Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan on band’s financial woes: “It took a lot of lawsuits to see a penny”

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Despite Deep Purple still being one of the most significant classic rock bands in the world, frontman Ian Gillan has opened up about their financial woes, which prevented them from earning a fair income.

Gillan joined Deep Purple in 1969, and they quickly made themselves one of Britain’s most prominent bands thanks to their 1970 breakthrough release, Deep Purple in Rock. While Gillan should have been paid handsomely for his role in their dominance, which continued to grow over the next few years, he was on the breadline and eventually quit the band in 1973.

Although Gillan eventually returned to the fold in 1984 after a brief spell in Black Sabbath following Ozzy Osbourne’s exit, it was a difficult decade for the rock vocalist. Even now, money is still a worry, and Gillan admitted in a new interview with The Times, “I tend to have just enough for next week. I call the office each morning and say, ‘Can I afford this?’ Generally, the answer is no.”

Leaving the band was a difficult decision for Gillan. After all, they’d recently had back-to-back number one albums in the United Kingdom, back when that should have been highly lucrative and set him up for life, but reality was a different prospect. Things then turned bleaker, with Gillan admitting, “After that I didn’t get paid for ten years.”

He elaborated: “It took a lot of lawsuits to see a penny, and eventually the [band’s] accountant went to jail, but it was common in those days. When Roger [Glover, the bassist] and I joined in 1969, we shared one set of clothes between us so we couldn’t go out at the same time. Roger didn’t even own a pair of shoes. It’s not unknown for me to steal a handful of dog biscuits to get through the day.”

While the music side of their career went swimmingly, Gillan says “the thing we didn’t handle so well was the business side”, which was largely due to their former manager John Coletta.

At one stage, Gillan asked Coletta for an advance to allow him to buy clothes, which led to a heated argument between the pair. “The response from our manager John Coletta was, ‘I knew you were trouble the moment I set eyes on you. If you ask me for money one more time, I’ll throw you back in the gutter where I found you,’” he recalled.

Gillan added: “Those words are etched onto the back of my skull because I had never heard anything so horrible in my life. If you can ride through crap like that and come out the other side, you can cope with most things.”

Nevertheless, while Gillan may not have the same financial freedoms compared to his peers, he’s still going strong with Deep Purple, who are set to release their new album, =1, on July 19th. Furthermore, they have huge dates scheduled across Europe and North America over the next few months, including a performance at London’s O2 Arena in November.

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