SOME STUPID WITH A FLARE GUN: It surprises me, it really does, that Deep Purple received only 14 out of 50 votes in our Rock and Roll Hall of Fame poll. Are we that young, or that far separated from our collective memories of the early 1970s, or that nostalgic for the soft rock and disco that folks these days seem to think epitomized that era? Luckily, we at ALOTT5MA have our Keltners (explanation) to tell us how to vote, and so Keltner we will:
1. Was Deep Purple ever regarded as the best band in rock music? Did anybody, while they were active, ever suggest that Deep Purple was the best band in rock music?
There probably was a non-trivial portion of rock fandom (more in England and Europe than in America) in the early 1970s that thought so, and an even larger population that would have put them at among the best bands in rock music.
2. Was Deep Purple ever the best band in rock music in its genre?
No, because at its peak, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath also were in its genre. It is fair to say that in the heyday of Deep Purple's genre (arena-oriented hard rock/nascent heavy metal), Deep Purple was the best band not already in the HOF.
3. Was any individual member of Deep Purple ever considered the best at his instrument/role?
Arguably yes. Ritchie Blackmore was pretty much the prototype for the "technically brilliant/lacks heart" model of electric guitarist. He basically invented the trope of the classically-trained rock guitarist, the guy with the JS Bach hairdo and the laced romantic pirate shirts and the fur boots. But he had chops, and he was not afraid to stick a bunch of Bach-themed arpeggios into hard rock solos whether or not they fit there.
Also, Ian Gillan was never an iconic vocalist like his genre contemporaries Plant and Osbourne, but he had a bigger voice than either. And he played Jesus in the film version of Jesus Christ Superstar, though I'm not sure how that cuts for anybody. Still, big voice.
4. Did Deep Purple have an impact on a number of other bands?
Yes, and this is where they make their best case for the Hall. First, "Smoke on the Water" was the first thing any aspiring rock guitarist learned to hammer out on a guitar basically from the moment it was recorded right up until the advent of "Seven Nation Army." That's over three decades. Second, you have to credit (or blame) Deep Purple directly for a lot of spinoffs and related music, including Blackmore's Rainbow (both the good stuff and the Joe Lynn Turner bland stuff), David Coverdale's Whitesnake, Ronnie James Dio (via Rainbow), and latter-era Black Sabbath (both the three Dio albums and the one weird and amazing Ian Gillan one). Third, and maybe most importantly, though Deep Purple was overshadowed by its genre contemporaries at the time, it was Deep Purple, and not Sabbath or Zeppelin, that ultimately charted the course of heavy metal for two decades. Def Leppard, all of the hair metal bands, most of the European non-Satanic metal (Europe, Thor, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc.), and basically all American arena hard rock came principally from Deep Purple (with some debt to Van Halen for a few of those categories).
5. Was Deep Purple good enough that the band could play regularly after passing its prime?
Anybody can play regularly past his or her prime. I think Quiet Riot still tours, and those guys might all be dead. But for what it's worth, Deep Purple was doing a brisk reunion concert business in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and may have done it again in the 2000s. I wouldn't be surprised to see some iteration of the band headlining the state fair/casino circuit.
6. Is Deep Purple the very best band in history that is not in the Hall of Fame?
I wouldn't go that far, but I do think that they are the most deserving of this year's nominees.
7. Are most bands who have a comparable recording history and impact in the Hall of Fame?
I don't know what "comparable recording history" means. If it means quality, there are bands I like better who are not in the HOF and bands I think are worse that are in the HOF. If it means album sales, the Internet tells me that Deep Purple sold over 130 million albums, but the Internet also tells me that they sold about 70 million albums. So I don't know. They sold a lot -- that probably compares favorably with whatever sales floor anybody wants to impose. If it means influence, yes -- see above.
8. Is there any evidence to suggest that the band was significantly better or worse than is suggested by its records?
Billboard underreported heavy metal album sales? The strength of DP's concert sales outpaces album sales? I don't know what this question means.
9. Is it the best band in its genre who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?
If it's limited to 70s arena hard rock, yes. Even if you expand to all heavy metal/hard rock, it's hard to think of any band more deserving that's not already there. Don't say Rush, either, because (a) not heavy metal/hard rock; and (b) Deep Purple is more deserving anyway.
10. How many #1 singles/gold records did Deep Purple have? Did Deep Purple ever win a Grammy award? If not, how many times was Deep Purple nominated?
They sold a lot of albums, if you care about that. There was no Grammy category for heavy metal when they were at their peak, so their best album competed with Carole King's Tapestry (1972) and James Taylor's Mud Slide Slim. In ten hundred million thousand years, do you see a bunch of sexagenarian music industry voters -- Tin Pan Alley veterans and what-not -- picking "Highway Star" or "Smoke on the Water" over "You've Got a Friend" and "So Far Away"? Ugh, the Grammies are terrible.
11. How many Grammy-level songs/albums did Deep Purple have? For how long of a period did the band dominate the music scene? How many Rolling Stone covers did they appear on? Did most of the bands with this sort of impact go into the Hall of Fame?
They had enough material for a decent greatest hits album. Three, maybe four solid albums that were among the pillars of early 1970s rock, but back then they gave Grammies for songs, not albums. But "Smoke on the Water" is a biggie. I'm sure they had some RS covers, don't know how many. And yes, most of the bands with this sort of impact are in the HOF.
12. If this band was the best band at a concert, would it be likely that the concert would rock?
70% chance of yes; 28% chance of them getting in a pissy fight in the middle of the set and storming off because they hated each other; 2% chance of them actually breaking up right there and then, which kind of would rock anyway.
13. What impact did the band have on rock history? Was it responsible for any stylistic changes? Did it introduce any new equipment? Did it change history in any way?
Leader in: Bach haircuts; romantic laced-bodice men's pirate shirts; fur boots; stealing from classical music; pretentious hard rock; smoke machines; always breaking up; replacement singers; songs that mention Frank Zappa.
14. Did the band uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
Everybody says that Almost Famous is about being on the road with Led Zeppelin, but I kind of think it's more about Deep Purple. So yes.
Like I said, I really don't understand how 36 out of 50 people could think that Deep Purple doesn't belong in a Hall of Fame that has the words "Rock" and "Roll" in its title. I suspect it has to do with how little memory and history have to do with each other. People's current tastes dictate what they think was big back in the day, and since arena rock and hair metal have petered out, there is nobody to trace their current tastes back to Deep Purple (though, frankly, some of the organ stuff you hear from the Decemberists may go back that way). You can't draw a line from Gaga or Gotye or Jay Z or Carly Rae Jepsen or the Arcade Fire or Mumford & Sons to Deep Purple, that much is true (though there might be a thin line from the Decemberists). But Deep Purple was a huge band in its day, and it had a lasting influence on the music that came later, and it deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.