“Ah, I remember when this came out,” my dad observed when this live document arrived in the mail. “When Deep Purple played in Japan, that was unheard of for the time…they were huge!” Seeing the cover brought him back to his college days, when he was friends with some serious fans of heavy, progressive music, and Deep Purple was at the forefront of that.
Recorded over three nights in August 1972 in Osaka and Tokyo, Made In Japan is sometimes considered to be metal’s first great live offering, even before Japan hosted Judas Priest for Unleashed In The East.” It was Deep Purple’s most beloved lineup at the height of its live prowess, raw and distorted but also with a degree of technicality and precision that continues to inspire live acts today.
Two of Deep Purple’s signature songs, “Highway Star” and “Child In Time,” lead off the set with perfect syncopation, Jon Lord with his dirty, explosive electric organ and Ritchie Blackmore’s clean, sharp guitar leads. The guitarist leads the audience in his “Smoke On The Water” riff, and he and Lord chase one another around in swirling combat to end this hard rock classic.
By the time they’re finished with just those three songs, you’re transported into the middle of the crowd and getting the feeling that something special is definitely happening. “Can we have everything louder than everything else?” Ian Gillan famously says to one of the sound guys on this recording. Why, yes. Absolutely you can!
1. Highway Star
2. Child In Time
3. Smoke On The Water
4. The Mule/Drum Solo
5. Strange Kind of Woman
7. Space Truckin’
8. Black Night
9. Speed King
But it didn’t seem that way to vocalist Gillan, who thought lowly of his own performance that night (he sounds a bit ragged to my ears, but it’s only a very minor complaint). Ian Paice disagreed, and it’s easy to see why he would–his seven-minute drum solo during “Mule” is one of the most impressive of its kind, both from a crowd-pleasing standpoint and from a technical standpoint. Paice didn’t have an enormous drum kit either, and double-bass drumming had yet to catch on–but that’s what makes it even more astounding. His left-handed jazz improv influences really come out here.
On the follow-up track, “Strange Kind of Woman,” it seems as though the rest of the band has suddenly remembered that this is a Deep Purple show, not just the Ian Paice show. Blackmore and Lord redouble their already-inspired efforts, and Ian Gillan gets into a theatrical call-and-response with Blackmore’s guitar. At the very least, he could be happy with how that part of his night went. You can even hear him laughing because he’s having such a great time. It’s this naturalness that makes Made In Japan feel like such a special listen.
“Lazy” finds Deep Purple right at home in flat-out blues-boogie mode, and a 19-minute take on “Space Truckin’” ended the original LP with some fine improvisation by all. “Space Truckin” in particular goes through a dramatic expansion into a huge interstellar suite.
But it’s the 3 encores on this special edition that make the “Made In Japan” experience complete.
In the film “Global Metal,” an aging Deep Purple fan who actually attended this show recounts the finale: “Everybody rushed to the front of the stage…and Ritchie Blackmore was shaking and waving his guitar over his head,” he says, his eyes brightening at the memory. “We had never seen anything like that before…that was the night Deep Purple became legends.”
On the first seven songs, the Japanese audience is largely silent during each one, saving its growing appreciation for the last note. But at encore time, they can no longer contain themselves.
By the time the band blows through “Black Night” and “Speed King” you can picture and hear the scene: the audience’s energy has hit fever pitch. You can hear Gillan’s surprised yells, not knowing what to think of the audience’s crazed reaction; they’re rushing the stage and practically mobbing the band at this point.
They shift into all-out overdrive on “Lucille,” Deep Purple going faster and faster until it seems they can no longer hold it together. But on this night they were simply unstoppable, and more than forty years after they left the stage that night, like the entire Japanese audience you just don’t want to see them go.
As this year’s polling Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction concluded, it seems the voters and critics (finally, finaaly, finally!) revisited this stunning set as proof of Deep Purple’s mastery of their craft, and more than worthy of induction among the best of all time.
Written by Matt P