Legendary British rock vocalist David Coverdale hits Australia this month with Whitesnake. Following our Here I Go Again: The Journey of David Coverdale's Whitesnake piece from last month we thought we’d put together something that focuses on his time with Deep Purple.
David Coverdale came to Deep Purple in 1973. An unknown 21-year-old, he had massive shoes to fill – those of original frontman Ian Gillan - in what was possibly the biggest band in the world at the time. Deep Purple had already released at least three albums that are amongst rock’s regularly acknowledged most excellent – Deep Purple In Rock, Machine Head and Fireball – and their repertoire included tracks like “Smoke on the Water”, “Highway Star” and “Black Night”. They had created and defined a style of heavy metal that emphasised technique and incorporated the neo-classical – thanks to guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and keyboard player Jon Lord – and Ian Gillan had provided the machismo and the blues.
Perhaps hedging their bets, Deep Purple also brought in the vocally able Glenn Hughes to replace departed bass player Roger Glover. Hughes had previously played and sung with moderately successful hard rockers Trapeze, and he could certainly hit the high notes. But, Coverdale was the new frontman, and his current superstar status is a testament to how quickly he found his feet and made an impact.
Coverdale’s first album with Purple (Deep Purple Mk III as the aficionados like to call them), the mighty Burn, saw the band back in the US Top Ten album chart following a disappointing showing by Gillan’s final album with the band, Who Do We Think We Are. Coverdale had a hand in writing almost all the songs, and his vocal on the album’s mindblowing title track, the first single “Might Just Take Your Life” and bluesy “Mistreated” made a strong impression. Gillan wasn’t missed. In April 1974 the band co-headlined (over the likes of Black Sabbath and The Eagles) at the California Jam Festival at Ontario Motor Speedway in California, attracting over 250,000 fans.
"Burn" (Live at California Jam, with Glenn Hughes doing his best Cousin It impersonation as he approaches the mic, singing the high bits as he did on the record)
"Might Just Take Your Life"
The band’s next album was more problematic. Stormbringer – the title track of which was named after the soul-devouring sword wielded by Michael Moorcock’s heroic fantasy character Elric – contained the hits “Lady Double Dealer” and “Soldier of Fortune” but it just scraped into the US Top Twenty. Perhaps more significantly, Ritchie was not enjoying the occasional funk and soul influences Coverdale and Hughes were bringing to the band, and he left to form Rainbow.
"Lady Double Dealer"
"Soldier of Fortune"
With Blackmore gone, the band by rights should have been over. But Coverdale convinced the last original members still present - Jon Lord and drummer Iain Pace - to give it another crack, and drafted in American guitarist Tommy Bolin. Bolin, who had made a name for himself as a guitarist replacing Joe Walsh in The James Gang, shared Coverdale and Hughes’ jazz and funk predilections. Alas, and despite strong tracks like the opener “Coming Home”, the next album - 1975s Come Taste The Band - faltered on the charts. The first album that Deep Purple Mk IV released would also be their last. Bolin’s addictions affected his playing, and after some sub-par performances, the end came in mid-76. Those addictions would kill Bolin within months. Coverdale set about a solo career that had evolved by 1978 into Whitesnake.
For more on Deep Purple Mk III, check out this fascinating student-made documentary from 1974.
Scorpions and Whitesnake Australian Tour 2020
Wednesday, 19th February
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
Saturday, 22nd February
Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney
Monday, 24th February
Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane