Intro by Mike Drumm, Text by Matthew Kean

By the time Tommy Bolin was invited to join Deep Purple in 1975, his reputation as the ultimate musicians musician was already set in cement. What was missing was the worldwide acclaim that all those familiar with his prodigious musical gift felt he deserved. So joining Deep Purple was perceived as just the thing to put Tommy’s own music on the map. From his days as the 18 year old phenom in the neo-psychedelic Boulder Colorado band Zephyr, to his unheralded “favorite” group Energy, to his ground breaking rock-fusion guitar work on Billy Cobham’s legendary Spectrum album, to his two strong albums Bang and Miami with The James Gang, Tommy had proven that his talents as a unique creative guitarist, and as a songwriter extraordinaire were truly special. He had “the gift.” By joining Deep Purple, he would gain a worldwide stage to launch that solo career with an exclamation point.

As it turns out, the move had mixed results. In fact, he gained much more notoriety, and was able to release his first solo album Teaser to critical acclaim. But his increased drug and alcohol usage made his performances erratic. Accompanied by other pressures, his stint in Purple would quickly implode, and he would die less than a year later while touring behind his second solo album Private Eyes. Those close to Tommy felt his stint in Purple ultimately fed his ability to set himself up for his tragic death from multiple drug intoxication.

Beyond this personal tragedy, what Tommy also left behind was an amazing musical legacy. This remixed and digitally mastered live set is one of the best high quality documents of Tommy’s stint in Purple. Other CDs, beyond those mentioned above, released by the Tommy Bolin Archives, more fully showcase his tremendous creative muse. We invite you to explore this unique American musical treasure. Come taste the man indeed.

Mike Drumm
President, The Tommy Bolin Archives, Inc.

“With Tommy the contribution is a personal thing as well. He’s a much more happy, outgoing person than Ritchie was. It’s made the band a different place to be!”
      — Jon Lord, Circus Magazine, Japan 1975

Deep Purple have always been an evolving entity. Throughout their career, the band have relied on incoming talent to revitalize them and to change the direction of the music.

It was the recruitment of Gillan and Glover in 1969 that acted as the catalyst to lift the band from their rather directionless original line up (formed in Spring 1968), resulting in the crucially important In Rock and Machine Head albums. In 1973 the same pair departed, leading to a more blues based direction on the blues-based Burn LP, recorded with new recruits David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. By 1975, further musical evolution with clearly on the cards as funk and even soul elements crept into their new album Stormbringer. Feeling these to be alien to him, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore decided to leave the band and set up a new group.

So once more a change of personnel would bring about the change of identity to the band. Initially there was reluctance. “What we ought to have done was to take a year off, tell the managers, the record company, whoever to go fuck themselves. Then after a year we could have regrouped and carried on together,” Lord later reflected. The combination of the enthusiasm of Coverdale and Hughes to get on with things, plus management and accountants keen to capitalise on the group’s by now global status, meant that this was not a real option. Instead, during the summer of 1975 they considered and auditioned possible new guitarists.

With hindsight, people have speculated that this change in line up was far more fundamental than those before, due to the pivotal importance of Blackmore to the band thus far and his status as one of the original triumvirate but, at the time, it was simply expedient to carry on the band. Hence Blackmore’s departure is suggested as the catalyst for the final collapse of the band, although this simplistic view takes no notice of the promise the new line-up showed in the studio and, when they got it together, on-stage. “I don’t see another change in Deep Purple. I don’t see that the members of the band would particularly want to sustain another change. Having got to this point after eight years, well it will be eight years just after Christmas, I don’t see anything else happening other than the band will pursue its natural course until the spirit dies, until the flame goes out. That could be next February or the year 1985,” Jon Lord told an Australian reporter in late 1975. In the event, the first guess was right to within a couple of weeks.

Six months earlier however nobody was having those thoughts. The new Mark IV line up (Coverdale, Hughes, Lord and Paice plus new guitarist Tommy Bolin, who had got the gig some twenty minutes after shambling into the rehearsal room and strapping on his guitar) assembled at Pirate Sound studios in Los Angeles during June 1975 to write and rehearse material for the new album. Some tapes of those rehearsals survived, forming the basis for the Days May Come album (also released on the Purple Records label), and go some way to demonstrating just how much potential the new line-up had.

The band then relocated to Musicland Studios in Munich during August to lay down the Come Taste The Band album, which was released in November 1975. Once more crossing the Atlantic, they began rehearsals in America for the world tour, timed to commence just as the LP hit the stores.

Keen to promote the new direction that Come Taste The Band offered, the set list was extensively rewritten. In the end, all ten numbers from the new album were performed on stage at some point, and eight are included in this live set (the missing two, “Coming Home” and “Dealer” made brief appearances in the States on the second stage of the tour in early 1976). Also, the Purple trend of hugely extending certain numbers was reined in and to a degree the solos were fitted in between songs, rather than within as previously. The days of thirty minute long versions of “Space Truckin’” were over.

Whether there were any doubts that it would all work within the band as they set off on tour is difficult to say but certainly some alarm bells had already begun to ring. The loss of one of their main songwriters hadn’t affected recording, as Tommy Bolin had been brimming over with ideas and contributed (to a greater or lesser degree) to virtually all of the album.

Nevertheless, both he and Glenn Hughes had begun to fall victim to drug dealers who followed them around. Initially Hughes was the worst affected as his cocaine use sometimes affected his playing ability, to the extent that Bolin had played the bass on at least one of the album tracks. Indeed, immediately following the album sessions Hughes was given an ultimatum and told that unless he got his act together, his services on the forthcoming tour would not be required. To try and temper the problem he, like Bolin, was assigned a personal minder for the tour in an attempt to keep dealers at bay.

Coupled with this, press and fan reaction to the changes had been varied and it was hard to predict how audiences would react to the new line-up. In an attempt to mitigate the changes, Bolin was informed that he would have to copy Blackmore’s solos “note for note,” something of an insult to his ability which would also curtail the band’s new direction.

In Japan, they were still riding high, though. The band’s tour itinerary reflected the growing importance of the far Eastern markets. Mark IV’s world debut took place in Honolulu (preceeded by full on-stage rehearsals). It was a convenient place to commence the tour before they flew to Australia (with two gigs in New Zealand en route) for eight shows in five cities, the second time that year they had played ‘down under’, Mark III having done a festival there back in January. To some extent these dates must have been viewed as a chance to play the set in and knock the rough edges off the performances in territories where any problems would cause few ripples back home.

“It’s hard for an audience to react positively to something new and at this stage not that many people have heard the album”
      — Tommy Bolin, November 1975

Press reaction there was mixed. Bolin had already begun to ignore the band’s dictat: “The new repertoire worked out better than the old faves. Bolin seemed happier and more forceful playing the new. It seems the band and he haven’t yet worked out an entirely satisfactory system for the old,” wrote Anthony O’Grady in an Australian review.

From Australia they moved on to what became an incident-dogged stopover in the Indonesian capital Jakarta. If the two big shows there weren’t bad enough — local Police having set dogs loose on the crowd, followed up with rubber bullets and a full scale baton charge — one of their roadcrew died in mysterious circumstances back at the hotel. A roadie, Hughes and his minder were locked up on suspicion while the perpetrators escaped. They were happy to get out in time (after paying over a large cash “fee”) for the flight to Japan where four shows (a further gig in Hong Kong on the way home was cancelled) would see them through to a break over Christmas. But it was to be a physically and mentally exhausted band and crew who finally touched down in Japan.

1976 would then open with a long slog across America, followed by a batch of British dates to make up for not having played there since the Burn tour, nearly two years earlier.

From the other side of the world it is sometimes difficult to appreciate the impact that Deep Purple had on rock audiences in Japan, or to realise just how popular the band were there. Mark II had made their first visit back in 1972, at a time when the market for western rock music was developing. To commemorate the occasion the shows were recorded for eventual release as the widely celebrated Made In Japan live double album. The line up returned to Japan a year later to play what turned out to be their final shows before Gillan and Glover left.

Anticipation was thus running. Mark III had missed out Japan entirely, concentrating as they did on the all-important American and European markets, so by the time Mark IV arrived in December 1975 over two years had elapsed since the band’s last show there, comparatively little by today’s standards, but at a time when bands toured far more it was a long gap. On top of this, the audience had no fewer than three new band members to get used to, with Coverdale and Hughes only familiar from record, and Bolin very much the new boy.

Four shows were scheduled; Nagoya Shikokiado Hall on 8th December, Osaka Koseinenkin Hall on 11th December, Fukuoka Kyuden Kinen Taiikulan on 12th December, the tour culminating in a show at the Budokan in Tokyo on 15th December before a 12,000 strong crowd.

In view of this and marking the shows as An Event, the decision was taken by the band’s managers and the Japanese record company to allow recording of the Tokyo performance on both film and tape. This would enable a domestic Japanese release to be made as a souvenir of the tour, and (surely with the success of Made In Japan in mind) a wider release if suitable.

The story of what happened on Deep Purple’s 1975-1976 world tour is worth briefly repeating here. Purple took on Tommy Bolin as an exciting young guitarist, but without realizing he had a drug and alcohol problem. Glenn Hughes as we’ve seen was also falling prey to the superstar lifestyle, descending into a cocaine addiction which would dog him through the rest of the ’70s and much of the following decade. While Bolin had been able to keep his habit under control in the USA and Australia, the problem resurfaced as soon as they hit Japan.

Talking to Glenn Hughes’ minder, it seems that Bolin had been kept fairly clear of dealers until Japan. There however they got through and Bolin promptly overdosed, probably as a result of being clean for a while. His body reacted badly and when he came round he discovered that his arm was semi-paralyzed.

Unable to postpone the shows, due to contractual and financial pressures, the band was forced into proceeding with the tour. For the first night Tommy Bolin left his guitar open tuned and concentrated on the riffs, while Jon filled in solos on the keyboard. “It was a bit hairy,” Jon Lord admitted to a journalist afterwards. “It all came off all right but there was this mad whispering running across the stage, ‘what the hell’s next?’ We opened with ‘Burn’ and we were just going on stage and Tommy goes ‘How the fuck does that riff go?’”

To some extent they got away with it too, but during his solo spot Bolin’s arm packed up. “I saw him,” Lord recalled afterwards, “he was trying and I’m going ‘Can it Tommy.’ Paice put it best, he said he thinks Tommy panicked.” A poor quality audience recording of the first date on the tour shows how fractured the sound was. For the second show Bolin sat before the gig with an electric blanket wrapped round his arm. Over the next few days with massage treatment the numbness eased and by the final show his old fire was returning. With a two day break Bolin was able to visit a doctor recommended by the tour promoter, who twisted and massaged his left hand back to near perfect health. The band were also confident enough to restore “Wild Dogs” to the set. Taken from Tommy’s solo album Teaser (which had been released around the same time as Purple’s new album), one of the conditions of his joining the band was that one song from it was to be included in the show.

”We went around the world, unravelling the reputation of Deep Purple wherever we played.”
      — Jon Lord, BBC Rock family trees, 1995

After Christmas, in America, the instrumental “Homeward Strut” took its place when the set was rejigged. Notably, seeing it was Tommy’s showcase number, “Wild Dogs” had been dropped for the preceding three Japanese dates, presumably due to the problems with his arm. In Tokyo however it takes its place again, and, as David’s introduction points out, “For the first time in Japan, Tommy Bolin’s gonna sing for ya.’”

Peter Crescenti, who was following the tour for Circus magazine in America, said it was the most explosive set of the whole visit. “Jon Lord and Ian Paice dazzled the ravers with an impromtpu jam of ‘Woman From Tokyo.’ Tommy Bolin mesmerized them with his echoplex during ‘Ode To G.’”

Received wisdom has it that the band’s performances declined through the whole of the world tour, culminating in the collapse at Liverpool in March 1976 and the effective end of things. Within that decline however, performances actually varied greatly and some idea was given of the power and strength of the line up at several shows along the way. Were one to plot some sort of quality graph, there would be numerous peaks along the line, particularly in America (where perhaps Bolin felt more at home), as heard on the already released show from Long Beach in February 1976 and this Tokyo performance as well.

The fluctuating quality was what really did the damage however as disappointed press reviews spread through the music papers. Purple’s live reputation was for always delivering a top quality show and those unfortunate enough to catch one of the troughs were most disgruntled. As the real nadir came with the British shows, this had a knock on effect with people assuming the whole tour had been just as weak.

In that context however, and with the benefit of the long view from twenty five years on, the Japanese shows might also be seen as the start of the slope, the point where the off-stage influences really began to influence the on stage performance. Most of the band viewed Australia as a pleasant time, probably helped by the feeling of playing themselves in. But despite that, listening to the Tokyo show we do not find things wanting to any great degree.

Even without being at their absolute peak, Purple still put most other bands in the shade. Lord and Paice, the proven anchors of the band both up to this point and even more so as the tour progressed, both work overtime to deliver the goods. Jon’s contribution is obvious in numbers such as the opener “Burn,” where the guitar is most notably absent (as a result of technical problems rather than any other reason; one suspects a faulty amplifier). Ian works like a superhuman throughout, seemingly trying to make up the difference all by himself, which is something of a challenge on drums. Glenn’s bass work remains as strong as when he joined, but the vocal cracks are beginning to show.

“I think we’re asking too much of our audience, we start giving no nonsense rock, then we go on to the solo spots where everybody does their own thing. People put in their alternative interests and that can take away the essence. I’d rather run around on stage than be sitting in the dressing room having a smoke when somebody’s doing the solo bit. It’s frustrating as fuck to be honest,” David Coverdale, said during the February, 1976 tour.

It’s not the quality of the vocals that suffers here any more than the rigors of a normal tour, its more the quantity. Glenn Hughes had been a lead singer in his Trapeze days, and as he made clear on joining Purple, he wasn’t going to do “just a few oohs and aahs.” How this was to sit with David Coverdale’s appointment as lead singer was something that was never fully resolved throughout their time in the band together, but even more so in Mark IV, where Hughes’ on stage exuberance and confidence tended to push Coverdale to one side.

On top of that, from having a guitarist who hardly spoke, they now had one who had sung on his own album, even if at this stage his forays to the microphone were limited.

This tends to sit foursquare with the other main musical issue within Deep Purple, the gradual growing divide over whether the band should respect their rock and classical roots, or take a greater leap towards the soul, R&B, and funk directions favored particularly by Bolin and Hughes. Come Taste The Band and the archive release Days May Come both show how under more controlled conditions these influences within Purple’s rock framework could mould together into really exciting results. Live however, fighting against the juggernaut weight of Purple’s back catalogue and the expectations of the audience, this was always going to be a more difficult exercise.

On balance the band managed a potentially difficult task well. The set list here shows the established favorites from previous line-ups vying with the more funky material from Come Taste The Band. The main spanner in the works seems to have been that, whatever the audience reaction, all the band members felt this to be a compromise of their own personal perspective. It is futile to wonder where they might have gone from here; the rift was too deep by the end of the tour.

Unfortunately for the management company and the Japanese label, the band split three months to the day after this recording had been made, before any serious work had been undertaken on a release. With no band around to be promoted, but wanting to keep the releases coming, energies focused instead on the hurried release of the hastily edited earlier live album ’Made In Europe’, with the feeling, reflected in the somewhat biased sleeve notes, that Mark III had much more credibility than their successors. And then on December 4th 1976 Tommy Bolin died.

“They made that album out of it, Last Concert In Japan. That should never have been released.”
      — Glenn Hughes BBC Rock Family Trees 1995

With such a huge following in Japan, Warners there decided to go ahead with a release of the Tokyo show as a ‘tribute.’ The raw concert footage was brought back to London where it was hacked about to produce a half-hour film, while the multi-tracks from the show were quickly mixed down to synch up to the footage. There is even a suspicion that the mix was only ever intended for the film and simply used for the LP master to hasten the release.

That the resultant Last Concert In Japan album was a quick cash in is beyond doubt. A single album that so drastically edits and rejigs the original performance could never be considered a faithful release. “Smoke On The Water” and “Highway Star” were doubtless included as draws to the casual buyer rather than the dedicated fan, even if the former was hacked apart. Glenn’s on stage rendition of “Georgia” may not be to everyone’s satisfaction, however it had been an integral part of “Smoke” since the beginning of the year and this is one of the best versions available.

Likewise, listing Jon’s solo and a quick 30-second jam around the “Woman From Tokyo” riff as a complete track (and even printing the lyrics in full inside the sleeve) was plainly dishonest. To make matters worse, this was lifted from another part of the concert entirely, thus making a nonsense of the setlist. What seems most curious is that given the strength of some of the other performances on this new CD release, why the choices of tracks were made as some of the material left off is clearly much better, with Tommy Bolin noticeably more upfront. “Gettin’ Tighter” for example was always a highlight on this tour, with a long improvisation in the middle, that varied from night to night, while “Stormbringer” developed far beyond the somewhat perfunctory treatment of the Mark III renditions. “Lazy” is also a powerful performance, helped along by the funky tendencies of Bolin and Hughes.

Certainly the show was sufficiently strong to enthuse the band themselves. “This tour had to prove whether it could work or not,” a shirtless and sweating Ian Paice told Peter Crescenti backstage after the Tokyo gig. “This proved that it can work.”

“I could break a string playing ‘Smoke On The Water’ or any of the old stuff we play and it wouldn’t matter really, because people have those songs so firmly fixed in their heads they just fill in any gaps...”
      — Tommy Bolin, Australia 1975

Jon Lord was equally upbeat. “We can afford to relax a little bit. We know that it works. We should be able to get into some really nice things and experiment a bit with what we are. With Tommy people didn’t know what to expect so we were able to be free again. We’re trying to extend the variety of the things the band is capable of doing.”

The original album finally went out in March 1977 but only in Japan. When rumors of its quality and the poor mix were confirmed, it was decided to cancel a full European or American release, though a few countries such as Mexico did take it up. In the true Japanese tradition of releasing and rereleasing every Deep Purple catalogue item the album was later put out on CD but with no extra work being done whatsoever.

More recently the multi-tracks of almost the entire concert were taken out of storage and dusted down. With almost two hours of material and no less than five songs from this show unavailable in live form beyond here or the original album release, plus the variation within songs and solos that Purple customarily put into their shows (ironically more so with Mark IV than any other lineup), here potentially was a valuable companion to the 1976 California set. With this in mind it was decided to give the multi-tracks a listen and the show sounded so much better than anyone expected. Any doubts about Bolin’s performance were dispelled by the sonic guitar solo alone and this release, which has been totally remixed from start to finish, is the outcome. The master reel for “Lazy” had not survived but happily a live mix from the time survived enabling us to keep the show complete (also currently AWOL is the film footage from the show but we’re working on it...). Aside from that, we have here the entire show and alongside Come Taste The Band, Days May Come and Foxbat, this CD may be seen as completing the Mark IV story.