Sunday, July 12, 2009

With the Rolling Truck Stones Thing Right Outside

Purple before Prince.

I remember little about the first junior high dance I went to. The clearest thing about that night isn't the girls (although I remember a few of them), or the dancing (ditto), or even the ribbons hung over the school gym (which might have depressed me if I'd looked closer). What do I remember? Deep Purple.

I'm reminded of this because Deep Purple is in the news this week. (No, really. They are.) Apparently, the band played a concert in Russia last October and has been fined for not first licensing their own songs from the Russian Author's Society.

The $1,000 per song fine is to be paid to the rights-holders of those songs, which happens to be... the band Deep Purple. (Techdirt noted: "Common sense just died.) All I know is this is the strangest thing to come out of Russia since Yakov Smirnoff. (Maybe even stranger -- who knew Deep Purple was even still around?)

When I was in junior high and high school, the stoners all loved Deep Purple, cranking the well-worn vinyl their older brothers and sisters left behind when they went to college. Most of their albums folded out, too -- which was handy for rolling joints (although I don't know if that added to the band's stoner-appeal).

Here's what I do know: at the first junior high dance I ever went to, the first song I danced to (played with long-haired abandon and little noticeable skill by a very bad local band who were probably just a few years older than the kids dancing) was this:

A girl named Rachel asked me to dance. I remember next to nothing about her, except that it was both fun and terrifying to dance with her and she kept moving closer to the makeshift "stage" until we were right in front of the band. And the song ended, she said thank you and we retreated quickly to opposite ends of the gym.

My friends all teased me about Rachel and urged me to go talk to her, but I didn't. Like it says in the song, Swiss time was running out. When the band took a break, she made a beeline for the stage and flirted with the guitar player (no doubt asking him probing questions about effects pedals and what kind of pick he preferred). My buddies and me watched this and decided immediately to form a band. None of us played instruments, but that didn't stop us from spending weeks picking a name and designing a logo. It was so perfect that we had no choice but to break up the band without playing a single note.

Oddly enough, if you go to Montreux, there's a sculpture by the shore of Lake Geneva honoring the song (and including the notes to the never-to-be-forgotten guitar riff). I imagine you'll find Rachel there, too. Or your Rachel. Whoever she may be.

(She'll be easy to recognize, even after all these years; she's the one hanging on the arm of the aging guitar player...)

1 comment:

Alex said...

I couldn't get this to embed, but for a great cover of "Smoke on the Water," go to and click on "Late Show with Craig Ferguson."