Burn 'Reflections' Part 1 (Go to Part 2)



In the early Summer of 1973... I successfully auditioned for the position as singer with one of the most popular rock bands in the world at that time... Deep Purple... Ahh... 't'was the stuff of dreams, I tell ya... or, at least, a publicity agent's dreams... A true 'rags to riches' story... I had gone from being a 21 year old singer with a semi professional local band in the North of England... I had never even made a commercial record... or played a gig more than 50 miles from where I was born... to fronting one of the biggest bands on the planet...

It had been a mind-numbing whirlwind of activity for me from the moment I had been sitting reading the Melody Maker during a lunch break in the 'Stride In Style' boutique I was working at in Redcar... a seaside town in the North of England... I remember seeing a picture of Jon Lord seated at his fabled organ... (ahem)... with the accompanying text reporting that 'as yet Deep Purple had been unable to find a singer, and were considering 'unknowns'... Mmm... I thought... Why not???...

After all... I had opened for Deep Purple several years before at a Sheffield University gig... just after Roger Glover and Ian Gillan had joined, and as I remember it... Jon Lord had been impressed enough with me to ask for my address... and promised he would be in touch if things with Ian didn't work out... I also remember Ian Gillan complimenting me... and saying it was a pity how bad my PA system sounded... er... thanks, Ian...

Back home in Marske By The Sea... ( I kid thee not)... I had excitedly checked my mail every morning for weeks... hoping... praying for a letter from Jon... inviting me to come to London and assume the role of lead singer for The Purps... but...(cue the sad music)... alas, it was not to be... My time with the Fab Deeps would take place a couple of years in the future...

My first move was to call my friend, and local group manager, Roger Barker who also booked the bands in our local concert hall... Redcar Jazz Club... He had booked Purple several times over the years, and I thought he could help put me in touch with their management office... Well... after laughing for a while he finally said... "You're serious, aren't you???"... Then he offered to see what he could do...

I also remember sharing my plans with my dear friend Tony Z, who blurted out... "But, you can't replace him... he was Jesus Christ!!!"... referring to Mr. Gillan's role as the Messiah in the original recording of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical 'Jesus Christ... Superstar'... I assured Tony I had no immediate plans of trying to become the new Redeemer... Mmmm... as if I wasn't intimidated enough...

Of course the Purple office insisted I send a a demo of my singing... and a photograph of myself... NOOO!!!... I thought the party was over before it had begun... I had no decent pix of me, so, I had to borrow one from my Mother.. er... featuring a very young me in my Boy Scout uniform... SALUTING, for God's sake!!!... Well... always be prepared... that's my motto!!!... The demo featured my local band, 'The Fabulosa Brothers'... a bunch of great blokes, and great players... We had recently made some demos of Harry Nilsson's 'Everybody's Talking'... done as a boogie... Bill Wither's 'Lonely Town, Lonely Street' and probably 'Ain't No Sunshine'... We would take these songs and rearrange them to suit our funk/rock approach... The problem was... after getting minimal support from the house engineer at 10cc's Strawberry Sound Studios in Stockport... I had taken to... er... drinking... Actually... rather a LOT of drinking... so my diction was somewhat 'slurred', to say the least... Ian Paice told me later it was my 'tone' that attracted him and Ritchie... they could hear I was well oiled...

The other off-putting thing was that it had recently been announced that Glenn Hughes had been confirmed as the new bass player/singer... so, I dutifully bought 'You Are The Music... We're Just The Band' by Glenn's band Trapeze to check out his pipes... and was duly mortified!!!... Yes... Mr. Hughes was an extraordinarily gifted singer... Oh... dear... My girlfriend at the time gave me a look that more or less said I may as well forget it!!!

The odds were stacking up against me...

Regardless, I posted my sad, little package off to the Purple office at 25, Newman St, W1... London... and pretty much gave up...

The next thing was Roger Barker going nuts telling me I was on for an audition and that he was going to take time off work to drive me down to London... It was to take place at Scorpio Sound on Marylebone Rd... just under what was then Capitol Radio...

I sneaked a large bottle of Bells... (Afore Ye Go)... whiskey in my travel bag... although Roger found it before the audition, and hid it so I wouldn't go overboard... However... as anyone who knows my nose, knows... I can sniff out duh booze even if it's buried under concrete... So... I found it... and commenced to sneak a bit here and there...

Well... it was a rather nerve wracking experience!!!

Paicey and Lordy were already at the studio when I arrived... Mr. Lord was exceptionally charming and welcoming, doing his best to put me at ease... whilst Ian messed around on his Ludwig drumkit... Ritchie arrived next with his then wife, Babs, and their two wolfhounds... whom Ritchie obviously doted on... He completely ignored me, other than a quick surreptitious look to check me out... a brief nod when we made eye contact... Without missing a beat I was off to the whiskey for a quick, nervous sip... er... make that a gulp!!!

I had borrowed... (ahem)... what I thought were some 'cool' clothes from the shop I worked at in Redcar... a rather colourful shirt... a pair of Falmers brushed denim jeans.. A pair of two tone clunky platform shoes... (all hopelessly out of fashion, I discovered later)... and... most embarrassing to recall... a modest moustache which I had to... er... 'touch up' with mascara I'd borrowed from me Mam.. .(I thought it made me look terribly mature and 'butch')... Actually, it looked more like a caterpillar asleep on my top lip... My God... it's a wonder I was allowed through the bloody door!!!

Glenn was late... and came tumbling into the studio with all his bag and baggage... Sunglasses falling off... laughing like a madman!!!... Ahh... this is a bit better, I thought... He apologized to everyone for being late... then proceeded to take his beautiful red Rickenbacker bass out of it's case...

Glenn was one of the most natural musicians I've ever worked with... I never, ever saw him practice... When it came time to work... he simply picked up his instrument, and played flawlessly... Every time...

Slowly, but, surely... they all started to play... and lo and behold... they were jamming on GROOVES!!!... Not Purple songs... just cool grooves... Making it up as they went along...

I had actually borrowed a couple of their albums to learn a song or two for the audition... but, this... this was right up my alley... I loved jamming... Improvising as I go... and I am pretty good at it, if I say so myself...

This was... FUN!!!

I zipped back to the stash 'o' Bells... (by this time I was getting a bit wobbly)... had a guzzle... and slowly made my way over to the studio mike... Oh, well... here goes... and I started singing... Rock... a Little Richard lick, here and there... Blues... I was a bit wary of screaming, even though I had a decent enough banshee wail, as my predecessor was very well known for that particular approach... so, I kept it more mid-range and gravelly... I told them I'd learned 'Strange Kind Of Woman' , and we proceeded to 'blues' it up... Ritchie looked at me and said the way I was interpreting the song was how he'd envisaged it sounding when he wrote it..Then he says... "OK... You can sing rock... Let's see what you can do with a ballad... Anything you want to sing???"... er... "Do you know the Beatles song 'Yesterday'... in 'F'???"... I asked... I'm not sure... but, I think that one actually got me the gig...

Afterwards we all sat around drinking and chatting lightheartedly until it felt appropriate to call it a night...

The band asked me to stay overnight in London and meet with the Purple management the next day... "Oh, yes"... whispered Roger Barker.. "I think you may be in, ol', son!!!"... OMIGOD... could this be it???

As requested, I reported to the offices of HEC Enterprises... 25, Newman St, W1... where I met John Coletta... one of the two managers who represented Deep Purple... Yes... it was rather intimidating... I had the immediate feeling that I wasn't exactly what Mr. Coletta was anticipating or hoping for... but, he was welcoming enough... and asked me if I had a criminal record, or anything 'unsavory' in my life... Anything that could potentially compromise the band if I got the job... Did I have a passport... etc... He also asked me if I was married, and seemed to be relieved I wasn't... I didn't quite understand at the time... but, I found out why pretty soon...

This one memory sticks in my mind... He stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out some cash... peeled off exactly 50 pounds... thrust it at me... and told me to go and get a hair 'style'... (my hair at that time was very long and somewhat unruly)... and buy some new clothes... (what was wrong with the one's I had on???)... How terribly generous, I thought... I got a cab to the King's Rd, where I spent most of the... er... 'loan' on a haircut at 'Scissors'... and decided to keep the rest... It occurred to me that he didn't really know how much it cost to be in 'style' these days... I was from Yorkshire... but, even I knew it was going to cost more than 50 quid!!!

Ian Paice was nice enough to drive me in his Jaguar saloon to King's Cross station to catch a train back home to the North of England... I used the leftover money I'd received for a... er... 'new' wardrobe... and treated myself to a FIRST CLASS ticket to Darlington!!!... Oh, yes... I could get very used to this...

Isn't it always the way that just when you think that everything in the garden is rosy... something happens to bring out the weeds???... I was greeted by my girlfriend and my friends like a conquering hero... We all... particularly myself, of course... thought I had the job with DP... and I commenced to blow my modest savings on celebratory drinks for all and sundry at my dear friend, Tony Z's great club in Redcar... the Top Deck... which was, as fate would have it, directly beneath my apartment... VERY nice!!!... So... for the first two or three days... all was well... Much joy was being had... that is... until I realized that I hadn't heard anything from Purple... Not a whisper... It was then I started to go into self defense mode... and whenever people asked me about the gig... I responded with... "Y'know... I've been thinking... maybe this kind of music ain't really my cup of tea."... Protecting myself just in case I didn't get the job!!!

If memory serves it was almost a week before I heard from the DP management... My girlfriend who worked as the personal secretary of the aforementioned Tony Z... and his office, which at that time was a few doors down from my apartment... came running in very excitedly telling me that Tony Edwards, one of the managers of Deep Purple was calling me... (Tony Z had graciously allowed me to give his office numbers to Purple as I didn't have a phone)...

"So, David... how are you???"... Tony Edwards asked...

"Er... fine, Tony, thanks... er... How are you???"

There began an appalling game of cat and mouse, perpetrated by Mr. Edwards... padding out the conversation 'til I could hardly stand it...

"How's the weather up there???"

"Arrrggghhh!!!"

... For God's sake, Tony... GET TO THE POINT!!!

He must have realized he was pushing it by going too far with his little bit of fun at my expense...

"Oh... by the way... the boys have asked me to tell you... you're in... How soon can you get down to London???"

"I'll have to call you back!!!"... I slammed the phone down... Tony Z was offering me a glass of Glenfiddich... for either result... Commiserating... or celebrating... "I'M IN!!!" I yelled... "I'm in Deep Bloody Purple!!!"... and drank the large glass of golden elixir in one glorious gulp...

I returned to London feeling well pleased with myself... until I went into the management office to talk over the business side of things with John Coletta... I was taken aback when he told me they were going to pay me 80 pounds a week... Hey... 'ang on a minute, Mate, I thought... isn't Deep Purple one of the biggest bands in the World???... I'm making more than that back home with my job at the boutique... and doing local gigs with my band!!!... The band's lawyer, Richard Bagehot explained to me that it was simply to cover my cash expenses... the band's accountants would pay all my other outgoings... Oh... I see... still... not a lot, is it???... Then he added that I was to become a full, equal percentage 5th member of the band... and that could lead to untold treasure... Oh... I see... well... that will have to do, eh???... I couldn't believe the band's generosity... God Bless 'em!!!... Then came the rough stuff... Mr. Coletta placed a contract on the table in front of me... and told me to sign on the dotted line... Oh, oh...

I'd promised my good friend and mentor, Tony Zivanaris, that I wouldn't sign anything 'til he and his lawyers had looked everything over... So, innocently I said OK... I'll take them home with me to read through...

Oh... dear... John Coletta very nearly exploded!!!... "What the hell do you mean... 'look over'???"... This is Deep Purple we're talking about!!!... I could get bloody Mick Jagger... ANYBODY!!!... Who the hell do you think you are???... You sign this, or you're out!!!"... Oh, my God... I was in total shock... Nobody, but, my father had ever spoken to me like that in my life... This guy's temper was frightening... Meanwhile... the band's personal lawyer, Richard Bagehot, just sat there... looking distinctly embarrassed and uncomfortable... and... not... saying... a... bloody... word...

So... I was alone in this... I was definitely intimidated and felt threatened and led to believe that if I didn't sign I would be out on my arse... before I'd done anything... and sent back to the boutique... Humiliated...

So... I signed on the dotted line... out of fear...

I still feel some resentment even after all these years that I was bullied into signing that contract... It was for 10 years, by the way... I never told anyone in the band, other than Jon Lord... much later... He was furious, and told me I shouldn't have signed... but, of course it was too late... and my friend Tony Z... he was beyond angry...

To this day... whenever I am asked for advice by someone wanting to get into the music business... without hesitation I tell them to get an independent lawyer... and don't sign anything until you fully understand the implications of what you're getting into...

Soon after this episode, I was invited down to Ritchie's house for a writing session... I quickly found out that Ritchie was the principal composer in Purple... He played me much of the basic material for what ultimately became the 'Burn' album...

Ritchie Blackmore lived in quite a suburban, middle class community called Camberley, in Surrey... outside London... in a large house called 'Blockhutte' with his wife Babs, and his two beloved dogs... Stroiky was one, I recall, as Ritchie had written an instrumental about him... The other one was called... er... 'Dennis'... or 'Barry' or something???... Mmm... the memory fails on that one... but, I distinctly remember lovely Babs Blackmore bringing us endless trays of Wensleydale or Cheshire cheese, pumpernickel and Branston pickle to fuel our creative juices... and it worked!!!

Ritchie worked on a Revox reel to reel recorder... He knew how to double and triple track his song ideas, so, they were very full sounding and 'pleasing' to the ear when he played his demos to me... (ultimately, he used to take his tape deck with him to use during live shows to create a tape delay on his guitar sound... thus fuelling a rumour that he wasn't actually playing 'live'... which, of course, he was...)

He also had a German beer cellar built at home!!!... Oh, yes... that's more like it... Have yer own pub on your own premises!!!... Not too shabby, Mr. Blackmore... So, as you can imagine... we adjourned there quite a lot to... er... 'write'.... (ahem)...

I remember thinking how irritating it was that his phone never seemed to stop ringing... and I made up my mind to avoid having one of those 'instruments of the devil' in my home for as long as I could...
Anyway... on to the songs...

Ritchie had definitely been busy... Fresh... exciting ideas... and quite a departure from the more formulaic recent Purple I had been hearing when I was doing my 'research' on the band... This was definitely a step in the right direction, as far as I was concerned... and I could already feel what I could potentially bring to this 'stew'... What ultimately became 'Lay Down Stay Down'... which actually started with my working lyric 'Shi-Fu-Ca-Wa'... though I'm not sure the lads would remember that particular obscenity...though Glenn and I sang it with the full expression with much gusto!!!... 'Sail Away'... 'You Fool No One'... which I immediately felt I could bring a 'Cream' harmony vocal vibe too... and, of course... 'Burn'... still one of the best 'rock' openers I've ever heard...

I returned to Redcar in the North of England with my cassette copy of the songs to start writing lyrics... and awaited the arrival of Glenn Hughes who was going to work with me on the writing...

Glenn arrived in his new Rover saloon, which he'd treated himself to on getting the job with Purple...

The guys had been understandably blown away by Glenn's performance with his band, the very excellent 'Trapeze', enough to lure him away to join Purple... but, Ritchie had insisted on still having a 'frontman, lead vocalist' with a more 'manly' voice... (Ritchie's words)... which, as you can imagine, definitely rankled Glenn, but, Ritchie's word was law in those days... (I'm delighted to say!!!)...

Glenn and I spent more time hanging out in the Top Deck club downstairs than actually working!!!... But, we certainly had fun... and started to 'bond', as they say... A warm friendship that still exists today...

The next move was to relocate to Clearwell Castle in Gloucestershire... on the border of the beautiful Forest of Dean... where we were to introduce the new songs to the rest of the band... start rehearsals and explore the ideas with everyone's input...

We set up in the crypt of the castle... (cue the spooky music)... or, at least the skeleton Purple crew set everything up... the adorable Baz Marshall, the unforgettable Magnet, and Ritchie's guitar tech, the loveable and much missed Ron Quinton... and a guy named Colin Hart, with whom I was to have an unfortunate 'run-in' with pretty much immediately... and which led to his rather speedy departure...

Jon Lord was a few days late in coming down to the castle... but, had called Ritchie to ask how things were going... and how was the new boy shaping up... Fine, says Ritchie... but, he hasn't sang a bloody note yet!!!

As you can imagine... up to now it had been all meetings, discussions, cocktails and short bursts of songwriting... but, now... it was time for me to stand there and sing... and... quite understandably... I was shitting myself!!!

That would all change once the amiable Mr Lord came in... We had all gone out for an assortment of alcoholic beverages at the local pub in Clearwell... and on our inebriated return, Jon and I jammed on Beatles songs in the crypt... Ahh... 'Dutch Courage'... a fine brew!!!... It was then I was introduced to how extraordinary Jon Lord was as a musician... The unique chord inversions he played to familiar Beatles songs blew me away... and inspired me to sing... and sing some more!!!... Thank you, Jon... for coming to my rescue the second time... I will never forget you or your generosity...

After that... I was off and running...

Burn 'Reflections' Part 1 (Go to Part 2)