Jon Lord: A personal tribute
Writer Neil Jeffries was so moved by Deep Purple legend Jon Lord’s recent demise, he felt compelled to write a personal tribute. Plus: listen to Classic Rock‘s Geoff Barton talk about Lordy’s career on BBC Radio 4 FM tomorrow.
If you’re near a radio tomorrow (Friday, July 20) then don’t forget to tune into BBC Radio 4 FM at 16.00 GMT. That’s when Geoff Barton will be paying tribute to Jon Lord on the station’s obituary series Last Word. If you miss it, it’s repeated on Sunday, July 22 at 20.30 GMT. (Word is they’ve managed to secure a rare interview with Ritchie Blackmore as well.)
There follows Neil Jeffries’ recollections of the great man…
Jon Lord (1941-2012)
I first met Jon Lord in 1983 at Henley-on-Thames railway station where I’d gone with photographer Robert Ellis to do a story for Kerrang! to coincide with Whitesnake’s headline appearance at Donington in August of that year. As a huge fan of Deep Purple, and latterly Whitesnake, I was excited to be asked to interview him, along with Micky Moody while David Coverdale was – if memory serves – recording in the US.
Jon pulled up at the station in his Range Rover, and greeted us with a warm smile and a friendly handshake, his trademark aviator shades in place on his nose and a very un-rock’n'roll pair of sandals on his bare feet.
There were no airs or graces as he helped Robert load his camera gear into the boot, explaining the case of beer in there was for us that afternoon and apologising that he hadn’t it earlier so it would be better chilled.
As I now digest the news of Jon’s passing I remember that day like it was yesterday…
It was warm enough for us to sit outside his large and beautiful house, relaxing and sipping beer – from glasses not the bottle because Jon was as classy as the beautiful white piano in the lounge we walked through to reach the terrace.
At one point he went back inside to the nursery upstairs and emerged on a balcony with a tiny toy piano on which he the riff to Smoke On The Water, making a sweeping gesture as he finished and joking: “It paid for all this, you know!”
Jon wasn’t showing off, just being an amusing host. Robert was disappointed to see Jon duck back into the house before he could grab his camera but I had a sense that Jon had imagined that the image of him dwarfed by his huge country pile might make him look boastful, and he was too much of a gentleman to let that happen…
They say never meet your heroes, but they weren’t talking about Jon Lord. He was an extraordinary talent who has left us a wealth of music that is both important and inspirational. For this much we can be grateful, but the world is a poorer place for his passing and I am very saddened by it.
– Neil Jeffries