Deep Purple have had their fair share of lineup changes since their formation in 1968 – however, for one night only in 1984, their rock family tree even extended to The Beatles, as George Harrison joined them on stage to perform the Little Richard classic Lucille in Sydney, Australia.
Although the camera angle is far from ideal, the fact that footage exists of Ritchie Blackmore trading licks with George Harrison – the latter armed with Blackmore's Olympic White 1974 Fender Stratocaster, no less – alone makes the video below a must-watch.
Harrison had all but retired from music following the 1982 release of his tenth studio album Gone Troppo, which underperformed commercially (it was his only post-Beatles record not to hit the US top 20), describing himself in a 1982 interview as “a middle-aged ex-popstar” and a “peaceseeker, gardener, and ex-celeb.”
However, while on an extended holiday in Australia, the ex-Beatle caught the bug to get back on stage with a little help from his friends. “They're my neighbors – two of them, Jon [Lord] and Ian [Paice],” Harrison explained in a 1987 interview. “I've known them now for probably eight or nine years. They were so famous in the '70s, but I got to know them in the period after they'd broken up before they reformed. So, I never knew their music.”
Harrison had reportedly grown disinterested in current music trends at the time, and had become more reclusive. With his interests mainly outside of music, he'd even refused to promote Gone Troppo.
“I'd heard this one thing about Smoke on the Water or something like that. I'd never actually seen them. I'd heard that they're in the Guinness Book of Records for being the loudest group in the world,” Harrison said, referring to the band's 1972 London Rainbow Theatre gig, a now-infamous show that reportedly saw audience members passing out due to band’s 117 dB attack.
“I was in Australia at the time, and they happened to be doing a concert in Sydney. So, I thought I'd go and check them out, get my earplugs, and go and see them.”
Harrison seemed skeptical of Deep Purple at the time – referring to their achievements in sound pressure levels and stage antics – however, he clearly enjoyed and respected their music enough to accept the band's offer to (briefly) join them on stage.
“I really enjoyed the show,” says Harrison. “I sat on the stage for part of the show behind the loudspeakers, and then I walked down and sat right in the center of the hall, and it wasn't too loud. It was really funny. I liked it. I thought Ian, who's my neighbor, is such a good drummer – Jon Lord, rocking his organ. And Ian Gillan, he's just a scream.”
The Beatles had to cut their live performance days short in 1966, largely because the technology of the time struggled to propel the band's hits over the hoards of screaming fans. It's hard not to imagine that Harrison would have loved some of Purple's sonic firepower for those Shea Stadium shows...
On how he ended up joining Deep Purple for the final number, Harrison explains, “They said, 'Here's the guitar, come on.' So I just went on. I was playing the wrong key and everything, but it didn't seem to matter.”
Indeed, Harrison would make only a handful of further onstage appearances until his death in 2001 – typically mini-sets for charity or tribute concerts.
Harrison's most recent posthumous contribution to music can be found on The Beatles' latest release, Now and Then. The single, first worked on by Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr in the mid-1990s, lay dormant and unfinished until film director Peter Jackson and his team helped to rescue Lennon's voice from a rough 1977 demo tape. It is being billed as the final track to feature performances from all four Beatles.
Get The Pick Newsletter
All the latest guitar news, interviews, lessons, reviews, deals and more, direct to your inbox!
The Editor in chief of Guitar Interactive since 2017, Jonathan has written online articles for Guitar World, Guitar Player and Guitar Aficionado over the last decade. He has interviewed hundreds of music's finest, including Slash, Joe Satriani, Kirk Hammett and Steve Vai, to name a few. Jonathan's not a bad player either, occasionally doing gear reviews, session work and online lessons for Lick Library.
“Listen to AC/DC and tell me Malcolm Young didn’t drive that band. Same with the Sex Pistols and Steve Jones. Those guys are tone merchants. That’s the club I wanted to be in”: Billy Morrison on kicking heroin, and becoming Steve Stevens' six-string foil
“I got into the Who when I was playing my Mom’s Martin. I thought it looked cool to do the windmill, but when my Mom saw how badly I scratched her guitar she said, ‘No more pick for you’”: Carolyn Wonderland on Tele Thinlines and Houston guitar heroes