With the exception of a fart in an elevator, nothing has the power to perturb quite like cinema. A horror can grab you by the shoulders and rattle you witless like a pinball in-play during an earthquake. With the thrills and spills of scary movies proving so universally effectual, it is no surprise that musicians have tried to coax some of that artistic immediacy to lend a visceral edge to songs. Sometimes they are an attempt to directly transpose the big screen to the song sheet, whereas other times the spooky scenes simply filter through.
When it comes to Deep Purple, the rockers clearly thought that you’re best off borrowing from only the best material and they focused their attention on one of the greatest horror movies ever made—if not the best for that matter. In fact, the band were so enamoured by the film that they accept it became a fascination for them. The film in question is none other than the counterculture classic Rosemary’s Baby.
As it happens, few songs in history have been as directly inspired by a movie as this one. In a fan Q&A the producer of Deep Purple’s self-titled third album, Derek Lawrence, recalled the inception of this track: “I do remember that the boys went to see Rosemary’s Baby at the cinema and came back and wrote ‘Why Didn’t Rosemary’,” almost immediately.
Roman Polanski’s iconic horror movie proved to be one of the most important pictures in the whole of the late sixties counterculture movement for its liberated views and artistic vision. The film is based on the 1967 Ira Levin novel of the same name in which the unfortunate Rosemary, played by the actress Mia Farrow with expert distress in the adaptation, is impregnated by the Devil. Thus, Deep Purple, ask rather glibly, why Rosemary didn’t take the pill?
The song is a classic 14-bar blues piece, complete with the late sixties trope of organ overtones and some typically searing guitar work by Richie Blackmore. It’s far from spooky, but it’s one hell of a toe-tapper, and most importantly from a retrospective point of view, the meeting of Deep Purple’s iconic sound and the film itself is an ineffably cool collision.
Film and band alike somehow manage to capture the zeitgeist. Although the song takes the serious subjects in the subtext of the film and gives them a twist of humour, you can almost picture the band still musing over the plot in the studio. This all seems fitting as Richie Blackmore once said himself: “They used to complain at school that I looked out of the window for long periods of time – that sums up my life. I like to look out the window, do nothing, daydream.”