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Critics' Choice
ROCK HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES:
DEEP PURPLE
12/17/15

By Simon Glickman

At Valley Arts Guitar on Ventura Blvd., when I was a teen, there was a sheet of paper tacked on the wall by the Gibsons that read FORBIDDEN RIFFS. Of all the six-string filigrees strictly verboten by the beleaguered staff, “Smoke on the Water” was numero uno.

That such a rule was necessary underscores how badass that Deep Purple riff was and is—every adolescent newbie trying out an axe had to bust it out. It has retained its dominion over the years, prompting goat-throwing rhapsodies from Beavis and Butthead, air-guitar salutes from classic-rock commuters and earnest recreations by School of Rock students.

The band, ever defined by Ritchie Blackmore’s blazing guitar work, more or less laid the track, along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, for a certain strain of heavy, heavy blues rock—from the immortal 1968 jam “Hush,” one of the most enthralling rock anthems of its period, through later excursions like “Smoke,” “Space Truckin’” and “Highway Star.”

Deep Purple has boasted an array of frontmen, including Rod Evans, David Coverdale and Ian Gillan, all of whom brought the requisite fire and brimstone to the vocals, but it was Blackmore’s show, with vital assistance from the great Jon Lord (R.I.P.) on keyboards.

Their concerts were legendary for their sprawling, orgiastic solos, the very epitome of unapologetic rock excess. Deep Purple scratched that itch for heaviosity as few bands ever could—and are as Rock as any band ever inducted into the Rock Hall.