This page last updated February 5, 2003

Press for the Australian tour

© Herald-Sun, Melbourne, Australia. Januar 26, 2003.
Thanks to Linda Willcox

Thanks to Pete Schuptar © the publisher

Classic Purple
© The Courier Mail
January 25 2003

DEEP Purple are almost as well known for their changing roster as they are for Smoke on the Water, but throughout their turbulent 30-year history, organist Jon Lord has remained the one constant until now. Coincidentally, a piece of music that marked the ascension of Purple to the ranks of supergroup is the trigger for Lord's departure.
"If I'd known it was going to give my career such a kick, I'd have taken more care with it," says Lord, looking back at his Concerto for Group and Orchestra which has signposted major changes in his long career.
The piece, now enjoying a revival thanks to Brisbane band George, has had a history almost as tumultuous as Purple. Forged at a fevered pace on the floor of Lord's flat, the piece debuted in September 1969 at London's Royal Albert Hall. Purple played three songs before joining with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Arnold.
The score disappeared after a 1970 performance at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Lord had thought of trying to resurrect the work but the task appeared too daunting, until a Dutch music student presented him with a reconstruction in 1999. Marco De Goeij had put the piece back together based on listening to the recording and watching footage of the original concert.
With Paul Mann and De Goeij, Lord revitalised the piece and had it ready for a 30th anniversary charity concert at the Royal Albert with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mann.
Last year's performance in Brisbane by George and the Queensland Symphony, again with Mann conducting, was the first time the piece had been played by a band other than Purple. It was so well received it has been reprised for the Sydney Festival, where it was the first event to be sold out.
George member Tyrone Noonan says the performance has helped take the band's music to a new audience; it worked for Deep Purple, too, in 1969.
Formed in 1968, Purple enjoyed some success in the US with cover versions of Hush and Kentucky Woman, but were largely ignored in their native England until a push towards a heavier sound in the manner of Led Zeppelin led to a new line-up in 1969.
This classic, mark II version Lord, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, singer Ian Gillan, drummer Ian Paice and bassist Roger Glover announced their arrival with Lord's concerto, which established Purple's profile and garnered their first impact on the English charts.
While Lord has talked since of the derision of some of the orchestra members and what he considered a lack of professionalism in their playing, it was a proud moment, nonetheless, with his parents and his brother and sister-in-law in the audience.
"I'll never forget my mother's eyes shining, her son on stage at the Royal Albert Hall with the Philharmonia playing music he had written."
Purple, with compatriots Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, then set about forging the metal genre with classic rock albums like Deep Purple in Rock and Machine Head.
When Purple were between incarnations, Lord found gainful employment with other projects such as Whitesnake and Paice Ashton Lord, and several classical albums, the latest being 1998's Pictured Within.
"I'm one of those racehorses who never comes first but always finishes," he says.
In 1999 Purple hit Australia as part of a world tour with yet another line-up the mark II members in Lord, Paice, Gillan and Glover, and American guitarist Steve Morse playing the legendary riffs on tunes like Smoke on the Water and Black Night that are rock radio staples. It seemed the band was once again on an upswing.
Then, last year, emboldened by the success of the 1999 concerto performance, Lord quit.
"Thirty years later the piece came back and changed my life again . . . It gave me the courage to step outside and carve a career for myself outside the band," he says. "Playing the concerto on its 30th anniversary, as it were, in '99, gave me the courage, and the confidence to know I can write the stuff."
Still, the decision to leave the band that had been his bread and butter for some 30 years was not easy.
"When I'm awake in the dark at 3am I still have doubts, but in the morning I know I've made the right decision," he says. "I'm a little lonely out here at the moment, they were among my best friends. When I stop and count those genuine friends, the ones who you can trust with your stuff, well, a good number of them are in Deep Purple."
Lord, who started his musical journey with classical training before succumbing to jazz and then rock in his teens, has turned full circle.
"Putting something in a box means you can't move from one box to another. I've always worried about the music business with a capital B. Music should transcend barriers," he says.
"I think Morsey answered it best. Just after he joined the band he was asked at a press conference, 'You play jazz, bluegrass, folk, heavy rock; how do you explain that?' And he said, in that southern drawl, 'You know, it's OK to be good at more than one thing'. I've taken that and hung it mentally over the bed.
"I've alway felt my talent was to be a musical butterfly, and what I do pleases me greatly."
Such versatility is championed by George, whose debut album Polyserena defies classification.
"An orchestra album could be a concept down the track," says Noonan, who with sister and band member Katie was taught singing by his opera-singer mother. "A live recording with the orchestra would be amazing."
Then he adds with a laugh: "It's a bit too early in our careers, though; it's the sort of thing you do after you've put out a few greatest hits."
Noonan says he was a little sceptical when first approached to play the concerto with the Queensland Orchestra.
"It sounded a little out there. I didn't know about the concerto but, as we found out more about it and the pretty amazing story about how it came about, we got a little bit excited and quite nervous.
"It's probably my most memorable musical experience to date.
"You just can't beat the raw power of that many people on stage."
He was similarly nervous about Lord's involvement in the Sydney concert, but a meeting with him during a tour of England put any doubts to rest.
"Meeting Jon Lord was an incredible experience. He's the Jimi Hendrix of the keyboard world. He took the organ from a fairly soft instrument and gave it a ballsy, grungy sound for Deep Purple, I believe by putting his Hammond organs through the Marshall stacks just like a guitar. He's a pioneer."
Lord missed his chance to play with George in Brisbane due to Deep Purple commitments, but, as he says, some things are meant to be. As it turns out, Lord's daughter kept in touch with a small group of her school friends, one of whom married an Australian, who just happens to be George's manager, and so a meeting was scheduled when the band was on tour in England.
"George, bless them, were a little discombobulated that I was going to play with them. I think they wondered what I was going to do. They had restructured it to suit themselves, and rightly so, that's how the piece is written," Lord says.
"They wondered what I was going to do, and I told them, 'I'm going to slot in and play it your way'. I've played it 45 times the Deep Purple way, and now I'm going to play it their way."
Lord also will perform several solo shows during his visit to Australia, but he warns not to expect to hear the string quartet version of Smoke on the Water.
There also will be a premiere of his latest piece for piano and orchestra, to be played by Michael Kieran Harvey (QPAC, February 15). Lord laughingly calls it his revenge on concert pianists.
"I always wanted to be a concert pianist, but when I was about 12 or 13 I realised the amount of practice that involved. On one hand there was football and girls, or there was eight hours a day practising. I envy and admire people who can walk on to the stage and unveil that cascade of notes with such aplomb. It gives me pause to think. I gave it up for girls and football, but I did enjoy the girls. I was never very good at football."
Jon Lord and George play the Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra tonight, and Kings Park, Perth, with the WA Symphony Orchestra, March 1-2. Lord plays the Hyatt Regency Coolum, February 14. A re-issue of Deep Purple's Concerto for Group and Orchestra is available through EMI on double CD, DVD Video and DVD-A.

Jon Lord ... Deep Purple legend

Lord of the strings
© Sydney Morning Herald
January 17 2003

Deep Purple's Jon Lord, set for a solo Australian tour, takes us on a journey from 'Smoke on the Water' to 'Concerto for Group and Orchestra'.

By Sacha Molitorisz

On the eve of a solo Australian tour, Jon Lord - the keyboardist who co-founded Deep Purple in 1967 and co-wrote 'Smoke on the Water in 1972' - wants to dispel a few myths.
One, that Deep Purple, who have sold more than 100 million albums, were the loudest band in the world, as adjudged by the Guinness Book of Records.
"My hearing's still all right," says Lord from his home near London. "We were only the loudest band for about eight minutes - then we were overtaken by the Who. They were indescribably loud."
Two, that Deep Purple toured the world in their own jet. "We rented it," he says. "So it wasn't actually ours. When we were touring in the States, it was cheaper to put the whole band and road crew on a jet than on buses, because we were doing 14-week tours. Elvis had used this plane before, so had Led Zeppelin and Elton John, and they used to paint the name of the band on the side of the plane. It was marvellous."
Three, that musicians mellow with age.
"I don't listen to as much rock music as I used to," says the 61-year-old. "I think one's tastes do tend to mellow."
OK, so maybe that last one isn't altogether a myth. After all, the path of Lord's career certainly suggests a mellowing. Last September, Lord took his final bow with Deep Purple to concentrate on writing and performing classical compositions. (Actually, it was his second final bow with Deep Purple, given the British rockers originally split in 1976, only to reform in 1984.)
Featuring strings, woodwind and gentle rhythms, Lord's latest album, Pictured Within, is oceans away from Smoke on the Water.
That said, Lord has always had classical leanings. At five, he had his first piano lesson; at 28, his epic Concerto for Group and Orchestra was first performed by Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. (That was in 1969, many, many years before Spinal Tap parodied this type of endeavour.)
"I knew I'd written something good," Lord says. "But then life moved on. And on its 25th anniversary, we decided we would like to do it again, but we discovered the score had been lost. So I spent a few weeks on it but got only about 50 bars done out of about 300 pages. So I gave up.
"Then this astonishing man came to meet me in Rotterdam [in 1999]. I was tired and pissed off after a very long and dangerous drive. 'Mr Lord, may I have some minutes of your time?' he said. I said, 'I'm really sorry, man, but I need a shower.' Then he stopped me outside the elevator and said those magic words: 'It's about your concerto - I think I've recreated it.'"
The man was a student named Marco De Goeij, who had spent two years resurrecting the concerto by listening to CDs, watching violinists' fingers on video footage, and enlisting the aid of a computer. Lord was delighted; and that same year, for the concerto's 30th anniversary, the piece was performed by Deep Purple and a selection of orchestras throughout Europe, Japan and South America.
Next week Lord will perform it in Sydney with Brisbane group george and the Sydney Symphony.
"That changed my life. People finally said, 'This guy can orchestrate.' I just said, 'That's exactly what I've been telling you all these years.'"

JON LORD plays at the Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, January 26 (January 23 and 25 shows sold out). How much: $25-$60. Bookings: 9250 7777. He will also be performing at The Basement on Friday, February 7.

Australian band george off the wall, with influences veering from Hendrix to Bach ... Katie Noonan with, clockwise from her immediate right, brother Tyrone, Paul Bromley, Nick Stewart and Geoff Green. Photo: George Fetting

Classic rock with a twist all sold-out
© The Daily Telegraph
January 23, 3002
By Larissa Cummings

THE eclectic philosophy of Brisbane rock band george is summed up by a stage crowded with instruments ranging from a harp to a bongo drum - and a wild-haired songstress to beat it.
Tonight, george will take its broad approach to music a step further by performing the first of three sold-out shows with the Symphony Orchestra in the grandeur of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.
The performance combines symphony pieces with george hits including Bastard Son, Release and Special Ones.
The musical passion culminates with former Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord doing Concerto for Group and Orchestra, which he and george have specially re-adapted.
"I'm so happy that this piece of music, my baby, has been so amenable to change," Lord told The Daily Telegraph yesterday.
"George is perfect for the concerto. They play young people's progressive rock. They play what they want to play and they don't conform to popular trends."
Although george members vow they will never lose touch with their musical and artistic roots, their growing popularity is undeniable, given they were the first sell-out act of the Festival.
"The mainstream success does help but, primarily, our focus is on challenging ourselves as musicians," bass guitarist Paulie B said.
"Not many pop bands get the opportunity to play with the Sydney Symphony in the Opera House Concert Hall."

Expect this concerto to go all the way up to 11
© Sydney Morning Herald

January 23 2003

Made in Australia ... Deep Purple founder Jon Lord gives Nick Stewart from Brisbane band george some last-minute direction for tomorrow's performance of his psychedelic rock epic Concerto for Band and Orchestra. Joining Lord's choice rockers on stage at the Opera House will be the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. The concert is part of the Sydney Festival.

Photo: Fiona-Lee Quimby

With strings attached
© Sydney Morning Herald
January 18 2003

Their first CD has gone double platinum. They're about to play with the Sydney Symphony at the
Opera House. And for Brisbane group george, writes Sacha Molitorisz, that's just the beginning.

'It's been an incredible year," says Tyrone Noonan. "An amazing year. It's been surreal, a little bit scary at times, and I think we all had our own little freak-out dealing with fame and success. But I think we've all gotten through fairly unscathed and managed to keep everyone on the ground."
This is no hype: the past year has been extraordinary for Noonan, just as it has been for his sister, Katie, and for guitarist Nick Stewart, bassist Paul Bromley and drummer Geoff Green. They are the five members of george, who 12 months ago were just another Australian band with a silly name and limited prospects.
Granted, since forming in 1996 they had become as polished as they were talented, but then that was also true of, say, Two Litre Dolby (a Sydney trio from the late '90s - RIP). From george's rehearsal room in Brisbane, it must have looked like a very long way to the top.
Then, last March, they reached the top. After three EPs, the band's first album, polyserena, became only the 10th debut album by an Australian band to go straight to No.1 on its release. Over the following months it didn't so much pitch camp as build a house at the summit, an amazing achievement considering most major hits on the Australian charts are scored by overseas artists. The last time he looked, says Noonan, polyserena had sold 160,000 copies - that is, gone double platinum.
In between a relentless schedule of concerts in Australia, Europe and Japan, the band also won an ARIA for best new artist and Tyrone and Katie performed at the Sydney Opera House with the string quartet FourPlay.
"That was a big deal," says Tyrone. "The last person from our family to perform there was our mum, 20 years ago." Mum is the soprano Maggie Noonan, with whom Tyrone says he "will probably work on something one day - maybe some type of classical-electronic crossover".
Last February the band performed live with the Queensland Orchestra. "That was the most amazing musical experience of my life," Tyrone says. "My keyboard rig was set up near eight double basses. You just can't beat the raw power of 100 people on stage, the pure power of that humanity all working at once."
Curiously, the main piece that george played with the Queensland ensemble was Concerto for Group and Orchestra, a classical epic composed by Deep Purple's Jon Lord. Originally performed in 1969 by Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, it mixes grandiose strings and woodwinds with psychedelic rock.
From Thursday, as part of the Sydney Festival, george will team up with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for three more performances of the concerto. The venue is the Sydney Opera House, where george will be joined by Lord.
"I heard a tape of george [performing the concerto] last year," says Lord from Britain. "And I was knocked out. They did all sorts of things I didn't expect. I'd just done close to 40 performances of it around the world for its 30th anniversary, then to hear it done in such a wonderful, spot-on style by george, who are much more suave than Deep Purple, was great."
The history of the concerto is fascinating. After a performance at the Hollywood Bowl in 1970, the score was lost, stopping a devastated Lord from resurrecting the piece for its 25th anniversary in 1994. But in 1999, a Dutch student walked up to Lord in the lobby of a Rotterdam hotel and revealed he had spent two years re-creating the score using a CD recording, video footage and a computer. After nearly 30 years, the concerto was back.
And george wanted to play it. "It's a serious classical work, an amazing composition," insists Tyrone. "It's reminiscent of composers like Holst and Vaughan Williams. There are also elements of Bach in there."
Says Lord: "The nice thing is that at the Sydney Opera House, george are going to play it their way and I'm going to fit in with them."
It's no great surprise that george are fans of Lord's concerto, and that Lord is a new fan of george. Though the pretty pop songs on polyserena - and particularly its biggest single, the lilting, piano-driven ballad special ones - are far removed from hard rock anthems such as Smoke on the Water, both george and Deep Purple bring classical influences to their music.
Like Lord, both the Noonans are classically trained. Indeed, all george's members are highly accomplished musicians. This lends many of their songs a delicacy evocative of Tori Amos or Jeff Buckley, instead of three-chord rockers like AC/DC.
"Sure, we have had classical training," says Katie, "but that training can produce people who don't sing with a lot of heart because it's so disciplined. Some of the best musicians in the world do not know how to read music. I love Hendrix and Zeppelin as much as I appreciate Bach."
And george refuse to relinquish artistic control: "We haven't compromised ... we decide who the producer is, where we'll record, what the single will be," says Katie. That control is spelt out in the group's contract with Festival Mushroom Records."
The band served a long musical apprenticeship, taking time to improve and mature before finally recording and releasing polyserena. Nor are the Noonans wide-eyed, gullible teenagers looking for a deal at any cost: Tyrone is 32, Katie 25.
A former investigative journalist with a passion for politics, Tyrone is unashamedly outspoken. He finds the Bush-Saddam stand-off "all very troubling when you realise how ridiculously selfish the motives are". He was surprised when the Howard Government sent george a congratulatory letter last year on the success of polyserena. "That won't change my opinion of its policies on immigration, indigenous affairs and the environment," he says.
george has given him a platform, a soapbox from which to share his views. It has also delivered the financial security to pursue wider musical ambitions. He has two side projects simmering away: one is a jazz album he is recording which features original tracks and reinterpretations of everything from Latin music to songs by David Bowie and Radiohead, the other an electronic project called T2 . Meanwhile, Katie is working on her own side project, Elixir, a jazz-influenced acoustic trio.
But the priority remains george, and after such an extraordinary year, the band feels under some pressure to deliver again this year.
"It took us six years to do the first album," Tyrone says. "There is a sense of, 'Can we pull it off again?' This time we don't have a huge back catalogue of material. But I think that our songwriting has become a lot better."
One factor in george's favour is the relationship between the Noonan siblings, the band's chief songwriters. While admitting to occasional friction, they say their rivalry is much more productive than destructive. "There's an extreme openness of communication," says Katie. "But it comes from a place of love and respect. We're very different and very similar at the same time."
Tyrone adds: "Working so closely with someone from my family has caused some tensions. But I think Katie and I have learnt a lot, it's certainly brought us a lot closer together and made us stronger."
What's more, Tyrone is happy to step back and let his sister be the frontperson, not just because of her soaring soprano, but because he feels she is a good role model in an industry where women are sadly under-represented.
That said, Tyrone says his general strategy is not to take things too seriously: "If you do that, you can do your head in. Though it's nice to get recognition from your peers at something like the ARIAs, that's not why you do it. At the end of the day it's just music, and it's just a question of whether it touches people - and our music seems to.
"Recently I was pulled aside and told a story about a woman whose brother committed suicide. She had said that the album was a form of therapy for her. I just said, 'Thank you so much for coming up to me and telling me that. That's given me all the inspiration I need to keep going.'
"That's what it's all about," he concludes. "Not record sales, or ARIA awards, or red carpet walks."
george will play with Jon Lord and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House on January 23, 25 and 26.

By george - they've done it
1996 Katie, Tyrone and friends play their first show as a jazz/rock band at a university band competition in Brisbane. Someone suggests the name George. It sticks.
1997 Play a swag of live shows.
1998 Release their first, self-titled EP.
1999 Release their second independent EP, You Can Take What's Mine.
2000 Cementing the band's current line-up, bassist Geoff Hooten is replaced by Paul Bromley. A third independent EP, Bastard Son/Holiday, is released.
2001 Sign a three-album deal with Festival Mushroom Records and release the singles Bastard Son, sung by Tyrone, and Special Ones, sung by Katie. They also develop a profound phobia of capital letters.
2002 Release polyserena, which becomes only the 10th debut album by an Australian band to enter the charts at No. 1. It goes on to sell 160,000 copies and counting.

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