Here at www.godofguitar.com we take great interest in the careers of guitarists who have stepped into the shoes of other incredible players, in order to see how they coped with playing alien material. As you may be aware Jim and Moritz have never been placed in this position; Jim was once asked to play in Iron Maiden, however he turned the gig down as being one of fifteen lead guitarists (or however many they have), he felt this would have done his reputation no good at all.
One of the most talked about and requested articles that we receive is the time that Joe Satriani spent in Deep Purple in late 1991 and 1992. Jim and I know nothing about this, however our great friend and contributor Michael Blos takes us on a candid insight into the Joe Satriani DP years (well, year actually….. well, about 3 months in total actually)
Hi guys, Michael here. I hope you’re both keeping well and Jim, good luck with the recovery from the facelift……….sorry er, I mean er, nervous exhaustion.
To replace any guitarist in a professional band is difficult enough, but to replace Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple would be, to most players, asking the impossible. Ritchie had already left Purple once in 1973 and the critical review of Purple gigs with new man Gary Moore, was, to say the least, scathing. It was hoped that, this time around, the same would not be said of Purple with Mr Satriani.
Let us first of all look into the background of Ritchie’s second departure (for good this time) from Deep Purple. Following the release of ‘The Battle, Wages On’ album, Purple commenced on a massive European tour in September 1991. As the tour progressed, Blackmore became more and more disenchanted with the performance of vocalist Ronnie Dio and eventually things came to a head in Prague on 30th October where Blackmore confirmed in writing he would quit the band at the end of the European tour and would not accompany the band to Japan in early December.
The embarrassing situation for Purple was that their manager had not informed the Japanese promoter of Blackmore’s absence. When the promoter found out he went totally ballistic. Jon Lord continues: ‘I don’t know why me, but I received a call from the promoter who was, to say the least, absolutely livid. He was yelling down the phone at me screaming ‘if you ever come to Japan, I will give you a blow!’ I thought this was some kind of Japanese ritual humiliation where I would arrive at the airport in Tokyo and the promoter would greet me by getting on his knees and perform an immoral act upon me. You can imagine my relief when I later found out the promoter was threatening to poison me with Fugu (Japanese poisonous Blowfish), if I ever toured Japan again.’
The promoter in Japan gave Purple one option; tour Japan in December 1993 with a named player. This gave the band a dilemma, as the earlier tour with Gary Moore had been fairly disastrous, and this was always in the back of their minds.
Purple, therefore, only had a few weeks basically to source a top player. First of all, the band turned to Iron Maiden, who immediately refused, as they stipulated that all their lead guitarists should play in Purple (not just one). Next up was Clem ‘Dave’ Clemson (known in the rock world as CLemmy) who flatly turned the band down as they had earlier rejected him as a possible Blackmore replacement in 1973 (prior to Gary Moore joining). Things were starting to look desperate, and after scouring Europe unsuccessfully, they worryingly had to turn their attention to, oh my God, American guitarists.
According to unofficial sources in the band, Joe Satriani had heard that Purple were now desperate, so he put himself forward as a possible (or only) candidate. The first thing to do was to get the band and Satriani together so after the European tour concluded, the band agreed a joint rehearsal, but from what I have gathered (off the record), the Purple guys were not particularly impressed.
Legend has it, that to prove his suitability to his potentially new band mates, Joe started playing the full version of Surfin’ with the Alien unaccompanied. According to sources that wish to remain anonymous, after about 16 bars of this shredding metal, wah-wah intensive racket, Jon Lord looked over to Ian Paice and mouthed ‘get on the phone to The Edge now!!!!!’ For Satriani, the cat was out of the bag quite quickly as Paice suddenly yelled out ‘Does anyone know the dial code for Dublin’. As it was, The Edge was unavailable, and with all other named players steering well clear of trying to emulate Blackmore, the only option open for Purple was to stick with Satriani.
The main problem for the band was Satriani’s sound. According to the band, Blackmore had such a clear sound that blended in beautifully with the other instruments, but Satriani had this awful metal shredding sound. Rather creatively, the only way the Purple sound team could temper this noise was to plug Joe’s guitar into a Bendix washing machine (using this as a preamp). The higher the spin rate, the clearer the sound became. Apparently Joe was a little suspicious of this at first, but seemed to clam down when informed that as the band members’ wives normally came on tour, they tended to perform many of the domestic chores including doing the laundry.
The Japanese tour went ahead on schedule and apart from the odd embarrassing moment of false identity with certain fans, the tour was very successful. So successful in fact, that Satriani was invited back for Purple’s European tour in June and July 1994.
Overall, the band knew that this couldn’t continue with temporary guitarists, and so Blackmore was recalled in late 1994 and after three more studio albums the band has gone from strength to strength. They plan to record the next album with Blackmore during 2005/2006.