Book Reviews

Tommy Bolin – In And Out Of Deep Purple: Book Review

Tommy Bolin might not be the obvious candidate for a music bio but the world of music fandom holds no boundaries. Laura Shenton explores why Bolin is so much more than a Richie Blackmore replacement.

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Laura Shenton offers a strong case for the defence in her analysis/bio of Tommy Bolin and his musical adventures during a brief career before his death at the age of 25. Like King Lear, a character who was probably more sinned against than sinning.

The Deep Purple connection, very brief if truth be told, is the high profile tag that most people associate with Tommy Bolin. It seems he joined a band that was imploding and set on a destructive course despite anything that happened during his short tenure.

Like the manager of the English national football team, taking a place in Deep Purple in the Seventies, especially one vacated by such a strong presence, sees a poisoned chalice. Blackmore’s position as an iconic original member was one that required a thick skin and nerves of steel. Perhaps that wasn’t in the job description as, despite the musical talent and originality Bolin brought, the test proved too much. Come Taste The Band the album was ok, treading some new and energetic ground (that didn’t always fit the Purple expectation) the tour broke the band and Bolin.

His Deep Purple period is well documented along with the pre and post periods and large portions of the text are devoted to quotes from the main players from various sources. They highlight the occasional contradictory statements about Bolin – Coverdale swings to and fro like the wind on his assessment and comments on Bolin who was unusually sensitive to any criticism especially on the final 1976 UK dates when a catcall from the audience would be impossible to ignore or recover from.

Almost inevitably, you’re never too far away from a mention of the man in black (dare we speak his name…) such does his shadow loom ever ominously. Despite the swings and roundabout manner that dog Bolin’s career plenty speak well of him and his association with the great Billy Cobham (the presence of Spectrum weighs heavily) says a lot.

A discography and chart of live performances (surprisingly few to be honest) complete the round up. A musician where you know the name but a chance to broaden your knowledge and understanding of the man whose passing over forty years ago has still left an ongoing legacy.

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