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(Credit: Alamy)


The infamous concert that saw Deep purple's Ritchie Blackmore attack a cameraman


Deep Purple’s set at the California Jam concert in 1974 is one of the most notorious performances in rock history. Held at the Ontario Motor Speedway, well over 200,000 fans attended the festival to watch the likes of Emerson, Lake & Palmer – and that was just the people who officially bought tickets. As you would expect, chaos came to define the day’s proceedings, culminating in one of the most outrageous displays of on-stage violence of all time.

Deep Purple headlined The California Jam concert when they were at the height of their fame. With sales of their 1974 LP, Burn, rocketing and their live set honed after months on the road, the band was buzzing with excitement. Unfortunately, the festival itself was running ahead of schedule, so despite the fact that Deep Purple wasn’t supposed to go onstage until sunset, organisers tried to convince them to go on early.

Deep Purple refused and, as a result, were very nearly axed from the lineup. And when I say nearly, it was practically a foregone conclusion. The festival organiser was steps away from the microphone, where he was about to announce that Deep Purple would no longer be performing when he was overtaken by the band’s tour manager, who asked the expectant crowd if they were ready to see the band, to which they screamed, unequivocally, yes.

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But the atmosphere had already been soured. Deep Purple delivered an astonishing set, a real feat considering their frustration with the festival’s bureaucratic and demanding attitude. The cameramen on either side of the stage kept trying to communicate with the band members while they were playing, ordering them to stay within the frame. Eventually, it all got too much for guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who, wielding a guitar, lunged for one of the cameramen only to slam the butt of his Stratocaster into the lens of an enormous camera.

Still not satisfied, he decided to pull the guitar into its constituent part, throwing its body into the air and stamping on it until it was nothing but a pile of wood and steel with nothing hanging it together. After picking up a new guitar, his huge stack of amps exploded into flames, catching his hair and forcing him to dash for the lip of the stage. It’s incredible to watch and a real reminder of the sheer audacity of groups such as Deep Purple, for whom destruction was an essential aspect of their live act.

See the performance, below.