Jon Lord dies aged 71

The Deep Purple founder, who co-wrote "Smoke On The Water", has died.

His website simply carried the statement “Jon passes from Darkness to Light”, adding that the musician was “surrounded by his loving family” when he died, following an extended battle with pancreatic cancer.

Lord announced last year that he was “fighting cancer and will therefore be taking a break from performing while getting the treatment and cure”, but would continue writing music.

The Leicester-born keyboardist first took classical music lessons before turning towards movements in rock and roll. He studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London on a scholarship prior to joining cult blues band the Artwoods in 1964 and touring with The Flowerpot Men.
 
Lord founded Deep Purple in 1968, and over the following years started to draw a path towards the harsher sound of heavy metal. The 70s hard rock pioneers featured singer Ian Gillan, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, drummer Ian Paice and bassist Roger Glover. The British rockers achieved mass success in the early 1970s with classic albums including In Rock and Machine Head. The band went on to sell over 100 million albums, often featuring Lord’s propulsive, classically influenced Hammond B-3 organ, distorted via Marshall amplification. Lord co-wrote the legendary "Smoke On The Water" - a seminal moment in Deep Purple history.
 
Lord’s signature propensity for classical fusion manifested in Concerto for Group and Orchestra, performed by the band and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold at the Royal Albert Hall in 1969.  Lord’s vision was ostensibly driven by a desire to dissolve the barriers of superior “academic” music. “We’re as valid as anything by Beethoven,” he told the NME in 1973. 
 
Deep Purple split in 1976. Lord then played with hard rock act Whitesnake before joining a reformed Deep Purple in 1984.
 
Jon Lord (Photo: Getty)

En Liang Khong is an arts writer and cellist.

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The radio station where the loyal listeners are chickens

Emma Hills, the head chicken trainer at Giffords Circus, knows what gets them clucking.

“The music is for the chickens, because of course on the night the music is very loud, and so it needs to be a part of their environment from the very start.” Emma Hills, the head chicken trainer at Giffords Circus, is standing in the sawdusty ring under a big top in a field outside Stroud as several rare-breed chickens wander freely around boxes and down ramps. They are the comic stars of the summer 2017 show, and Emma is coaxing them to walk insouciantly around the ring while she plays the early-morning show on Radio 1.

It’s the chickens’ favourite station. There seems to be something about its longueurs, combined with the playlist, that gets them going – if that’s the word. They really do respond to the voices and songs. “It’s a bit painful, training,” Emma observes, as she moves a little tray of worms into position as a lure. “It’s a bit like watching paint dry sometimes. It’s all about repetition.”

Beyond the big top, a valley folds into limestone hills covered in wild parsley and the beginnings of elderblossom. Over the radio, Adele Roberts (weekdays, from 4am) hails her listeners countrywide. “Hello to Denzel, the happy trucker going north on the M6. And van driver Niki on the way from Norwich to Coventry, delivering all the things.” Pecking and quivering, the chickens are rather elegant, each with its fluffy, caramel-coloured legs and explosive feather bouffant, like a hat Elizabeth Taylor might have worn on her way to Gstaad in the 1970s.

Despite a spell of ennui during the new Harry Styles single, enthusiasm resumes as Adele bids “hello to Simon from Bournemouth on the M3 – he’s on his way to Stevenage delivering meat”. I don’t imagine Radio 1 could hope for a better review: to these pretty creatures, its spiel is as thrilling as opening night at the circus. Greasepaint, swags of velvet, acrobats limbering up with their proud, ironic grace. Gasps from beholders rippling wonder across the stalls.

Emma muses that her pupils learn fast. Like camels, a chicken never forgets.

“I’ve actually given up eating them,” she admits. “Last year I had only two weeks to train and it was like, ‘If they pull this off I won’t eat chicken ever again.’ And they did. So I didn’t.” 

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain

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