Deep Purple went on a hiatus in 1976. To say it looked grim for the band was an understatement. David Coverdale was their lead singer, Ritchie Blackmore was in Rainbow. Ian Gillan was starting his own band. The seeds weren’t there for a reuinion. So Deep Purple went into the tank for nearly a decade. In 1984 there were rumblings of the reformation of the Mark II lineup of Deep Purple. The most successful and, in my opinion, best version of the band. Blackmore, Gillan, Ian Paice, Roger Glover, and Jon Lord. Those rumblings turned out to be true. The fruit of that reunion was Perfect Strangers.
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Perfect Strangers Is One Of The Most Apt Titles Ever
These five gentleman coming together for an album was almost unthinkable. Ritchie Blackmore is hard to work with. Ian Gillan didn’t like how he worked before, which caused their big breakup in the 70’s. Whatever they did in the studio to make it work between the two of them was dynamite. Released October 29th, 1984, it immediately entered the pantheon of reunion albums. The electricity was felt around the world. A tour, singles, and all the works came out of it. The tour in the United States did so well and sold out so many shows, that they had to extend it due to demand. Deep Purple fever was back.
The album was led by three singles. “Perfect Strangers”, “Knocking At Your Back Door”, and “Nobody’s Home”. “Perfect Strangers” would peak at number 12 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks, “Knocking At Your Back Door” would go even higher at number 7. Finally “Nobody’s Home” would hit number 20 on that chart.
Overall the album would place number one in three countries, number two in one, and top 5 in four more. Perfect Strangers was wildly successful. The US Tour in 1985 would out-gross every major artist that year besides Bruce Springsteen. It was only their second album to go platinum in the US besides Machine Head.
The title works so well for this group of guys also. I find it to be one of my favorite album titles ever. It just fits that these guys haven’t been together creating amazing music for years, but they’re so perfect with each other. That perfection would never last of course, with Gillan winning out over Blackmore in the end.
Perfect Strangers Highlights
On an album filled with hard rocking tunes, “Knocking At Your Back Door” stands above all else. Not only for the musical quality of the song, but the story behind it. If I want to get someone into Deep Purple, I might pick “Highway Star”, I might pick “Child In Time”, I might even pick “Hush”, but the real choice for me is this track. It encapsulates everything that Deep Purple is about. They’re proto-metal rock that has ass-kicking licks, shredding solos, and Jon Lord’s keyboards holding the whole thing up. Jon Lord is the fucking man.
The story of the song goes that they recorded it as a joke. It’s all one big sexual innuendo for anal sex. Ian Gillan had this to say about it:
There’s this guy named Redbeard, from a radio station down in Texas. He phoned me up after it had been played on every radio station in America and said, “Is this what I think it’s about?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “It’s amazing, every radio station in America is playing a song written about anal sex and they don’t even realize what’s going on.” And I was like, well it’s not in-your-face anal sex, it’s just a joke. It just came about with the lyrics. It’s no big deal. But it’s a humorous thing and not meant to be offensive. And I think it was just an afterthought. It certainly wasn’t what inspired the song.Ian Gillan
The band played the song for record executives and they said “that’s your lead single”. Beyond that subject matter, you’ll be singing this one for days after or humming the riff. It’s just a catchy tune that flies by and doesn’t feel like its nearly seven and a half minutes long. Blackmore’s guitar play on the back end of the song sets the tone for the rest of the album.
Perfect Strangers has many great tunes. If you get the chance just listen to the whole album, but for brevity, we’ll give you one more.
“Not Responsible” is one of the harder songs on an album filled with them. My only complaint with Perfect Strangers is that Ian Gillan completely fried his voice singing on Black Sabbath‘s Born Again. So the normal banshee wail screams that he gives on previous Purple albums aren’t present. He still takes his voice out of the garage on some of the tracks, but it’s not as many as people might have liked. This song is just brash, hard, and rumbling. It makes you want to go out for a night on the town, pound some drinks, and figure out what you’re gonna do next. It has that youthful edge that you wouldn’t expect from a band as seasoned as Deep Purple.
Perfect Strangers is my favorite Deep Purple album. It beats out Machine Head for me because of the modern sound it has and it was my introduction to the band outside of “Smoke on the Water”. This album still surprises me every time I listen, I find something new that I didn’t hear before. I love it, and you should too.
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