Deep Purple's Jon Lord and 'Burn'
The Circus Magazine Interview 1974
by Scott Cohen

"Ritchie's not difficult," Jon Lord insisted as Starship 1 soared over Manhattan, "you just have to know how to get along with him."

Since 1968, when Deep Purple released three albums and began their sonic drive to superstar status they have suffered more self-inflicted psychic wounds than most groups would have been able to tollerate in a lifetime.

The stormy centre of attention of Deep Purple is lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. The moody, often misunderstood Blackmore is a highly sensitive and emotional person. So sensitive, in fact, that he has tossed members out of the group on two separate occasions, both times when Deep Purple was successfully soaring along. Most recently bass player Roger Glover and lead singer Ian Gillan were the subject of Ritchie's wrath. Many rock pundits thought it an irrational and dangerous move for a group to destroy part of a successful sound. The replacements, David Coverdale as lead singer and Glenn Hughes on bass, seem to be weathering the storms of change. They are both painfully aware, however, that they are expendable.

Throughout the hurricane of Blackmore's emotions two musicians have been able to successfully remain in the group and within Blackmore's good graces. The first is drummer Ian Paice, a short little fellow with a pot belly, a dynamic smile and a quick sense of humour. Ian's deep, charging drum beat "drives" the heavy metal throb of Deep Purple. The second survivor is Jon Lord, a 31 year-old, tall, lanky moustachioed fellow with a wife and a little girl home in England. It was Jon Lord who agreed to an extensive interview with Circus Magazine, excerpts which follow here.

Lord was ensconsed on the 14th floor of the PLaza Hotel overlooking Central Park, a favorite view of visiting rock royalty. Circus Magazine interviewer Scott Cohen arrived at Lord's suite only hours after he had been informed that Deep Purple's latest excursion into ear shattering music, Burn (on Warner Brothers), had just turned gold.

"How does it feel to be expendable?" Glenn Hughes snapped aboard Starship 1. "Well, this is a lot better than being in a group nobody's heard of."

Lord answered the door dressed in a black kimono, blue jeans and thongs with no socks. He was watching "Star Trek" on a colour TV in the sitting room of his suite. There was a sterling silver tea set on a table, and nearby a bar stocked with liquor. Through half open doors his visitor could see two bedrooms.

Lord was most charming, chatting with interviewer Cohen for over two hours. He spoke at length on classical music, politics (he's a libertarian and believes in laissez faire government), and drugs, which he detests. Jon, like all the members of Deep Purple loves booze.

Circus: How did Deep Purple get its name?

Lord: We did what every band must do when you're starting. We were grinding into action and we made a list of all the names we wanted to call a band. We found a lot of the names we liked other bands already had. Ritchie thought of Deep Purple. There was a song in the forties by that name, and it was Ritchie's grandmother's favorite song.

Circus: What were some of the names you didn't use?

Lord: "Orpheus" was one. Bands used to name themselves what they were, like Fred Smith and the So and Sos, but we were formed after that had gone out. But realize that once the band's accepted you can use any name.

Circus: In 1968 there were some very good purple tabs of LSD going around the States.

Lord: We heard, but there was no connection.

Circus: The name didn't have any mystical significance?

Lord: Only that it was the right name for the band that we wanted to be.

Circus: Does the band have a ritual or warm-up it goes through before going onstage?

Lord: Well I get nervous, always, which is good because it gives me an essential knot of energy in my stomach, and before the show I like to be quiet. Some of the musicians like to get to the place two hours before they go on stage, others like to get there a minute before. Then there's the tuning-up, which is also part of the ritual. That, and a couple of beers.

Circus: How does Black Sabbath compare to Deep Purple?

Lord: They're out of the same school, the same time-zone, the late '60's, but I think they're a group that got trapped by their own image. I think Purple has more humour about it.

Circus: What do you think it means when a heavy metal group such as Deep Purple reaches an enormous popularity all over the world?

Lord: It seems to me there must be a need for this kind of music or it wouldn't reach that popularity. If there was no rock music I believe this generation would be a lot more violent than it already is. It would be self-destructively violent.

Circus: What are the politics of Deep Purple? How are decisions made?

Lord: We like to take as active a role as possible. As for decisions about the future of the band, as to what we'll do next, we always confer with our managers.

Circus: So there really isn't a leader?

Lord: No. It's totally democratic. The major force in the band for the last couple of years has been Ritchie. It's been his energy that's got us through a lot of our personal problems.

Circus: Is it true that the band members hate each other?

Lord: No. There was a time when we weren't good friends for a while. But if you're intelligent and have respect for each other you can get through it.

Circus: Did you ever seriously consider ending the group?

Lord: Yes, around the time Ian Gillan left the group. Ritchie saw the group one way and Gillan saw it another. Roger saw it more the way Gillan saw it and Ian and I saw it more the way Ritchie did.

Circus: How did you find David?

Lord: When it hit the trade papers that Gillan had left, tapes just started arriving. I must have listened to over 150 before I got totally wiped out. Unfortunately David's tape wasn't one of the first ones.

Circus: What was it about David that you liked?

Lord: He was a breath of fresh air. He could sing, he could use his voice like an instrument and we liked the tone of his voice.

Circus: Wasn't he working in a boutique at the time?

Lord: Yes, in far away Teeside.

Circus: What were you doing before you were in Deep Purple?

Lord: I've been in the business since 1964, before that I was in drama school and before that I was in my home town working in an office.

Circus: Did you like Jimmy Smith?

Lord: That's what turned me on to the organ. I heard "Walk on the Wild Side" and I didn't know what that instrument was. I found out it was a Hammond and I found out I couldn't afford one, so I managed to buy an organ of sorts. With a little beefing up it was made to sound roughly like a Hammond.

Circus: When you tour America, where do you stay?

Lord: In the nearest hotel to the gig, usually a Holiday Inn or a Ramada Inn. When we're in a big town such as New York we like to lush out a bit. In a small town all hotels are the same. I can find the light switch in a Holiday Inn without even looking.

Circus: What's the worst part of being a rock musician?

Lord: Living out of a suitcase. That's why musicians have the reputation for wrecking hotel rooms, throwing wild parties and getting sixteen-year-olds in trouble. We get bored.

Circus: What are your favorite night spots in New York?

Lord: There's been a rash of new clubs I haven't been to...yet. The only place I've been to is Max's, which is like a pilgrimmage. It used to be Nobody's but now nobodys go to Nobody's. There's a bar on 48th and 8th called the Haymarket where most English rock musicians end up.

Circus: What kind of plane are you touring in?

Lord: The Starship. It's a 707 put together by a firm in L.A. that Sinatra, Dylan and The Band just used and Elton John uses. It has a lounge, a bedroom, a shower, a fire place and a study. It's supposed to look as litle as a plane as possible.

Circus: Is there a difference between walking around in an airport in England and one in America?

Lord: If someone in England doesn't like the way you look he crosses the street, or at the most shakes his head. Here, they are more vocal. "Will you look at that!" they say.

Circus: How has rock changed from the time Deep Purple started and now?

Lord: Now, it's limousines and coliseums. It used to be Pontiacs and small, sweaty clubs.

Circus: Which countries have the toughest Customs?

Lord: France.

Circus: Who does your laundry?

Lord: The hotels do when we're on the road.

Circus: What's the difference between a Fish'n Chips in London and a McDonald's here?

Lord: A Fish 'n Chips shop is basically a very greasy, hot, steamy, quite small shop, where you cue up and get your food wrapped in paper and take home to eat. Very few have room to eat there, whereas your hamburger joints have tables and chairs.

Circus: Where can you get the best fish 'n chips?

Lord: Up north, around Liverpool and Manchester. There are more fish 'n chips shops to the mile than any place in the world.

Circus: What kind of places do you prefer to play in?

Lord: My favorite gig is a place that's small like the Boston Music Hall or the old Fillmore, but because of the way big business is, they're too small for us to play. The Rainbow in England is good because it seats about 3,000.

Circus: How do you play a place like Madison Square Garden which is so enormous that there's no place to focus on?

Lord: Well, you have to play to the first 50 rows and pray that those people a quarter of a mile away are getting into it.

Circus: How do you feel about most of the audience being almost half your age?

Lord: That's never really worried me. I'd keep the audience as it is.

Circus: Do you wish you got as much airplay on FM as you do on AM?

Lord: I'd like to be played on every available station. As it is, we're hardly played anywhere.

Circus: What do you like about live albums?

Lord: Live albums show the group in its natural habitat, the stage. The studio is something the busines created in order to sell its product. We try to get the studio quality on an album which wasn't made in the studio by using the Stone's mobile hot-shot unit.

Circus: Are the first takes usually the best?

Lord: Yeah. We use two or three take ones on "Machine Head." In the studio you usually get to take fifteen or sixteen, and the whole balls is gone, the whole meaning you started out with is gone.

Circus: Was Burn recorded on the Stone's mobile unit?

Lord: Yeah.

Circus: How does it differ from your other albums?

Lord: The basic difference is the use of the vocals. There is a different vocal approach. It's much freer and looser, a progression that's noticable to us though I don't know if it is to the audience. Also, no casino burned down during the recording.

Circus: Did you really once go to do a concert and find the building in flames?

Lord: Yes, in France. It was a dancehall disaster that was in all the newspapers.

Circus: But that's not why the album is called Burn?

Lord: No. It's Burn because there's a song on it called "Burn."

Circus: What's your favorite Deep Purple record?

Lord: My favorite album is "Machine Head."

Circus: Who did you like more, the Stones or the Beatles?

Lord: I was a Beatles freak.

Circus: Has your hearing been impared since you've been in Deep Purple?

Lord: No, it hasn't, knock wood.

Circus: Do you have a liquor clause in your contract?

Lord: There's supposed to be booze in the dressing rooms, but most promoters supply it anyway. Most promoters supply food too, but nobody eats it.

Circus: How long do you think a group can stay together and still sound together?

Lord: As long as the "want" is there. When the need to perform disappears, the group should disappear.

Circus: What do you find most amazing about being a performer?

Lord: To sit at a church organ and to feel that "shake," and to charter, for one hour, a small airplane and fly down the Grand Canyon. That keeps me speechless for four or five hours.