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Deep Purple trek celebrates band’s legacy with an eye to the future

With a plethora of hits such as “Smoke on the Water,” “Hush” and “Highway Star” to its credit, the band remains committed to new music exploration. They’ve released six albums since 1996, including 2017’s “Infinite.”

Deep Purple: Roger Glover (from left), Don Airey, Ian Paice, Steve Morse and Ian Gillan.  
Deep Purple: Roger Glover (from left), Don Airey, Ian Paice, Steve Morse and Ian Gillan.  
Copyright Ear Music/Jim Rakete

When Deep Purple bass player and songwriter Roger Glover joined the band in the late ’60s, he never fathomed he’d be playing with his bandmates a half a century later. He thought his tenure would be based in years, not decades, if he got lucky. Instead, he’s remained a core member for most of the group’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-worthy career, a legacy that included heavily influencing the hard rock genre and rock music in general.

“I do frequently think about the chain of events that led to me being in this band, and it’s a chain so tenuous, so fragile, so haphazard that it blows me away,” says Glover during a recent interview. “In those days, if you joined a band, you’d be lucky to stay in there about a year, even if you had a hit, two years if you had a couple of hits. So, to go on for four or five years, that would be something really special.

“50 years is beyond the pale. It’s just an unbelievable sort of state of affairs, really. I’m thankful for that every day. ... You make decisions based on just whims and you don’t think about the consequences. So, in my case, I feel like I’m an extremely lucky man.”

That journey involved many stops in the Chicago area, including an unusual gig October 24, 1971, at the Auditorium Theatre.

“[Singer] Ian Gillan became sick and had to go home, and, we had to do a show,” Glover recalls. “It was too late to cancel the show. And so, we did mostly an instrumental set, and occasionally I would sing a few lines or something, so that everyone knew where they were. And in the days of bootlegs, I’m really, really thankful that there’s no bootleg of that evening.”

Glover is in an especially reflective mood these days, as the band — which also features Gillan, drummer Ian Paice, guitarist Steve Morse and keyboardist Don Airey — is amid its self-described final tour, dubbed The Last Goodbye Tour. While a final tour has been something the band members considered for several years, they’ve opted (as most artists on their “final tours” do) to keep the trek open-ended without announcing the end date.

“Basically, we know we’re going to end at some point, but none of us has the guts to say when,” says Glover. “Personally speaking, I don’t want a big ‘this is the final gig, nail the lights all around it.’ I think that’s just too stressful and emotional. And where would it be? And, I’d just rather just carry on what we do and then suddenly stop without warning. So, people say, ‘How long is it?’ I don’t know how long it is. How long is a piece of string?”

In addition, the group plans to keep recording new music.

“We’ve been working a bit,” Glover says. “There’s a few things around, we don’t know yet what’s, where, or when, but we’ve not stopped yet.”

With a plethora of hits such as “Smoke on the Water,” “Hush” and “Highway Star” to its credit, the band remains committed to new music exploration. They’ve released six albums since 1996, including 2017’s “Infinite.”

“There’s a danger, of course, if you’ve become successful, that people want you to do the same thing and be successful all over again and keep going, but it doesn’t work that way,” says Glover. “You can’t just simply repeat yourself.”

When the band was revived in 1984, Glover says everyone was committed to changing things up. That mindset has especially been true with recent albums.

“I think that there was almost an unspoken desire to move forward, to not repeat ourselves,” he says. “Of course, the players are the same, so the sounds can be the same in all the style or something like that.

“But as far as writing songs are concerned, I think most bands don’t get the songs right. They talk about performance and hooks and stuff like that, but to me writing a song is much more than that. And we’ve always tried to write different songs. The danger is, of course, you become a parody of yourself if you try and copy yourself. And so, we’ve always tried to move on and change. It’s a challenge.”

So, when someone asks him “why don’t you write songs like ‘Highway Star’ anymore?” the answer is simple.

“I said, ‘We still write songs like ‘Highway Star,’ they just don’t sound like ‘Highway Star,’ ” Glover says. “Before ‘Highway Star’ was written, we had no idea what it’s future might be and that’s the same with every song we write. We have no idea what it’s future might be.”

Joshua Miller is a local freelance writer.