Perhaps more than any other band in rock, Deep Purple may be considered masters of the non-album track par excellence. From solid gold classics to hidden gems, the band have produced, throughout their career, tracks to be savoured by discerning hard rock fans that, for whatever reason, have not made the main track lists of their studio albums. Some of them are staples of the band’s live set to this day, and I would like to take an opportunity to pay tribute to the a-sides and b-sides, out-takes and bonus tracks, that form an important part of rock heritage and remain regular visitors to my metaphorical turntable. The list is far from definitive; I had to make some tough calls to get it down to a top ten, and I would very much welcome comments from other Purple fans on their own favourite non-album tracks from the band.
Credit to Simon Robinson for the historical background on many of these tracks, in the booklet for the 2002 boxed set Listen, Learn, Read On, and the sleeve notes for the remastered albums.
10. Things I Never Said (2006, Rapture of the Deep bonus track) – Ian Gillan sets the record straight on this old school stomper, which originally appeared on the Japanese edition of Purple’s most recent album. With its foot-tapping shuffle, and the energetic lead trading of Morse and Airey, it’s one of the most traditional cuts to emerge from the Rapture sessions and, as such, a very welcome addition to the canon.
9. Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1991, soundtrack album) – Passing on a song suggested to the band for a movie soundtrack, Deep Purple adapted an out-take to come up with their own original number inspired by the movie’s title. A slick and polished driving rocker, on which Joe Lynn Turner sounds completely at ease, this is, to my mind, better than several Slaves and Masters tracks. While, stylistically, it won’t be to all Purple fans’ tastes, it shows that Mark V Purple had the potential to go further with the revamped identity that Turner in particular wanted to forge (although Jon Lord’s absence from the track strongly suggests that that was never going to happen).
8. Hallelujah (1969 a-side) – This first recording by Mark II Deep Purple was a world away from the visceral and pulverising heavy rock they were soon to unleash on an unsuspecting public, with In Rock. And, while the new members (being Ian Gillan and Roger Glover) might have been distinctly nonplussed by the song – written by Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook – that they were presented with for that first session, it’s actually a rather haunting and atmospheric affair, and a very interesting curiosity for aficionados of the band’s formative period. It also features Gillan letting rip with his famous scream for the first time in his Deep Purple capacities – I guess he just couldn’t hold it in!
7. Coronarius Redig (1974, b-side of Might Just Take Your Life, from Burn) – Fans of the mighty Wring that Neck from The Book of Taliesyn had to wait a surprisingly long time for the band to follow it up with a new full-blown instrumental. And then, with the unveiling of another new line-up (being Mark III, with David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes), like the proverbial London buses, two of them came along at once: “A”200, the closing cut of Burn, and, if that wasn’t enough, as the b-side of the album’s only single, this supreme accidental instrumental – apparently, Mr Coverdale was in no fit state to record a lead vocal after the new line-up’s first performance, in Copenhagen on the previous night, so it fell to Mr Blackmore to save the day with some extended leads. The funky workout, while clearly looking ahead to directions the band would explore further on Stormbringer and Come Taste the Band, is also notable for a repeated melodic phrase Ritchie turns out that was destined soon to reappear in a very different context – a little ditty you may have heard of called Catch the Rainbow.
6. I’m Alone (1971, b-side of Strange Kind of Woman) – Based on a shelved instrumental from the In Rock sessions, this compulsive track finds Ian Paice and Roger Glover working their little socks off to create the itchy ants-in-its-pants groove that provides such an irresistible backdrop for Ritchie’s mesmerising leads. A terrific showcase for Mark II’s imperious standards of musicianship.
5. Painted Horse (1973, studio out-take) – The straw that broke the camel’s back, as far as the fractious relationship between Messrs Gillan and Blackmore was concerned, this light-hearted bluesy affair found Mark II Deep Purple tapping into the spirit of the first version of the band in a way that was unusual and refreshing. Recorded after the band had got Woman From Tokyo in the can for the new album, Gillan’s laid back vocal delivery of the song sparked such a huge row between himself and Blackmore that the ‘banjo player’ recorded the rest of his parts for the album in isolation from his bandmates; subsequent relations were so strained that Gillan turned his notice in and departed from the band after completing his touring commitments. Such a merry little ditty, too . . . what mighty contests rise from trivial things!
4. Emmaretta (1969 a-side) – This single release from Deep Purple Mark I, ahead of the line-up’s eponymous swansong album, saw the young band seeking to recapture some of the Stateside momentum they had garnered with the hit single Hush, and subsequent tour opening for Cream. Direct and melodic, with an obvious mainstream appeal that was notably limited on the progressive LP they were soon to release, the song nevertheless rocks hard by Mark I standards – and features tight-as-a-duck’s-arse rhythm work from Paice and Nick Simper, and a terrific lead vocal from Rod Evans.
3. When a Blind Man Cries (1972, b-side of Never Before, from Machine Head) – A song so good you can’t believe anyone would cast it upon the waters as a b-side – apart from the fact that it really wouldn’t have fitted the vibe of the Machine Head album – Blind Man is a supreme melancholic slow blues featuring Ian Gillan on the absolute top of his game. It is an irony of the band’s history that the song it backed up on its original release (incidentally, one of my all-time favourites), that the band had such high hopes for, largely sank without trace – while it became an acknowledged classic that is always eagerly anticipated and warmly received in Purple’s live shows to this day.
2. Strange Kind of Woman (1971 a-side) – One of the first things the band worked on for the follow-up to In Rock, Strange Kind of Woman was released ahead of the new album (Fireball) to build on the momentum of their first UK hit, Black Night. A song that needs no introduction for anyone with a passing interest in Purple, it has been a strong live favourite both in the era of Blackmore – whose famous interplay with Gillan on the song probably constituted the closest thing the pair had to a conversation at times – and of Morse, whose distinctive signature tone fits the song like a glove somehow.
1. Black Night (1970 a-side) – A perennial scenario for rock bands down the ages: album finally done, everyone happy (or as happy as they can be) . . . and then back comes the record company, saying “We need a single!” Such was the situation Deep Purple found themselves in, having wrapped up In Rock. No need to panic, though. Cue a memorable – ahem – recycled riff, a Canned Heat style groove, and some hastily improvised nonsense lyrics, and Bob’s yer uncle: Top of the Pops and commercial glory here we come, armed with a rowdy sing-along anthem destined to send the punters home happy for decades to come! It is a great mystery to me that Mark III and Mark IV Deep Purple never included Black Night in their sets. I know that the new members hated performing the Mark II era material, but a major reason why this song has endured, and remains so beloved of the fans, is that it’s such a great live vehicle for the performers, and lends itself so readily to improvisation and off-the-cuff feel playing. I’m sure Mark III would have been a lot happier getting stuck into Black Night than ploughing their way through Space Truckin’ – and as for Mark IV, well, I would have loved to have heard Tommy Bolin sink his teeth into it.