Roger Glover was (and is) the bass player for Deep Purple. Not renowned as a virtuoso player, Glover is often overshadowed by other members of that legendary band, and lacks the name recognition and iconic status that some of the more colorful members of the DP family enjoy (a quick Google image search of ‘Roger Glover’ came up with pics of Glenn Hughes, Nick Simper, and Geezer Butler). This condition is known as ‘John Paul Jones Syndrome’. But those who dismiss Glover as ‘just the bass player’ are making a big mistake. Roger Glover is a hero of mine. Here’s Why:
First, let’s consider for a moment exactly what being the bass player in Deep frickin’ Purple Mk II actually entailed. Ritchie Blackmore to his left, swinging his guitar around like a broadsword, inventing new styles of guitar playing, and blowing shit up. Jon Lord to his right, effortlessly exuding cool while unmercifully torturing a helpless Hammond B3. Ian Paice behind him, relentlessly driving everything forward while somehow making his 4-piece Ludwig sound like 3 people playing Neil Peart’s kit. And Ian Gillan in front of him, singing/screaming his ass off, MCing the apocalypse. And there, deep inside this volcano of explosive chemistry was Roger Glover, standing steady at the center of the firestorm, holding down the fort, locking everything down while wearing a funky hat. Roger Glover was the glue that held the Purple pieces together, the anchor that kept this band of volatile virtuosos from careening off the rails into total chaos. Without Roger Glover, DP MkII would have spontaneously combusted after 10 or 12 gigs. Virtuoso or not, this makes Glover Purple MkII’s Most Valuable Player.
One of the reasons Glover was drafted into Deep Purple was his prolific songwriting output while in his (and Ian Gillan’s) previous band Episode Six. Roger Glover also wrote extensively for DP, but because Purple chose to share their writing credits equally, it’s hard to know exactly what he wrote. It has been acknowledged by all, however, that Glover wrote the music to ‘Speed King’ after Blackmore suggested they come up with something that sounded like Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Fire’. So. Roger Glover wrote ‘Speed King’… Oh, and the ‘Maybe I’m a Leo’ riff. Who knows what else he wrote that Blackmore gets all the credit for? Glover also titled Purple’s smash hit ‘Smoke on the Water’ the morning after the legendary casino fire, effectively giving the song it’s chorus and subject matter.
So: Deep Purple had with Roger Glover was a rock solid musical backbone and a major creative force. A larger picture should be emerging here; RG was DP’s secret weapon. But what about his post-Purple history?
Imagine an album featuring lead vocals by David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Ronnie James Dio, and Uriah Heep’s John Lawton. Now stop imagining and check out Roger’s ‘The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast’ album. For a concept album based on a famous children’s poem, it’s a surprisingly substantive and engaging piece of work. And with this line-up of lead vocalists (Ian Gillan sang Dio’s parts when the entire work was performed live at the Royal Albert Hall in 1975), who cares about the subject matter? Glover wrote or co-wrote all 20 songs, produced the recording, and played bass and synth. Need more? Okay: Les Binks played drums. Ha! Gotcha.
Speaking of Roger Glover the Record Producer, I feel compelled to point out that you pobably own an album that was produced by RG. Here’s a short list of some of his more notable work:
Judas Priest: Sin after Sin
Nazareth: Razamanaz/Loud & Proud/Rampant
David Coverdale: White Snake/Northwinds
Whitesnake: Snakebite EP
Rory Gallagher: Calling Card
Michael Schenker Group/Michael Schenker Group
Ian Gillan Band/Child in Time
Rainbow: Down to Earth/Difficult to Cure/Straight Between the Eyes/Bent out of Shape
Deep Purple: Perfect Strangers/House of Blue Light/The Battle Rages On (and every post-Blackmore DP album until ‘Now What?!’)
Glover was the producer who convinced Judas Priest to record Joan Baez’s ‘Diamonds and Rust’ in a bid for radio play. Glover also worked the same trick with Nazareth on their ‘Loud & Proud’ album by suggesting Joni Mitchell’s ‘This Flight Tonight’. Suggesting that metal bands record songs written by female folk artists, and actually getting them to agree to it… Dude’s a genius. It would be tough to overstate how important these songs have been to each of these bands.
But one of Glover’s most …interesting production projects was his work on a long-forgotten 1977 album, released only in Sweden, on a label called Playboy Records…
Male readers of a certain age will remember Ms. Benton as a Playboy model; perhaps the Playboy cover girl of the 70’s. If you weren’t old enough then to be swiping your dad’s Playboys, you may remember her as a bit player on TV’s Hee Haw. Benton also starred in an ABC TV series in 1977 called ‘Sugartime!’ about an all-female rock group ‘trying to make it big’. Well… they sure picked the right girl for that…
Barbi Benton released 5 albums during the 1970s, with some success. Her first single reached #5 on the US Billboard Country chart, but her biggest hit was a song called ‘Ain’t That Just the Way’, which was a Number One single in Sweden for five weeks in 1977. The album from which that single originated, also titled ‘Ain’t That Just the Way’, was produced by our man Roger Glover. Glover brought some of his friends to the proceedings (wouldn’t you? ‘Hey, man, you want to come down and hang out with me and Barbi Benton, maybe lay down a solo?’), so not only does Mickey Moody of Whitesnake make an appearance, but David Coverdale hung around long enough to earn a songwriting credit, along with Barbi & Rog (so cute) on ‘Up In the Air’. Need more? Simon Phillips played drums. Ha! Gotcha.
I haven’t even mentioned Roger Glover’s four solo albums, the disco single he released under a phony name in 1974, or the excellent Gillan/Glover album from 1988 (I ran out of gas after, um, searching for suitable Barbi Benton pics). Today in 2014, Roger Glover, having long ago traded in his funky felt hat for a pirate’s bandana, is still holding down the fort for Deep Purple, and still one of my heroes. ‘Just the bass player’, my ass.