When Ritchie Blackmore Melted Down Onstage at a Deep Purple Show
What fans saw on Nov. 9, 1993, at the NEC Arena in Birmingham, England, wasn't anything like the promised 25th anniversary celebration of Deep Purple. It was, instead, one of the final nights with founding member Ritchie Blackmore.
The guitarist didn't take the stage with the rest of Deep Purple as the concert began, forcing Ian Gillan and company to begin an opening rendition of "Highway Star" without him. Blackmore finally joined them midway through, unleashing a snarky, disinterested solo, but when a cameraman filming the concert for future release got too close, a clearly peeved Blackmore threw a drink toward him. The next shot, of Gillan, finds the lens dripping with water.
It was a turning point in an ever-worsening relationship. Four shows later, Blackmore officially quit. Deep Purple was forced to bring in Joe Satriani to finish a series of dates in Japan booked for that December. Steve Morse would ultimately take over in 1994.
Plenty of hard feelings still remain.
Watch Deep Purple Perform 'Highway Star'
"This situation ended, and we’re all glad it ended, and we had to rebuild," Gillan said years later. "If Ritchie had stayed in the band, it would have been the end of Deep Purple. The shows were getting shorter and shorter, the audiences were getting smaller and smaller. We were playing in small halls, and they weren’t even full — they were half empty — and Ritchie was walking offstage every night.”
Despite the dust-up in Birmingham, Sony eventually released the concert footage anyway – forcing Gillan into the position of asking Deep Purple fans not to buy it. "It was one of the lowest points of my life – all our lives, actually," he said. "There is no nostalgia involved."