The Story Behind the Debut Hit Deep Purple Considered “Too Disco” Before Ritchie Blackmore “Toughened” It Up

In 1967, country soul singer Billy Joe Royal, known for his 1965 hit “Down in the Boondocks,”  released “Hush.” Written by Joe South, who was behind the Grammy-winning “Games People Play,” “Rose Garden,” and more, “Hush” wasn’t as big a hit for Royal when first released. The song was later covered by Australian band Somebody’s Image in 1967 before Deep Purple decided to bring it into the studio.

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“Too Disco”

While recording their 1968 debut Shades of Deep Purple at Pye studio in London during the spring of 1968, the band included a cover of The Beatles‘ “Help!” and the Billy Roberts-penned “Hey Joe,” made famous by the Jimi Hendrix Experience on the album, along with their rendition of “Hush.”

When they first approached “Hush,” it was too soft for their liking. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore previously heard Royal’s version of “Hush” and still thought it had some potential for the band, after some adjustments.

“Initially we thought it’s a bit too disco, or whatever the word was then,” said late Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord in 2009. “But Ritchie [Blackmore] said it would work if we toughened it up a bit.”

Spiked by a psychedelic blues-rock groove, Deep Purple’s reimagining of “Hush” was far from the band’s cacophonous performances, which earned Deep Purple the Guinness Book of World Records title in 1975 as the World’s Loudest Band after they hit 117 decibels at a show in London in 1972.

[RELATED: The Casino Fire That Inspired Deep Purple’s 1972 Classic “Smoke on the Water”]

“The whacka thing on the organ was something I started doing in [previous band] The Artwoods,” said Lord of the organ beats on the track. “I played it almost like a set of conga drums. The rhythm of ‘Hush’ is like a samba.”

Once released, “Hush” was a success for Deep Purple and pushed the band right into the U.S. charts at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Girl Crazy

The song is a simple tale of a guy who is so crazy for a girl that he’s ready to drop everything to be with her if she calls him.

I thought I heard her calling my name now
Hush, hush
She broke my heart but I love her just the same now
Hush, hush
Thought I heard her calling my name now
Hush, hush
I need her loving and I’m not to blame now
they got it early in the morning
They got it late in the evening
Well, I want that, need it
Oh, I gotta gotta have it
She’s got loving like quicksand
Only took one touch of her hand
To blow my mind and I’m in so deep
That I can’t eat and I can’t sleep

Ghost Stories with Hugh Hefner

In 1968, the band performed on Hugh Hefner’s Playboy After Dark TV series, and opened with the Shades of Deep Purple instrumental “And the Address.” Lord then told Hefner a ghost story and Blackmore gave him a guitar lesson before the band played “Hush.”

The Playboy performance is featured on the 2000 reissue of Shades of Deep Purple.

‘Nobody’s Perfect’

Exactly 20 years since they first released “Hush,” the band rerecorded the song for the 1988 live album Nobody’s Perfect. “It’s 20 years since it came out so it’s an anniversary of sorts,” said Roger Glover of rerecording “Hush” for the album. “We were thinking about putting it in the live act and I think we did it one night and it didn’t work so we dropped it. When we were mixing the live album, we tried “Hush” again and it really didn’t work again.”

After hitting a pub one evening, the band returned to the studio and revisited the song again. “We went to a pub one night, and the unfortunate thing about English pubs is that they sell beer,” joked Glover. “Some hours later we [went] back to the studio and we just started jamming around. Gillan [Ian Gillan] actually had a very aggressive attitude that night—’Right, let’s do it.'”

Glover added, “Somehow that galvanized the band and we just started a great jam, and it was a one-off. We tried improving it [‘Hush’], but it didn’t work. To try to do a song like ‘Hush’ 20 years later and improve on it, forget it, ‘cus it is what it is.”

On Nobody’s Perfect, Deep Purple approached the recording, according to Glover, as a “good piece of good-time fun and try to have a laugh with it, and not be so reverent about attacking a classic.”

For years the Deep Purple left “Hush” off their setlist until guitarist Steve Morse joined the band in 1994 and pressed the band to bring it back.

“We have a big improv section in there and it’s just a great feel from beginning to end for me,” said Morse in 2014. “And the lyrics are not even lyrics. It’s just ‘Na nana na na na nananana.’ It’s the most basic tune in the world, but to me Deep Purple got on the map as a hard rock band from doing that version of ‘Hush.’ So I love that. And we stretch that out pretty far live.”

Photo: John Minihan/Getty Images

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