Friday, 20 July 2012

Jon Lord 1941 - 2012

It barely seems like five minutes ago that I was writing a post about the role of the extraordinary Hammond Organ in my musical apprenticeship (in fact it was over two years ago) and now here we are mourning the passing of one of its greatest exponents, Jon Lord.  Along with the likes of Stevie Winwood, Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman, Jon Lord was a master of the instrument and his signature jazz/rock licks can be heard underpinning music from Deep Purple, Whitesnake and his various collaborative bands from the sixties to the point when he became ill with cancer a year or so ago.

Weirdly, I never owned a Deep Purple studio album, opting for the ‘Live in Japan’ set and the rare ‘Marks I and II’ compilation but always kept a batch of taped DP singles recorded from the radio and TV.  More particularly, and in my usual manner of going for the fringe projects, I bought Deep Purple’s 1969 ‘Concerto For Group and Orchestra’ written by Lord, which I enjoyed then and still like today.  It speaks volumes of the man that he could encompass all forms of music from the discipline of classical composition to the unstructured improvisation of jazz and the sheer brutality of heavy rock.  In his mind, it was all just music and for that I applaud him.  It was a concept that he understood completely yet my music teachers at school failed to grasp.  As a consequence, I was instructed to believe that anything that wasn’t classical wasn’t really music.  What piffle – yet this was the late sixties when such views were rife.  This attitude has changed, thankfully, and today I can attend my daughter’s school concert and hear pieces by Mendelssohn, Bach, Lennon & McCartney and Journey (!)

In 1969 the idea of a ‘Rock Concerto’ was uncharted territory and tantamount to suicide artistically as the audiences for classical and rock music were utterly divided by both generation and attitude.  Rather than try to gloss over this chasm, Lord cleverly treated the rock band as the Concerto ‘soloist’ in place of the usual single instrument and rather than try to blend rock and orchestral instruments together, actually accentuated their differences by making the band loud and raucous thus creating a musical war that is full of drama and conflict.  The live recording with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Malcolm Arnold is stirring stuff, full of great orchestral themes juxtaposed with bluesy fuzzed up guitar solos.

I admired Jon Lord both as a composer and a musician and if you don’t like his Concerto (or subsequent Gemini Suite) just go and listen to his solos on ’Highway Star’ or ‘Burn’.  After all, it’s just music.

RIP Jon.


TR1-Guy said...

Oh, Jon Lord and Deep Purple. DP was very formative in my swtich from kiddie pop songs by the Archies and Lobo into full fledge hard rock or heavy metal. I have "Fireball", "Machine Head", "Made in Japan" and "Who Do We Think We Are?" in vinyl and various formats ever since. Ian Gillian's voice matched with the rest of the Mark II line-up is perfection in my opinion. But it was Jon Lord's organ playing that made you stop and go "Wow..." We had our share of great guitar players, but few keyboardists did it with the style and sound of Jon Lord. He opted rarely to play the piano and stayed with his trusty Hammond.

It's truly sad to see him go.

music obsessive said...

Hi Byron - Wow! A real fan. I'm still not sure why I didn't buy all those LPs at the time (I have them on CD now but it not the same). Great memories from a golden period in rock.

Btw your mag should be well on its way by now.