazy, drum solos, lights up, down, glitter balls flecking lights, cheers roars encores and shuffling out, stairs, pushing, excitement, after though, after chatter, stumbled, falling out in the drizzle, car horns, buses, ears ringing, sounds fresh, new tunes old tunes, favourite song, best bits, lights, Blackmore’s, Black Night, glass cutting solo. Dry ice cascaded over the stage,
“Yeah that really cooled the place,” Don, still sweaty, “just at the right time.”
“Never realised it smelt”, and I never did ‘til then, but yeah really cooled the theatre, and a magical moment made… Cool, theatre, sound, and teenage mates.
Promises to meet up with lost friends? Yeah we kept in contact for a few months, but school, school friends, different music, me, scrapping metal, loving Santana, McLaughlin, Weather Report, Stax, Tamla , Al Green… I was a traitor to the metal cause, always walked my own path. Different pubs, different disco, different mates, bumped in Stu few years later, still a hairy metal machinehead, gig chatter,and Purple memories, but for both, lost in the mix of music, beer, clubs, and girls that was the diet of 16/17 year old boys.
Yeah it was a great concert, the band - top of it’s game, great music, great show, great mates, and the first gig, in at the deep end, with the Purple, a packed theatre, I loved it at the time, it was a fabulous night, and loved live music ever since, in theatres, pubs, clubs, seen Gregory Porter in a 300 seater, Aretha in a stateside park, New Order at Glastonbury. Better than Purple can’t say, like first kiss recalled, but passions change.
Amazed to see Deep Purple ARE still on tour, original members – I’d guess, at one, two, tempted to go?
Cherish the past, never chase it.
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