Some bands take things too far; other bands take things to the very limits of human endurance. Such was the case with Deep Purple live. They felt they were doing their audiences a disservice if they played a song shorter than 11 minutes, and they preferred to go 20. And the English heavy metal legends weren’t just long-winded; they were loud as well. None other than the Guinness Book of World Records declared the Purple “the globe’s loudest band” following a 1972 concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre.
I have no problem with loud, but the band’s longevity is another matter. A 20-minute song inevitably turns into a horrendous jam, with lots of stoppages for the singer to utter fatuous comments and for the drummer to demonstrate his chops. Which is why Deep Purple hasn’t aged nearly as well as its contemporaries Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. They didn’t have that guy at the side of the stage drawing a finger across his neck as a sign for them to shut up and move onto the next tune.
Take Long Beach 1971. It consists of four songs and goes on for almost 70 minutes, and in short is an abomination. No one not blotto on heavy downers could have survived such a show. On the band’s best albums—1971’s Fireball, 1972’s Machine Head, and 1974’s Burn—they kept things short, which is why human beings can still listen to these records with a modicum of enjoyment, if Deep Purple’s amalgam of Jon Lord’s ham-fisted organ playing, Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar pyrotechnics, and the otherworldly vocals of first Ian Gillian and then David Coverdale are their thing.