Featured Album – Machine Head – Deep Purple

Machine Head was released in 1972 and is considered a classic album by pretty much everybody who digs good, crunchy blooze-rock. They may well make ’em like this these days but I sure as shit can’t find them. (I’m still depressed about how underrepresented and marginalized rock is at the Grammys. Look! Here’s U2. And Sting! Happy now? Back to the Top 40.)

I like what Wikipedia has to say about the band: “Deep Purple, together with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, have been referred to as the “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal in the early to mid-seventies.”

They were listed in the 1975 Guinness Book of World Records as “the globe’s loudest band” (louder than Spinal Tap?) for a 1972 concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre, and have sold over 100 million albums worldwide.”

The personnel on this album represents their second line-up and consists of Ian Gillian (vocals, harmonica), Jon Lord (keyboards), Roger Glover (bass), Ian Paice (drums, percussion), and Ritchie Blackmore, a man whose guitar case I am surely not worthy to carry.

The album kicks off, as it should, with an acoustic fingerpicked version of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” The band all join in, singing high harmonies, sounding very much like Crosby, Stills and Nash with many la-la-las. One can imagine them hugging each other and handing out presents. And little birdies chirping sweetly in the background.

Nah, just fucking with you. This album kicks off with, IMHO, one of the greatest balls-out, fuck you, hard-driving, kiss-my-ass blazing road songs of all time, “Highway Star.”

One commenter on YouTube said, “When I got flagged doing 100 mph while listening to this song, I simply screamed along with Ian Gillan into the cops face ‘I’m a highway staaaaar!!’ Now I’m singing, ‘I’m In the Jailhouse Now.” I regret nothing.” Damn right, jack. I love you, man.

Or as another commenter put it more succinctly, ” Muchos de los ninos rata conocieron esta rola por el pinche comcial de la 🍺🍺🍺.” I have no idea what the fuck that means but I sure as shit recognize beer when I see it! And that was posted by a woman who I would marry in a heartbeat.

Spotify link

Blackmore says his tremendous solo on that tune was based on Bach chord sequences to which one can only respond, “Dude! Who knew Bach was such a rocker?!”

Yes, this is the album that “Smoke on the Water” came from. (Some friends of mine and I used to go to a cabin on a lake somewhere in New York. We would usually have a supply of herbal essence and thought it was hilarious to say we’d go out on the lake and smoke on the water. Seemed funny at the time.)

It’s well-known that this is a true story as “some stupid with a flare gun” lit up the casino where they were playing in Montreux, Switzerland, taking out the entire casino and all of the Mothers of Invention’s gear (they’d been playing there the night before.) The “water” is, of course, Lake Geneva.

Along with “Stairway to Heaven,” this is another tune the guys in the guitar store would rather never hear you play again. Selfish bastards. What else am I supposed to play?

Spotify link

And now for perhaps my favorite song on the album, the fantastic “Lazy.” Sure, the lyrics aren’t Dylan but they tell a story:

You’re lazy
You just stay in bed
You’re lazy
You just stay in bed
You don’t want no money
You don’t want no bread

I can say with total honesty mingled with a little bullshit that there were times of unemployment where this became my theme song. I was lazy. I stayed in bed. I didn’t want no money. I didn’t want no bread. But you know, I made do.

I love how this thing starts out with an organ solo that gets all Phantom of the Opera. Then it kicks in and becomes a wild-ass rocker ending with an abrupt, classic blues ending. You cannot beat this song with a stick.

Spotify link

I’ll end this scholarly dissertation with a song that is just a flat-out kinda dopey yet lovable tune called “Space Truckin'” Again, if you’re looking for poetry, read Yeats. This is about space truckin’ which is, well, does it even matter? It matters exactly as much as a-womp-bomp-a-loo-mop alop-bomp-bomp. If this doesn’t bring out your inner teenager, nothing will.

Spotify link

There you have it. A bona fide rock and roll classic. Some version of Deep Purple toured just last year. Jon Lord died a few years ago and Ritchie Blackmore left the band some time back and formed a band called Rainbow. He’s touring Russia, Finland, Berlin and Prague late this year.

Steve Morse has been playing guitar for Deep Purple for almost 25 years. Morse is no slouch on guitar and I mentioned him before in my post on the Dixie Dregs. I have never seen these guys and I suppose that just for shits and grins I should do that one of these days.

20 thoughts on “Featured Album – Machine Head – Deep Purple

  1. Oh man, what a kick-ass album and one of the few vinyl records I bought when I was in my teens that still proud to own today!

    As hard as it is, but if I would have to choose one hard rock album, it still would be “Machine Head,” even though I’ve come to appreciate Led Zeppelin much more than I did initially. I never really got into Sabbath – not quite sure why.

    One of the things I’ve always found great about Deep Purple is the equal weight given to the guitar and the organ. I think Jon Lord was a genius, who was instrumental in taking the Hammond beyond its traditional backing function and make it true solo instrument like the lead guitar.

    “Machine Head” also represents Deep Purple’s best line-up, with everybody performing at their peak.

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  2. A hard rock classic that for some reason never entered my record collection (I’ve got the first DP album, the one with “Hush”). I absolutely hate “Smoke on the Water”: plodding, simplistic, and radio played it to death. But I guess if you’re a budding guitar hero, it serves a purpose! “Highway Star” is brimming with exuberance, with one of the great guitar solos ever. Anyway, if anyone has a clean vinyl copy of this LP, let me know.

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    1. Pete, I don’t quite share your fear and loathing of ‘Smoke’ but yea, I’m sick to death of it. Funny (?) story – my stepmother thinks good music ended with Frank Sinatra and detests rock. But she saw some Vegas show where a lounge singer did a Paul Anka-like “Smoke” and she dug it. I’m sure she’d hate the original. Interestingly, she’s a blues lover, never making the connection between blues and rock. Has seen BB, thinks he was a god. BTW., I think you can get vinyl of this gem for 20 bucks or so. Oh, and I used to love ‘Hush’ but lost my zeal for it.

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  3. Back when CB was in the Us vs Them camp. I closed my little mind to a lot of music. But as I grew bigger I started to expand my babyhead to include more. I guess I was going against popular thought and trends. Bottom line I secretly couldn’t resist ‘Lazy’. Good piece fella.

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    1. I think many of us are guilty of that, CB. I thought Steely Dan sucked when I first heard them. I couldn’t stand ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.’ Imagine if I’d maintained that attitude. Their music has enriched my life immeasurably.

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      1. I’ve warmed up to so many that way. Some are right away, others just never do it for me. But come on, how could CB not dig ‘Lazy’? I was a big Cream/Eric/Who/Kinks guy back then plus stuff Like Mahavishnu/Hanncock/Return to Forever/Yes/King Crimson etc. I think you get it. Oh yeah and Steely Dan.

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  4. I really need to get to this one pronto. Having only recently delved into the Deep Purple discography, I’ve listened to a bunch of albums by various line-ups and I don’t mind admitting I’m confused. I don’t have this one, but I’ve tried to listen to the essential stuff and have been stuck at In Rock for a while. That demands attention. Sounds like this does too…

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  5. My favorite DP album and my favorite tune “Lazy” I think somewhere along the line I did a piece on Lazy. Maybe after Lord passed or on the anniversary on it? And the best description for Highway Star I’ve ever read or heard.
    “one of the greatest balls-out, fuck you, hard-driving, kiss-my-ass blazing”

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    1. You may well have. After a while it’s a blur of bloggers. As to that description, heh, yeah it’s way better than that wimpy shit i described just before it. 😂

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