Lord, Jon ( 1941- 2012)

Jon Lord obituary Organist who infused Deep Purple with classical influences, helping to make them one of the world’s biggest rock bands
 

Written by Joel Mclver, originally published by The Guardian, Monday 16 July 2012

Jon Lord - Deep Purple  REDFERNS   Photo: Fin Costello

Jon Lord’s unique keyboard playing with Deep Purple was often copied. Photograph: Fin Costello/Redferns

‘We’re as valid as anything by Beethoven,” declared Jon Lord of his band, Deep Purple, in an interview with the New Musical Express in 1973. Lord, who has died aged 71 after suffering from pancreatic cancer, was not merely adopting a rebellious stance. An accomplished classical composer as well as rock musician, he believed with some justification that his group’s music was as profound in structure and as significant in cultural impact as any work from the symphonic canon. At the time, Deep Purple were among the world’s biggest rock bands, having built an enormous fanbase on the strength of their classically influenced songs, which lent further weight to Lord’s statement.

Born in Leicester, Lord studied classical piano from the age of five. In his teens, the then-new rock’n’roll and R&B movements made a deep impression on him, in particular the music recorded by blues pianists and organists such as Jimmy McGriff and Jerry Lee Lewis. The contemporary combination of Hammond B3 and C3 organs with Leslie speakers appealed to him, and this became an instrumental setup that remained integral to Lord’s signature keyboard style for the rest of his career.

In 1959, he moved to London to pursue acting, which he studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama. He played the piano and Hammond organ in clubs to pay the bills, initially with a jazz band called the Bill Ashton Combo and then with Red Bludd’s Bluesicians, featuring the vocalist Art Wood. While recording occasional sessions (he contributed keyboards to the Kinks’ 1964 hit You Really Got Me), Lord pursued pop success in the Art Wood Combo, who later renamed themselves the Artwoods and appeared on TV. I Take What I Want was the group’s only charting single.

Lord discovered his trademark sound when he formed Santa Barbara Machine Head, which also featured Wood’s brother and future Rolling Stone, Ronnie Wood. The key to this group’s success was its powerful, organ- and guitar-driven formula, which pointed at the future musical recipe of Deep Purple, and also the meeting of Lord and the bassist Nick Simper. The duo were the backbone of Deep Purple, who formed when the businessman and manager Tony Edwards invested in the new group and auditioned the cream of London’s young talent – the guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, the singer Rod Evans and the drummer Ian Paice among them. This quintet formed Purple’s first lineup in 1968.

Deep Purple spent the following eight years on a path that took them around the world on several occasions, playing the world’s largest stadiums and issuing a series of classic LPs – In Rock (1970), Fireball (1971), Machine Head (1972) and Burn (1974) among them. Personnel came and went, but Lord and Paice remained constant members until the group’s dissolution amid a haze of drug addiction and exhaustion in 1976.

Of the great British rock bands of the 70s, only Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and the Stones were able to operate on as grand a scale: unlike any of those groups, Deep Purple took regular time out to indulge in classical projects initiated and directed by Lord. The most notable of these was the live Concerto for Group and Orchestra, recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in 1969.

It was this equal passion for rock bombast and classical finesse that made Lord such an unusual musician. During Deep Purple’s glory days, he often infused the songs with classical influences, as in the song April from the group’s eponymous album in 1969. His organ playing, which often counterpointed Blackmore’s virtuoso lead guitar, was unique and often copied.

After the split, Lord formed a group with the rock singer Tony Ashton and Deep Purple’s ex-drummer Paice entitled Paice, Ashton & Lord. They released one album, Malice in Wonderland, in 1977. He then joined Whitesnake, the band formed by Deep Purple’s last lead singer, David Coverdale. This group, not to be confused with the 1980s reincarnation that played stadium rock and met with huge success, was an earthy, blues-rock band in which Lord’s organ playing was an essential element. His stint in Whitesnake ended when he rejoined a reformed lineup of Deep Purple in 1984 alongside Blackmore, Paice, the singer Ian Gillan and the bassist Roger Glover.

Many solo projects and collaborations came during and between Lord’s membership of these bands, including Before I Forget (1982), which featured classical piano music; a commission to compose the soundtrack of Central Television’s 1984 series The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady; and guest spots on albums by rock luminaries such as Lord’s Oxfordshire neighbour George Harrison and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.

Eighteen more years of recording and tours followed before Lord felt he had had enough of life on the road. In a letter to his bandmates in 2002, he requested that Deep Purple take a year off. When this request was declined, he amicably left the group. Solo projects followed, including a collaboration in 2004 with sometime Abba singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad, and the formation of a blues band, Hoochie Coochie Men, three years later. In 2010, Lord was made an honorary fellow of Stevenson College, Edinburgh, and the following year he was awarded an honorary doctorate of music by the University of Leicester.

He is survived by his wife, Vicky, and their daughter, Amy; and a daughter, Sara, by his first wife, Judith, from whom he was divorced.

• Jonathan Douglas Lord, rock and classical musician and composer, born 9 June 1941; died 16 July 2012

  • This article was amended on 18 July. Lord was with Deep Purple’s reformed lineup for 18 years rather than eight. This has been corrected.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/jul/16/jon-lord 

The strange origin of the UK Reggae big bass sound: John Hassell Recordings, Barnes.

Britain had developed a strong Reggae culture of its own by the mid-1970’s. Reggae, and its predecessors like Ska, naturally seeped into the UK via the communities of immigrants who had come to the country from Jamaica since the late 1940’s. Britain’s pop tendencies have often been to take music from the west (usually America) and re-imagine it and sell it to the world. Reggae was similarly absorbed and reinvented and this process was often led by the children of the original Jamaican immigrants.

There is a brilliant series of BBC documentaries under the heading of “—— Britannia” where the history of a particular genre in the UK is traced from origins through to where it sits now. The Reggae Britannia film is particularly good. It’s not available on YouTube but until it is shown again on the BBC, you can currently see it here. It’s highly recommended.

One story that leapt out from the documentary (at about 46 minutes in) is of strange goings on in the leafy London suburb of Barnes. The John Hassell Recordings studio was based in a residential house in a quiet street – Nasser Roaud – in the area. It’s output was to feed British Reggae Sound Systems throughout the country.

Olympic Studios was just round the corner in Church Road. So while Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and The Eagles were working in one street, John Hassell was working with a different clientele in the next. He was a jobbing recording and mastering engineer who had a small label of mainly middle of the road (and unsuccessful) artists. This is an example of a John Hassell Recordings label from his company which is explained in more detail here.

In 1977 Dennis Bovell who was a leading figure in UK Reggae came into his life.

Bovell explains in the documentary: “Whilst thumbing through the yellow pages one time looking for a place to cut an acetate I found Hassell Recordings. Phoned up. Gone over there, (found) an elderly gentleman who was famed for smoking a big fat cigar: John Hassell. And we’d go into his house, his living room and he’s got this wonderful German disc cutting lathe set up in his front room. And his wife Felicity offered us a cup of tea, a cup of coffee and then we’d put on these tapes, this like reggae.” This picture is a screen grab and shows John and Felicity meeting clients (please excuse the poor quality, photos of the Hassells are elusive):

Bovell continued: “Imagine stumbling on that through the yellow pages like. And then we were telling other people listen that we’d found the guy that knows how to cut reggae. You can have a fantastic sounding thing on the tape and then it all falls to pieces at the cutting end of things. And someone who was sympathetic to the frequencies would know how to capture that sound from the tape and onto the disc and John was the master of that”

John Hassell just liked the sound of the music particularly the heavy dub sound: “It’s an esoteric world, it’s a world of subtlety and refinements.”

Graeme “Mr Goody” Goodall who, despite being a white Australian, was one of the early legends of Jamaican recording engineering. He also remembered using John to master records (in this forum entry on www.stevehoffman.tv): “Doctor Bird used John Hassell recording in Barnes, a suburb of London. I think that many of my competitors used Derek Strickland at Pye. It was difficult to get the UK mastering engineers to understand why we wanted a certain eq in the process. If you get the chance to compare a JA pressing , a UK pressing and an US pressing of the same “tune” on 45’s, you will notice the difference. I figured that the only way that I could cope with this was to escort John Hassell (who was, to all intents & purposes, blind, due to an incredible incident that he survived during W.W. ll) to NYC & Jamaica. His incredible Golden Ears quickly picked up on the differences.”

We’d love to know more about the life and work of John Hassell. He looked like this…

But helped make this by Doctor Bird….

If you know more please let us know.

The History of Recorded Music trailer. Is this going to be the Forest Gump of documentaries?

The History of Recorded Music is a major documentary series that has had a long and eventful gestation and has been “in post production” for some time; a description which can cover a multiple of sins from a stage in the production process through to the shelving of a project for whatever reason. It aims to tell the story of both the evolution of technology and the industry. I was involved a little bit on a couple of occasions and I got to see what a complicated process it is to make this kind of television series especially as it required many many rights clearances. I also know just how much hard work – and money – a number of people have put into the project. I wish them luck in completing the series.
I do have a concern after watching the trailer (below) which I would like the producers to consider as they complete the work. The trailer presents the history of recorded music to be an almost entirely American story. I appreciate that trailers are made for specific audiences, but this one shows no interviews with people from outside the US, I spotted one clip of a UK act (The Beatles) and an Irish act (U2) and a couple of UK acts (Led Zeppelin, Radiohead) mentioned by the talking heads. And that’s it. 95%++ US only. It even says that Edison invented recording, a fact disputed by the story of the Phonautograph covered on this very site this very week! The USA did play the prominent part in the history of recorded sound, but there is a big world out there beyond their national borders and a lot of interesting and significant stories in the history of recorded music; from Gaisberg to Blumlein to George Martin to Sex Pistols to Kraftwerk to Techno Music to Classical Music (which drove a lot of recording technology innovation) to mention just a few Euro-centric tales. I hope the documentary finds time to include some of them. My biggest frustration with Forest Gump is that the music back drop chosen to represent the 60’s and 70’s included very little if any non-American music. It irritates me so much that I can’t watch the movie because of its one-eyed approach. I hope the documentary itself when it gets completed does not repeat that mistake.