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.
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?
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 just stay in bed
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.
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.
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.