Quatermass: The Album That Destroyed Deep Purple

Proto-metal aficionados rejoice! (Long post follows)

So I went looking for some deep tracks - the kind that you rarely ever hear of. THEY ARE OUT THERE. In fact, it's amazing just how much material is available now through YouTube and other places that simply was never available on a mass-market basis before. The real challenge is cataloging it and separating the wheat from the chaff. I believe we have just such a find today.

Around September 1969, in London, John Gustafson, an established British musician and bass player formed a band called "Quatermass". The band name appears to have been inspired by a British series of movies (and later television shows) of the same name. One of the very interesting things about Quatermass, is that they were a rock group despite the fact that their lineup did not officially include a guitarist. For most of the album in fact, there is little to no electric guitar to be heard. I think I hear some guitar around ~35:00 minutes in, including a wah-wah. But given that there clearly can be heard other organ parts on a wah-wah, there's also sufficient reason to doubt there is any electric guitar on this album.

This album was released soon after Black Sabbath's first self-titled album. Admittedly, the music is probably better described as "progressive rock", clearly not as heavy as Black Sabbath, but when you listen to it, you can't help but notice that the songwriting and the manner in which the instruments are played heralds a new sound coming to rock. There's hard rock elements. There's heavy metal elements. There's funk elements. I even hear Pink Floyd in "Saturday Echo". I was blown away the first time I heard this album, not expecting anything like this was possible in 1970, and not expecting the band to NOT have a guitarist.

Jon Lord, of Deep Purple, is credited with creating the "Hammond through a Marshall" sound. After listening to Quatermass, it seems to me he was two years too late to deserve the credit. Previously, I had ALWAYS been inclined to give Jon Lord the credit for that sound. No more. I now believe (and hopefully you too, after hearing it), that Peter Robinson, the keyboardist, deserves this credit. I still really like and enjoy the "Heavy" that Jon Lord brought to Deep Purple and his great keyboard work, but from the sounds on this album, it seems pretty clear that he's not the originator of the "Deep Purple Sound". In fact, despite the fact that Jon Lord is now gone, It's not at all unreasonable to believe he heard the Quatermass sound, and decided he liked it for himself.

So why is this the album that destroyed Deep Purple? While there are different, less controversial versions of the story, I happen to believe the comments that can be found on message boards and in the comments of YouTube. I think there is sufficient reason to believe that Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple because he wanted to cover Quatermass's single, "Black Sheep of the Family", and the rest of the members of Deep Purple said "No". Angered that he couldn't cover the one song he wanted to, Ritchie left Deep Purple and merged with Elf, the band that got Ronnie James Dio his start. The resulting band was quite probably familiar to you: "Rainbow".

Sadly, Gustafson died in 2014.

Here's the line-up of Quatermass:

  • Keyboards: J. Peter Robinson
  • Drums: Mick Underwood
  • Bass, Lead Vocals: John Gustafson