Retrospective: Deep Purple’s “Machine Head” Now 40 Years Strong

By Andrew Bansal

March 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of a defining moment in the history of heavy music, the release of Deep Purple’s sixth studio album, “Machine Head”. Released on March 1st 1972 in the UK and March 31st in the US, it found instant universal success. This was hardly a surprise to anybody, as it was one of the heaviest rock albums to exist at the time. But even the band members themselves, better known as the “Mark II” line-up, wouldn’t have imagined or expected that the album would have the kind of impact it had, laying the foundations for a genre that is known today as heavy metal.

Besides timeless classics like “Highway Star” and “Smoke On The Water”, tunes that still very much maintain anthemic status, the album presents some other masterful compositions that are less talked about, but are no less than Highway Star or Smoke On The Water in terms of sheer musicianship. For example, the delightfully slow and bluesy “May Be I’m A Leo” is the kind of tune that seems to have influenced a ton of musicians, and traces of its music can be heard in the early works of Joe Satriani, who actually went on to become a member of Deep Purple, albeit briefly.

Of course, the insane guitar wizardry of Ritchie Blackmore is plentiful throughout the album, and his interplay with keyboardist Jon Lord on “Highway Star”, “Never Before” and “Lazy” is nothing short of epic. Blackmore strongly showcased his blues and classical music influences in his songwriting, probably more so on this album than on anything else he was part of. To lend vocals to these amazing tunes was none other than the voice of all voices, Ian Gillan. The power and range of his voice is simply mind-boggling, and there couldn’t have been a better voice to sit on top of such brilliant music. I am thankful to Gillan, not only for being an integral part of the Deep Purple sound, but for inspiring and influencing a host of great singers, including Bruce Dickinson.

The still ongoing and never-ending success of Deep Purple’s “Machine Head” just goes to show that great music always remains great music. The older this album gets, the more you realize that it possesses a certain charm and a style that will never be eclipsed. Rock music has gone through a vast number of changes in its evolution, and from the time this album was released, the popularity trends have varied from blues rock to New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, to glam, thrash and death metal, to grunge and deathcore. But, Deep Purple’s “Machine Head” is the kind of album that transcends everything, and its unadulterated music will always find appreciation among listeners. In my opinion, it is the most essential hard rock album of all time.