On January 26, 1973, "Deep Purple" released its seventh studio album "Who Do We Think We Are".
The album's title came from an interview given by drummer Ian Paice to Melody Maker in 1972, in which he referred to angry letters received by band members or bad reviews, that usually begin with sentences like: "Who do Deep Purple think they are ..."
Although this amazing lineup would reunite in 1984 to release the excellent album "Perfect Strangers", at the time of the recordings of "Who Do We Think We Are", such a reunion would not have seemed as something possible at all.
As much as this lineup of "Purple" was immortal and released masterpieces albums at a crazy pace, it was never really a stable lineup. The tensions between the band members were always there and they got worse after the band released "Machine Head" in March 1972. Immediately after the release of the album, the band went on a world tour where the masterful live album "Made In Japan" was recorded, during three performances in Japan - from 15 to 17 August 1972. The band was then at its peak, both in terms of global success and musically, and this can be heard in the tremendous talent and incredible precision in the performance of all five members on this tremendous live album.
But, by the time the band returned to the studio to record their next album, things were already different. The band was tired of touring that lasted 18 months, but instead of letting them rest, their management wanted to continue with the momentum and pushed them to complete their next album. Fatigue and burnout served as fertile ground for arguments and friction between the band members, especially between Gillan and Blackmore. The two were so conflicted that they did not even want to be in the same space together. And so it happened that Ian Gillan's vocals and Ritchie Blackmore's guitars were recorded without any joint involvement of the two in the creative process.
For example, the lyrics to the song "Smooth Dancer" were written by Ian Gillan about the murky relationship he had with Blackmore. The words: "Black suede, do not mean you're good to me ..." refer to the "man in black" and describe Ian Gillan's feelings towards Blackmore's temperament. Gillan spared no words and noted in the lyrics that he tried to get along with Blackmore, but without success: "I tried to go along with you". Gillan even hinted at his near departure and that he was about to go free with the words: "Do not you look at me because I'm gonna shake free ". Blackmore who as mentioned was so preoccupied with the conflict with Gillan, did not even notice that the song was talking about him and when he had already discovered this it was too late.
Another example of the murky atmosphere during the recordings, is also related to Blackmore and the fact that when a guitar riff sounded brilliant to him or the others, he just stopped playing it. When asked why, he simply replied that he was keeping it for his own solo project. Indeed, excerpts from these sessions will eventually find their way to the album "Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow".
These two examples seem to explain why this album is considered by many to be the least good of the MKII lineup and why it was the least perfect, compared to the three masterpieces that came before it. When the band is worn out, torn, and engaged in constant friction, when two of its members are not even able to be in the same space together, this must affect the creative process and the musical level, as indeed happened in this case.
This difficult atmosphere will cause Gillan to leave the band, during the album recordings, due to his ongoing frustration. However, the band's management pressured him to go on a tour to support the album, and Gillan was convinced. Glover who was the closest to Gillan and actually joined the band with him also decided to retire after hearing from the band manager about the ultimatum Blackmore gave Ian Paice and Jon Lord. He told them it was either him or Glover. The two of course realized that Ritchie Blackmore's contribution to the band was much greater and decided they preferred him over Roger Glover. Blackmore also made sure that this was not told to Glover, to avoid a situation where Glover would leave the band in the middle of the planned tour. When poor Glover found out about the intent, he simply retired so he would not give Blackmore the satisfaction of his dismissal. Rumor has it that later Blackmore even told him: "it's not personal it's just business".
Despite this sad ending of the MKII lineup and even though the creative process was flawed from the beginning, it is still a great album of the "Purples". If that's what a wounded and bleeding band can do, just think what else they would have been able to give us, had it not been for all the quarrels and frictions they had.
The album opens up with "Woman from Tokyo", which was the biggest hit from it. The song was written ahead of the band's first visit to Japan and it tells the story of an imaginary Japanese girl. It includes one of Blackmore's beautiful riffs on the album and in general. It is interesting to note that the album version of the song is different from the version released for radio. While the album version includes the trippy and dreamy section in the middle of the song, this beautiful section is not present in the single version. This song is the only one from the album that the band recorded in Rome, while all the other songs will be recorded in Frankfurt, Germany. Admittedly, during those sessions in Rome, the band recorded another song - "Painted Horse", but it will not appear on the album and will only be released later as part of a compilation album with rare excerpts. For those unfamiliar with it, this is a recommended song that presents a slightly different style of the band.
The second track "Mary Long", was written in protest of British censorship. Those of you who have read the review we wrote on "Pink Floyd"'s "Animals" album, will surely remember the name, Mary Whitehouse. Mary was a public activist who was the founder of the "National Viewers' and Listeners' Association" in the UK. A censorship body whose job was to "cleanse" television and culture of what she perceived as moral corruption. Well, Mary was also the subject of the song "Pigs (Three Different Ones)", by "Pink Floyd" - where she served as one of the three "pigs" that Waters wrote about. For the review, we wrote on the album "Animals" click on the link.
"Super Trouper" was written by Ian Gillan about the way he feels when he stands on stage. "Super Trooper" was a nickname for a powerful spotlight that was used in performances at the time. This is not the only song with the same title, written on this unique spotlight, "ABBA" will use it as the name of the album and theme song from 1980. It is interesting to note that this song was released as the second single from the album and its b-side was "Blood Sucker" from the album "In Rock", which really reminds it.
The track that seals the first side of the vinyl, is "Smooth Dancer", which Ian Gillan wrote about his relationship with Blackmore, as we wrote above.
(Photo: Deep Purple - Udiscover Music)
The other side of the vinyl opens up with "Rat Bat Blue", one of the best songs on the album, with the amazing keyboard work of Jon Lord. It's also Glover's favorite song from the album. It talks about "picking up girls" and its title refers to the drum rolls and transitions.
The second song on the other side "Place in Line", is a blues song that might hint at the direction Blackmore would like to take the band later down the line. It's probably also one of the "weakest" songs on the album, but still, Blackmore's solo here proves once again how huge this guitarist is ..
The album ends up with "Our Lady" a song different from the musical landscape we are used to getting from "Deep Purple" and shows the musical direction that Gillan will follow on his solo career. In this sense, it's a kind of counterbalance to the previous song and actually sums up the relationship between Blackmore and Gillan and the different directions they wanted the band to follow. Do not ask us why but at times, this song reminds us of fragments from the song "The" Nile Song by "Pink Floyd" from the album "More".
As mentioned, after the release of the album, the process of disintegration of this huge lineup was completed and culminated in the band's last performance, held on July 29, 1973. The show was held in Osaka, Japan and it was a kind of closure for the iconic shows that took place there just a year earlier, as documented in the album "Made In Japan", only this time the atmosphere was completely different.