Saturday, May 11, 2013

Why Do Rock Fans in the United States Ignore Deep Purple?

Critics are praising their latest album, Now What?!  Fans put them at the top of Rolling Stones' list of artists that should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They have been loved worldwide since their debut in 1968?

So why do music lovers in the United States turn a blind eye to Deep Purple?

Along with the lauding of critics, Now What?! has been a big hit in many countries around the world. The Highway Star, a Deep Purple website, has listed the chart position for the album from a number of countries:

  • Germany: #1
  • Austria: #1
  • Czech Republic: #1
  • Switzerland: #2
  • Russia: #3 (unconfirmed)
  • Norway: #4 first week, #1 second week
  • Poland: #5
  • Sweden: #7
  • Finland: #8
  • Worldwide: #11
  • Netherlands: #12 first week, #48 second week
  • Italy: #12
  • UK:
    • Albums Top 100: #19
    • Rock & Metal Albums: #1
    • Record Store Albums: #5
    • Scottish Albums: #13
  • Spain: #19
  • France: #19
  • Greece: #20
  • Denmark: #26
  • Belgium:
    • Flemish chart: #33 first week, #37 second week
    • French chart: #36 first week, #14 second week
  • Ireland: #87
  • USA: #115, #8 in Hard Rock Albums
That's a pretty huge disparity but not totally unheard of. In fact, Deep Purple has done well in Europe for years but has been mostly absent from the U.S. charts for over twenty years. In America, their number 115 start is their best since 1990's Slaves and Masters made it to 87. Since then, 1993's The Battle Rages On peaked at 192 and their next four albums, Perpendicular (1996), Abandon (1998), Bananas (2003) and Rapture of the Deep (2005) all failed to chart at all.

During that same time in Germany, every one of their albums made the top 20 except for Slaves and Masters which peaked at 23. In the U.K., all of the albums charted although not with the same success as Germany.

So, why do American fans seem so uninterested in Deep Purple? For one, those who do most of their musical listening with classic rock radio may see the band as a one hit wonder even though they actually scored two top ten hits, Hush (1968 / #4) and Smoke on the Water (1973 / #4). Hush rarely gets airplay and, every once in awhile, programmers might slot in a playing of Woman From Tokyo (1973 / #60).

There is also the fact that Europe has traditionally supported veteran artists more than America. Singers and groups who couldn't find an audience in the U.S., including a number of blues greats, ended up relocating to Europe where they remained both admired and popular.

The group's Ian Gillan believes, though, that it has to do with American audiences being strictly into nostalgia and younger people not showing interest in those artists that influenced their current favorites.  Ultimate Classic Rock recently asked him if Deep Purple would be touring the U.S. behind Now What?!
I don’t think so. There’s nothing I’ve heard of so far. Touring the States now is a different kind of thing. It’s somehow kind of out of sync with the rest of the world at the moment. The live venues and the audience’s perception — it’s all that classic rock thing, you know? It’s very difficult to get people interested in new material in America. Whereas the average age of our audience around the world is 18 years old. The energy that we get from them is unbelievable. I think that’s probably one of the reasons that the band is so hot right now. Whereas we come to the States and the average age of the audience is the same age as us! [Laughs]

That is definitely connected with the classic rock thing. It’s one of those labels that says you’re done, you’re finished and you’re over and it’s kind of like a tombstone around your neck. If we get invited, then sure we’d love to come. I love America and we love touring there. We’ve just got to get the right balance, maybe. If the record perks up a little interest, we can have a little bit of an approach to how we tour over here. But getting on and just playing Smoke On The Water, Highway Star and Perfect Strangers every night is something we left behind about 20 years ago in terms of that being it. That’s kind of rock and roll cabaret in my book and I don’t think the band could survive on that kind of exhaust, really. But if we get the invitation, we’ll be there in a shot.
Check out more of the Gillan interview at Ultimate Classic Rock.

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