Glenn Hughes on Deep Purple’s Belated Hall of Fame Induction and How David Bowie Kept Them Together: Exclusive Interview
Even as years of eligibility turned into decades, former Deep Purple bassist Glenn Hughes was certain his old band would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "I had a feeling we'd get in," Hughes tells Ultimate Classic Rock. "If there's a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and there's a band that's sold around 150 million albums, surely they're going to be nominated. And in some form, they are still together, flying the flag of the brand and the band. That band and brand has been going now for 48 years. Forget that I was in Deep Purple; I would be wanting to see any band with that longevity over that span get in there. It's incredible."
His vision finally comes true this week, as Hughes will be honored along with Ritchie Blackmore, David Coverdale, Rod Evans, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice during the 2016 induction ceremonies to be held on April 8 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Though Hughes was only in Deep Purple from 1973-76, he helped the band through a pair of critical transitions as Gillan, Glover and then Blackmore exited. Burn and Stormbringer, the first two Hughes Deep Purple albums, went gold in the U.S., and every project he played on reached the U.K. Top 20. After the release of 1975's Come Taste the Band, which featured the late Tommy Bolin, Hughes then began a career that's taken him through a variety of solo projects, as well as stints with Black Sabbath and Black Country Communion. Hughes discussed those transitional years in Deep Purple, and the roles Paul Rodgers and David Bowie played in them, before touching on his own toward sobriety.
Listen to Deep Purple Perform 'Stormbringer'
Your period in Deep Purple is sometimes overlooked. Did you ever wonder whether you would make the list of inductees?
Coming after Gillan and Glover, they made Machine Head and Made in Japan – which are the two biggest records ... So when David and I came in and were part of the Burn album, I think it signified the band was still alive. If Burn was not a success – that album was a Top 5 album in over 40 countries – I think the band would have been over. But Burn was a big, big record. I look back it and I go, "Fun album." Brand new band, seemed like the camaraderie was good. There was no tension. People in the press said to me, "Where you under pressure?" Not at all, because the camaraderie in the band was really strong. There was a lot of laughter. Ritchie really thought we'd be two young, fun dudes. I think he was ready for a change. Ian Gillan didn't want to be in the band anymore, and it was a big thing to replace him, you know? So, I'm really glad that Burn was a success for Deep Purple. I really am happy that it signifies that Mk. I, Mk. II, Mk. III and Mk. IV of Deep Purple were, in some ways, respected and successful.
It's funny, you thought they were bringing in Paul Rodgers at first, rather than David Coverdale. That would have changed everything.
It's something I don't really talk about a lot. When I joined the band, I thought they were going to ask me to sing and play bass. They said, "No, no, we want you to sing -- but we want Paul Rodgers to be the frontman." One part of my brain went, "Aw, s---, I'm not going to be able to sing." Then the other part of my brain went, "Aw f---. He's a f---ing great singer!" Later, Paul became a great friend of mine. But back then, I was very, very excited about that – as I was, singing with David. If you know anything about me, you know that I like to share the mic. I'm just so grateful to have shared the microphone with another great singer.
Stormbringer, the follow-up, was interesting because of the way you and Coverdale shifted Deep Purple into a funkier vibe.
You know, when they asked me to join, Blackmore, Lord and Paice saw me play maybe four, five times. They knew the animal that I was, as far as my repertoire in groove rock. I'm a very groove-orientated bass player, and I grew up listening to Tamla/Motown. I transferred Tamla/Motown into rock. I mixed the rock with black R&B. That was the essence of who I was in [the pre-Deep Purple band] Trapeze. When I started Trapeze, we were playing to five people in upstate New York, and we ended up playing to 15,000 people at the end in Texas – and that genre was groove rock. So when I was replacing Roger in Deep Purple, who didn't sing, I was a groove-orientated rock bass player, as you see on film or you hear on record. I also have a very powerful rock voice, as Paul Rodgers does. What we didn't want to do, none of us – including Ritchie, Jon and Ian – was, we didn't want to duplicate what Ian Gillan did and what Roger Glover did. It would have been redundant to have had an Ian Gillan-sounding singer. As good as Ian was back then, it would have been ridiculous. I think David and I completely changed the style of the vocals. As for the band, when you've got Blackmore, Lord and Paice playing with you, and I'm playing bass, you can't really change it that much. But then Ritchie took his foot off the gas on Stormbringer, Jon and I and David had to put our heads together and write a lot of that record. And remember now, Glenn Hughes never repeats himself on an album. Every album I've ever made, all through my career – I've made f---ing hundreds, and they're all different.
Listen to Deep Purple Perform 'You Keep On Moving'
Much like David Bowie, your old roommate.
He lived with me when he was making Station to Station. He's always telling me, "Keep f---ing changing. Never stay the same. Never. Stay. The same." Throw those leather pants away! Throw those boots away. Let me cut your f---ing hair! He was all about forever changing, and I've always done that, really. Some people don't get it, and some people do.
It makes sense then that it was Bowie who ended up talking you into staying as Deep Purple began the Bolin era.
When Ritchie left the band, I gotta be honest with you, I wanted to go back to Trapeze and reform the band. Bowie was in my house, and he said, "You should go get a new guitar player who sounds way different to Ritchie, and maybe looks different." He kind of convinced me. I think Jon and I were going to throw the towel in, you know? But then David Bowie drove me down in his Mercedes to audition Tommy. So Bowie had a lot to do with me going down there that day. And I fell in love with Tommy the moment I saw him, you know? I knew before he switched his f---ing amp on that he was going to kick my ass.
There was a point in time where it looked like you might be one of rock's casualties, too. But you turned it around, and that journey led you to this special place.
Listen, man. We have one shot here in life. You get older, you get into your 60s like me, and it's getting towards the end. Every day counts. Tommy was 25 when we buried him. That was f---ing painful. John Bonham – 30-f---ing-2 years old when we buried him. That was f---ing painful. So many of my friends were buried in their 20s and 30s. So, I am so thankful to be breathing on the right side of the grass, to stand in New York and get that award. It's a beautiful thing. I'm so grateful to still be standing up, man.
Is it just that much more special because you're doing in with David Coverdale, your closest friend in Deep Purple?
David Coverdale and I, for the last 43 years, have been so close. I have a relationship with him like no one else in Deep Purple. He's like family to me; my mother and father love David like a son. When I got sober in 1991, he was the first person to reach out. That's family, you know? We have such an amazing friendship of laughter. We f---ing laugh all the time – and I love to laugh. This old rock dude loves to laugh.
Deep Purple Lineup Changes: A Complete Guide