Deep Purple Lineup Changes: A Complete Guide
Perhaps more than any other rock band, Deep Purple proved that a group of musicians could undergo consistent and even traumatic lineup turnover, yet still achieve remarkable success over a long span of time. That’s why each of the band’s different combinations was referred to like sequential versions of the same high performance automobile: Mark I, Mark II, etc. Of course, after than 45 years of music making, Deep Purple’s legend has in many ways transcended any talk of who’s who. Still, who was who? Here’s a primer…
1968-69: Ritchie Blackmore / Jon Lord / Ian Paice / Rod Evans / Nick Simper
A proposed supergroup from the start, Deep Purple was assembled around the talents of classically trained organ player Jon Lord (late of the Artwoods) and versatile guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, a stage and session ace whose resume already included names like Screaming Lord Sutch, the Outlaws, and eccentric producer Joe Meek. After dispensing with original percussionist Chris Curtis and the formative band name of Roundabout, the twosome recruited bassist Nick Simper (of the Flower Pot Men) and singer Rod Evans (of the Maze), who brought with him teenage drummer Ian Paice. Thus was born Deep Purple Mk. I, which recorded three full albums, experienced an immediate U.S. breakthrough with their cover of Joe South’s ‘Hush,’ but then seemed in danger of becoming a one-hit wonder due to mounting business, personal and creative issues -- all of which brought them to a premature career crossroads.
1969-73: Ritchie Blackmore / Jon Lord / Ian Paice / Ian Gillan / Roger Glover
By the summer of ’69, Blackmore, Lord and Paice were in agreement that changes in both sound and personnel were needed for there to be any hope of relaunching Deep Purple’s career. They replaced Evans and Simper with Episode Six singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, whom they felt were better equipped to pursue a heavier new direction. Sure enough, following a brief detour into symphonic rock for Lord’s ambitious ‘Concerto for Group and Orchestra,’ the rookie duo proved to be perfect catalysts. The subsequent ‘In Rock,’ ‘Fireball’ and ‘Machine Head’ are still lauded as cornerstones of hard rock and heavy metal. Still, Deep Purple’s so-called Mk. II lineup would soon buckle under the pressure of creative differences and non-stop work. After cementing their legend with 1972’s ‘Made in Japan,’ and cutting 1973’s clearly less inspired ‘Who Do We Think We Are?,’ Gillan and Glover exited stage left, leaving Blackmore, Lord and Paice to consider their next move.
1973-75: Ritchie Blackmore / Jon Lord / Ian Paice / David Coverdale / Glenn Hughes
Enter another pair of complementary musicians in former Trapeze bassist and vocalist Glenn Hughes and a relative unknown lead singer by the name of David Coverdale. Together, Mk. III immediately recovered their top form behind 1974’s ‘Burn’ album, and performed before perhaps their biggest audience ever as headliners of the famed California Jam. Unfortunately, the familiar interpersonal bickering, fueled by escalating drug use, would again surface by year’s end, as evidenced by Purple's less-inspired ‘Stormbringer’ follow up LP. This time, the issue was Blackmore, who did not care for the new musical influences (primarily funk-rock) permeating Deep Purple. Blackmore decided to start fresh with Rainbow, and the remaining members faced their stiffest challenge yet.
1975-76: Jon Lord / Ian Paice / David Coverdale / Glenn Hughes / Tommy Bolin
Extensive auditions followed, along with growing pressure to give up rather than forge ahead without Blackmore. Nevertheless, Deep Purple ultimately recruited American guitarist Tommy Bolin. He brought boundless stores of talent and unimpeachable versatility (see his jazz fusion work with Billy Cobham), but also a crippling heroin addiction that would eventually contribute to both Purple’s and his own tragic demise. Along the way, the short-lived Mk. IV lineup delivered a highly respectable, if unconventional, 10th album in 1975’s soul-and-funk-injected ‘Come Taste the Band.’ Fans remained divided, however. The group stumbled through a heavily criticized world tour that reached catastrophic lows in Japan (Bolin’s drug issues, again) and Indonesia (where corrupt authorities literally murdered one of the band’s roadies), then promptly broke up.
1984-89: Ritchie Blackmore / Jon Lord / Ian Paice / Ian Gillan / Roger Glover
The celebrated Mk. II lineup reconvened nearly 10 years after retiring the Deep Purple name, and more than a decade since they’d shared a stage or studio. Their suitably titled 1984 comeback album ‘Perfect Strangers’ so thrilled long-time fans, in fact, that most probably overlooked the likelihood that it would all go pear-shaped once again. Five years later, it did. Gillan, who'd led Deep Purple both to jam-packed arenas and a widely panned follow-up in 1987’s ‘The House of Blue Light,’ was once again pushed out by his longtime antagonist Blackmore. Gillan's replacement would prove controversial.
1989-92: Ritchie Blackmore / Jon Lord / Ian Paice / Roger Glover / Joe Lynn Turner
Maybe fans should have seen it coming. Blackmore's hand-picked successor for Gillan was none other than one-time Rainbow frontman, Joe Lynn Turner. A fine vocalist and competent songwriter in his own right, Turner nevertheless sparked a firestorm of criticism. Deep Purple's altogether solid 1990 effort ‘Slaves and Masters’ album was predictably and, somewhat justifiably, dismissed as “Deep Rainbow” -- the worst of both worlds. Blackmore and company gamely embarked on a world tour in an effort to make the lineup stick, but record and ticket buyers were simply not having it. By 1992, Blackmore had been forced to re-admit Gillan into the Deep Purple fold, but, alas, the damage was done.
1992-93: Ritchie Blackmore / Jon Lord / Ian Paice / Ian Gillan / Roger Glover
And so, the once-vaunted and now-diminished Mk. II lineup returned for a third and, mercifully, final go-round. The results on 1993’s appropriately named ‘The Battle Rages On…’ reflected the irreconcilable musical and personal differences compromising all of Deep Purple, but Blackmore and Gillan in particular. An ensuing world tour was meant to mark the band’s 25th anniversary, but there was little to celebrate. Mired in mixed fan response and absolutely horrible band vibes, Blackmore abruptly resigned after a November concert in Helsinki. The remaining four bandmates had to call in a pretty big favor in order to fulfill the remaining touring commitments.
1993-94: Jon Lord / Ian Paice / Ian Gillan / Roger Glover / Joe Satriani
That favor consisted of a short-term residency by Joe Satriani, who joined Deep Purple in time to cover an already booked Japanese tour in December 1993, then stayed on through next summer's tour of Europe. But any chance of Satriani joining the band permanently was eventually harpooned by his standing commitment to Epic Records, and he would never record as a member of Deep Purple. Still, his short stay gave the band just enough time to ponder their next move and find a long-term solution for their high-profile guitar position.
1994-02: Jon Lord / Ian Paice / Ian Gillan / Roger Glover / Steve Morse
With Satriani’s tour of duty completed, Gillan, Glover, Lord and Paice could finally pause long enough to consider out where to take Mk. VII. They found a worthy and reliable replacement in veteran Dixie Dregs and Kansas vet Steve Morse. Their first album together, 1996’s ‘Purpendicular,’ hardly sounded like vintage Purple but delivered a strong selection of tunes, nonetheless. They followed with 1998’s ‘Abandon,’ and some of the most intensive touring of the band’s long career. That punishing schedule, however, prompted Lord's retirement at age 61. Ian Paice remains as Deep Purple’s only ever-present participant.
2002-Present: Ian Paice / Ian Gillan / Roger Glover / Steve Morse / Don Airey
That brings us to Mk. VIII which, at just over a decade, is now the longest-running Deep Purple lineup ever. Lord (who passed away in 2012 from pancreatic cancer) was replaced by Airey, a keyboardist with a long resume including stints with Ozzy Osbourne, Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Whitesnake, among others. While the band’s focus has remained on touring, they've also delivered three studio albums including 2003’s ‘Bananas,’ 2005’s ‘Rapture of the Deep’ and 2013’s more well-received ‘Now What?!’