"It's the singer, not the song," that thesis rarely applied to Deep Purple. On the one hand the instrumental presence and potency in all five decades of the band was at least always at the same level as the lead vocals. And as long as Ritchie Blackmore was in the band, he provided the band with song ideas that would have worked well with other vocalists. On the other hand, there are these vocal great moments: "Child In Time" belongs to Ian Gillan and "Soldier Of Fortune" to David Coverdale.
Ian Gillan likes to say that he doesn't even know the Purple albums with Rod Evans, David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes as well as Joe Lynn Turner. For this reason there is no song of these works in the setlist of the current Purple constellation. "It would be as if you were watching your ex-wife with your new lover," is Gillan's well-known sentence on this subject. So Blackmore didn't manage to get him to sing a bang like "Burn" live. "Even when Ritchie sometimes alluded to 'Burn' spontaneously and Roger, Jon and I joined in, he refused to sing," says an amused Ian Paice. And Gillan could have done it, after all he, the passionate music listener, also knew the albums the band had recorded without him.
"My relationship with Ian Gillan has always been friendly," says his successor David Coverdale. "But I'm not sad at all that he didn't sing certain Mk. III songs, because that wouldn't fit Purple's Mk. II. He would have liked to have sung 'Mistreated', but Ritchie had deliberately not wanted to play this song with Gillan. And he waited with his already several years old song idea until I was in the band to complete it. For us, Glenn and me, it was clear that we had to bring all the Purple classics - from 'Highway Star' to 'Smoke On The Water' - to present the complete Deep Purple to the fans. Only 'Child In Time' wasn't necessarily a theme for me, it's too much Ian's song. Glenn, on the other hand, would have dared to do them." Joe Lynn Turner pushes the same horn: "Of course you can't copy Gillan, Coverdale and Hughes. But that wasn't the point of the setlist of the tour I did with Deep Purple in 1991. It was important to Blackmore and me to put together a setlist containing as many significant Purple songs as possible like 'Burn' or 'Smoke On The Water'. A few times Ritchie even played Stone Cold. Okay, after all, three people from this Rainbow cast were on stage. It was easier for me to sing the Gillan songs because I didn't have a second voice like Glenn's. In the noughties, we harmonized beautifully in the Hughes Turner Project with the Mk. III songs."
For Hughes, who will bring his show "Deep Purple Live" to German stages next fall, it is clear that he can not only concentrate on Mk. III and IV when he plays a Purple set. "I didn't want to do without Mk II classics, so with 'Higway Star' and 'Smoke On The Water' I have at least two songs in the set, which everyone connects with this band."
The current line-up of Deep Purple, on the other hand, has been very limited, so 'Hush' - a Mk.I track that Gillan has always loved - is the only fling it can afford. Don Airey, who also doesn't shy away from 'Child In Time' with his solo band, finds it a pity: "'Child' is almost impossible for Ian in his present condition, where his voice is much lower than in the seventies due to his age. My singer Carl Sentance, but also Ritchie's newcomer, Ronnie Romero, cut a good figure on this monster track." Already after the Mk.-II reunion in the middle of the eighties Gillan had difficulties to bring "Child In Time" live, but for Blackmore this song simply belongs to the standard repertoire of Purple when Gillan is in the band. Gillan knew this: "When he [Blackmore] was gone, I sang 'Child' only a few more times. A great burden fell from me."