As I was walking past Great Cumberland Place and Bryanston Street in Marble Arch, London the other day, it occurred to me that I was standing on sacred ground. The hard rock titans Deep Purple recorded their debut album in this very place fifty years ago, more specifically at Pye Studios in the now-demolished ATV House, and it is a rather overlooked and underappreciated psychedelic/progressive/hard rock record boasting several highly interesting and well-written tunes, most notably the fiery cover of Joe South’s “Hush” and the delightfully twisted “Mandrake Root”. The instrumental workout “And the Address” is another wonderful tune with fantastic licks and melodies to it while “One More Rainy Day” is perhaps more mundane than exciting. “Love Help Me” is an uplifting piece and the cover renditions of “Help!” (The Beatles), “Hey Joe” (Billy Roberts), and “Happiness”/”I’m So Glad” (Skip James) are enjoyable tracks with some addictive parts to them. Derek Lawrence’s production is commendable and does the songs justice in that they sound lively as well as nicely balanced in terms of every instrument having been given a suitable amount of space in the overall mix. Due to a somewhat limited budget, the tunes were all recorded live in one or two takes and it took less than three days to get the album in the can.


“Hush” was quite a huge hit in the US, but success eluded the band back home in the UK, which is also pointed out by U Music in the following: “The early months of the Deep Purple story were about transatlantic success and a marked absence of chart activity back home in Britain. The Mk I line-up of the group enjoyed huge American acclaim with their debut single, a cover of Joe South’s ‘Hush,’ climbing to No. 4”. According to Ritchie Blackmore, the idea to record the song was his idea: “I used to live in Hamburg, Germany, and I’d heard an earlier version of that song on the radio. And when I got together with Jon Lord, I said I really liked it. When we got around to playing it, he put in this brilliant organ solo”. “Hush” is still featured in Deep Purple’s set list all these years later and usually serves as the encore. There are some excellent renditions of it present on the 2015 offerings “…To the Rising Sun (in Tokyo)” and “From the Setting Sun… (in Wacken)”. The song sounds amazing with Gillan singing it and it never fails to get the crowd excited, but there is something special and marvelous about the original 1968 recording of it in that it possesses a warm and vibrant feel that is irresistible.


“Shades of Deep Purple” does lack a bit of direction and focus, which is to say that it is difficult to say what the musical identity of the band was in 1968.; there are so many different influences and styles in play on it. The fact that it consists of four original compositions and four cover renditions is perhaps one of the reasons why it does not come across as all-out cohesive and coherent in the overall perspective, but in terms of style, content, and quality, it surpasses the two records that followed suit. Blackmore appears to be pleased with “Shades of Deep Purple” but less than thrilled with its two successors, more specifically “The Book of Taliesyn” and the self-titled one: “I did think our very first record, Shades of Deep Purple, was pretty good, but with the two that followed, we were kind of feeling our way, like the blind leading the blind”. Ian Paice has fond memories of the time of recording the debut offering and states that “The whole first album was written and rehearsed in this crazy old farm called Deeves Hall. We were living there for a couple of months – in the parts of it that weren’t being destroyed by two builders. Through Derek Lawrence there was a record deal in place for a new English band on a US label [Tetragrammaton] set up by Bill Cosby. The first record was recorded in two four-hour sessions. We did four hours in the afternoon, then Derek mixed it in the evening. We came back the next day and did the same thing, and that was it. That was in the old Pye Studios. It did OK in England but it had a lot of push in the US because of this new label. “Hush”, the single, everyone knew, and whatever we did to it, they seemed to like, and it became a big hit. We went over there for our first tour and thought we’d made it – only to discover that it’s not quite that easy”.


Where Pye Studios used to be_Photo by Nepper.jpg
Where Pye Studios used to be
Photo by Jens Nepper


When I was standing in Bryanston Street and looking at where the old Pye Studios used to be, I could not help thinking about just how important Deep Purple are to me and how they have inspired and moved me ever since that day in 1995 when I bought a copy of “Machine Head” at the age of eleven. That they are still out there touring and releasing superb albums such as “Infinite” is hugely admirable and speaks volumes about their continued passion for the music. Another thing that crossed my mind on that day in Bryanston Street was whether Pye Studios was the birthplace of progressive hard rock due to Purple’s first album having been committed to tape there, but then that might be stretching it a bit too far. Still, it did feel like I was in the presence of greatness and, like I said earlier on, walking on hallowed ground. Locate your old worn copy of “Shades of Deep Purple” on LP or perhaps one of the remastered CD versions of it and play it loud while cherishing the fact that it was recorded fifty years ago and yet it still sounds fresh, vibrant, and entertaining to listen to. What a great start to an amazing adventure that one is.   



1.      And the Address

2.      Hush

3.      One More Rainy

4.      Prelude: Happiness/I’m So Glad

5.      Mandrake Root

6.      Help!

7.      Love Help Me

8.      Hey Joe



Ritchie Blackmore – guitars

Rod Evans – vocals

Jon Lord – organ and backing vocals

Ian Paice – drums

Nick Simper – bass and backing vocals


Recorded at Pye Studios, London, UK in May 1968 and released in July that same year via Tetragrammaton (US) and in September by Parlophone (UK).


The album is available on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/5qxy4Qf0ug4rV9YVYGQRn2


Works cited: