There I was, innocently listening to my iPod while on the long ride home, when up popped Child In Time from Deep Purple’s album In Rock. Instantly – instantly – I was transported back to the very room in which I first heard this in 1975, as an impressionable thirteen-year-old, when played this by a knowing classmate.
Back in 2010, I scrubbed out of shuffle mode to hear the whole album, from the insane explosive bombast of Speed King to the final meltdown at the end of Hard Lovin’ Man.
This was the sound of a band who, after three years footling around with an ill-matched line-up and cover versions of Neil Diamond songs, had finally got their act together, and, for me, invented heavy rock. Ritchie Blackmore’s tremelo dives fused with the brutal assault of Jon Lord’s Hammond (played very loudly through a Marshall stack) to create a sonic monolith – a sound often imitated, never mastered. The bands inspired by DP made the mistake of copying the guitar, thinking that it was overdriven and distorted, but it’s not. Blackmore’s guitar was, mostly, squeaky clean, as guitars usually were in the mid-60s. The distortion comes from a Hammond organ blasting through guitar amplifiers plainly not built for the purpose – and Roger Glover’s earthshakingly, outrageously overdriven bass.
I realized that this record had been made in 1970 – forty years ago – yet it still sounded as fresh as a daisy. I opined on Facebook that Deep Purple In Rock was and is the finest rock album ever made. Naturally, one rose to challenge this claim, and it was my friend and occasional bandmate Mr. A. G. of King’s Lynn, ace guitarist and prime mover behind Stone Pony – who asserted that far from the mighty Purple, the best rock album ever made was Strictly Personal by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, a record of whose existence I had been unaware. Mr A. G. emailed me a couple of tracks and … well, they didn’t do anything for me.
So, what is it that shapes our opinions in this most crucial theatre of human experience? Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?
Early experience appears to be the key. Mr A. G. recalls that he heard Strictly Personal at the age of ten. The record belonged to the older brother of a friend, and he heard it on his friend’s radiogram. After that first exposure, he saved his pocket money furiously until he could buy his own copy. Perhaps, had he not been so exposed, he’d have fallen for some other combo. He recalls that ‘he’d never heard anything like it’ – and that was precisely my own feeling on first hearing Deep Purple in Rock.
Mr. A. G. became a professional guitarist. In due course I took up keyboards, specializing in … rock organ. How these chance experiences of youth so shape our entire lives.