Friday, July 20, 2012

Deep Purple -- "Hush" (1968)

She's got loving like quicksand
Only took one touch of her hand
To blow my mind, and I'm in so deep
That I can't eat and I can't sleep

(At first, I was just going to quote the first two lines above.  But I just can't ignore such a nice example of enjambment, so I included the next line as well.)

Jon Lord of Deep Purple died earlier this week at age 71.  The immediate cause of his death was a pulmonary embolism, but he also was suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Jon Lord in 2008
I don't enjoy writing obituary posts, but I have no choice here.  Lord was simply too talented and too unique a performer -- I have to acknowledge his passing, and I'm doing so by featuring "Hush."

Deep Purple's version of the "Hush" is one of the great classic rock singles of all time, and it's Jon Lord's organ playing that makes it so special.  Like many great jazz, blues, and rock organists of the pre-synthesizer era, Lord's instrument of choice was the Hammond B-3 organ.  (Actually, Lord usually played a Hammond C-3, which is mechanically identical to the B-3, but comes equipped with "modesty panels" that hide the performer's lower body from the audience -- very useful for lady church organists.)  

As this interview explains, Lord's signature Hammond sound results from the way he used amplification.  (This is a little "inside baseball" for many of you, no doubt, but anyone who ever tried to play a B-3/C-3 -- which includes me -- will find this very interesting.)

Keith Moon was an absolutely unique rock drummer because he could turn the drums into a lead instrument -- as he did on "I Can See for Miles."  Lord's organ style was very distinctive because he was able to turn the Hammond into a rhythm instrument, which gave the guitarist much more freedom.

"Hush" was written by Joe South, who had a big hit with another of his own compositions, "Games People Play."  It was originally released as a single in 1967 by Billy Joe Royal (of "Down in the Boondocks" fame), but failed to crack the top 40.  

Deep Purple's version of "Hush" -- it's first single -- made it to #4 on the U.S. charts despite the fact that was released on an obscure and short-lived label, Tetragrammaton Records.  (The name supposedly refers to the unspeakable Hebrew name of God.)

I cannot overstate how good a record "Hush" is.  It has not lost a thing in the 44 years since it was released, and it is simply inconceivable to me that any group of musicians in the world could do "Hush" better than this.  

Listen especially at the climax of Lord's organ solo (which almost sounds to me like two organists are playing at once, but which is all him):  Lord somehow ratchets up the intensity of his playing one more notch, then there's a drum roll that has the impact of someone kicking you in the behind, and then the  singer comes back in with "Naaah-nah-nah-naaah" and we are heading into the homestretch:

I also have to share with you a video of Deep Purple playing "Hush" on the Playboy After Dark television show.  It is a 100% live performance, and it's pretty bad -- Lord's organ is mixed way too low, and you can barely hear him.  Even worse is Hugh Hefner's painfully clumsy attempt to engage in small talk with Lord before the group performs.  (Watching this really makes you appreciate Johnny Carson.  Hefner was a major tool.)

(I don't think we got this show in Joplin, Missouri.  The only time I saw it was in Miami, when I represented the Parkwood High School Key Club chapter as a delegate to the organization's international convention in 1969.  We were lucky that night: the show featured Hef's main squeeze of the moment, Barbi Benton -- still the most appealing woman ever to grace the pages of Playboy.)

Barbi Benton
One final note.  Check out the lines quoted at the top of this post.  Can you name another song that mentions "quicksand"?

Of course, I'm referring to Spinal Tap's tribute to BBW, "Big Bottom":

The bigger the cushion
The sweeter the pushin'
That's what I said
The looser the waistband
The deeper the quicksand
Or so I have read

(Yes, 2 or 3 lines should feature "Big Bottom" some day -- and it will, I promise you.)

Click here to order "Hush" from Amazon:


  1. I couldn't agree more. Lord was an amazing artist.

  2. Sorry, Gary, I'm a bit behind on these posts, having only recently discovered your great music blog—big "propers," by the way!—and there are a few I'd like to comment on, this one in particular.

    DP loomed large in my musical upbringing. I remember clearly to this day (at 55, I'm continually amazed to remember ANYTHING clearly! Especially given the boatloads of drugs and alcohol that were an integral part of that upbringing...), hearing "Hush" on the radio in 1968, in my older brother's car, a '57 Ford Fairlane.

    Lord's stuttering, pumping Hammond intro, leading to the "Na-a-a-na-na-n-a-a" sub-chorus/1st verse (unusual song construction for that time), grabbed me immediately and never let go for the next couple of decades. The "Shades of..." LP from which that single came was the first of many epic releases from the band. Their sophomore release, "The Book of Taleisyn", the last LP featuring the MK I lineup, was superb on all fronts, and I still spin it regularly today ("Shield", a take on Phil Spector's "River Deep, Mountain High", and their cover of Neil Diamond's "Kentucky Woman" being standout tracks deserving of wider recognition in the DP cannon).

    When the MKII version of the band emerged on "Deep Purple In Rock", with Ian Gillian replacing Rod Evans on vocals, the music became harder and rock-ier but lost none of its psych experimentation ("Sweet Child In Time"), and of course Gillian's vocals became a focal point of the band's arrangements from that point forward.

    I first saw DP perform live on the "Machine Head" tour in the summer of '72, and that was indeed an epic show which stands as one of greatest concert experiences of my life—and I was fortunate to see all of the top bands of that '70s era, including The Who, The Faces, Humble Pie, Jethro Tull, Leon Russell, The Kinks, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, you name 'em.

    Jon Lord was a giant, and his footprint is preserved *in rock* forever.
    Thanks for the post.

  3. Sorry, meant to write, "Child In Time". That was an inadvertent combination of Guns N' Roses and Deep Purple! Although, truth be told, I'd like to hear Axl try that song's vocal on for size, haha.