It’s a sign that I am getting older myself because the rock stars that I love are starting to fade. Yesterday I found out that another of my rock heroes had died.
The world has lost Jon Lord, keyboard player extraordinaire, a founding member of Deep Purple who also played with Whitesnake, two of the bands that have accompanied me on the trials and tribulations of my life.
Jon died at the age of 71 having been diagnosed last year with pancreatic cancer.
I have seen Jon perform four times live; three times with Deep Purple and once with Whitesnake and all of the gigs are memorable in their own way.
Although many readers will not have heard of Jon Lord, I want to present ten of my favourite song featuring this keyboard wizard. Jon Lord was capable of turning a Hammond organ into a powerful rock instrument. The songs are chronological order. Please feel free to follow the links and judge for yourselves. Some of the songs are actually quite beautiful - though some are quite heavy.
Ian Gillan’s vocals on this song are incredible, as is the sparring between Ritchie Blackmore on guitar and Jon on keyboards. From the album Deep Purple In Rock, released in 1970, but some eight years later I was discovering it for the first time. It also drove my dad to say “if this is the future of music then God help us.
Highway Star is probably my favourite track by Deep Purple. When I first heard this song I was a rebellious teenager and it was one of the songs that helped clear my head of those unruly thoughts, although my parents probably didn’t think so when I played it full blast at home. The song is from 1972 but I was irritating my parents with it in 1978.
Woman From Tokyo isn’t a particularly heavy song but I really like it, particularly the mellow section in the middle. From the album Who Do We Think We Are.
Before Deep Purple’s self-destruction in the mid 1970’s Ian Gillan was replaced by David Coverdale who eventually formed Whitesnake, and Roger Glover made way for Glenn Hughes. Of course, by the time I discovered Deep Purple all of this had happened and Whitesnake existed in their own right. Sadly, the loss of Gillan was the beginning of the end for Deep Purple (at least until they rose again from the ashes in the mid-1980’s). Burn is the best Deep Purple song featuring David Coverdale.
Before Whitesnake became a huge big haired rock band in the mid 1980’s, they were a kind of blues rock band and the music from their early albums is my favourite by the band. Jon Lord was a member of the band for six years and played keyboards on what, in my opinion, are their best albums. Take Me With You is from Whitesnake’s first album, Trouble.
Blindman is one of my favourite songs. It is a beautiful mellow bluesy song and Jon Lord’s keyboard playing adds to the emotion of the song. It is from the album Ready An’ Willing released in 1980.
At the time this song was released, a lot of girls were breaking my heart again and again. It was a frustrating existence for me. The song, from the album Come An’ Get It was one of Whitesnake’s first chart songs and reminds me of getting ready to go out on a Saturday night all dressed up to attract women and failing spectacularly. I should perhaps have sung it to the girls I met.
Saints & Sinners is the last really good Whitesnake album before they finally cracked America. The band line up was in flux with band members leaving, though Jon Lord did stay for one more album after this. Crying In The Rain is a great bluesy track that was unfortunately rerecorded on the album 1987 when Whitesnake became huge. The version on Saints & Sinners, featuring Jon Lord is the best in my humble opinion.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Deep Purple reformed in the mid 1980’s with their classic Mark II line up including Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. They produced a wonderful album called Perfect Strangers. This is the title track of that album. The song reminds me of when I moved to Manchester where initially every person I met was a perfect stranger.
Deep Purple were still going strong in the mid 1990’s despite the departure of Ritchie Blackmore. Steve Morse filled the gap perfectly adequately on the album Purpendicular. This is one of my favourite songs because at that time of my life I really did feel like screaming and this song gave me a little bit of solace.
Rest in peace, Jon - we will miss you. Thanks for some fantastic music.