For the dedicated hard rock advocate, the impact which the members of Deep Purple – past and present – have inflicted on the music community throughout the course of their extensive career, which spans across nearly five decades and a current sum of nineteen studio albums, is unignorable.
The influence of this English rock collective is similarly sizable, and along with their position within the “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal in the early to mid-Seventies,” alongside Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, Deep Purple’s contributions to the rock genre go without saying; at least, that’s what many longtime listeners have expressed.
It hasn’t been without great surprise that Deep Purple has yet to be administered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an organization which has controversially inducted artists of pop, rap and R&B prominence before many of the defining musicians and groups of rock. However, these collective cries of outrage intensified following a statement from lead vocalist Ian Gillan, who revealed that the members of Deep Purple have somehow been filled under an outlandish “one-hit wonder” label by the museum.
Gillan expressed an amalgamation of confusion and frustration at the title, and we here at Music Enthusiast similarly share this emotional fusion. Without further hesitation, we are providing a rundown of fifteen anthemic tracks from throughout Deep Purple’s lineagy which have the potential to qualify for the coveted position of being the band’s “one hit.”
“Smoke on the Water”
From ‘Machine Head’ (1972)
Built around one of the most instantly recognizable guitar riffs in rock courtesy of Ritchie Blackmore, “Smoke on the Water” remains one of the more definitive anthems in the genre, earning what appears to be a permanent installment in classic rock radio rotation, and thus indirectly responsible for Deep Purple’s “one-hit wonder” status. A notorious hard rock track in it’s own right, and with the obvious set aside we progress through our countdown.
Listen to “Smoke on the Water”
“Strange Kind of Woman”
From ‘Fireball’ (1972)
This ‘Fireball’ fan favorite has become a live staple for the members of Deep Purple, and similarly became a significant accomplishment for the rock group following it’s original release more than four decades ago, where after being issued as the album’s second single climbed to #8 on the UK Charts. While Ian Gillan expresses his broken heart after falling in love with a courtesan, the remainder of the lineup is found nailing some hard hitting arrangements, resulting in an exceptional oeuvre.
Listen to “Strange Kind of Woman”
From ‘Shades of Deep Purple’ (1968)
One of the few songs that doesn’t feature Ian Gillan on the original Deep Purple recording but the singer will still perform live, “Hush” serves as the first single from the band’s 1968 debut studio album, ‘Shades of Deep Purple.’ A solid rendition on the originally pop rock character developed by Joe South, re-energized by slamming chord progressions and the synthesizer work of the late Jon Lord, this premier effort went on to reach #4 in the United States and #2 in Canada. From early on, it was clear this up-and-coming rock group had some serious potential.
Listen to “Hush”
From ‘Made in Japan’ (1973)
Considering the largely improvisational (and entirely exceptional) compositions on their then-recently released fourth studio album, ‘Deep Purple in Rock,’ EMI requested that a more radio friendly single be released to promote the effort on the airwaves – as though the ten minute “Child in Time” wasn’t suitable? The members of Deep Purple obliged, returning with the anthemic “Black Night,” which quickly rose to #4 in Switzerland and #2 in the United Kingdom, serving as the band’s highest charting single in the country to date. It wouldn’t be until 1973’s ‘Made in Japan,’ however, that the song would appear on a full-length release.
Listen to “Black Night”
From ‘The Book of Taliesyn’ (1968)
Providing your own take on well known pop songs has been a tactic which countless rock groups have implemented over the course of their careers, and it’s one which Deep Purple particularly enforced on their sophomore studio album, 1968’s ‘The Book of Taliesyn.’ The effort included new renditions of songs created by everyone from The Beatles to Ike & Tina Turner, however it was their version of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman” which particularly took off on the charts, reaching #38 in the US, #21 in Canada, and #27 in Australia.
Listen to “Kentucky Woman”
“King of Dreams”
From ‘Slaves and Masters’ (1990)
Despite having then just recently completed multiple commercially successful reunion tours and two similarly successful studio albums with lead vocalist Ian Gillan, the frontman was fired after tensions worsened and musical differences intensified. As a result, the members of Deep Purple entered their somewhat controversial ‘Deep Rainbow’ era with former Rainbow lead vocalist Joe Lynn Turner introduced for their 1990 album ‘Slaves and Masters.’ The effort still proved to be a solid performer in the charts, with the lead single “King of Dreams” reaching #6 in the US and #70 in the United Kingdom.
Listen to “King of Dreams”
From ‘Perfect Strangers’ (1984)
One of those same aforementioned reunion efforts with Ian Gillan, Deep Purple’s 1984 studio album ‘Perfect Strangers’ marked the anticipated return of the band’s Mk II lineup, as well as the rock group’s first album since their eventual dissolution nine years prior. The effort reassured longtime listeners that this formidable lineup was still capable of formulating incendiary hard rock, as demonstrated on the album’s title cut, which rose to #12 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
Listen to “Perfect Strangers”
“Call of the Wild”
From ‘The House of Blue Light’ (1987)
The latter of the pair of those previously noted reunion albums is 1987’s ‘The House of Blue Light,’ which came as the result of Deep Purple attempting to modernize their approach in order to make their music current. “We discovered that people didn’t want us to do that,” Jon Lord later reflected, and while the members of Deep Purple haven’t attempted such an alternation in their recent efforts, that doesn’t mean ‘The House of Blue Light’ was an absolute failure by any means. Take the album’s lead single “Call of the Wild” for example, which climbed to #14 in the US.
Listen to “Call of the Wild”
From ‘Fireball’ (1971)
Take your typical hard hitting Deep Purple song, subtract the blistering guitar solo, then add in tambourine accents attributed courtesy of Ian Gillan and the sound of the recording studio’s air conditioning unit, and you have the blueprint for the opening track from the band’s 1971 studio album, ‘Fireball.’ Their fifth studio album is first introduced with this raging title track, which was appropriately determined as a suitable single and would go on to reach #15 in the United Kingdom.
Listen to “Fireball”
“River Deep, Mountain High”
From ‘The Book of Taliesyn’ (1968)
Deep Purple providing their own version of an R&B staple? It may seem like an outlandish combination, however it’s one which these hard rock forerunners pulled off with masterful execution on ‘The Book of Taliesyn,’ where the members of Deep Purple delivered their rendition of Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” transforming the soulful feel of the original into a choice progressive rock number. Original lead singer Rod Evans leads the way on this impressionable cover, which despite it’s lengthy running time landed at #42 in Canada and #53 in the US.
Listen to “River Deep, Mountain High”
“Might Just Take Your Life”
From ‘Burn’ (1974)
Where Deep Purple lost two essential members in Ian Gillan and Roger Glover following their exiting in 1973, they gained two similarly formidable musicians in future Whitesnake mainman David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes from Trapeze. Both prominent lead vocalists in their own right, these additions in personnel also introduced elements of soul and funk to Deep Purple’s distinctive hard rock approach, resulting in 1974’s ‘Burn.’ While the album’s title track quickly developed a strong cult following, it was the ferocious “Might Just Take Your Life” that made an impact on the charts, earning enough airplay to appear at #91 in the US.
Listen to “Might Just Take Your Life”
From ‘Machine Head’ (1972)
For the record, you could set the needle anywhere on Deep Purple’s ‘Machine Head’ and land on a song which could be designated as a hit (“Space Truckin’,” “Highway Star,” “Lazy,” etc.), but straying close to the actual chart performances of designated singles, the striking “Never Before” was actually chosen as the album’s lead single, even in favor of “Smoke on the Water.” Try figuring out that one. Nonetheless, “Never Before” still served as a moderate commercial success, landing at #35 on the UK Top 75 Charts soon following it’s release.
Listen to “Never Before”
“Knocking at Your Back Door”
From ‘Perfect Strangers’ (1984)
Where the title track from Deep Purple’s well-received 1984 reunion album ‘Perfect Strangers’ served as a solid reintroduction to the hard rock group, “Knocking at Your Back Door” was the predatory opening number that reassured their presence as one of the more resilient forces in the genre, gradually building the listener’s anticipation with a climatic orchestral arrangement before reaching a muscular compiling of guitar licks and Ian Paice’s protruding percussion. When this song was decided as the album’s third single a year following it’s original release, it went on to outperform the preceding “Perfect Strangers” and “Nobody’s Home” by landing at #7 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, as well as reaching #61 on the Hot 100 and #65 in the UK.
Listen to “Knocking at Your Back Door”
“The Battle Rages On…”
From ‘The Battle Rages On…’ (1993)
Following their somewhat controversial attempt at introducing another lead vocalist into the fold, the classic Mk II lineup gave working together one final shot with their 1993 studio album, ‘The Battle Rages On..,’ which despite having been largely completed before the reintroduction and permanent fixture of Ian Gillan into the the lineup still turned out to be one hell of a studio effort from the members of Deep Purple. It also would prove to be their last with founding member and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who was infuriated with the album’s non-melodic elements (?) and quit the band mid-tour, however such songs as the album’s title track have gone on to earn occasional appearances in the group’s live performances, initially climbing up to #22 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts.
Listen to “The Battle Rages On…”
“Woman From Tokyo”
From ‘Who Do We Think We Are’ (1973)
Following the strengthful commercial success of 1972’s ‘Machine Head’ and the updated status of Deep Purple following the single release of “Smoke of the Water,” the group returned from their supporting tour and returned to the studio to begin work on their follow-up, 1973’s ‘Who Do We Think We Are.’ The album put particular emphasis on blues rock while retaining a heavier edge, as demonstrated on the effort’s lead single, “Woman From Tokyo,” which includes an upbeat piano accompaniment throughout. The song had a particular impact on foreign markets, landing at #6 in the Netherlands, #16 in Germany, and #60 in the US, and appropriately rounds out our countdown of 15 of Deep Purple’s “One Hit Wonders.”
Listen to “Woman From Tokyo”