Bolin's Purple: Re-Made In Japan
Circus Magazine - March 23, 1976
The first concert was a bit hairy, I must admit," says Jon Lord of Deep Purple. "it came off all right, but there was this mad whispering running across the stage. "What the hell's next? How does that go? "We opened with 'Burn," and we were just going onstage. The lights go down and the audience is applauding, and Tommy says "How the **** does that riff go?'" The Purple you have seen on American stages this month went through a period of intensive training under fire in the Far East before they even set foot in an American arena. Tommy Bolin had been a member of Deep Purple less than 6 months when the band began their 1975-76 AmerAsian tour, but he was anxious to get out on the road and confront the legions of Ritchie Blackmore fans head on. Purple had recorded Come Taste The Band with Bolin 2 months before the tour, and as they watched the LP jump up the international record charts, they knew that Purple fans had at least welcomed Bolin's arrival on record. A tour would be the final test. Would Purple people everywhere accept this young American onstage? And more importantly, would the chemistry established in the studio and in the rehearsal hall between Bolin and Purple carry over into the concert hall?
Japan, where Purple has achieved immortality in the Japanese Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, would be the first big challenge of the tour. Purple had last played Japan two years earlier, when singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover were still with the band, so they weren't only debuting Tommy Bolin, they were also bringing David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes to Japan for the first time. The support and approval of the Japanese rockers, at this point in the band's evolving career, was obviously crucial to the future of Deep Purple.
But when the band arrived in Tokyo on a Saturday night, for their opening concert in Nagoya on Monday, an aura of impending doom surrounded the group and their entourage. They had all just experienced 2 nightmarish days in Jakarta, Indonesia, and mental and physical exhaustion clutched at everyone like a monster from the Oriental deep.
In Jakarta on Thursday night, on of the Purple's hired bodyguards, Patsy Collins, had been killed when he tumbled down an elevator shaft. A somewhat tipsy Collins had gotten locked inside a hotel stair well after an argument with 2 roadies, and when he finally found an unlocked door it turned out to be the wrong one. The ill-starred bodyguard stepped into the darkness and plunged 6 floors down, crashing through a scalding maze of hot water pipes to his death. Later that night, the two roadies Collins had fought with and Purple's manager Rob Cooksey found themselves languishing in a Indonesian jail under suspicion of murder. The police released them the next morning but not before extracting a $500 fee for photocopying their passports. Several weeks later, when Deep Purple returned to America, Jon Lord expressed a fear that others had only brooded over at the time -- that Collins might actually have been murdered by local residents.
With their manager in jail, Deep Purple went back into the 100,000 seat outdoor stadium the Russisans built in Jakarta 10 years ago. The National police, in a foul mood after having battled off the 20,000 fans who had crashed the first night's show, had warned any Europeans in the audience to leave their seats and congregate near the side of the stage for safety. Purple was only a few minutes into their set when the police went berserk, firing rubber bullets into the dancing crowd, cracking skulls and ribs with rifle butts and truncheons, and losing a vicious pack of Doberman pinschers on the kids. Jon Lord saw one of the killer dogs dragging a helpess long hair across the ground in his teeth as blood spurted from the boy's ruptured veins. Lord was appalled.
To compound the misery, Tommy Bolin had pinched a nerve in his left hand after the second concert. With Bolin's hand numb and lifeless, Purple was suddenly faced with the real possiblity of having to cancel some or all of their Japanese tour - or at best, having to play the gigs with a handicapped artist who'd never proven himself onstage in Japan before. Bolin had only 2 days to mend before the first concert, so everyone was hoping for a miraculous recovery.
The first signs of encouragement came in Nagoya on Sunday. A night, Bolin went out for a stroll near the group's hotel about midnight and passed 3 fortune tellers along the way, Bolin hesitated, they decided to chance a glimpse into the future. The palm-reader didn't speak English, so one of Bolin's Japanese friends translated for her. The woman immediately identified Bolin as an "artist" of some kind and told him he had recently assumed a big responsibility. Then Bolin quizzed her about his hand. She caressed his hand and forearm lightly touching his skin, and told him it would heal but not very soon.
But Tommy forgot all about his hand a minute later, when the old woman told him he would be a star with Deep Purple but an even bigger star as a solo performer. Bolin who was planing to follow the Purple American tour with his own solo tour, didn't even seem surprised. "I totally believe it," he insisted.
Meanwhile, spirits were picking up back at the hotel as well. Bolin and friends arrived back at the bar just in time to hear Jon Lord, a master storyteller, recount a meeting David Coverdale had once had with big John Wayne in a bar in Los Angeles. Coverdale, sitting in the bar with some other members of Purple, had noticed Wayne seated nearby, and after a few stiff drinks the singer went over to Wayne. "My mother's a big fan of yours, Mr. Wayne, and she'd be thrilled to have your autograph," Coverdale had told him. "Who are you, kid?" Wayne had asked as he began to sign his name. Coverdale told him he was the singer in a rock group called Deep Purple. Wayne sat up , a look of surprise flushing his face. "My daughter thinks the sun shines outta' your ass,' Duke told the amazed vocalist. "Can I have your autograph for her?"
Early the next morning, Tommy Bolin sat, the object of a score of stares, in the hotel coffee shop, impatiently waiting for the vegetable sandwich he'd ordered 20 minutes ago. The sandwich and one of the gigglers who'd been staring starry-eyed at Bolin arrived at the table simultaneously. The Nagoyan teenybopper, her blushing face looking like a crimson ball against her silky, jet-black hair, gave Bolin a box of candy and a single red rose. "Today is Valentine's Day?", she giggled in broken English.
"Will you be my Valentine?" Bolin asked as he stuck the rose in his water glass. The girl kissed Bolin and, giggling, returned to her envious friends in the corner booth.
"I'll save this in case I don't get any nookie tonight," said Bolin as he bit into his vegetable sandwich.
The brief encounter shifted Bolin's fevered memory into reverse, sending him back to a night weeks earlier in Australia, at The Stormy Summer night club. Tommy had a ring side seat for the floor show.
"This chick comes over and starts wiggling in front of me, and every body's yelling "Tear'em off with your teeth!". But she was so high up I couldn't reach her. She didn't bend down so finally I took my hands and ripped 'em off!
After the show, 2 strippers had been invited over to Purple's hotel to perform at a party in Tommy's room. "There was like 25 people at the party. Between the 25 of us, we got together only $16 for this chick to do a show. She was thrilled. 16 bucks for her was like a zillion dollars. She did her strip show, and then Glenn did one. We didn't have to pay him!!"
The next morning Bolin had awakened to find himself sandwiched between the two strippers. "I had to do an interview, and we're all in bed naked, and this guy calls and says 'You got an interview in two minutes.' There was really nothing I could do, so I said 'Okay send him up.' He came up and he was wearing these annoying Bermuda shorts and high socks and half-beaten Beatle boots and a madras shirt that wasn't quite bleeding. So he comes in, and I said "Sit down", and he sat down but he would not look at me. He just kept glancing over, like every 10 seconds.."
Bolin's appetite for revelry is equalled only by his ability to retell the event in vivid streams of narrative. He is candid raconteur who has learned to field as many as 20 interviews a day since his ascendancy to Purple. Sometimes, however, it gets to be a bit much even for him.
Needles And Pins
The next morning, in desperation, Bolin saw an acupuncturist. "The dude had, like this cardboard piece of electronic stuff which went 'bzzzzz' all over my arm", he said that evening sitting in Trader Vic's as he waited for the "Suffering Bastard" he had ordered from the exotic drinks list. When the doctors' detector had located the damaged nerve, he explained, the doctor had grabbed his needle hand moved in for the pinch.
"I think he missed. In fact I know he missed. It was stuck in the old main vein. I said 'Forget it, I can do it myself'. Then he stuck me with a piece of electricity with clamps on it and said "Okay I'll be back in five minutes.' The needle was just spinning around and spinning around. It looked really strange with just a needle sticking outta' your arm, and nobody else around. It was really stupid looking at it."
That was the evening of the opening show, and the left hand was still a lifeless tentacle. Bolin struggled through the first half of the set, but in "Ode To G", his solo spot, the hand failed him. It quickly became apparent that his guitar was no longer under his control.
"I saw him", recalled Jon Lord the next afternoon. "He was trying and I'm going, "You can do it, Tommy'. Paice put it best. He said he thinks Tommy panicked. He was out there on his own, spotlights all over him, and he thought 'I've got to do something.' "That made me angry, but it's so easy to get angry onstage. All your reactions and emotions are multiplied by a hundred. Glenn can play one bum note, and even though he's played a beautiful set, he'll come off and say 'I played shitty,' because of the one bad thing he did."
Disappointed in the medical treatment he'd received in Nagoya, Tommy decided to buy an electric heating pad for his arm when the band got to Osaka for the second gig. The Japanese don't make heating pads, though, so he settled for an electric blanket instead. He sat with it wrapped around his arm in the hectic dressing room before the show.
"Are all my guitars tuned?" he asked his roadie, who nodded yes. "You're a prince," laughed Jon Lord, "and you better watch out, because I'm a princess."
Bolin played better that night, and better still the next night in Fukuoka. The big Tokyo concert, which was to be filmed for European television and recorded for European television and recorded for a possible live LP, loomed only three days ahead, so Bolin decided to visit a doctor who had been recommended by the promoter of the tour.
"The Professor", as Bolin called him, twisted and massaged the guitarist's left had back to near-perfect health by the day of the final concert. "He really looked mad", Bolin explained. "Like insane."
Nearly 12,000 rock fans filled the Budokan concert hall to see the new Deep Purple. The band had flown their producer, Martin Birch, in to supervise the recording of the album, and 2 film crews, 1 stationary and 1 mobile, were there to record the excitement on celluloid...
Purple opened to pandemonium with "Burn" and with Tommy Bolin healthy again, they played their most explosive set of the tour.
Jon Lord and Ian Paice dazzled the Rock & Roll ravers with an impromptu jam of "Woman From Tokyo". Tommy Bolin mesmerized them with his echo-plex during "Ode to G". (The device repeats a riff Bolin had been playing while he claps his hands over his head.) Glenn Hughes, one of rock's funkiest bassist, had the girls screaming during his soulful rendition of "Georgia On My Mind", and David Coverdale was fully in command as he sang "Smoke on the Water", the song that made Ian Gillan.
"This tour had to prove whether it could work or not", said Ian Paice, shirtless and sweating after the show. "This proved that it can work".
"I think we can afford to relax a little bit", reflected Jon Lord, as he peeled off his custom-made, hand-painted leather suit. "We know that it works. We should be able to get into some really nice things, and experiment a bit with what we are".
"With Tommy, people didn't know what to expect, so we were able to be free again. What's come out of it, to me, is a good extension of what we were. It proves that the band will always be this kind of band, but we're trying to extend the variety of the things the band is capable of doing".
"And with Tommy," Lord concluded, smiling "the contribution is also a personal thing as well. He's a much more happy, outgoing person than Ritchie was. It's made the band a different place to be".
With thanks to Chip, we can now bring you the original article in full colour
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