Ian Gillan explains why Deep Purple shares songwriting credits: ‘We pioneered; we broke all the rules’

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Deep Purple’s most recent project Now What?! continued a bed-rock attitude about sharing songwriting credit, as every song listed Don Airey, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Steve Morse and Ian Paice as co-writers — along with new producer Bob Ezrin.

Gillan explains why: “Up until the late ’60s, the traditional songwriting credit of publishers was whoever wrote the tune, the melody and whoever wrote the words, the top line and the lyric,” he tells Gary Sharp of Classic Bands. “That was the only thing that was copyrighted. You couldn’t copyright a riff. You couldn’t copyright a chord sequence. You couldn’t copyright the opening bar for ‘Smoke On The Water’ for example. You could only copyright the tune and whatever the singer did basically. We pioneered. We broke all the rules, Deep Purple, and we included — as it was obvious, our band made music first before the songs — so, we included the drummer and the bass player and everyone else, and we were the first to do so.”

Ian Gillan joined Deep Purple in time for 1970’s Deep Purple in Rock, an album that was credited in its entirety to the memorable Mk. II lineup of Ritchie Blackmore, Gillan, Glover, Jon Lord and Paice — in stark contrast to many of the hit albums of earlier eras. To a large degree, this practice evolved out of Deep Purple’s studio work ethic, Gillan says.

“The Beatles still credited whoever put pen to paper and top line lyric, but we found it much more inclusive to do it the other way — and we included the producer in this one, too,” Gillan adds. “But that’s how we’ve always done it. Never a word is written before the band gets into the studio. Nothing is written down. No ideas are brought forward. Everything emerges from jam sessions. We start at noon every day and finish at six, day after day. Little ideas kind of spin out and we sit down and see how they can handle an arrangement or see what key they should be in and try to snatch them up with other ideas — and they become pieces of music and then on the back of that maybe a song will get written.”

Gillan goes on to note that Deep Purple was part of a larger aesthetic in this regard — though they may, in fact, be the longest running band to continue crediting everyone on every song. “Yes, that was the mood at the time,” Gillan admits, before quipping: “Zeppelin, Purple, Sabbath, Jethro Tull and Emerson Lake and Palmer, we used to drink together. [Laughs.] All of these ideas were talked over a few beers.”

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