THE BAND:

David Coverdale: vocals
Tommy Bolin: guitar, vocals
Jon Lord: keyboards
Glenn Hughes: bass, vocals
Ian Paice: drums

TRACK LIST:

1. Comin’ Home (Bolin/Coverdale/Paice)

2. Lady Luck (Cook/Coverdale)

3. Gettin’ Tighter (Bolin/Hughes)

4. Dealer (Bolin/Coverdale)

5. I Need Love (Bolin/Coverdale)

6. Drifter (Bolin/Coverdale)

7. Love Child (Bolin/Coverdale)

8. This Time Around (Hughes/Lord)
Owed To ‘G’ (Bolin)

9. You Keep On Moving (Coverdale/Hughes)

THE STORY:

Deep Purple was formed in March 1968 by Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), Jon Lord (keys), Ian Paice (drums), Rod Evans (vocals) and Nick Simper (bass). As there have been so many lineup changes in the band over the years, major changes are popularly referred to by number. The original lineup is referred to as Mk 1 (short for “Mark,” which caught on rather than “Version”). The Mk 2 lineup had Ian Gillan in on vocals and Roger Glover on bass. This was arguably the most commercially successful lineup with hits such as “Smoke on the Water” and the Made In Japan LP. Ian Gillan and Roger Glover left in 1973, replaced by David Coverdale on vocals and Glenn Hughes on vocals and bass to complete the Mk 3 lineup. The group produced two albums, Burn and Stormbringer, both of which did well in sales but did not increase the band’s profile beyond that compared to the hyper-successful Mk 2.

Ritchie Blackmore left in April 1975, following which he would form Rainbow with Ronnie James Dio on vocals. He felt that Hughes was too soul and funk, and Coverdale wasn’t performing Blackmore’s sword and sorcery lyrics with conviction. Paice and Lord wanted to stop the band then, but Hughes and Coverdale talked them into staying.

In May 1975 they relocated to Los Angeles for tax reasons. In June the band rented the Columbia Sound Stage in Hollywood for rehearsals and auditions. Previously used by Columbia Pictures for movie production, the huge building was taken over and renamed Pirate Sound Studios by sound engineer Robert Simon, nicknamed ‘Captain California.’ Deep Purple were one of the first bands to book time there, as Simon had been a favored sound engineer at previous Deep Purple live shows dating back to 1972.

The band auditioned a large number of guitarists, including Dave “Clem” Clemson. Clemson had been in the English jazz-rock band Colosseum, and was at the time of the audition a member of Humble Pie. Despite the band’s initial optimism, Clemson’s style didn’t match what the band was looking for, and the lack of chemistry dashed their high hopes, prompting Jon Lord to almost quit in frustration.

As desperation was setting in from the growing bill for studio time and wear and tear from the auditions, Deep Purple roadie Colin Hart was talking about the situation with Robert Simon when Tommy Bolin’s name came up. Simon had done sound on shows for promoter Barry Fey, including the James Gang, and he had been very impressed by Tommy’s abilities on guitar. Hart mentioned Tommy to the band and it turned out that David Coverdale was already aware of Tommy from his playing on Billy Cobham’s Spectrum album, had been blown away by it.

By this time Fey was Tommy’s manager, and Tommy was living close by in Malibu while preparing to work on his first solo album, Teaser, for Nemporer Records. Fey accompanied Tommy to an audition at Pirate Sound and they were introduced to the band by Simon. The band and Tommy clicked right away. Coverdale relates, “We all just stood there in amazement. They dug it and I dug it, in the first minute — literally! It was smiles all round.” John Lord said, “He was just fucking marvelous. I just had to play with this guy! Tommy seemed to bring something, while Clem would just wait for it to come.” Ian Paice said that “We just knew after about ten minutes.” Tommy related in many interviews that he was extremely impressed with the band’s level of musicianship, particularly because he had not heard much Deep Purple other than “Smoke on the Water,” the band’s biggest hit.

By the end of the day Tommy was offered the job. The decision was complicated by Fey having recently scored the Nemporer contract for Tommy’s solo album. The members of Deep Purple were amenable with Tommy completing that project, however, as they had been individually been considering doing solo projects themselves while remaining with the band, so Tommy was quickly on board and the full lineup was intact.

The band remained at Pirate Sound through late June and early July to rehearse and write their next album. As was the case with the James Gang, Tommy brought with him the additional bonus of a stockpile of great material, and when the Come Taste the Band album was later completed Tommy had writing or co-writing credits on seven of the album’s nine songs. Of the two remaining tunes, one was “Lady Luck,” a Jeff Cook tune from Tommy’s days in Energy. One thing that was certain was at this point the band was extremely enthusiastic across the board about Tommy’s involvement.

Robert Simon ran the sound at the rehearsals and recorded occasionally on 1/4" tape for the band to hear the progress. The tapes were reused over and over, so the performances were lost except from some that had been transferred to cassette. The surviving cassette material was released in 2000 as Days May Come and Days May Go: The California Rehearsals and 1420 Beachwood Drive: The California Rehearsals Pt. 2 on Purple Records. Listening to the material confirms that the entire lineup functioned extremely well together and were consistently inspired. Tommy’s guitar playing shows all the precision and fire that he has been celebrated and remembered for.

Later in July the band separated temporarily as Tommy went into The Record Plant in Los Angeles to start recording his solo album, and the rest of the band split for Musicland studios in Munich where Come Taste the Band was recorded in August. During September Tommy finished recording material for Teaser at Electric Lady Studios in New York, then travelled in early October to London’s Trident Studios for mixing and some last minute overdubs on it. Tax restrictions had kept the members of Deep Purple from contributing performances on Teaser, though Glenn Hughes did sneak in singing the final vocal crescendo on “Dreamer.”

The band returned to Pirate Sound Studios in mid-October to prepare their live show. Almost immediately things were different than before. Whereas in June and July the band had been exuberantly jamming and working on fresh material for the album, for the live performances Tommy was faced with being expected to play Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar parts note for note on the older Deep Purple material in the set list. In effect this made Tommy feel like a hired hand rather than a creative partner and resource, feelings similar to what he had experienced replacing Joe Walsh in the James Gang. The rest of the band was also split in half, as Lord and Paice were financially secure while relative newcomers Coverdale and Hughes were getting their first tastes of the big leagues had a much hungrier attitude, as well as having differing areas of musical taste. Tommy himself was also changing as he saw major stardom and money on the horizon, and began progressing into heroin addiction. The band also soon left the confines of Pirate Sound as Robert Simon booked time for the other half of the facility to Ritchie Blackmore and his new band Rainbow, a move which left the Deep Purple members feeling betrayed.

Despite the cracks that were already appearing, the tour started off strong. On October 16, 1975 Lord, Coverdale and Hughes all performed at the Royal Albert Hall in The Butterfly Ball, a musical charity event organized by former Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover. Other performers included former Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan. Then Come Taste the Band was released on November 7, 1975, coinciding with the band departing for the first tour with the whole new lineup.

Tommy debuted publicly with the band on either November 2 or 8 in Honolulu, Hawaii. That show was soon followed by three weeks in New Zealand and Australia. These shows are among the most popular with collectors for the high quality of the performances and feel of the band. The Auckland performance shows them in form similar to the early rehearsals, a taste of how wonderfully dangerous the band could have been if things would have stayed on track in the coming months. During Tommy’s Auckland solo section he is almost talking to the other band members with his guitar, and Coverdale responds with honest whoops rather than show business calculation. The whole band sounds like they are listening to and enjoying each other. Tommy was also inspired on this leg of the tour by the large amount of support he was already receiving in the area for Teaser.

December 4 and 5 found the band playing to over 200,000 people at Senyan Sports Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia, and things did not go well. After the opening show on December 4 the band returned to their hotel and road crew member Patsy Collins fell to his death in an elevator shaft. The death of Collins, who was also Tommy’s bodyguard, was investigated by police and determined to be an accident, but others including Jon Lord believe that it was intentional. The following night’s show was stopped half way through when police savagely attacked the audience for standing and dancing.

Another consequence resulting from Indonesia was that Tommy, who usually snorted heroin and was afraid of needles, had begun occasionally injecting the drug and did so in Jakarta. This resulted in some temporary damage to his arm, a numbness that would affect his upcoming performances in Japan. This was especially unfortunate because Deep Purple’s Japanese record company was insisting on a live album, and the group’s first chance to highlight the group’s live abilities to record buyers was to a large extent blown with the release of Last Concert In Japan. The album, consisting of an edited version of the December 15 show Tokyo at Nihon Budokan, was released in 1977 after Tommy’s death. Many Deep Purple fans were already against Tommy, miffed over Blackmore’s departure, and the album reinforced their views. Tommy’s fans who were captivated by his power and precision on guitar were alarmed at how subdued his performance was. The performance gained significantly more respect in 2001 when the entire show was remastered and released by the Tommy Bolin Archives and Sanctuary as Deep Purple: This Time Around - Live in Tokyo. The revised audio brought Tommy’s guitar up louder in the mix, and missing songs from Come Taste the Band were added that were more flattering to Tommy than the Mk 2 material that dominated the original release.

In January 1976 the band traveled to the United States, where they would tour until the final American date on March 4 in Denver, Colorado. The American shows were much stronger than the Japanese shows had been, in large part because Tommy was on familiar ground, and many concertgoers were fans of his from Zephyr, Spectrum and the James Gang.

The King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show recorded the January 26 show in Springfield, Massachusetts, but the audio was apparently tampered with later and deemed unsuitable for release, so a second concert was recorded at Long Beach Arena in California on February 27. The material remained unreleased until 1995 when King Biscuit Flower Hour Records released Deep Purple In Concert, a 2-CD set that consisted of the February 27 Long Beach show with two bonus tracks from from the January 26 Springfield show. In Europe the same material was released in 1995 as On the Wings of a Russian Foxbat on the Connoisseur label. The American and European releases have different packaging and in some instances track order, plus some inconsistency in song titles. On both releases “Homeward Strut” is mistakenly listed at “The Grind,” another track from Teaser.

Tommy’s playing on the King Biscuit material is not quite as compelling as on the rehearsals or some of the Australian shows, but it is still strong, professional rock guitar and is very well worth listening to as some rushes are there to be gleaned. What stands out about the material is that the band seemed to be playing well, but still somehow not connecting with each other as they had been on the Australian dates. This notion is reinforced as the solo segments were in some cases starting to sound more mechanical, rather than arising out of inspiration. Tommy’s solo section here is still basically a strong one played with authority. Listening to numerous solo spots from throughout the entire world tour shows instances where he was on and others where he sounded short on inspiration, but this is a solid one. The fact of the matter is, however, that the all band members had great, good or bad nights during the tour except Ian Paice, who was almost literally bulletproof on drums throughout. Glenn Hughes’ segment based on “Georgia On My Mind” is at some points more of an exercise in showing his screaming chops than it is a document of his truly incredible overall singing skills.

The American tour has other good and great shows that have not yet enjoyed commercial release. In the October 2003 issue of Classic Rock Magazine Geoff Barton relates the high quality of Tommy’s performance in Houston, Texas on February 22. He also describes experiencing first hand the huge amount of cocaine that Hughes was ingesting, Tommy’s significant relationship with heroin, and the presence of some hard core drug dealers that presented a palpable aura of danger.

Tommy and Glenn bonded in their musical temperament and wild lifestyles, and they were becoming increasingly pitted against the more experienced and reserved Lord and Paice, with Coverdale in the middle. The American tour did have some shows that were not reviewed with favor, as at St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio on February 1. Opening bands Leslie West and Nazareth put the band into boogie mode, and later during Deep Purple’s solo segments a significant portion of the crowd drifted away. This highlights the solo segments as being a potential liability to the band’s momentum during shows. Still, the American tour had many performances that are extremely exciting and show the band’s potential, reaffirming their decision to bring Tommy into the band.

As close as Tommy and Glenn were becoming, there was also tension building between them. Tommy’s solo album had been released almost simultaneously with Deep Purple’s Come Taste the Band, and promotion in the U.S. was superior for Teaser. Barton describes attending events with Tommy and Glenn at two record stores in Dallas where at each venue the Teaser promo material and attention toward Tommy far outweighed attention for Glenn personally and for the Deep Purple release, resulting in outright anger from Glenn. Another factor developing between them was that Tommy’s relationship with long-time girlfriend Karen Ulibarri was quickly deteriorating, and later after Tommy’s departure Karen opted to stay behind with Glen, something that haunted Tommy until his death.

After the American tour concluded in Denver on March 4, 1976 the band travelled to England and lasted for five shows, followed immediately by the breakup of the band. It is often reported that in England Tommy experienced the full force of the ire shown by fans for the replacement of Ritchie Blackmore. Numerous insults and calls of “where’s Ritchie” from the crowds combined with Tommy’s flagging support within the band combined to completely unsettle and demoralize Tommy. Coverdale left the stage in tears. The group dissolved immediately and the forthcoming German tour was cancelled.

I’m going to break out of the role of detached reporter here and convey my personal impressions of that final show on March 15, 1976 show at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool, as I am literally listening to a copy of the audio while writing this text. From the start of the show the crowd is entirely supportive, exuberant applause greats the band’s entry on stage, and is abundant at the beginnings and ends of the tunes, one after another. The Mk 4 tunes are recognized by many and greeted enthusiastically. Frankly, the show stands throughout as an exciting and creative experience, with proper source audio quality it could be a vital CD release for Mk 4 fans. The band starts “Gettin’ Tighter” with a subtly building spin on “Summertime” that accelerates into a the main tune gracefully, and at the end Glenn plays a super bass workout that rivals Chris Squire with Yes. Then comes Tommy’s solo, where he has been described in a number of published sources as having literally frozen up in failure. Upon actually listening to it however, there are some breaks between his lines, but rather than sounding frozen up it’s more like he’s looking for fresh ideas, and he’s coming up with some good ones, just separated by some short pauses. During the last few breaks between segments there are the first and only catcalls heard, but also some whistles of approval as Tommy finishes with a flourish. The catcalls were just a few voices heard because of the temporary silence. There are some very good segments in the solo, clean fast parts and rhythmic parts that have the crowd clapping along. And some whammy bar dips that I’ve never heard Tommy do elsewhere. If Tommy had not stretched the solo the last segment or two the written record on that solo would likely be much different. The solo goes right into “Stormbringer,” and that is a strong performance where Tommy can be heard powering out all the way through, not as if he was crushed by a failed solo section. The show ends with “Highway Star” and heartfelt applause. I had started writing this history relying on numerous written sources as well as personal notes made from conversations over the years that all acknowledge this show as the straw that broke the camel’s back for the band. After really listening to that show I’d have to disagree, the last Deep Purple show was a hell of a good show with some super guitar from Tommy.

Going back a few days to Wembley on March 13 also reveals a strong and enthusiastic performance and firm crowd support. I receive many e-mails from people in Britain and am impressed by how many fans Tommy has there in the present day. Listening to the audio from some of the English shows makes me feel that plenty of people there liked him then too. The breakup of Mk 4 is sometimes attributed in the press to Tommy’s “deteriorating performance” or to English fan negativity. The audio I’ve heard doesn’t seem to support that. The most problematic shows had been in Japan, and by the time of their breakup Tommy had played may strong and even extraordinary shows in America and England. Something else besides the Liverpool show by itself caused the breakup.

David Coverdale has been quoted as saying that he was getting frustrated at how much of the set list didn’t include him, particularly the long solo segments. After listening to a number of Mk 4 shows in preparing this document, I have to say that it did stand out to me that between Glenn singing a number of tunes and the solo sections that Coverdale had to stand to the side a lot. Coverdale was not the lynchpin to the band however, although he was a full and valuable member. It is conceivable that the band could have continued without him or with a replacement if they had been truly inspired to do so.

Lord and Paice literally WERE the Deep Purple brand name in Mk 4, but losing either Glenn or Tommy would have been equally devastating. In Tommy’s own words, “It was mainly a management thing, where a couple of people in the group were saying it was the fault of a couple of other people in the group.” Jon Lord has stated that after the Liverpool show he and Paice decided backstage to quit together, and at the same time Coverdale came in and said he was quitting. That in itself doesn’t explain what drove their decisions that night though. Lord states that he felt Tommy did not play well in England, but the English shows sound far superior to the Japanese shows when Tommy’s right arm was damaged. There may have been an emotional hangover from Japan that carried over for Lord and Paice. Reasons for the breakup have been documented in numerous statements by band members and their associates, but they have often been contradictory. It seems apparent, however, that band members weren’t connecting as friends anymore and their goals both on stage and off were no longer aligning.

Tommy’s immediate legacy from Deep Purple was an intense drug addiction and a glitch in the development of his solo career that he would spend his final months alive trying to overcome. His high profile position in Deep Purple opened some doors, but in effect Tommy immediately found himself working his way back up to headliner status. It is often discussed whether the Deep Purple experience was good, bad or devastating to him. He went in a healthy young man beloved by his friends, and came out with a powerful heroin addiction and the departure of the woman he loved.

One thing that is certain is that a large amount of good music does remain from the period, and that music is invaluable to fans of Tommy. Many of the shows are well worth hearing, and many are downright thrilling. The audio from the rehearsals is often revelatory, and then there is Come Taste the Band. Upon it’s the release the album was not a flop, but for a band as big as Deep Purple the sales were somewhat disappointing and the critics of the day aired to that. In the United States it peaked at #43 in the album charts, but in the UK it made it to #19.

When listened to today Come Taste the Band shows much of the creativity, excitement and fire that was apparent at the rehearsals. Producer Martin Birch gave music a powerful but clean sound, letting the quality of the performances speak for themselves without gimmicks. It is many ways more timeless than the classic albums from the Blackmore lineup. There is no question that almost 30 years after Tommy’s death his memory is kept alive in large part by his having served in an important lineup of one of the biggest bands in the history of modern music, and for this album.

Glenn Hughes has remained as Tommy’s biggest supporter from Deep Purple Mk 4. He has performed many of Tommy’s songs in his live shows over the years since Tommy’s death, and has appeared at many of the tribute concerts since their inception. The Tommy Bolin Archives’ 1997 Tribute Concert CD is a fantastic document of one of those shows.

After living with Deep Purple Tommy returned to California and steps were quickly put into effect that lead to Tommy’s Private Eyes album and the Tommy Bolin Band tours.

Copyright ©2005 John Herdt.

UPDATE 10-15-10

A 35th Anniversary Edition of Come Taste The Band was released in 2010 as a 2-CD set. Of special note is that the original multi-track tapes recently surfaced after years of being presumed lost, providing a high-quality starting point. Disc 1 has remastered versions of the original mixes plus a rare single edit of “You Keep on Moving.” Disc 2 has the album tracks re-mixed by Kevin Shirley (Aerosmith, Journey) features two unissued instrumental tracks, “Always the Same in LA” and “Bolin/Paice Jam.” Remastering was done at Abbey Road, and Glenn Hughes personally oversaw the project. The European release was on October 24, 2010 and November 2, 2010 for the U.S.

DEEP PURPLE MK 4 TOUR DATES

DATE
VENUE
LOCATION
November 1975
8 International Center Arena Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
13 Western Springs Stadium Auckland, New Zealand
17 Queen Elizabeth II Park Christchurch, New Zealand
19 Hordern Pavilion Sydney, Australia
20 Hordern Pavilion Sydney, Australia
21 Hordern Pavilion Sydney, Australia
22 Brisbane Milton Tennis Courts Brisbane, Australia
25 Festival Hall Melbourne, Australia
26 Festival Hall Melbourne, Australia
27 Memorial Drive Adelaide, Australia
December 1975
1 Perth WACA Perth, Australia
4 Senayan Main Stadium Jakarta, Indonesia
5 Senayan Main Stadium Jakarta, Indonesia
8 Shi Kokaido (City Hall) Nagoya, Japan
11 Kosei Nenkin Hall Osaka, Japan
12 Kyuden Kinen Taiikulan Fukuoka, Japan
15 Nihon Budokan Tokyo, Japan
19 Unknown Hong Kong (scheduled but cancelled)
January 1976
14 Fort Bragg Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA
15 The Capital Centre Landover, Maryland, USA
16 Civic Arena Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA (unconfirmed)
18 The Spectrum Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
19 Providence Civic Center Providence, Rhode Island, USA
22 Radio City Music Hall New York, USA
23 Radio City Music Hall New York, USA
24 Boston Music Hall Boston, Massachusetts, USA
26 Springfield Civic Center Springfield, Massachusetts, USA
27 Hersheypark Arena Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA
28 War Memorial Rochester, New York, USA
30 Greensboro Coliseum Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
31 Freedom Hall Johnson City, Tennessee, USA
February 1976
1 St. John’s Arena Columbus, Ohio, USA
3 Omni Atlanta, Georgia, USA
4 Municipal Auditorium Birmingham, Alabama, USA
6 Civic Center Lakeland, Florida, USA
8 Jai Alai Fronton Miami, Florida, USA
11 Horton Field House Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, USA
12 Unknown Detroit, Michigan, USA
13 Hara Arena Dayton, Ohio, USA
15 Dane County Memorial Coliseum Madison, Wisconsin, USA
17 Fairgrounds Arena Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA
18 Convention Center Arena San Antonio, Texas, USA
19 Taylor County Auditorium Abilene, Texas, USA
21 Tarrant County Convention Center  Forth Worth, Texas, USA
22 Sam Houston Coliseum Houston, Texas, USA
24 County Coliseum El Paso, Texas, USA
27 Long Beach Arena Los Angeles, California, USA
28 Swing Auditorium San Bernadino, California, USA
29 Tempe Stadium Tempe, Arizona, USA
March 1976
2 Salt Palace Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
4 Denver Auditorium Arena Denver, Colorado, USA
11 Granby Hall Leicester, UK
12 Empire Pool Wembley, London, UK
13 Empire Pool Wembley, London, UK
14 The Apollo Glasgow, UK
15 Empire Theatre Liverpool, UK

ARTICLES, INTERVIEWS AND WEBSITES

Tommy Bolin Archives Articles
Tommy Bolin Archives Interviews
Deep Purple Appreciation Society (web site)
The Highway Star (web site)
The Tommy Bolin Fan Page (Scott McIntosh’s site)
Glenn Hughes Interview (on The Fuze site)
The Glenn Hughes Web Site

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