By Brian Ives and Jay Tilles
For years, hard rock and metal fans felt jilted by the Rock and Roll of Fame; the institution seemed to mostly ignore the genre. The Hall of Fame was co-founded, of course, by Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, who is not a friend to the metal community.
But over the years, the Hall’s stance has thawed a bit, with Black Sabbath, Metallica, AC/DC, Van Halen, Rush and even RS adversaries KISS being inducted in recent years.
And next week, 23 years after they were first eligible, the iconic British band Deep Purple is finally being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich couldn’t be happier.
Ulrich is a life-long fan; he’s also been announced as a presenter at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which will take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 8.
“It’s been no secret that I have been fairly vocal about my appreciation for Deep Purple ever since I was about that big [gestures as if he here knee high]. They have probably been the primary musical backbone in my body ever since I first heard them when I was nine years old. I do believe that most people have heard me say that ‘It’s long overdue for them to join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’… but now they’re here: hallelujah!”
He noted their importance during the early days of hard rock and metal: “When I grew up in Copenhagen, Denmark in the early ’70s, Deep Purple was the biggest rock band. There were three big bands at the time; Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. In Scandinavia, Germany and so on, Deep Purple were the biggest. People were just more aware of them. Led Zeppelin was probably more appreciated in the United States and Black Sabbath obviously were super heavy but I just didn’t get to them ‘til a few years later.”
“Deep Purple was an incredible live force. They were known for being technically proficient, and every night when they would play a show it would be different than the night before or the night following. They had all these three, four and five minute songs on their records that would turn into ten, fifteen, twenty minute songs live. You never quite knew what was going to happen. Richie Blackmore, the lead guitar player – the legendary impulsive, unpredictable character – would always take the band in different directions. There was a lot of interesting push and pull between the players and there were nights when they would almost get into a jazz place. It was a totally different thing. Zeppelin was a bit more blues based, Sabbath had a heavier blues type of thing. Deep Purple just came from someplace else. There was a technical efficiency that was just unparalleled at the time.”
But despite their improvisational prowess live, he notes that they were also great at writing classics for FM radio: “There was a string of singles, from ‘Smoke on the Water’ to ‘Strange Kind of Woman’ to ‘Woman from Tokyo’ to ‘Space Truckin” and ‘Highway Star’ and all the rest of them that were huge huge hits.”
Noting that there have been some major lineup changes over the years, he marveled that, “They’re actually still playing!” Former members have gone on to form other bands, including Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow; of that, he says, “The Deep Purple family tree is spreading far and wide all over the world, still.”
Radio.com will be reporting, live, from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which will air on HBO a few weeks later.