Machine Head album creating history
STONES' АID FOR NEW ALBUM
DEEP Purple will spend the whole of December recording a follow-up album to " Fireball," which is released In Britain today (Friday), and the sessions are expected to take place In Switzerland using the Stones' mobile.
In the eyes (and ears) of many, Machine Head is the quintessential Deep Purple album. When feature writers start throwing labels like "heavy metal pioneers" at the band. Machine Head is, like as not, the one they cite to back up their statement The fact that the album contains the band's best known track, Smoke On The Water, merely serves to further this train of thought.
Needless to say once this idea had taken root in the minds of rock journalists, there was no going back; today the view is more entrenched than ever, it's probably not even worm pointing out that Deep Purple In Rock was a far more aggressive album; Fireball more inventive. Yet even for many fans who would take either of those two albums over Machine Head (were our desert island choice to be so severely restricted), it's not really too difficult to see why Machine Head gets the press it does.
Underpinned by a tight rhythm department, metallic riffing from Blackmore,just the right amount of classically tinged organ breaks and text book tongue in cheek lyrics - all beautifully balanced with a clear modern sounding production job - the album is still influential today. Now, with this, the first true remastered edition, musical instrument shops can brace themselves for the influx of yet another generation of spotty Strat-copy buyers eager to impress.
1971 had been a busy year for Deep Purple. Understatement. They'd been struggling to balance tours and recording sessions right up to the moment Fireball was released. The band had August off to prepare them for three months of almost solid touring, at the end of which they were expected to record another album. Both band and managers were desperate to find a way round the never ending recording sessions which had so delayed their last two releases.
Even so, fans on Deep Purple's September / October 71 British tour, expecting a fairly heavy dose of the new Fireball album, were surprised to hear Ian Gillan announcing songs from their next LP. The two new numbers in question were Highway Star and Lazy. It seems that Lazy originated during a rehearsal for the tour. Highway Star was put together on the coach as the group travelled down to the first date of the tour in Portsmouth on September 13th.The managers had the fun idea of hiring a big coach and busing the band and journalists down together, allowing them to do interviews as they went, as Ian Gillan recalls, "A journalist on the bus asked Ritchie how we wrote songs. Caught in a playful mood, Ritchie picked up his guitar and said 'Ike this'... and he started a rhythm, and I came in an ad-libbed words like 'We're on the road, we're on the road, we're a rock'n'roll band...".
Once at the hall, they worked the rest of the parts out during the soundcheck and put it in the set that night The Fireball album just didn't have that many songs which worked properly in a live context They'd tried some out on one-nighters and not been happy with the results so the material was increasingly relegated to the sidelines as far as gigs went From Britain the group had a lengthy American jaunt running from late October until the last week of November and for the first time they were going out as headliners.They managed just two shows before Ian Gillan was taken seriously ill; the others tried a third show with Glover taking over the vocals but it didn't work and the band returned home.
Feelings of disappointment at having blown out a major tour were probably tempered by the prospect of some time off the road. While Ian recuperated Blackmore disappeared into the studio with Ian Paice to work on his Baby Face project He had formulated a clear vision about the forthcoming LP which they'd already titled Machine Head. "The next album will show what Purple's future really is," he told one paper in November. Glover too was happy to have a break."I got most of my ideas during the four weeks off just because I was able to relax". The recording sessions were scheduled for December in Switzerland. Asked why they had decided to record outside Britain for the first time, Blackmore explained. "Money! When you record in England the tax people come down on you."
There were also some ideas to try out. During the Fireball album, Ian Paice had ended up playing his drums out in the corridor because the kit sounded so much better out there. They wanted to take this further and record outside a soundproofed studio. The Casino in Montreux was chosen. The band had played live there as guests at the annual Montreux Jazz Festival and knew Claude Nobs, in charge of tourism for the town and heavily involved with the running of the Casino and the festival. They planned to set up their gear on the Casino stage and record the tracks, almost in a live situation, via the Rolling (Truck) Stones Mobile which was hired specially for the job. (This mobile studio had been built in the back of a truck to enable The Stones to record in more interesting locations but to help cover the cost of running it they had begun to hire it out to other groups). There was even a proposal that the group would later play a proper live show in the Casino to reward Claude for his help in setting the sessions up, and tape the results, perhaps issuing a double album - half live, half "studio".
The Mobile arrived from France and Purple's gear came over from London by truck arriving in Geneva on December 6th.The Casino was booked for a show by Frank Zappa. "We were staying at the Eden au Lac Hotel just down the road'" remembered Ian Gillan. "We turned up to see the Zappa show, satin some really nice seats right in front of the stage. Towards the end of the show, which was spectacular, 'cos they had Flo and Eddie in, and it was superb, some guy came in with a flare gun and shot it into the roof"
Most bands have their wackier fans, and Zappa being Zappa probably attracted more than most. Glover picks up the story, "I guess someone had told him that they'd have to stop the show, because it didn't look ike there was a fire at first". Memories differ as to what Frank's words were but most accounts have him announcing "Arthur brown in person!" as the band began to exit stage left. The fire took root in the roof space which was hidden by a false bamboo ceiling, minutes later it was an inferno. With two weeks booked to cut an LP Purple had lost their recording venue.
They say every cloud has a silver lining. "We were sitting in this bar restaurant about a quarter of a mile from the Casino, and ft was blazing. The wind was coming down off the mountains and taking the smoke and flames across the lake, and the smoke was hanging Ike a curtain over the lake,"Ian later remembered. The vision was to provide their biggest song ever.
Claude somehow found time to help the band and a couple of days later they moved in to The Pavilion. Only one song (which eventually became the backing for Smoke On The Water) was cut before the band were told they would only be able to record during the daytime because of the racket This was no good, so the search was on. They checked out an atomic shelter, local vaults used to store art treasures during the war, and finally the Grand Hotel. Empty for the winter, negotiations were quickly completed to rent some space. An area of corridor was cordoned off, with access via a balcony between two hotel rooms. Blackmore recollected the chaos. "Cables running into all the rooms, the residents couldn't believe it when they saw all the equipment. During playbacks I had to go through half a dozen doors, down a fire escape at the back of the hotel, across a courtyard where it was snowing at the time, and into the mobile". Producer Martin Birch set up closed circuit TV to help people in the mobile studio see what was going on.
A routine was established whereby they began work in the early afternoons and finished around breakfast time. In all they spent two weeks there and finished the basic recordings on the 21st. Purple later estimated that it had cost them around 8,000 pounds to record (of which five thousand had been the cost of the mobile).
The band seemed very positive about the result. They'd managed to overcome the negative press reactions to Fireball, moved back in the direction begun on In Rock, and consolidated their position. Indeed Machine Head was, as Jon Lord put it, "the apex of what we started to do with In Rock. I think we should try and go around a few corners with the next one. Some people say we don't seem to have progressed very far since In Rock. Where some of that justification lies is in the fact that we haven't really deviated from the set fine and I think it's time we started to shoot for the stars a little bit more."
Blackmore was pleased. "I think Machine Head is a good LP. I think the ideas are better and the group were playing well when we recorded it Two tracks especially - Highway Star and Smoke On The Water - I like. The whole album is a lot better than the last one."
Back in *69 the group agreed to credit the material to all five of the band and as a result people were curious as to the actual writers. Blackmore was quick to set the record straight "On this LP I wrote six tracks and Roger wrote two." Roger was asked about this arrangement "Sometimes I feel I'd Ike more credit for some of the stuff I do. I think it avoids friction this way, though I cant say it won't in the future. As soon as money comes into it people change; some for the better,some for worse."
Later he reiterated this feeling. "Machine Head was the beginning of the bad period, ft was coming because as far as the writing side of it was concerned we'd agreed at the outset that we were going to share everything five ways, because everything we wrote was part of a jam, and in those days we had nothing to lose, it's only when you realise how much money is involved in publishing that people turned round and said "he had nothing to do with that and yet he's getting a lot of money for it."Those kind of things caused tension." Indeed even as Machine Head finally made it into the shops in April 1972 (complete with TV ads. in the Thames TV region). Blackmore was telling journalists that the end of the band was in sight "I suppose we'll see the year out if we're lucky." At the time most people put these remarks down to the cancellation of yet another American tour and the general despondency within the band, but it was to prove uncannily prophetic.