RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Ian Gillan – Highway Star: The Autobiography of Deep Purple’s Lead Singer (Book)
Lesser Gods


Rating: B+

As the legendary Deep Purple are seemingly taking their final bows in concert halls around the world this year, the timing for a re-launch of lead singer Ian Gillan’s autobiography couldn’t be better.  Originally written and published in the late 90’s (with a revised paperback edition coming out as recently as last year in the U.K.), Highway Star as it’s now been branded is the first US edition and comes courtesy of Lesser Gods Publishing out of  NYC.

So, what’s changed you ask? Well, apart from a new prologue (which is essentially a transcript of his Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction speech for the band) penned by Metallica drummer and Deep Purple mega-fan Lars Ulrich, this is pretty much the same book Gillan put out at the end of the last century. Not that this is a bad thing, but it should be noted that for whatever reason, Highway Star hasn’t been updated to bring his story into the present, as it concludes just around the time the band were releasing their sixteenth studio album Abandon in 1998.

Although it runs a tad on the slim side at just a shade over two hundred pages Highway Star is an entertaining read from start to finish that captures all of the highs and lows of Ian’s storied career. From the early days fronting Episode Six, to his initial ascent to rock stardom with Purple, the subsequent crashes in ’73 and again at the end of the 80’s, through his solo career and the brief, ill pairing with Black Sabbath for Born Again in 1983, it’s all covered here with Gillan’s trademark humor and panache. Fans of the MK II lineup of Purple are going to want to add this book to their collection, even if just to get Ian’s perspective on what can arguably be the most prolific and inventive period of the bands career. Not to mention his perspective on the often volatile relationship with his former guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, as he struggled to work alongside and figure out the thought process and motivations behind the notorious man in black. Just as creative tension has a tendency to explode and at times yield flashes of brilliance, the flip side is that it can also lead to fractured relationships, and yet it was this type of push / pull dynamic that existed, especially between Gillan and Blackmore, that remarkably allowed them to deliver some of the most explosive and exhilarating hard rock the world has ever seen.

Highway Star just confirms what we’ve known all along and that is, in addition to being a world class rock ‘n roll belter, who’s certainly enjoyed the odd tipple or two and reaped the fruits of stardom, Ian Gillan is also a master storyteller. He is the true personification of what a rock ‘n roll front man is supposed to be and as a vocalist he stands alone in rock as a true original who bravely carved out his own path right from the onset. Although at seventy two he might not be able to offer up one of those blood curdling screams at the drop of the hat these days, Ian has proven time and time again to be a true survivor, so much so in fact that I like to think his life story could be called “The Last Man Standing”, but hey that’s just me.

By Ryan “In Rock” Sparks.