Saturday, March 31, 2012

Deep Cuts: Pictures of Home


For all those hours we've spent trying to dissect lyrics and admiring musicality, sometimes we just want our music to be big and stupid. With Machine Head ( released March 31, 1972), Deep Purple is all riffs, banal lyrics and instruments turned up to 11. Which is about the age you need to let yourself feel to really enjoy it.

The album kicks off with "Highway Star" which , to me at least, signifies their ambition to finally conquer the United States. After all nobody in the UK often uses the word "highway". Like T-Rex's "Jeepster" and Alice Cooper's "Under My Wheels",the rumbling "Highway Star" interweaves cars and girls to the degree they might as well be the same thing: "Nobody gonna take my car/I'm gonna race it to the ground/Nobody gonna beat my car/It's gonna break the speed of sound" Then about two minutes in, keyboardist Jon Lord plays a little Bach-esque solo ( picture Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap playing his lovely "Mach" number on piano, "Lick My Love Pump").

This monster album also contains "Smoke On The Water" ( Number 4 on Total Guitar Magazine's Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever), the hilarious sci-fi themed "Space Truckin"(We had a lot of luck on Venus/We always have a ball on Mars) and , surprisingly the first single, "Never Before", for which Deep Purple made a promo video.

But my deep cut choice is Track 3 , the driving "Pictures Of Home". Recording in Switzerland, Ian Gillian was apparently not just homesick ( and recovering from hepatitis) but feeling paranoid when he wrote the lyrics."I'm alone here/ With emptiness, eagles and snow/ Unfriendliness chilling my body/And whispering pictures of home". As if to mirror Gilllian's unease, Lord, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore  and even bassist Roger Glover all play unsettling solos.

Machine Head reached number 1 in the United Kingdom and stayed in the top 40 for 20 weeks. It reached number 7 in the United States, remaining on the Billboard 200 for 118 weeks. Heavy metal fans can all thank Deep Purple for this big, loud and dumb album. A true classic!

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