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Considering it became one of the most popular and acclaimed live albums in rock history, it’s odd to now think that it was really only recorded and released in order to try and suppress the growing bootleg market for Deep Purple live recordings.
The double live album was soon to become a staple release of most rock bands at some point in their career, but back in the day, it was regarded by some in the early years of rock to be a bit of a cop out. You were releasing old music, after all, not new stuff. That is one of the reasons why Purple’s classic was priced as though it was a single album (£3.10 in UK in 1972) It cost just $3000 to record and the band, at the time, were quite dismissive and uninterested in it.
The fact was, the band and the record company completely misunderstood how fans felt. We loved live albums. It was a chance to hear what you might have missed on their last tour, or it was a chance to hear extended or radically different versions of album tracks. If you had seen the tour, it was a chance to relive the experience. To hear a band like Purple stretch out live was to hear music in an entirely different way to the shorter studio versions. It seems strange to think they didn’t understand or spot that, but the rock record business was still new and growing exponentially, I guess.
Bass player Roger Glover, interviewed at the time, “there are so many bootlegs of us going around, if we put out our own live set, it should kill their market.” In actual fact, it just expanded the interest in them. When we heard how great they were live, we wanted more. So rather than kill the market, Made In Japan just added petrol to the fire and dozens of live recordings soon became available. And we bought them. The idea that you could stop bootlegs by releasing your own live album was very misplaced, as was the notion that the band were losing money - this was additional spending - anyone who bought a bootleg live record already had all the official releases. This doesn't seem to have been understood at the time.
It’s odd with a 2020 head on to see how they didn’t understand the effect their music would have on listeners. There was an assumption that their fans would only want the official live album and that would satisfy them. They didn’t grasp just how loved there were and how exciting & compulsive the music was for us. I wanted to hear every one of their songs played live once I’d heard Made In Japan. It was so exciting, so irresistible and wild.
And it wasn’t even intended for the mass market.
"That double album ... wasn't meant to be released outside of Japan. They wound up putting it out anyway and it went platinum in about two weeks." Jon Lord.
It actually came out in Spring of ‘73 in the USA, 4 months after the UK because Warners were pushing Who Do We Think We Are. In UK it only got to #16 but USA put it up to #6 and got to the top of the charts in Germany, Austria and Canada.
It was the first live album I ever owned and to hear Blackmore’s slashing chords in the opening to Highway Star still sends a bolt of adrenalin up my spine and makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up and I expect it always will.