It must have been somewhere in 1972 when a song so impressive entered the Dutch charts that I still remember hearing it then. The organ notes at the beginning, the ooh-oohs, the screeching wails, the explosion, the great guitar solo and the super fast ending. Remind me who it was that said: "All good songs are in one tempo". Some ex-band member probably with questionable and out-dates musical taste?
I was to find out later that the song was close to two years old when it charted. It did this again three years later in 1975. 'Child in time' is one of greatest classics of popular music of all time. Always in the top 10 of the end of year overview lists and before 'Bohemian rhapsody' mania, the number one for years.
Jon Lord put his stamp on rock music, classic rock as we call it now, hard rock when I was younger. His characteristic organ sound is one of the three unique components that made his main band, Deep Purple, stick out against all competition. The other two being Ian Gillan's voice and Ritchie Blackmore's guitar. As you will undoubtedly have read in the many obituaries by plugging his Hammond into a Marhall or a rotating Lesley amp.
Unknowingly I had heard Jon Lord before. A previous band, The Flowerpot Men, had scored two hits in The Netherlands, the bandwagonesque 'Let's go to San Francisco' in 1967 and 'A walk in the sky' in spring 1968. Both very neat, a bit dreamily sang songs, high and to clean voiced to really be hippies. Nothing special, just songs that stuck out in the period.
In 1968 Lord started Deep Purple with drummer Ian Paice. It was not before 1970 that the famous Deep Purple Mach one formation scored their first major success: Deep Purple in rock, with that great cover of Mount Rushmore done over and containing one of their two signature songs.
When I found out about Deep Purple it was fall 1971: 'Fireball'. This incredibly fast rock song, that was played on the radio and charted for a few weeks. Two years later it was all over for mach one. Gillan, Glover and Blackmore left and more and more other people became Deep Purple. Lord and Paice were there for the whole stretch. The final one early 1976, 'Come taste the band'. Still containing a good song or so, e.g. 'You keep on moving'. If I'm honest I liked this album and 'Stormbringer' (1975) better in the seventies. Simply because I owned them. That has changed a little since those days.
A friend had the 'Made in Japan' double elpee and that is how I learned about that other staple song of the band: 'Smoke on he water'. This song has everything a classic rock song needs. And it shows what can be done with an organ. No matter what Ritchie Blackmore does on his guitar, it is Jon Lord's organ that carries a whole chunk of the song in a superb way.
The making of 'Machine head' tv show tells all about the state of (personal relations within) the band in 1971, but also all about a band at its creative peak. The almost off-handed way in which ideas were born, songs were tried out and grew and the making of an album against all grains in Montreux (as told in 'Smoke on the water'). They had two or three weeks to do it all between touring schedules. Try that in 2012. Making a classic album seems to be very easy in a way, till you try it yourself. In the documentary Lord tells about the classical influence on his solo's and the way he sometimes uses classical motives, sped up beyond recognition, which was quite normal to do for bands around 1970. He did so to great success.
What also sticks out is, that despite the fact that Blackmore has and shows a total dislike for the rest, all members speak with pride of their common effort and the result and give credit where it's due. Perhaps unconsciously showing the power of creativity over personal relations. Jon Lord is also interviewed separate from the three that play in Deep Purple to this day, in ever changing line ups.
The first of the classic Deep Purple line-up to go, Jon Lord will be remembered for his signature organ playing on some of the best hard rock albums ever made. He plays on a few songs that may be here for forever and will be played decades and more from now.