It would be difficult to overstate the sense of loss that rock fans all over the world are feeling at the passing of Jon Lord – and impossible to sum up his musical legacy and achievements in a few short sentences, as many obituary writers have been tasked with doing. When I heard that Jon had lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, my immediate reaction was to put on, and listen to in full, the original performance of his groundbreaking Concerto for Group and Orchestra from September 1969, which saw Deep Purple join forces – or perhaps ‘collide thrillingly’ sums it up better – with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the great Malcolm Arnold. That extraordinary piece of music seemed to me to sum up as well as anything I could think of the unique musical personality that was to leave such an indelible mark upon the music that we love: that exquisite duality between the erudite composer and musical scholar, and the wild man behind the organ who became such an iconic figure to hard rockers everywhere. The unforgettable solos on Hush, Black Night, Fireball, Pictures of Home, Highway Star and Burn, to name but a few, are seared into our collective consciousness, and it is surely inconceivable that rock and metal would have evolved in quite the way they did without the talent, determination and indefatigability of this modest and unassuming chap from Leicester. He will remain not only a hard rock legend, but a towering figure in modern British music generally, and I am immensely grateful to have had the privilege of seeing him perform with Deep Purple on two occasions (including, I believe, for his last full concert with the band, in Hammersmith, in 2002). My abiding memory of him will be the playful solo spot he performed in Brighton in 1996, goofing around with Oh, I do Like to be Beside the Seaside! on his way to ushering in the ever exhilarating Lazy. I was lucky enough to be standing almost directly in front of him, in the front row – I also got something of a personal bass masterclass from Roger! – and Jon, along with his bandmates, seemed so happy and relaxed, romping through almost all of Purpendicular, along with the expected Purple classics. It is an image I will always hold on to, whenever I partake of the musical riches he has left us.
Farewell, maestro, and God bless. You taught us all to listen that bit more closely, and always with a sense of wonder.