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Music

Don Airey predicts Deep Purple will end on a "whimper"

Deep Purple keyboardist Don Airey suspects the band will end on a “whimper”. Evoking the words of T.S. Eliot, the keyboardist says that life usually doesn’t go hand in hand with mythology. 

“When you’re a musician in a band, you think you’re in control of it, but you’re not,” Airey told Rolling Stone in a recent interview. “The business is running you. Of course, there was so much demand for the band to continue from the promoters and agents that we said, ‘OK, we’ll do one more year.’ … I can’t say for certain, but hopefully, if things get better this year, we’ll be able to do a lap of honour. It’ll last longer than a year, is my guess.”

“The words of T.S. Eliot come to mind: ‘This is the way the band ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.’ I think we won’t know it’s the last gig,” he elaborated. 

Furthering the metaphor, he added, “We won’t have a clue that this one is going to be the last one. That’s how it’s going to end. It’s going to be no big scenario. … I like what Buddy Guy said. He said, ‘Musicians don’t retire. They drop.’ You do have thoughts about being in the garden and bouncing the grandchildren on your knee, but it’s part of your blood system, playing and touring. It’s an addiction. I hope I keep playing for a while yet.”

Airey was initially only supposed to fill in for keyboardist Jon Lord on a temporary basis but wound up becoming a full-time member. Due to miscommunication and misdirection on the band’s part, Airey only had 15 minutes of rehearsal with Deep Purple, before touring with them. “Roger said, ‘Shall we do ‘Woman From Tokyo?'” he recalled. “I said, ‘OK.’ At the end of it, Roger came up and said, ‘Welcome to the band.’ It had gone very well. And then Steve said, ‘We’ve got this song called ‘Fools.’ Do you know it?’ I go, ‘Yeah, a little bit.’ He said, ‘I’ve rewritten the middle of it.’ He taught me the middle, and that was the end of it.”

Lord retired from the band in 2002, and Airey has been sitting behind the keyboards ever since. Drummer Ian Paice has been the band’s only constant member.