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.