Deep Purple were on the verge of a complete meltdown when their 25th anniversary tour reached England in November of 1993. Frontman Ian Gillan and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore had been feuding for decades, but by this point their relationship had reached a new low, and the tension was palpable. It was also beginning to have a horribly detrimental effect on the shows, and as the cameras were rolling on November 9th at the NEC Arena in Birmingham, the shit hit the fan.
The group took the stage to kick things off with “Highway Star,” but Blackmore was nowhere in sight, forcing them to begin the song without their guitarist. A crazed Blackmore took the stage midway through the song for a wild solo, but when he felt a camera guy get too close, he threw a glass of water at him. (Check out the moment at 3:45.)
The rest of Deep Purple were beyond livid with Blackmore, but they somehow limped through four more shows. More gigs were on the books in Japan in December, but Blackmore had had enough, and he quit the band. This left Deep Purple in a pretty tough spot, but Joe Satriani agreed to step in temporarily so they could fulfill their obligations. Guitarist Steve Morse joined the band in 1994 and has remained with them ever since. The 1993 tour was the last time that Blackmore performed a note of music with Deep Purple.
A live album from Deep Purple’s 1993 show in Birmingham came out in 2007, completely against the will of the band. Gillan begged fans to not buy it. “It was one of the lowest points of my life – all our lives, actually,” he said. “There is no nostalgia involved.” He went on to call Sony BMG “opportunist fat cats” for releasing the disc.
Despite all the tension, Deep Purple fans continue to hope that Blackmore and the rest of the band might reunite one day. It seems very unlikely. Blackmore now tours with his wife in Blackmore’s Night, a medieval duo that regularly plays Renaissance fairs. He has little interest in rock & roll and rarely speaks to the media.
Deep Purple were on the ballot for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year. They didn’t make it, but Blackmore made it very clear the honor meant nothing to him. “Personally, I couldn’t care less,” he told Billboard in a rare interview. “I would never go. I’m not really a fan of that stuff. Considering some of the people that are in the Hall of Fame, I’m not sure if it’s a good idea, so I don’t care one way or the other, actually . . . I think our fans seem to care more than I do. They’re always saying, ‘You should be in the Hall of Fame. You should be in this, you should be in that.’ If I can pay the bills, that’s all I care about.”