Ian Gillan wasn’t sorry to see Ritchie Blackmore go: ‘It would have been the end of Deep Purple’

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With time comes nostalgia, for the way we want to remember things — rather, sometimes, than the way they actually were. Such is the case, Ian Gillan argues, with Deep Purple fans and Ritchie Blackmore.

Blackmore was, of course, a founding member of the band — and, for most of its storied career, the beating heart of things. But by the end of his second tenure with Deep Purple, in the early 1990s, things had changed. Gillan says he seemed to lose interest in the group, and had become erratic. Meanwhile, the crowds were staying away in droves.

“The truth of the matter is, from a historical point of view, the band was dying,” Gillan says in this newly posted clip. “If Ritchie had stayed in the band, it would have been the end of Deep Purple. The shows were getting shorter and shorter, the audiences were getting smaller and smaller. We were playing in small halls, and they weren’t even full — they were half empty — and Ritchie was walking off stage every night.”

Blackmore’s departure, Gillan argues, gave Deep Purple new life. He says he saw stalwarts like Ian Paice, the late Jon Lord and Roger Glover instantly rejuvenated. Now, some 20 years later, the band is back with a highly praised new album called Now What?!

“So this situation ended, and we’re all glad it ended, and we had to rebuild,’ Gillan adds. “Of course, now the distance of time is so great that we just remember the good times. And we remember Ritchie as a great player, a great performer, a great writer, and I remember him as my roommate; I used to share rooms with him. But something happened with Ritchie, and that’s the end of that.”

Blackmore was with Deep Purple from its beginnings in 1968 through an initial split in 1975, and then again from 1984-93. Gillan has fronted the amalgam over three stints, from 1969-73, from 1984-89 and since 1992. Steve Morse took over for Blackmore in 1994, and continues today. Don Airey succeeded Lord in 2002.

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