Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan says the band would not exist if guitarist Ritchie Blackmore hadn’t left the group 20 years ago.
In the wake of the death of keyboardist and band founder Jon Lord last year, Gillan was asked recently by Buenos Aires, Argentina radio station Vorterix Rock 103.1 if he ever felt the desire to reconnect with Blackmore.
“Not in the slightest,” said Gillan. “Yes, we were very much in close touch with Jon; I had dinner with him in Tokyo, I had dinner with him in Paris, we were always sending e-mails to each other, and, of course, the relationship was fantastic. Jon left the band over ten years ago, but he was still very much our personal friend and, of course, the godfather ofDeep Purple. As far as Ritchie was concerned, that’s a different story altogether. I think we cut the thing…the band was dying.”
“If you want to talk about Ritchie, I guess we have to; not many people do these days,” he continued. “But the truth of the matter is, from a historical point of view, the band was dying. If Ritchie had stayed in the band, it would have been the end of Deep Purple. The shows were getting shorter and shorter, the audiences were getting smaller and smaller. We were playing in small halls, and they weren’t even full — they were half empty — and Ritchie was walking off stage every night. And so, when he left 20 years ago, it stopped raining and the sun came out, andJon Lord, amongst others, started walking up straight again; his personality re-emerged. So did Roger Glover and Ian Paice; they became the people they were originally, instead of fending and cowering in case they upset Ritchie. And so this situation ended, and we’re all glad it ended, [and] we had to rebuild.”
“And, of course, now the distance of time is so great that we just remember the good times,” explained the singer. “And we remember Ritchie as a great player, a great performer, a great writer, and I remember him as my roommate; I used to share rooms with him. But something happened with Ritchie, and that’s the end of that. So we remember the past as it was; it was completely and totally different toJon Lord. And so, no, I have no desire to pick up the phone to Ritchie, or have dinner with him, or meet him in Paris or Tokyo. I hope he’s well, and I hope he’s happy. And that’s the end of it.”
Tensions within the group caused by Blackmore first came to a head in the summer of 1973, when Gillan quit, and bassist Roger Glover was dismissed after their second tour of Japan. Gillan was replaced by David Coverdalewhile Glenn Hughes joined on bass following Glover’s departure.
Blackmore then left in 1975 to form Rainbow, with Tommy Bolin coming in on guitar. Deep Purple disbanded in 1976, only to reform the Gillan/Blackmore/Glover/Lord/Paice lineup for 1984’s “Perfect Strangers”album and tour. Gillan was fired in 1989 over tensions with Blackmore, but rejoined the band for the “Battle Rages On” album before the guitarist quit in the summer of 1993.
Gillan and Deep Purple are currently on a European tour in support of their new album, “NOW What?!”
No Irish dates sadly – But Roger Glover did speak to NOVA recently.