Ian Gillan Admits He Used to Head Off to the Pub During Ritchie Blackmore’s Solos
The lead singer tends to get the lion's share of the spotlight in rock 'n' roll, but the gig does have its drawbacks, including the question of what to do with yourself onstage while your bandmates are soloing. During Deep Purple's days of extended live jamming, singer Ian Gillan came up with a distinctive solution.
"I love extended solos," chuckled Gillan in a recent interview. "I used to like them in the old days a lot, because it used to give me time to go to the pub for a drink."
And Gillan isn't using a euphemism, either — during Purple's early club days, when they booked shows in small venues that tended to be next door to pubs, he'd really sneak off stage and out of the building while guitarist Ritchie Blackmore did his thing. He said he'd always put one of the roadies on solo watch: "'When [Blackmore] looks like he’s nearly finished, come to the pub and let me know.’ Every night. I’m serious."
Fortunately for Gillan's liver, once the band started taking off, he found it harder to leave the building — and when they toured America, there weren't as many bars walking distance from the stage — so he compensated by having card games with the crew. "That’s the way it was, and it was great," he laughs now, but extracurricular suds and poker aside, Gillan seems to prefer more economic solos: Looking back, he calls Blackmore's guitar workouts "his personal orgy" of Deep Purple's live set.
Of course, Gillan is far from alone when it comes to taking extreme measures during extended solo sections — and as many Yes fans will recall, keyboard player Rick Wakeman arguably set the standard for this kind of thing when, while touring in support of Tales From Topographic Oceans, he actually started snacking on Indian food during a show. In that context, sneaking out to the pub might not sound so bad.
See Deep Purple and Other Rockers in the Top 100 Albums of the '80s
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Worst Snubs