WHEN THE DEEP PURPLE FALLS
SOUNDS MAGAZINE, JULY 3, 1976
By Peter Cresenti (submitted by Damian Phelan)
Amid all the uncertainty surrounding the future of Deep Purple, this IS certain: Tommy Bolin will not tour with the band again and Purple won’t replace him.
Now that’s not “official,” no one in the Purple hierarchy leaked me that news, but that’s the only logical conclusion I can come to when I examine the facts of Tommy Bolin’s short tenure with Purple.
“Don’t think I’m officially out of Purple” is Bolin’s official position at the moment. “I just said ‘Look I’ll be available at the end of the month, but right now, since you haven’t written me, since you haven’t done anything… The only person who came to see me,” when Bolin debuted his own band at the Roxy in L.A. “was Ian Paice, and we were probably the most distant.”
“I still don’t really know where I stand. Since I left the tour, they haven’t called me, they haven’t written me a letter, and somehow I feel like the management were using me, you know, because if you care about a person you do these things. I mean, what’s it cost to send a telegram? Nothing compared to the money they have and they didn’t even do that. And they knew. They knew what was going on, but people will be people, and they’re the kind of people.”
The silence hardly bothered Bolin because he was busy putting together a remarkable touring band to play the material from his Teaser album which was making headway in the charts when Bolin was touring the States with Purple. But plummeted into oblivion of the alphabetized racks with Purple’s Come Taste The Band when Bolin wasn’t on the road playing those tunes.
Still the records initial acceptance proved to Bolin that he could make music for himself that was still musically palatable, without bastardizing himself like he was in Purple. The album brought a lot of journalists and radio people into Bolin’s camp, and he knows any more disastrous touring he did with Purple on their last tour could erode his media support and eventually slow or kill his pursuit of a respectable solo career.
When Bolin became a member of Purple, it was under the agreement that he was allowed pursue his solo career freely, which meant and means now that a Bolin LP or a Bolin tour could take precedence over a Purple project.
Conceivably, Bolin could paralyze Purple’s movements, and get away with it, because the guitarist never even signed a contract with Deep Purple. Of course the rest of the band and Purple’s management know that Bolin is interested in getting Bolin’s career in gear, and that they can’t do anything as Purple without him.
They don’t want to be in a position where Bolin can dictate their future with his solo activities, so their only alternative, it seems, is too end it, because no one in the band really seems interested in stretching Purple’s credibility any further by finding yet another guitarist to replace Ritchie Blackmore. Actually, no one in the band seems interested in stretching Purple, period. Jon Lord’s already talked to Bolin about working up something apart from Purple.
“Well in the last day’s of the thing” says Bolin, because he’s very intelligent and he kind of sensed what was coming, “I think when they got me, they should have got a new band, instead of being in the Purple mould.”
“Purple are incredible musicians, all of them, but I think they’re afraid to get out of that mould because of the money, which is nice but it’s not… in the long run.”
“That’s why like on Come Taste The Band I wanted to do “This Time Around” and they wanted to do that, but that was one of those day’s where they said ‘OK let’s try something new.’ But even still the whole concept of the album was a lot different.”
The Bolin situation though is is only one wedge in the cracks in this heavy metal institution. Reviews of Purple on their last tour were unanimously bad particularly in Britain and America, and their Come Taste the Band LP, a slight departure from their monolithic sound, and ironically one of the bands best, did poorly on the charts.
What I saw when I accompanied the band on their Japanese tour last December, was a bunch of really talented but terribly frustrated musicians who has shackled themselves to an image, even though they were capable of creating a new identity, and probably a fantastic band, with a balls-up-front effort to communicate their new music.
Instead they plodded on, pretending to believe it, but in reality, compromising themselves every time they walked on stage.
Glenn Hughes for one, doesn’t belong in Deep Purple. He’d be much better placed, theoretically, in a band like Kokomo or Randy Pie, but he really wants his own band, a hard assed Rhythm & Blues outfit. And he wants to be a lead vocalist again, as does David Coverdale, for that matter, so obviously neither one is terribly happy with their Purple predicaments.
John Lord, at times, seems anxious to be done with it, so he can get, so he can get into some different musical trips. But up until now, he can’t get himself to let go, probably because he wanted Bolin to work out.
When Clem Clempson didn’t cut it as Blackmore’s successor, Lord wanted it all crumble into rock ’n’ roll history, but Hughes and Coverdale, both high on Bolin because of his work on Billy Cobham’s Spectrum album, talked Lord into having a blow with Tommy. Everyone liked what they heard, and Purple was unceremoniously rehatched.
Probably no one in the group walked away happily from their last long tour, which is too bad because it was more than likely their last tour in that line up.
Bolin you can scratch for sure. Watch for David Coverdale to get a hot little band together after he finishes his first solo album. He’s been very keen on working with guitarist Mickey Moody.
Glenn Hughes is recording now and getting his own group together with his old Trapeze mates, but definitely with Glenn up front this time.
Jon Lord had toyed with the line up for a keyboard oriented band when Ritchie split. And there’s no doubt he’s thinking of those same musicians again. Ian Paice, truly an incredible rock ’n’ roll drummer who will probably get his due in Purple, will probably drift with the action.
As for Bolin, he’s assembled a great band, consisting of drummer Michael Walden late of the last two Mahavishnu Orchestras, keyboardist Mark Stein from the defunct but not forgotten Vanilla Fudge, bassist Reggie McBride who used to get down with Rare Earth, and the super fine Norma Jean Bell, a saxophonist who played with Stevie Wonder and Frank Zappa’s Mothers.
The band was originally put together just for a tour, but the review and vibes been so good, says Bolin, that the group decided to stick together as a certified band.
This band to me, is… I’m not saying it’s my band, that’s why I hate to have them say ‘Tommy Bolin Band,’ but I have a couple of things to prove to people. That’s why I told them the first couple of albums I want to be ‘Tommy Bolin.’ That’s not selfishness. That’s just that I owe people.”
“They respect the band,” he says of fellow players. “They say ‘We know where you are coming from’ and that’s cool.”
“But it’s enjoyable. Every nights like learning. We’ve only had like one mediocre gig. The rest have been great. But one mediocre. And that was, we did an outdoor in Phoenix with (Robin) Trower, and he only let us use the P.A.”
“I don’t know but at Winterland he was there every night to see our set. We opened. It was us, Steve Marriot, and him and he was there with his band every night to see us,” says Bolin with a grimace as we sit facing each other on the floor of his road manager’s hotel room.
Only hours away from Bolin’s New York City debut, both spaced out, but launched into orbit by different fuels. “In Winterland for an opening group… Bill Graham sent telegrams, Atlantic sent telegrams saying ‘Good luck’ and ‘You’re the best’ dadada dadada, which made everybody feel real confident.”
If Bolin’s Winterland sets were anything like the sparkling set I saw his band play at My Father’s Place, Long Island’s funky alternative to NYC’s Bottom Line, I can understand Trower’s paranoia about following Bolin’s band.
For a band that had been on the road for only about a month, the Bolin group was amazingly tight, but not surprisingly so considering the hefty talent in the band. The musicians had rehearsed their material for about two weeks, but because Bolin had already lined up Walden last year, because his reputation had proceeded his call to bassist McBride, most of the musicians were familiar with the tunes before they even got together.
When Reggie and Mark came to the auditions, they knew all the songs. They had rehearsed all the songs So it was like “instant.”
Acquiring a musician of Mark Stein’s calibre was really a coup for Bolin, who was at first skeptical about having Stein in his band.
“I called Reggie and he said ‘I got this dynamite keyboard player,’ and I says ‘Who is it?’ and he says ‘Mark Stein.’ And I thought ‘Oh man he’s been off the bill for so long,’ but he came and played everything good and he’s getting it down very well.”
Stein obviously enjoys his return to the stage after two years of inactivity, smiling and laughing, jumping off his bench, waving his arms throughout the set. He does a lead vocal, in a soulful ballad called “I Fell in Love” and adds some polish to the bands two and three part harmonies. Packing a Hammond, electric piano, and Mini Moog, Stein had plenty of solo time in the set, and should contribute plenty of ideas to the band if they do indeed stick together for a couple of years.
“Yeah,” agrees Bolin, “but there’s a certain pressure upon him that sometimes makes him a bit… not paranoid, but makes him play a little bit too unnatural. It’s the pressure of like ‘It’s his last chance.’ He’s incredibly talented and for him to think that is stupid, because he plays great in the set. Everybody plays great in the set.”
“And it’s not a guitar band. People are coming expecting to hear a guitar band and it’s a band.”
AND it’s a band. At My Father’s Place, the band did an encore that was almost as long as the regular set, and the club didn’t begin clearing out until close to 4:00 A.M. Bolin’s black rhythm section gives his material a desperate dose of funk, driving his material right out the back door and onto the street. Michael Walden even gets his solo vocal for his own “Delightful,” which is taken from his forthcoming first solo LP, In The Garden Of Love Light.
“Michael Walden is a drummer’s drummer and also a people’s drummer. When he joined the group he was blowing his cookies all over the floor, you know and I had to say ‘Hey just cool out just a bit. Just listen a bit and lay back,’ because it’s much easier to play harder and faster than to play simple, because when you play simple you have to think. And that’s not putting Billy Cobham down, or anybody like that because they are thinking players, but I wish they would lay back, I mean really lay back.”
That philosophy sort of defines Bolin’s style of playing as well, and is another reason he ways uncomfortable in Purple. “I just try to compliment everybody that’s playing.”
The band should be back in LA now, recording their first album together. Like Teaser the lyrics for the next album will again be mostly written by Jeff Cook, with some contributions from John Teaser.
“The next album will be a bit more bizarre and a bit more straight,” Bolin promises. “I mean the instrumental pieces are weirder don’t want to say weirder. They’re more advanced. But some people in the band are going ‘Well we gotta do this. Let’s practice the harmonies.’ I say ‘Hey look it’ll happen. Teaser was put together by pieces. And to me, it came out real well for a first album, which I didn’t think would do anything, because I just said ‘Look, I’m doing it for myself.’”
Now Bolin’s going to be it by himself, without the members of Purple, and he’s glad to be free to make his own music, for the first time in his career.
“People would come up to me and say ‘Hey is it true you hold the Guinness Book of Records as being the world’s loudest band?,’ and I’d say ’I don’t know. I wasn’t even in the band at the time.”