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“If Life Was Easy” Liner Notes


During a stop in Istanbul a few years ago, I fell in love with the sound of the baglama – a seven stringed instrument resembling a cross between a lute and a sitar.  I had to buy one, of course, but my attempts at mastering it are pitiful compared the amazing Turkish masters. However, being a drone type of instrument it seemed to fit neatly in this track, which was initially inspired by an unknown African drone song I heard somewhere.  When I played the unfinished track to Randall, he was inspired to sing over it and so we wrote the song over it together.  Oddly enough, I heard a Turkish version of Smoke On The Water where the strings slide around the riff and so I incorporated that idea into the chorus section, thanks to Harvey Jones and his keyboards.


This groove appeared a few years ago and I made a demo but was never happy singing it.  By the time I’d got the demo in the studio and added drums, guitar and organ, the song seemed to demand a tough, gravelly voice.  I could think of no one better than Dan McCafferty.  Since my early days, producing three Nazareth albums, we have kept in touch over the years and so I called my old friends.  Pete and Dan liked the song and agreed to put their distinctive voices on it.   It’s a song of resignation at the break up of a relationship, tinged with regret, pain, guilt, and escape.


For me, the key to figure out what a song is about is usually suggested by the mood of the track. I had the instrumental idea floating around for some time and sensed that there was a good song there somewhere but it seemed elusive.  I had almost given up on it when one, night, out of the blue, it appeared almost fully formed as I started thinking about the magic moment when two people fall hopelessly in love – something I know a little about.  I had never envisioned a female singing it but I asked Gillian to have a go and the song came alive.


Here is the notion that, as individuals, we are usually so preoccupied with the mundane details of daily life that we can’t relate or respond to events in the world around us.    Musically, this started life as a completely different idea but after messing around with it, the Ska feel developed, giving me an excuse to play my Godin fretless bass in the style of the first music that touched my soul – skiffle, although this is far from a skiffle song.


Packed in shoeboxes, drawers, old suitcases and in piles on shelves, I have thousands of recordings of snippets of song ideas gathering dust – mostly because they’re not that good.  I came across this idea one day, I have no idea when I did it.   Less than a minute long, it was me playing a very distorted Strat over a beat, but there were enough parts there to edit it into a complete arrangement.  The lyrics turned it into an angry song directed at several targets, the main one being the legal imbroglio associated with a difficult divorce.


My girlfriend Myriam had a Spanish guitar hanging around her apartment and every time I stayed with her I would pick it up and idly pluck this sequence.  Over time I began to realise that there was a song lurking there somewhere.  The title came from something I was fond of saying at the time, if life were easy… everyone would be doing it!  I changed ‘were’ to ‘was’ because it sounded better to my ears.  I had intended to record a studio version but I played this demo to my mother Brenda a few months before she passed away and she loved it so much she had to hear it every day.  So, in her memory, I decided to leave it untouched.


Randall heard my demo of this and felt he could add something to it.   All I had was the chorus but he came up with the verses, he’s such a naturally gifted writer.  Even when we had finished it, I felt it lacked something and asked Don Airey if he would like to contribute.  He tried several keyboards, which didn’t quite fit, but when he played his Pianet, it all came together.  Oz Noy’s guitar solo was done in just one take as we recorded the track.


A headline caught my eye… water had been found on the moon.   For fun, and on a whim, I wrote this silly song.  I find myself writing stuff all the time and in fact threw about twenty songs out before I settled for the sixteen that are on this album.  I almost threw this out as well but Peter Denenberg, my co-producer, sound engineer and faithful friend, convinced me to leave it in.


I had a title and a demo of the backing track but the song eluded me.  I played it to Gillian one day and asked if she had any ideas.  What she came up with blew me away.  She wrote words and a melody that I would never have imagined.  I took the demo to the studio and invited my friends in the Guilty Party to add what they felt like playing over it.  I prefer let musicians find their own way rather than tell them what to do.  As with Gillian’s writing, they invariably come up with unexpected gems.


I discovered this long forgotten song, which I think I wrote about ten years ago, on an old cassette.  It was almost like listening to somebody else’s song when I heard it again.  Since I couldn’t find the original multi-track, I was limited to this mix, this raw demo, which is the way it has stayed.  The thing that amazes me is that the lyrics uncannily predict the decade of uncertainty, pain and expense that lay ahead.  I can’t remember writing them but they certainly are prescient.


I’m not a keyboard player but I love to mess around with chords.  The advantage about having no pressure to produce songs means that experimentation is the norm.  This song started life very differently to the way it ended up.  I asked Walther Gallay, the singer with Café Bertrand (our tour support for several French tours) to sing this because I liked the character in his voice.  When he arrived at my place, I hadn’t written any lyrics at all.  After a long journey he was very tired and slept late, allowing me to figure something out.  Sometimes pressure is a positive thing and the next morning I came up with the lyrics almost instantly – just before he walked in to sing them.  Sim Jones, who plays violin in my daughter Gillian’s band, plays the beautiful string arrangement.


It was during the making of Deep Purple’s Bananas in Los Angeles that I bought the travel version of ProTools, called M-Powered.  As I was investigating how it functioned, I came up with this simple chord sequence that gestated for many years before I finally wrote the song over it.  Again, it is a demo that I left untouched; it is often the case that attempting to record a ‘proper’ version of a demo results in what may be a better recording but in the process, the charm that it once had is lost.  The song is about the gaping space left behind after a break up.


We had fun recording this but the message of the song is disturbing.  It is the notion that one person can own another, even to the extent of keeping them locked in captivity.  Some relationships are like that.  My good friend Joe Mennonna came up with the horn arrangement and Gillian brought a new dimension to the lyrics.


Old photographs tell nostalgic stories but what if you realise many years later that things were not what you thought they were? I tried to evoke the slowly dawning feeling that that you were deceived and betrayed by a lover from long ago.  I asked Mickey Lee Soule (Ronnie James Dio’s writing partner in Elf) to sing this for the same reason I asked him, in 1974, to sing on The Butterfly Ball – his personality-laden voice.


Sometimes I listen to this song and wonder where it came from. Sometimes songs appear as if they were always there, you just stumbled upon them. This is one such song.   I actually can’t remember writing it.  Lyrically, it is a salutary lesson that what you put out comes back at you.  One of the guitars I use on it is a Tin-Tone guitar, made by John Free in London, and constructed out of a chair leg and a biscuit tin.


With all the varied emotions that the last ten years or so have brought, touring with Deep Purple has been a constant joy, and this song attempts to show a typical day in the life on the road.  A friend of a friend, Sahaj Ticotin, who had the high voice I was looking for, sings it.  He recorded it in Los Angeles and sent to me in New York.  These days of technological wonder makes things like this easy to achieve.

4 thoughts on ““If Life Was Easy” Liner Notes

  1. Martin Daniel wrote on 2017-01-22:

    Hi Roger, greetings from Australia. Love this album, feel like a king is my pick of the songs,
    Regards Martin

  2. Michiel B. wrote on 2016-02-25:

    There’s a bit of The Beatles in ‘The Car Won’t Start’. Very nice & interesting song.

  3. Youssef Reichdan wrote on 2011-10-15:

    About the “Ghost of your Smile”; you´re totally wrong. She never ever betrayed you, not even in thought…

  4. Debbie wrote on 2011-09-21:

    Hi Rog, Thank you for sharing your music and thoughts with us. Baring ones heart in private can be hard enough at times, but for the world to see…. I love your honesty and passion and I thank you for trusting us with your heart. Please come back to Brisbane soon. Love you heaps, Debbie