Artist Catalogue

Deep Purple - OS Live Series - Long Beach 1971

longbeach240   1. SPEED KING
Written by Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan,
Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ian Paice
Written by Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan,
Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ian Paice
Written by Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan,
Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ian Paice
Written by Ritchie Blackmore, Roderick Evans, Jon Lord
All tracks published by EMI Music Publishing
It was recorded at Long Beach Arena in Long
Beach, California, on July 30, 1971, and broadcasted
on radio (KUSC 91.5 FM), a showcase for a support
performance to Rod Stewart and The Faces.
An official release for a concert that has long been
considered a landmark for the band, the set featured
tracks (Speed King and Child In Time) from their
fourth studio album, June 1970’s Deep Purple In Rock.
This was a transitional
release for the Mk II
version of the band, being
their first hard rock affair
as well as their commercial
breakthrough as the third
leading über-rock band of the day along with Black
Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Completing the set that
day were a considerably extended version of
Mandrake Root from their July 1968 debut album
Shades Of Deep Purple, and Strange Kind Of Woman,
the follow-up single to Black Night from February
1971 (and an album track from the US iteration of
July 1971’s Fireball LP).

An 11-minute Speed King opens proceedings
here. It actually starts off like a climax, with a frenzy
of organ and batter of guitar and drums, before
segueing into a fast and furious riff and some classic
caterwauls from Ian Gillan. Referencing Good Golly
Miss Molly, Lucille and other rock’n’roll greats, it
betrays their roots and effectively stakes Deep
Purple’s claim to a place in the rock pantheon. Gillan
interrupts to explain what a Speed King is: “A speed
king is somebody who moves very quickly from one
place to another – and always gets there first,” he
says, and he could so easily be talking about Deep
Purple themselves, the fastest of the crucial three
hard rock behemoths of the early-‘70s.
At three minutes the track settles into an
improvisatory middle section, the Roger Glover/Ian
Paice rhythm section laying down a solid bedrock,
providing the launch-pad for Jon Lord and Ritchie
Blackmore’s flights of fancy. First the music goes
quiet to make way for a Lord organ solo, and
then a Blackmore free-association, the guitarist
making few excuses as he caresses the heavens.
Then the organ and guitar mimic each other; really,
it’s more of a duel, Blackmore vs Lord, equal parts
jazzy improv and battle for virtuosic supremacy. At
six minutes the track erupts into a orgy of guitar,
bass and drums, after which Gillan decides to
impersonate the wail of the guitar, almost scatsinging.
It’s a deathless wail that leads into a snippet
of Who Do You Love, then it’s back to the Good Golly/
Tutti Frutti opening gambit. “That was a conglomeration
of old rock’n’roll numbers which we do to
raise a little bit of perspiration at the beginning,”
points out Gillan with typical understatement.
Next up is, Gillan explains, a recent track, Strange
Kind Of Woman, an “extraordinary” story, as the
singer puts it, “about a prostitute and a friend of
ours”, a woman whose “name was Nancy / her face
[was] nothing fancy”. The piledriving central motif is
a classic combination of rhythm and riff, the band
hitting a bluesy, even funky, groove. Gillan, wanting a
piece of the instrumental action, again uses his voice
to mimic the teetering, trebly high notes of an
electric guitar.
Child in Time is 20 minutes of heavy action from
Blackmore, who some will regard as the driving force
of this concert just as he was, for many, the driving
force of the band during their most fertile period.
There is ample room for pyrotechnics here. Glover
and Paice, as ever, lay the foundations as Lord first
and then Blackmore let loose. Lord builds slowly to
something resembling churchy fervour while Paice
pursues him, and Glover paints some patterns of his
own. At the 10-minute mark Lord’s fingers move at
dizzying speed and you can’t imagine anything more
slickly proficient; then Blackmore steps up for feats
that frankly boggle the ears.
If you’re not too exhausted by that, there is time
for one more, and it’s a good - not to mention long
- one: Mandrake Root, a 27-minute extrapolation of
the debut album track and concert standby. It is an
old song, as Gillan tells the nearly-sated crowd,

“Written after a couple of us had been to a party,
and we got involved with a love potion. This,” he
adds, with a sly grin, “is what the song is about and
what happened afterwards.” The opening riff is pure
Jimi Hendrix circa Foxy Lady. Thereafter, expect plenty
of cunning improvisation, and sections where the
band head off in all sorts of unknown directions and
down all manner of unexpected backwaters. There is
a brief interlude where Blackmore’s guitar does an
impression of the rotor blades of a helicopter landing
in a jungle war zone. About 19 minutes in, it sounds
as though the band are threatening to start playing
the intro to Highway Star.
The whole thing climaxes with some unearthly
squeals and unholy feedback reminiscent of machine
gun attack courtesy of Mr Blackmore, and some
pulverising artillery fire from Paice. Gillan thanks
everyone for listening, leaving the audience staggered,
and not a little dazed, as they head towards the exit,
into the warm California night, wondering what the
hell just happened. Deep Purple live just happened.
Paul Lester