Monday, August 31, 2009

Beatles Covers: Help

Deep Purple: Help


Back in 1983, I was a expanding my musical world outward from the Beatles and into...heavy metal. Not sure how that happened, but it did. I blame it on "Helter Skelter".

One day I was at a local discount store, rummaging through their bin of discount cassettes. Remember those? Coming of age in the Walkman era, cassettes were my preferred format for listening to music until CDs (remember those?) became ubiquitous. I used to love digging through those bargain bins!

But I digress. So I was rummaging through the discount cassettes, and I came across an album by Deep Purple. Newly converted to the headbanging cause, I knew that Deep Purple were a band I needed to have. So I bought the cassette, which was called Shades of Deep Purple. When I popped it in my cheap Walkman knockoff, I realized right away that this was not quite the same band as the one that recorded the ur-riff "Smoke On the Water". This was psychedelic. Some of it was quite catchy.

I did some research, and discovered it was their debut album, from 1968, and they had a different singer (and a different bassist) than the band that recorded all those '70s classics. Despite my initial disappointment however, I ended up falling in love with the album.

The early Purple were indeed a psychedelic band, in the mold of Vanilla Fudge. They often recorded long, drawn-out psychedelicized covers. (They also recorded shorted bursts of psych-pop, like their cover of Joe South's "Hush", which was the big hit from this album.) On Shades of..., they applied the Fudge formula to John Lennon's most famous cry for help. Hearing the lyrics slowed down was an eye opener.

They recorded three albums with this lineup, before bringing in Ian Gillian's leather lungs for In Rock. To my ears, Shades of... is the only one of the three that still holds up.

Or maybe it just like the memories of my younger self the album evokes. I'm definitely listening to it through nostalgia-colored glasses.

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