Released: 2008, Powerchord Press
As part of an informal, three-month series (March, April, May of 2011) I am getting ‘caught-up’ reviewing some books by Metal’s #1 journalist, Martin Popoff. Last month (March 2011) I reviewed his COLLECTORS GUIDE review series, this month I am going to look at a half dozen of his biographies including titles on UFO (2005), Rainbow (2005), Dio (2006) Black Sabbath (2006), Judas Priest (2007) and Deep Purple (2008 & 2009) Next month we will look at his on-going Ye Olde Metal series. Please feel free to enjoy my other book reviews in the overview of Popoff’s work.
I’m going to review both of Popoff’s Deep Purple titles at the same time because essentially it is the same book, just physically printed as two. It makes sense because combined the thing would be 550 pages long! It also makes sense as the books are divided into two broad eras, the classic era 1968-1976 and the new era, 1983 and on. I say ‘so-called’ classic era because one could present a very valid argument that the modern era is just as classic. However some folks will never get past Blackmore and ‘Smoke On The Water’ and probably don’t know the band reformed well over 25 years ago, so they can just buy the first one titled, GETTING’ TIGHTER. The rest of us who are a little more current can also enjoy A CASTLE FULL OF RASCALS, although if they had been printed as one book, then everyone would be ‘forced’ to read about the equally worthy and interesting ‘modern era’. It seems weird to talk about the 80’s albums as ‘modern’ or ‘new’ era Purple!
A quick disclaimer in a sense, I’m not really qualified to write this review, as I’m not the world’s biggest Deep Purple fan. In fact, I have (shamefully) few Deep Purple albums in my library, oddly enough the bulk being the last six studio albums. However, a good book is a good book and it is all about learning more and appreciating art, isn’t it?
Anyway, back on his own ‘indie label’ (Powerchord Press), Martin has self-published his 8th and 9th Rock/Metal biographies. Both paperback, visual twins both a shade bigger and longer than his Metal Blade four-part series, but not as big and bright as his bio’s on Priest and Sabbath. There are more pictures than the former set, but not as many as the latter pair. Popoff presents each chapter as one album, including Live albums, with a detailed and insightful track by track dissertation of each.
There are many excursions into the various off-shoots over the years, Gillan stuff, Glover stuff, Lord stuff, Paice stuff, Gillan/Glover stuff and all the various countless permutations therein. Popoff covers the Morse era with enthusiasm and respect, which I’m fully on-board with because those are the only Deep Purple albums I’ve really embraced. There is a ton of info and man, it is a miracle these guys recorded anything at all, so much bickering, arguing and fighting!
Again, Martin has pretty much interviewed everyone in the band, ever so it’s all great, relevant info, even if filtered through time and hazy memories. It may seem that Deep Purples line-up changes were often and confusing, but not really. Consider that over in well over 40 years there have only been 14 members in the band and so we get a detailed account of each person coming and going including Joe Satriani’s stint, which was really cool to read about. Hell, the current lineup (Mark VIII) has been around as long or longer than the classic Mark II line-up!
I’d suggest that this was one of my less preferred of Popoff’s rock biographies but for strictly personal reasons. I can’t in good conscious give it a lesser score, just because of my own lack of enthusiasm for the bands deep and weighty catalogue. In fact, I found both titles GETTING’ TIGHTER and A CASTLE FULL OF RASCALS, more academically interesting than some of his other rock biographies, because I am less familiar with the material. Bluntly put, I learned more. On the flip side his traditional cut by cut, blow by blow, analysis was less engaging because I wasn’t as familiar with the songs, especially the Evans, Coverdale, Bolin stuff (Mark I, Mark III and Mark IV) (and those late 70’s live albums) which I don’t own let alone think I’ve even heard, and if I did it was probably 25 years go at a party or something.
Pair these fine two books with Thompson’s, 2004 book (the somewhat unimaginatively titled, SMOKE ON THE WATER-THE DEEP PURPLE STORY) and you pretty much have it all.