After an eight year run in the music biz, Deep Purple called it quits in 1976. Eight years after that, the most successful version of the band (dubbed Mark II) reformed and went back into the studio. They released the album Perfect Strangers in 1984 and supported it with a reunion tour.
Some critics and fans thought the album was a brilliant update of the traditional Deep Purple sound; others thought it was a weak attempt to give them more of a commercial presence in the contemporary hard rock market.
Eight years is a significant amount of time between gigs. So, what happened to the members of Deep Purple during the 1976-84 lay off? Here’s a brief description of what some of them did to fill that hiatus …
After exiting Deep Purple, Ritchie Blackmore started Rainbow, which featured up and coming vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Indeed, Rainbow’s second album Rainbow Rising rocks hard from start to finish, and is considered by many to be Rainbow’s best album. Over time, Blackmore frequently fired and hired musicians, which resulted in him swiping former Purple bassist Roger Glover, who acted as producer as well.
Interestingly, subsequent Rainbow releases seemed to indicate Blackmore and/or Glover were attempting to steer the band into pursuing a pop-rock approach, which over the years resulted in a few hits and some uneven albums recorded with a revolving door of group members.
Ian Gillan took a break after years of living the Deep Purple experience. When he returned to the music scene, he founded the Ian Gillan Band. Fans hoping for hard rock from the lead singer of Deep Purple’s classic era instead got an odd mixture of progressive rock with jazz and funk elements. Disbanding that band and regrouping under the name Gillan (aside: reminds me of that SNL skit where Jon Bon Jovi says, “I can’t help it if I was born with a good band name!”), the group laid out two great albums in a row, Mr. Universe and Glory Road.
As far as hard rock goes, both of these were right up there with Rainbow Rising and Burn. The difference here was that Gillan sounded less like a hard-rock group and more like a rock ‘n’ roll band — meaning more about good times and less trying to impress everyone with how heavy you and your band are. Gillan continued to make decent rock records into the early 1980s. (As a quick aside, Gillan even managed to sing on one album with Black Sabbath sometime in there as well).
David Coverdale, Deep Purple’s lead singer at the time of the official disbanding, started a new group called Whitesnake and successfully pursued a career playing melodic rock, much in the same vein as latter-day Rainbow and the best work of Gillan. In addition, Coverdale recruited the services of Purple’s founder and organist Jon Lord, and even got drummer Ian Paice to sign on for a few years — making 3/5ths of the group Deep Purple alumni.
It kind of reminds me of the Death of Superman comic book plotline that DC Comics ran in the early ’90s. For those who missed it, Superman “died,” which resulted in a four separate superheroes, each with some of the original Superman’s attributes, each attempting to replace the Man of Steel. And we all know how that turned out — don’t we?