Music film review: California Jam (1974)

Deep Purple’s appearance at the California Jam on 6th April 1974 was the fiery finale to an open-air concert that also included Earth Wind and Fire, The Eagles, Black Sabbath, and Emerson Lake and Palmer (who has the misfortune of going on after their co-headliners had raised havoc).

It was the first American show for the new line-up of Purple, who now had a new singer from Redcar, David Coverdale, and a new bassist/singer from the Midlands, Glenn Hughes.  Coverdale at 22 years old was a raw talent with a rich bluesy voice and in this show he really stands out – the highlight being ‘Mistreated’, a blistering song of lost love that he co-wrote with the band’s guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore.

The DVD we have today comes from the live broadcast on the ABC network, although a version released to laserdisc and VHS in the 1980s had different camera angles and a far more satisfying view of Blackmore demolishing one of the cameras that got too close.  However the most recent release has included ‘Lay Down, Stay Down’, missing from the 1980s releases, and has an alternate cut of ‘Burn’.

In their 117 minute prime, Deep Purple show themselves to be a vibrant and passionate band, totally focused on delivering the best of their catalogue to a huge and enthusiastic audience.  Coverdale in embryo before all the Whitesnake silliness is a delight, and Hughes’ soul vibrato rounds out the new sound.  After two albums, though, Blackmore walked from the band to join and rename Elf, which became Rainbow, and another chapter of music history was born.

Deep Purple – Live in California ’74 is available on DVD from Amazon and all other online retailers.  The print isn’t that great, and where the laserdisc had stereo sound, the DVD is mono … but it is still terrific, and their version of Smoke on the Water here can raise a goosebump or two.

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Archive TV review: Red Letter Day (1976), episodes 1-2

Red Letter Day was a series of one-off dramas which focused on a ‘big day’ in a character’s life.  It is now available on DVD in the UK, released by Network, and here are my thoughts on the first two episodes.

‘Ready When You Are, Mr McGill’, written by Jack Rosenthal – who also devised this series – is perhaps the best known of the plays as it has been shown the most and has enjoyed a previous release as part of the DVD boxset ‘Jack Rosenthal at ITV’.  It centres on a small television production shoot and the big day is for the extra, Joe McGill, who has been given a sixteen-word speaking part much to the chagrin of the other, more experienced extras on the coach.  It is a wickedly funny piece with the egotistical director (Jack Shepherd), the sound engineer with over-sensitive ears (Fred Feast, a familar face from 1970s Coronation Street), the harrassed assistant director (Mark Wing-Davey, Hitchhikers Guide’s Zaphod), and other familiar faces including Jill Summers as ‘gossiping housewife’.  A running gag throughout the play – aside from Joe’s attempt to get his line right – is a building being painted throughout the aborted attempts to film the one scene. 

‘The Five Pound Orange’, written by Donald Churchill, is a drama about a man who has had something of a mid-life crisis, having ten months previously left his wife for a younger model with terrible taste in interior decorating.  The title refers to a set of Queen Victoria stamps which he discovers are worth rather more than he imagined, and which currently reside in a tea chest at his old home.  This slight tale involves his attempts to get the stamps back and in doing so, realising that the grass might not be greener on the other side after all.  Peter Barkworth plays the errant husband, Natasha Parry his wife, and Sarah Badel the young mistress.  I rather enjoyed this thanks to the performance of Barkworth in particular (who might be a familiar face from ‘Melissa’) and it is generally nicely done, with the stamps just becoming a peripheral device in something far more of the heart than of the pocket.