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Glenn Hughes Re-Lives His Purple Patch

Deep Purple bassist/vocalist on band’s ’70s heyday, upcoming Australia tour and reunion plans.

From 1973 to 1976, British bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes co-fronted Deep Purple across three incendiary albums – Burn, Stormbringer and Come Taste the Band. He and co-vocalist David Coverdale joined after singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover split, teaming up to create a formidable vocal partnership and spearhead what has come to be known as Deep Purple Mark III (and, following the departure of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in 1975, Mark IV). Since parting ways with the band in 1976, Hughes has forged a lengthy solo career, as well as playing with Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, California Breed and the recently reunited Black Country Communion, who’ll release their fourth album shortly. In September, however, he’ll return to Australia to perform a full concert of classic Deep Purple songs, the first time he’s attempted the feat in 40 years.

Recently, Hughes called in while on tour in Britain to talk through the concerts, his memories of writing a classic Purple tune, and the band’s Hall of Fame induction in 2016…

How are you feeling about this series of concerts in Australia?
I’m really excited. I don’t know if it’s the fact that the actual touring Deep Purple are coming to an end on the road, if you will, or David Coverdale has done his Purple album [re-recordings of classic Mark III and Mark IV-era Deep Purple tracks], but I’ve been getting so many requests from around the world to do the same sort of scenario, honouring the songs that I made with Deep Purple. There were two live albums and three studio albums.

I believe in karma and aspects of karmic solutions and resolutions, and I just feel it’s the time for me to do it. Spiritually, mentally, bodily, I’m in great shape, and in a place to honour those songs. Of course we’ve lost Tommy Bolin [guitarist in the Mark IV line-up, who died in 1976], we’ve lost Jon Lord [keyboardist, who passed away in 2012 from pancreatic cancer], rest in peace, and it’s a good time for me to come back and honour the music to people that really want to hear and see these songs.

What are your memories of writing and recording the title-track of the Burn album?
We had written that entire album but we didn’t have the song that we thought would be the title, or we didn’t have the opening song. It was the very last day, or the very last few days, we were in Clearwell Castle in Gloucestershire in England. We were making the music in the dungeon, cos Ritchie loves dungeons, so you could imagine that the vibe was really kind of spooky, and Ritchie had an idea. He had one idea about a song title. He said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a song called ‘Burn’?” And we all went, “Oh!” And within 15 minutes we had written the music to that one word Ritchie said: ‘burn’. We wrote that song, with Jon Lord’s Bach influenced solo, and of course that big heavy riff, and that beautiful piece in the middle there, that pre-chorus, it just came right out. Some of the best songs that have ever been written have been written in a few minutes. It was a wonderful moment.

Was that indicative of the chemistry you had back then?
Yeah. When I came in with David [Coverdale] they felt – this is Jon and Ian [Paice, drums] – it was like a new band. You’ve got two new guys coming in. Of course I’d been touring all over the world with [previous band] Trapeze and I wasn’t new to the industry, but David Coverdale, God bless him, had never really done anything. He was a complete new boy, if you will. But the bond that David and I formed was really strong as friends, and vocally we had this same tonal vibrato quality that enabled us to form this duel singing team that no one else had been doing at that period. So we weren’t trying to copy Ian Gillan and Roger Glover, we created something that was completely different. And by happenstance, by karma, by luck, whatever you want to call it, we were there at the right moment and we had success.

What do your remember of being asked to join the band?
I had been playing in my band Trapeze, primarily in America, playing to clubs and then larger clubs and then theatres and then arenas and selling 10,000 tickets a night. And that’s when Deep Purple saw me, and were courting me. They were courting me for about a year, they kept coming to see me play. I had no idea they were actually going to ask me to join. Even the day they asked me to join I’m thinking, why are we sitting in a boardroom on Central Park in New York with these fellows? What’s going on here? I had no idea. I was so naive.

It’s incredible to think that Burn and Stormbringer were both released in the same year, 1974…
The Seventies, between ’71 and ’76, some bands were releasing albums every 10 months. And at that time again, cos David and I were the newer guys, the band seemed to have found a niche of brotherhood. And with all due respect to Ritchie, after a couple of years with the new members he was on the way out. I say that will all respect, cos Ritchie’s a real master. But it was a moment for us, where it was trial by fire. At that time we sold more tickets at venues in America, we were the number one album selling band in the world in ’73, ’74… Trial by fire. David and I were 21, 22 years old, and we were cast into the middle of all of that.

hughes live

What did it mean to you when Deep Purple were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016?
It was great. David and I went together. And by the way, David and I have been friends from the moment we shook hands in ’73, we’ve been so tight, we’re family. So when David and I were inducted with the Mark II guys – certain members of Deep Purple have not been inducted – I think we were inducted for the workload and the albums that were successful. We don’t get to choose who’s in the Hall of Fame, they have a committee that does that. So when David and I were inducted with Ian Paice, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Gillan, it was a nice moment. I think it was also a nice moment for the fans of Mark III and Mark IV Deep Purple, and to honour also Jon Lord and Tommy Bolin, who of course were not there to receive their awards.

What was the scene like backstage? Was there much reminiscing?
I’m not here to gossip, but there was definitely a fine line in Deep Purple. There’s David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes from the one camp, and the other camp is the other dudes [laughs]. David and I were on the west coast in California, and the other dudes live in Europe, so we don’t know those fellas very well, although it is weird to say that to you. We’re just coming from two different places.

Ritchie Blackmore has said he’d be up for reuniting with Purple for one last show. If the offer came, would you join in?
David and I and Jon Lord, about two years before Jon was diagnosed, we tried to privately get a reunion together, but we couldn’t somehow, no one could get Ritchie on the phone. And after a while we just said, we gave it our best shot, and of course Jon was diagnosed and we had to let it go. I’m not resentful or have bad feelings towards that, the fact is these things happen in life, opportunities come, opportunities go. I’m a firm believer in karma, I’m a firm believer that everything happens the way it happens. The legacy of Deep Purple that David and I left is still intact. I’m really happy with the three albums: Burn, Stormbringer and Come Taste the Band. The current Deep Purple that is touring now is coming to what I would imagine is an end, cos they’re calling it their last; it’s their last goodbye and I only want to wish them all the very best in their final tour.