Skip to main content

Enter your email below to be the first to hear about new releases, upcoming events, and more from Dig!

Please enter a valid email address

By submitting my information, I agree to receive personalized updates and marketing messages about WMX based on my information, interests, activities, website visits and device data and in accordance with the Privacy Policy. I understand that I can opt-out at any time by emailing privacypolicy@wmg.com.

Best Deep Purple Songs: 10 Smoking-Hot Hard Rock Classics
Alamy Stock Photo
List & Guides

Best Deep Purple Songs: 10 Smoking-Hot Hard Rock Classics

With killer riffs and ambition aplenty, the best Deep Purple songs helped lay the groundwork for heavy metal – and still pack a mighty punch.

Back

Along with their contemporaries Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple are pioneers of heavy metal and modern hard rock. Their line-up initially included stellar talents such as guitarist Richie Blackmore and keyboard maestro Jon Lord, while the group’s inherent virtuosity was matched by their love of no-nonsense rock’n’roll and their collective ear for a great tune. Despite numerous personnel reshuffles and hiatuses, the Purps are still going strong today, but their legacy is built on those legend-enshrining early years. Here, then – drawn from an embarrassment of riches – are the best Deep Purple songs.

10: Burn (from ‘Burn’, 1974)

Few would argue that Deep Purple’s reputation rests primarily on the landmark albums recorded by the band’s classic Mk II line-up, fronted by Ian Gillan from 1969-1973. However, Burn and Stormbringer, the two mid-70s albums they recorded in their third iteration, featuring future Whitesnake vocalist David Coverdale and bassist Glenn Hughes, maintained their high standards. Launched by a killer Richie Blackmore riff and a pedal-to-the-metal group performance – with Jon Lord and drummer Ian Paice also excelling – Burn’s searing title track was this line-up’s high point, and it demands inclusion among any list of the best Deep Purple songs.

9: We Can Work It Out (from ‘The Book Of Taliesyn’, 1968)

Deep Purple’s first line-up, which saw Blackmore, Lord and Paice joined by vocalist Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper, initially pursued a very different musical direction to the high-octane hard rock which would soon elevate them to stardom. With their initial trio of albums flirting with psychedelia, progressive rock and even some classical influences, the early Deep Purple were arguably best known for their Vanilla Fudge-esque reinterpretations of mainstream pop songs, with their sinewy version of Joe South’s Hush even providing them with an unexpected US hit. They also released a Paul McCartney-endorsed cover of The Beatles’ Help!, but arguably topped it with a dynamic reworking of another Lennon-McCartney tune, We Can Work It Out, which graced Deep Purple’s second album, 1968’s The Book Of Taliesyn.

 

8: Strange Kind Of Woman (single A-Side, 1971)

The non-album single Strange Kind Of Woman was originally titled Prostitute, yet while the lyric names said lady as Nancy and hints at her mercurial nature (“She left a trail of happiness and misery”), Ian Gillan later revealed that “the song was not about one woman, but a compilation of thrills and disappointments”. Wherever the truth lay, the swaggering, radio-friendly Strange Kind Of Woman was the ideal follow-up to Deep Purple’s first UK hit, Black Night, and peaked at No.8 during the summer of 1971.

7: Into The Fire (from ‘Into The Rock’, 1970)

Propelled by an ominous, cyclical Blackmore riff, Deep Purple In Rock highlight Into The Fire was a slow-moving behemoth of an anthem propelled by Ian Paice and Roger Glover’s rock-solid rhythm section and some expressive organ work from Jon Lord. Tight, compact and lethal, it was all done and dusted in barely three minutes and probably should have been a single. The sound of hard rock at its absolute peak, Into The Fire is unquestionably one of the very best Deep Purple songs – and it still packs a mighty punch.

6: Hush (1968)

Deep Purple made an unexpectedly rapid breakthrough in the US when their slinky cover of Joe South’s Hush shot to No.4 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and No.2 on Canada’s RPM chart). Their debut album, Shades Of Deep Purple, then rose to No.24 on the Billboard 200 in September 1968. In retrospect, it’s no surprise that Purple’s version of the song took off, as it was built around an irresistible conga-led groove and a dynamic call-and-response chorus, all topped off with Lord’s fluid, Roy Budd-esque organ solo. Though hardly typical of the band’s wider oeuvre, Hush displayed all the hallmarks of an instant classic.

5: Speed King (from ‘Deep Purple In Rock’, 1970)

Deep Purple In Rock’s opening track, Speed King, pretty much set out the album’s stall: opening with a mega-rawk crescendo, it soon transformed into a barnstorming tribute to vintage 50s rock icons. But while its lyrics were peppered with retro references to Elvis Presley and Little Richard (“Good golly, said Miss Molly/When she was rockin’ in the house of blue light”), the Purps’ sonic attack was strictly contemporary. With Paice’s aggressive drumming propelling them ever onward, the group kept up the pressure for over five minutes of maximum rock’n’roll, creating one of the best Deep Purple songs in the process.

4: Fireball (from ‘Fireball’, 1971)

Another UK Top 20 success, Fireball was also the title track for Deep Purple’s fifth album. Though a no-holds-barred rocker, it was unusual for the band in that it didn’t contain a Richie Blackmore guitar solo, with Jon Lord instead trading off with bassist Roger Glover during the song’s smouldering instrumental break. Fireball’s star contributor, however, was surely Ian Paice, whose dextrous, yet manic work behind the kit (atypically for Paice, he used a double bass drum set-up to record it) somehow kept the whole thing on the rails.

3: Child In Time (from ‘Deep Purple In Rock’, 1970)

With hindsight, it’s fitting that Deep Purple In Rock’s artwork referenced the oversized US rock sculpture Mount Rushmore, for the album became an equally monolithic presence on the hard rock scene of the early 70s. Its pinnacle moment is arguably the ten-minute Child In Time – an epic in every sense of the word, with Gillan’s charismatic vocals commanding throughout and Blackmore’s pyrotechnics at their most deadly during his lengthy mid-song solo. A staple of Deep Purple’s live set during the 70s, Child In Time’s anti-war lyric (“See the blind man shooting at the world/Bullets flying, taking toll”) was reputedly inspired by the (then ongoing) Vietnam War. The song’s pacifist stance led to it being adopted as an anthem by anti-communist resistance groups behind the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe.

2: Smoke On The Water (from ‘Machine Head’, 1972)

It’s invariably a good idea to write about what you know, and Deep Purple certainly looked to real-life experiences when they composed the legendary Smoke On The Water. Effectively the story of the recording of their multi-platinum sixth album, 1972’s Machine Head, it relates how the band had decamped to Switzerland to record at the Montreux Casino, only for the building to burn to the ground during a Frank Zappa concert just before the Machine Head sessions began.

Desperate for an alternative venue, Purple block-booked the nearby Grand Hotel and converted part of it into a live room to record the album. Their turmoil turned to triumph, however, when Richie Blackmore worked up a guitar motif he based on an inversion of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No.5, thereby inventing Some On The Water’s introductory riff – now arguably the go-to riff for billions of aspiring rock guitarists the world over. Despite its familiarity, however, Smoke On The Water remains a fantastic hard rock song whose inclusion among the best Deep Purple songs is forever set in stone.

1: Black Night (single A-side, 1970)

Reputedly inspired by Ricky Nelson’s rocked-up reimagining of George Gershwin’s Great American Songbook classic Summertime, Deep Purple’s signature hit, Black Night, is a fantastic hard rock song by anyone’s standards. Originally released as a standalone single in June 1970, it took radio by storm and shot to No.2 in the UK. It’s not hard to hear why. Catchier than a field of barbed wire, it still drips with swagger and attitude half a century after its initial release. Indeed, when it comes to singling out the best Deep Purple songs, Black Night even defeats the ubiquitous Smoke On The Water to emerge as a worthy winner.

More Like This

Best 90s Musicians: 20 Artists Who Ruled The Decade
List & Guides

Best 90s Musicians: 20 Artists Who Ruled The Decade

From grunge agitators to Britpop barnstormers, the best 90s musicians helped define the era by adding colour to the close of the millennium.

Best Summer Songs: 20 Classic Sun-Worshipping Anthems
List & Guides

Best Summer Songs: 20 Classic Sun-Worshipping Anthems

Like the season that inspired them, the best summer songs can be balmy, blissful and sometimes bittersweet…

Sign up to our newsletter

Be the first to hear about new releases, upcoming events, and more from Dig!

Sign Up