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Jon Lord (born Jon Douglas Lord, 9 June 1941, Leicestermarker) is an English composer, Hammond organ and piano player.

Lord is recognised for his Hammond organ blues-rock sound and for his pioneering work in fusing rock and classical or baroque forms. He has most famously been a member of Deep Purple, as well as of Whitesnake, Paice, Ashton & Lord, The Artwoods and Flower Pot Men. He has worked with numerous other artists including Graham Bonnet (following Bonnet's departure from Rainbow).

In 1968, Lord co-founded Deep Purple. He and drummer Ian Paice were the only constant band members during the band's existence from 1968 to 1976 and from when they reformed in 1984 until Lord's retirement in 2002.

One of his finest works was his composition Concerto for Group and Orchestra, which was performed at the Royal Albert Hallmarker in 1969 with Deep Purple (Lord and Paice with guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover) and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The concerto was revived for its 30th anniversary in 1999 with another performance at the Albert Hall, again performed by Deep Purple (Lord, Paice, Gillan, Glover and Steve Morse in place of Ritchie Blackmore) with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 2002 he retired from Deep Purple for good, to concentrate on composing and on lower-key blues/rock performances. In 2008, he achieved success as a classical composer when his Durham Concerto entered the classical album charts.

Early life

Jon Lord was born in Leicester on 9 June 1941 to his late parents Miriam (1912–1995, née Hudson) and Reg. He studied classical piano from age five, and those influences are a recurring trademark in his work. His influences range from Bach (a constant connection in his music and his keyboard improvisation) to Medieval popular music and the English tradition of Elgar.

Simultaneously, Lord absorbed the blues sounds that played a key part in his rock career, principally the raw sounds of the great American blues organists Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and "Brother" Jack McDuff ("Rock Candy"), as well as the stage showmanship of Jerry Lee Lewis. The jazz-blues organ sounds coming from those musicians in the 1950s and 1960s, using the trademark blues-organ sound of the Hammond organ (B3 and C3 models) and combining it with the Leslie speaker system (the well-known Hammond-Leslie speaker combo), were seminal influences. Keyboard contemporaries in the 1970s Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman generally steered away from the blues or only showcased it as a novelty, but Lord embraced it fully into his style.

Lord moved to London in 1959/60, intent on an acting career and enrolling at the Central School of Speech and Drama, in London's Swiss Cottagemarker. Small parts followed and Lord continued playing piano and organ in clubs and as a session musician to make ends meet.

He started his London band career in 1960 with jazz ensemble the Bill Ashton Combo. Ashton, now an MBE, became a key figure in jazz education in the UK, creating what later became the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Between 1960 and 1963, Lord (along with Ashton) moved onto Red Bludd's Bluesicians (also known as The Don Wilson's Quartet), the latter of which featured singer Arthur "Art" Wood. Wood had previously sung with Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated and was a junior figure in the British blues movement. In this period, Lord's session credits included playing keyboards on You Really Got Me (The Kinks 1964 classic).

Following the break-up of Redd Bludd's Bluesicians in late 1963, Wood, Lord and drummer Red Dunnage put together a new band. The Art Wood Combo also included Derek Griffiths (guitar) and Malcolm Pool (bass). Dunnage left in December 1964 to be replaced by Keef Hartley, who had previously replaced Ringo Starr in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.

The Artwoods focused on the organ as the bluesy, rhythmic core of their sound, in common with contemporaries the Spencer Davis Group (Steve Winwood on organ) and the Animals (with Alan Price). They made appearances on TV shows such as Ready Steady Go!, performed abroad and appeared on the first Ready Steady Goes Live, promoting their first single Sweet Mary, but significant commercial success eluded them. Their only chart single was I Take What I Want, which reached No 28 on 8 May 1966.

The band regrouped in 1967 as St Valentine's Day Massacre, in an attempt to cash in on the 1930s gangster craze triggered by the film Bonnie and Clyde. Hartley left in 1967 to join John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Lord joined Santa Barbara Machine Head (featuring Art's brother, the young Ronnie Wood) but left soon after to cover for keyboard player Billy Day in The Flower Pot Men, where he met bassist Nick Simper. Lord and Simper toured with the band in 1967 to support their Let's Go To San Francisco hit single, but they never recorded with them.

In early 1968, now intent on capturing a heavier sound (given the emergence of Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience), Lord helped form Boz, featuring Boz Burrell (later of Bad Company), session guitarist Ritchie Blackmore (whom Lord first met in December 1967), drummer Ian Paice and bassist Chas Hodges (later of 'Cockney' pop group Chas & Dave). That effort was short-lived, but it spawned Roundabout, which by March 1968 had morphed into Deep Purple Mk I: Lord, Simper, Blackmore, Paice and singer Rod Evans.

Personal life

Jon Lord is married to Vickie Lord, the twin sister of Ian Paice's wife, Jackie. The twin girls were the daughters of Frank Gibbs, owner of the Oakley House Country Club, Brewood, Staffs. They both live in the United Kingdom. He has two daughters, Amy (with Vickie) and Sara (with his first wife Judith).

Deep Purple 1968–1976

It is in this period that Lord's trademark keyboard sound emerged. Ignoring the emergence of the Moog synthesizer as pioneered in rock by players like Keith Emerson, he began experimenting with a keyboard sound centred on the Hammond organ but heavier than a blues sound. This delivered a rhythmic foundation to complement Blackmore's speed and virtuosity on lead guitar. Lord also loved the sound of an RMI 368 Electra-Piano and Harpsichord, which he used on songs like "Demon's Eye", and "Space Truckin'". Around 1973, Lord and a technician combined his Hammond C3 Organ with the RMI.

Lord pushed the Hammond-Leslie sound through Marshall amplification, creating a growling, heavy, mechanical sound that gave a rhythmic counterpoint to Blackmore's lead playing. It also allowed Lord to compete with Blackmore with an organ that sounded as heavy as a lead guitar. In early Deep Purple recordings, Lord's organ sound is more prominent than Blackmore's guitar, which only started to take over from the In Rock album (1970). Later, Lord's willingness to play many of the key rhythm parts gave the guitarist the freedom to let loose both live and on record.

On Deep Purple's second and third albums, Lord began indulging his ambition to fuse rock with classical music. This enhanced his reputation among fellow musicians, but caused tension within the group.

Blackmore agreed to go along with Lord's experimentation, provided he was given his head on the next band album. The resulting Concerto For Group and Orchestra (in 1969) was one of rock's earliest attempts to fuse two distinct musical idioms. Performed live at the Royal Albert Hallmarker on 24 September 1969 (with new band members Ian Gillan and Roger Glover, Evans and Simper having been fired), recorded by the BBC and later released as an album, the Concerto gave Deep Purple their first highly-publicised taste of mainstream fame and gave Lord the confidence to believe that his experiment and his compositional skill had a future. The Concerto also gave Lord the chance to work with established classical figures, like conductor Malcolm Arnold (knighted in 1993), who brought his technical skills to bear by helping Lord score the work and to protect him from the inevitable disdain of the older members of the orchestra.

Classical dalliance over, Purple began work on In Rock, released by EMI in 1970 and now one of heavy rock's key early works. Lord and Blackmore competed to out-dazzle each other, often in classical-style, mid-section 'call and answer' improvisation (on tracks like Speed King), something they employed to great effect live. Similarly, Child in Time features Lord's playing to maximum tonal effect. Lord's experimental solo on "Hard Lovin' Man" (complete with police-siren interpolation) on the album is his personal favourite among his Deep Purple studio performances.

Deep Purple released a sequence of albums between 1971's Fireball and 1975's Come Taste the Band. Gillan and Glover left in 1973 and Blackmore in 1975, and the band disintegrated in 1976. The highlights of Lord's Purple work in the period include his rhythmic underpinning of Smoke on the Water, Highway Star and Space Truckin' from Machine Head (1972), his playing on the Burn album from 1974 and the sonic bombast of the Made in Japan live album from 1972.

Roger Glover later described Lord as a true "Zen-archer soloist", someone whose best keyboard improvisation often came at the first attempt. Lord's strict reliance on the Hammond C3 organ sound, as opposed to the synthesizer experimentation of his contemporaries, places him firmly in the jazz-blues category as a band musician and far from the progressive-rock sound of Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman. Lord himself would rarely venture into the synthesizer territory on Purple albums, often limiting his experimentation to the use of the ring modulator with the Hammond, to give live performances on tracks like Space Truckin' a distinctive 'spacey' sound. Rare instances of his Deep Purple synthesizer use (later including the MiniMoog and other Moog synthesizers) include ``A´´ 200, the final track from Burn.

Lord's 1970s career bears comparison with Emerson and Wakeman, the decade's other significant pioneers of rock keyboards. He was much less of a showman, partly because he couldn't compete with Blackmore's stage persona but mostly because he did not wish to. He was able to meld the Hammond soul to a heavy rock sound, demonstrating note control and speed to match Blackmore's technical fireworks on stage. In fact, Lord's working experience of scoring for and performing with leading orchestras far exceeded that of his rock contemporaries by the late 1970s.

Lord as Composer

Lord continued to focus on his classical aspirations alongside his Deep Purple career. The BBC, buoyed by the success of the Concerto, commissioned him to do another work and the resulting Gemini Suite was performed by Deep Purple and the Light Music Society under Malcolm Arnold at the Royal Festival Hallmarker in September 1970 and then in Munich with the Kammerorchester conducted by Eberhard Schoener in January 1972. It then became the basis for Lord's first solo album, Gemini Suite, released in November 1972, with vocals by Yvonne Elliman and Tony Ashton and with the London Symphony Orchestra backing a band that included Albert Lee on guitar.

Lord's collaboration with the highly experimental and supportive Schoener resulted in a second live performance of the Suite in late 1973 and a new Lord album with Eberhard Schoener, entitled Windows, in 1974. It proved to be Lord's most experimental work and was released to mixed reactions. However, the dalliances with Bach on Windows and the pleasure of collaborating with Schoener resulted in perhaps Lord's most confident solo work and perhaps his strongest orchestral album, Sarabande, recorded in Germany in September 1975 with the Philharmonia Hungarica conducted by Schoener.

Composed of eight pieces (from the opening sweep of Fantasia to the Finale), at least five pieces form the typical construction of a baroque dance suite. The key pieces (Sarabande, Gigue, Bouree, Pavane and Caprice) feature rich orchestration complemented sometimes by the interpolation of rock themes, played by a session band comprising Pete York, Mark Nauseef and Andy Summers, with organ and synthesizers played by Lord.

In March 1974, Lord and Paice had collaborated with friend Tony Ashton on First of the Big Bands, credited to 'Ashton & Lord' and featuring a rich array of session talent, including Carmine Appice, Ian Paice, Peter Frampton and Pink Floyd saxophonist/sessioner, Dick Parry. They performed much of the set live at the London Palladiummarker in September 1974.

This formed the basis of Lord's first post-Deep Purple project Paice, Ashton & Lord, which lasted only a year and spawned a single album, Malice in Wonderland in 1977. He created an informal group of friends and collaborators including Ashton, Paice, Bernie Marsden, Boz Burrell and later, Bad Company's Mick Ralphs, Simon Kirke and others. Over the same period, Lord guested on albums by Maggie Bell, Nazareth and even Richard Digance. Eager to pay off a huge tax bill upon his return the UK in the late-1970s (Purple's excesses included their own tour jet and a home Lord rented in Hollywood from actress Ann-Margret), Lord joined former Deep Purple band member David Coverdale's new band, Whitesnake in August 1978 (Paice joined them in 1980 and stayed till 1982).

Whitesnake 1978–1983

Lord's job in Whitesnake was largely limited to adding colour (or, in his own words, a 'halo') to round out a blues-rock sound that already accommodated two lead guitarists, Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody. He added a Yamaha Electric Grand piano to his set-up and finally a huge bank of synthesizers onstage courtesy of Moog (MiniMoog, Opus, PolyMoog) so he could play the 12-bar blues the band often required and recreate string section and other effects. Such varied work is evident on tracks like Here I Go Again, Wine, Women and Song, She's a Woman and Till the Day I Die. A number of singles entered the UK charts, taking the now 40-something Lord onto Top of the Pops with regularity between 1980 and 1983. He later expressed frustration that he was a poorly-paid hired-hand. His dissatisfaction (and Coverdale's eagerness to revamp the band's line-up and lower the average age to help crack the US market) smoothed the way for the reformation of Deep Purple Mk II in 1984.

During his tenure in Whitesnake, Lord did have a chance to do two distinctly different solo albums. 1982s Before I Forget featured a largely conventional eight-song line-up, no orchestra and with the bulk of the songs being either mainstream rock tracks (Hollywood Rock And Roll, Chance on a Feeling), or—specifically on Side Two—a series of very English classical piano ballads sung by mother and daughter duo, Vicki Brown and Sam Brown (wife and daughter of entertainer Joe Brown) and vocalist Elmer Gantry. The album also boasted the cream of British rock talent, including prolific session drummer (and National Youth Jazz Orchestra alumnus) Simon Phillips, Cozy Powell, Neil Murray, Simon Kirke, Boz Burrell and Mick Ralphs. Lord used synthesizers more than ever before, principally to retain an intimacy with the material and to create a jam atmosphere with old friends like Tony Ashton.

Additionally, Lord was commissioned by producer Patrick Gamble for Central Television to write the soundtrack for their 1984 TV series, Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, based on the book by Edith Holden, with an orchestra conducted by Alfred Ralston and with a distinctly gentle, pastoral series of themes composed by Lord. Lord, now firmly established as a member of UK rock/Oxfordshire mansion aristocracy (in Lord's case, a home called Burntwood, complete with hand-painted Challen baby grand piano, previous owner, Shirley Bassey), was asked to guest on albums by friends George Harrison (Gone Troppo from 1982) and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour (1983's About Face), Cozy Powell (Octopus in 1983) and to play on an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's classic, Wind in the Willows.

In the 80s he was also a member of an all-star band called Olympic Rock & Blues Circus fronted by Pete York and featuring a rotating line-up of the likes of Miller Anderson, Tony Ashton, Brian Auger, Zoot Money, Colin Hodgkinson, Chris Farlowe and many others. Olympic Rock & Blues Circus was touring primarily in Germany between 1981 and 1989. Same musicians, including Lord, were taking part in Pete York's musical TV extravaganza Superdrumming between 1987 and 1989.

From Purple to Now 1984–

Lord's re-emergence with Deep Purple in 1984 resulted in huge audiences for the reformed Mk II line-up, including 1985s second largest grossing tour in the US and an appearance in front of 70,000 rain-soaked fans headlining Knebworthmarker on June 22nd 1985, all to support the Perfect Strangers album. Playing with a rejuvenated Purple line-up (including spells at a health farm to get the band including Lord into shape) and being onstage and in the studio with Blackmore, gave Lord the chance to push himself once again. His 'rubato' classical opening sequence to the album's opener, Knocking at Your Back Door (complete with F-Minor to G polychordal harmony sequence), gave Lord the chance to do his most powerful work for years, including Perfect Strangers. Further albums followed, often of varying quality and by the late-1990s, Lord was clearly keen to explore where to take his career next.

In 1997, he created perhaps his most personal work to date, Pictured Within, released in 1998 with a European tour to support it. Lord's mother Miriam had died in August 1995 and the album is a deeply affecting piece, inflected at all stages by Lord's sense of grief. Recorded largely in Lord's home away from home, the city of Cologne, the album's themes are Elgarian and alpine in equal measure. Lord signed to Virgin Classics to release it, and perhaps saw it as the first stage in his eventual departure from Purple to embark on a low-key and altogether more gentle solo career. One song from Pictured Within, entitled "Wait A While" was later covered by Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebø on her 2003/2004 album My Heart. Lord finally retired from Deep Purple in 2002, preceded by a knee injury that eventually resolved itself without surgery. He said subsequently, "Leaving Deep Purple was just as traumatic as I had always suspected it would be and more so - if you see what I mean". He even dedicated a song to it on 2004's solo effort, Beyond the Notes, called De Profundis. The album was recorded in Bonn with producer, Mario Argandoña between June and July 2004.
Jon Lord performing at the Sunflower Jam, London, 2007


Pictured Within and Beyond the Notes provide the most personal work by Lord, and together, have what his earlier solo work perhaps lacks, a very clear musical voice that is quintessentially his. Together, both albums are uniquely crafted, mature pieces from a man in touch with himself and his spirituality. Lord has slowly built a small, but distinct position and fan base for himself in Europe, collaborating with former ABBA superstar and family friend, Frida (Anni-Frid Lyngstad), on the 2004 track, "The Sun Will Shine Again" (with lyrics by Sam Brown) and performing with her across Europe and subsequently, doing concerts also to première the 2007-scheduled Boom of the Tingling Strings orchestral piece.

In 2003, he also returned to his beloved RnB/blues heritage to record an album of standards in Sydney, with Australia's Jimmy Barnes, entitled Live in the Basement, by Jon Lord and the Hoochie Coochie Men, 2003. He remains one of British rock music's most eclectic and talented instrumentalists. Lord is also happy to support the Sam Buxton Sunflower Jam Healing Trust and in September 2006, performed at a star-studded event to support the charity led by Ian Paice's wife, Jacky (twin sister of Lord's wife Vicky). Featured artists on stage with Lord included Paul Weller, Robert Plant, Phil Manzanera, Ian Paice and Bernie Marsden.

Two Lord compositions, "Boom of the Tingling Strings" and "Disguises (Suite for String Orchestra)", were recorded in Denmark in 2006 and released in April 2008 on EMI Classics. Both feature the Odense Symfoniorkester, conducted by Paul Mann. Additionally, a second Hoochie Coochie Men album was recorded in July 2006 in London. This album, Danger - White Men Dancing, was released in October 2007.

His Durham Concerto, commissioned by Durham Universitymarker for its 175th anniversary celebrations, received its world premiere on 20 October 2007 in Durham Cathedralmarker by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and featured soloists Lord on Hammond Organ, Kathryn Tickell on Northumbrian pipes, Matthew Barley on cello and Ruth Palmer on violin.

Lord was (almost) next-door neighbour to former Beatle George Harrison, and played piano on the posthumously released Brainwashed (2002) album. He was also a close friend of John Mortimer, whom he had accompanied on many occasions during Mortimer's performances of "Mortimer Miscellany".

Discography

With The Artwoods

  • Art Gallery (1966, re-releases: 1969, 1995)
  • Jazz in Jeans (1967, EP)
  • Brother Can You Spare A Dime/Al's Party (1967, SP, renamed St. Valentine's Day Massacre)
  • 183 Oxford Street (1983, compilation)
  • Yellow Street Boutique - Incredible Sound Show Stories Volume 5 (1996, compilation incl. one Art Wood Combo song from 1963 - "Hoochie Coochie Man")
  • Singles A’s & B’s (2000, compilation)


With Santa Barbara Machine Head



With Deep Purple



Solo

  • The Last Rebel (1971, with Tony Ashton, film score)
  • Gemini Suite (1972)
  • First of the Big Bands (1974, with Tony Ashton)
  • Windows (1974, with Eberhard Schoener)
  • Sarabande (1976)
  • Before I Forget (1982)
  • Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady (1984, with Alfred Ralston)
  • Vivre pour survivre (1984, film score, not released)
  • Overdose (1987, film score, not released)
  • Pictured Within (1998)
  • Calling The Wild (2000, film score, not released)
  • With Pictures (2003, DVD)
  • Beyond The Notes (2004)
  • Beyond The Notes Live (2004, DVD)
  • Boom of the Tingling Strings & Disguises (2008)
  • Durham Concerto (2008)


With Paice, Ashton & Lord

  • Malice in Wonderland (1977)
  • BBC Radio 1 Live '77 (1992)
  • Live in London '77 (2007)


With Whitesnake



With The Hoochie Coochie Men

  • Live at the Basement (2003, CD/DVD)
  • Danger. White Men Dancing (2007)


Misc



Film & TV appearances

  • Deep Purple - Heavy Metal Pioneers (1991, TV, UK, interviewee)
  • Rock Family Trees - Deep Purple (1995, TV, interviewee)
  • Classic Albums: Deep Purple - Machine Head (2002, TV, interviewee)
  • Malcolm Arnold: Toward the Unknown Region (2004, TV, interviewee)
  • Brick by Brick - The Building of Gillan's Inn (2006, DVD)
  • Ian Gillan - Highway Star (2007, DVD)
  • John Mortimer - A Life in Words (2009, TV, UK, interviewee)
  • Soul To Song: Smoke On The Water (2009, TV, Japan, interviewee)


References

  1. http://www.durhamconcerto.com/jon-lord.htm


Further reading

  • Deep Purple: Charlesworth, Chris (Omnibus Press, 1983)
  • Deep Purple, Heavy Metal Photo Book: Welch, Chris with Hasebe, Koh (Omnibus Press 1984)
  • Deep Purple: Sailor, Michael (Hannibal Verlag, 2005)
  • Smoke on the Water, The Deep Purple Story: Thompson, Dave (ECW Press, 2004)
  • The Complete Deep Purple: Heatley, Michael (Reynolds & Hearn, 2005)


Primary sources

  1. "Beyond the Notes": Lord, Jon sleeve-notes by subject (Capitol Music, 2004)
  2. "Pictured Within": Lord, Jon sleeve-notes by subject (Virgin Classics, 1997)
  3. "Before I Forget": Jon Lord interviews by Mike Beecher and Phil Easton (1982)
  4. "Sarabande": Notes by Vince Budd, South Uist, research by Simon Robinson, July 1998
  5. "Burn": 30th Anniversary Edition, notes by Nigel Young, May 2004
  6. "Made in Japan": sleeve notes to official remastered recording by Simon Robinson (1998)
  7. "Purple Reign": Interview with Jon Lord by Lee Marlow, 26 July 2000
  8. "Kindred Spirit' magazine: Interview with Jon Lord, Summer 2000
  9. "Daily Mail": Weekend Magazine, Interview with Jon Lord 'On the Mauve', 1997
  10. "Keyboard Review": Interview with Jon Lord by Cliff Douse, Issue 139, July 1997
  11. "Classic Albums: Machine Head' (DVD): Interviews with Jon Lord, Gillan, Glover, Paice, Blackmore, Eagle Rock Entertainment Limited, 2002
  12. "The Kids Are Alright": Interview with Bill Ashton, MBE, by Vinyl Vulture.
  13. "Jon Lord - With Pictures": 90-minute Australian DVD documentary on Jon Lord with extensive interviews, 2003


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