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Smoke On The Water-The Deep Purple Story (Book Review)
Released: 2004, Publisher: ECW
Oddly enough I have never really been a Deep Purple fan. They broke up (for the first time in 1976) right about when I was truly discovering music for myself so they were band that I never latched on to. Some readers may ask, what right do I have to write a review of a band I’m not familiar with? Good point! I may very well miss some of the finer points and not be able to spot errors or omissions, but in terms of learning about this legendary metal institution from day one there is no finer way to start.
The book itself is a larger size paperback, almost 400 pages long with three dozen black and white photos in the middle. Good easy read, nice font and the whole story is in a simple chronological fashion. Many cool extras include incredibly detailed and extensive discographies, solo discographies, tribute albums and more. This is the definitive source thus far in my opinion.
Dave Thompson writes with the perspective of a fan, and a respectful fan. What I mean by this is that he does not dwell on the fights, the drugs, the financial ups and downs of the band…this is not Deep Purple’s version of ‘The Dirt’ that is for sure. Although that might be fun to read in a voyeuristic way there are better bands and better books for tales of sordid rock ‘n’ roll debauchery. Smoke On The Water is a more demure recounting of the long and twisted road of a band now well into their fifth decade in the business. A feat that is almost unparalleled in music.
The tales and interviews cover the familiar (the well-known story of the creation of the song ‘Smoke On The Water’) to the lesser known comings and going of various guitarists over the years. Like many biographies it falls painfully short in the modern era. Admittedly most readers want to know the obscure early history and there is plenty of it. However the book spends less than 40 pages, the last two chapters that encapsulate an entire DECADE of the band. It fell painfully short in this regard. The last two chapters (roughly 1993-2003) basically said, “ the band is still going, a guy named Steve Morse joined, they toured some places, and recorded some more albums, recorded some live albums...the end.” Most biographies I’ve read dwell on the past, which is fine but this biography skipped many potentially interesting tales of the writing creation, recording and tours for the past several albums. If I am to understand my fellow journalist and Purple fan Martin Popoff; Perpendicular, Abandon, and Bananas are high quality albums that are underrated and under-appreciated.
This excellent biography, combined with my first Deep Purple concert experience last year and a few 30th anniversary CD re-issues of their classic catalogue are helping my long overdue acquaintance with this great band.