40 Years Ago: Deep Purple Release ‘Burn’
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Most rock fans like to hear something a little different when their favorite artists release a new album. But when Deep Purple released their eighth studio LP, ‘Burn,’ on Feb. 15, 1974, things had changed for the band in some major ways.
Most obvious was the addition of new singer David Coverdale, plucked from obscurity to front Deep Purple following the contentious departure of former vocalist Ian Gillan. Joining Coverdale as a new addition — and vocalist — was bassist Glenn Hughes, replacing the departed Roger Glover. The result was a decidedly new sound for a band whose personnel conflicts had become almost as attention-getting as their music.
“We make music for other people to listen to, and a lot of people liked Ian singing,” explained guitarist Ritchie Blackmore during a 1973 interview with the NME. “It was just that after four LPs I personally — I can’t speak for the others, I don’t know how they feel about it — was tired of the vocal sound of it. So the others said they agreed, and we all got together and Ian said he wanted to resign. We thought that was fair enough, because this was our chance to get a new vocalist.”
Admitting that he himself had wanted to quit before Coverdale and Hughes joined, Blackmore insisted, “We’ve just progressed naturally. We haven’t tried to set any barriers because we’re not into that. I’ve just been living on and playing the music I want to. I wouldn’t stay with the band if I wasn’t satisfied with myself…I wanted to leave basically because I didn’t think the vocal side of it was happening at all.”
Continued Blackmore, “It was quite nice but it was too poppy. Now, it’s more into a blues-commercial pop thing. Our new singer has a more masculine voice, and with Glenn we hope to get a double type of feel. You could say a Beatles feel with a hard rock backing is the basic thing. There are now two other guys involved, so it makes it more or less a new band to me. It’s not Deep Purple anymore, although it’s still the same name. Really, it’s a completely different band.”
They might have been a new band, but the reconstituted Purple didn’t have to suffer through years of dues-paying before reaching arena-sized levels of success: ‘Burn’ was a worldwide hit, reaching the Top 10 of the Billboard album charts in the U.S., breaking the Top Five in the U.K., and hitting No. 1 in other corners of the globe. And the group kept going, releasing its next record, ‘Stormbringer,’ in November 1974.
Of course, commercial success has never ensured lineup longevity, particularly where Deep Purple is concerned, and if Blackmore had one foot out the door before Coverdale and Hughes arrived, the influx of soul and funk they brought to the band (which he derisively referred to as “shoeshine music“), he was completely gone after ‘Stormbringer’ — something he half-jokingly prophesied at the end of his NME chat.
“Who knows? After the LP I might be saying he’s a s—ty vocalist as well,” shrugged Blackmore regarding Coverdale. “I’m not going to say he’s the best vocalist in the world, but when we heard him we thought, ‘Christ, he’s good.'”