Ever wondered what Ian Gillan did during those super-long Ritchie Blackmore solos?: ‘It was his personal orgy’

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Deep Purple has long been known for explorative in-concert improvisations. They’ll take unscripted turns in the midst of even the most familiar songs, something that works as a kind of lifeblood for a group that remains on the road for most of every year — whether Deep Purple has a new album to promote or not.

This was even more so during earlier incarnations that featured free-spirit Ritchie Blackmore on guitar — and it led Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan (who, after all, was left with nothing to do while they jammed) to a hilarious distraction back in England.

“I love extended solos; I used to like them in the old days a lot,” Gillan tells Umberto Sulpasso, “because it used to give me time to go to the pub for a drink.”

And, just to be clear, he’s not kidding. Ian Gillan would duck out of Deep Purple concerts for a quick nip while his bandmates charged onward through flights of instrumental fancy. And when there wasn’t a nearby watering hole? He’d start dealing in the crew backstage.

“I used to have one of the roadies tell me, when [Ritchie Blackmore] looks like he’s nearly finished: ‘Come to the pub, and let me know.’ Every night. I’m serious,” Ian Gillan adds. “We used to play cards in the dressing room, in America. In England, there used to be pubs near the stage door entrance. But when we started playing bigger places, of course, you can’t leave the building. So, we used to play cards, with the crew. That’s the way it was, and it was great. But it was his personal orgy.”

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