Ian Gillan expounds on his shocking split with Ritchie Blackmore: ‘I didn’t want Deep Purple to be that way’

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To some degree, we understand what happened with Deep Purple and Ritchie Blackmore, in the sense that some deeper personal disconnect ultimately made going forward together untenable. Ian Gillan confirms that much, even as he expands upon what led to Deep Purple’s stunning breakup with its founding guitarist.

“Every one knows what it was,” the long-time Deep Purple frontman tells Radio Rock 106.6. “It was very simple: Ritchie just changed. He started pushing every one around. He started getting like a megalomaniac … and it just got worse and worse. I could never figure it out, because he was really a guy with good communication when I first met him.”

More specifically, though, there became an issue musically with Blackmore — not in terms of what he brought to the sessions as a soloist, but with larger song ideas. Ritchie Blackmore had initially left Deep Purple, in 1975, and founded the similarly structured Rainbow. As he continued with this new group, however, it ultimately shifted to more of a pop-metal focus.

That creative shift, Ian Gillan says, doomed Deep Purple’s Mk. II lineup when it mounted a surprise reunion in advance of 1984’s Perfect Strangers. “He tried to take the band in a direction which I guess he fulfilled with Rainbow,” Ian Gillan adds. “That’s where he wanted to go. Those were the kind of songs he was writing. Those were the kind of things he started easing towards. I felt that we still had a lot of animal stuff left inside of us — to be wild and to be unconstrained and to not have quite these cheesy songs. I didn’t like them very much. I like Rainbow, as a listener, but I didn’t want Deep Purple to be that way.”

Blackmore was with Rainbow through 1984, then — after an ugly split with Ian Gillan and Deep Purple — jump started his second band again from 1993-97 before turning to ren faire rock. Steve Morse took over for Blackmore in Deep Purple in the early 1990s, and continues with the group today.

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