Questions - you got 'em; answers - we got 'em

89 Once upon a gangsta-time, etymological considerations, spiritualism & depravity all wrapped up together, tax fuming & smog smoking, Faroe-way place invitation

From: Ole Simonsen3

Hi Ian

Thank you for "Now What" fantastic and Live in Montreaux 1996 - just watched at youtube, and your speach at the cultural institute - very entertaining. One question - I have read Sharon Osbournes biografi - and I have wondered, if you have ever had any encounters with gangsters involved in the music business she mentioned ruled Black Sabbath while staying in London in the sixties and early seventies? Yours sincerely

Ole Simonsen - longterm fan


Dear Ole,

Thanks for your letter.

I haven't read Sharon's book but I did know her vertically challenged father Don Levy (Arden), the manager of Black Sabbath, who was more of a thug and a bully than a proper gangster. I guess to qualify for that you need a gang rather than just a minder and some guns. Having said that, I found him quite endearing at times; when he wasn't threatening to dismember me for some perceived slight. And he was a pussy cat on Sundays when the red mist cleared and he would invite me for dinner.

Don was old school show biz.

Then there was Sammy Lee who promoted our first tour of Australia in '71. Sammy was another little James Cagney guy with a mini-gang called Jake, who was the archetypical frightening -looking hard man; six foot fourteen and chiselled from granite. Sammy used violence that I witnessed and Jake would produce a selection of guns from a briefcase; most notably on a Qantas flight from Perth to Melbourne. So, I suppose Sammy kind of qualified as a low level gangster.

The best gangster I ever came across was Raymond Nash, who ran the West End (Soho) of London in the early sixties. When I was with Episode Six we worked in one of his places, the Establishment Club in Greek Street. He had to be pretty tough holding his ground from The Krays in the East End and The Richardsons south of the river. Raymond was deported back to his native Lebanon where I had the pleasure of meeting him in'66 when we were working at the Casino du Liban near Beirut. He was a perfect gentleman; a classy, big time gangster.

There aren't many real gangsters anymore in my business, and those that do exist these days are bespoke suited.

We still have the same percentage of chancers, bullies and parasites as the rest of society but mostly the violence has gone and the threats now are mostly contractual.

Cheers, ig

Simon Hounsome

Hi Ian,

Where does the Ian Gillan Band album title 'Scarabus' come from and what does it mean?

I look forward to hearing back from you.


Simon Hounsome


Dear Simon,

It was inspired by Boris Karloff who played the part of Dr. Scarabus in the 1963 comedy/horror movie 'The Raven', which was loosely based upon Edgar Allen Poe's book of the same name.

Also in the film were Vincent Price (Dr. Erasmus Craven), Peter Lorre (Dr. Adolphus Bedlo), a young Jack Nicholson (Rexford Bedlo) and - the lust of my callow years - Hazel Court (Lenore Craven).

Cheers, ig


Hello your IGness

Easy question. Could you explain the background to "Abbey Of Thelema", as far as your interest in Aleister Crowley is concerned and your opinion of the Thelema whose tenet is 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law'? Was this 'cultural dilettantism' (sorry, no offence meant), or do you have an interest in this kind of thing?

PS Saw you on Bonfire Night 1981 at Sheffield City Hall 'on my own' - none of my friends were bothered! - and it was smashing! Do you still keep in touch with Colin?

Thanks for your time and keep screaming!



Dear Mark,

Thank you for your kind words and interesting question.

Cultural dilettantism eh? You may be right; but the occult then was prime ground for young febrile minds; 'The Devil Rides Out' by Dennis Wheatley was required reading in the 60's. We skipped like stones across the waters of sexual depravity which, in my case, meant even daring to think about it. I had already accepted the fact that I was a perverted monster; this according to my grandmother, who frequently described me as an 'evil, wicked' child (/Post WW2/Post Victorian conflict; I was five years old, she was well over a hundred and thirty). Our wickedness all seemed quite normal to me and my little friends, so the devil in me took root.

Crowley (demonised as the most evil man on earth; out of my class) rejected religion for more esoteric versions of god and I have done the same, although my journey has been quieter.

I have a long term interest in these things, as I do in all aspects of spirituality, and what may have been callow titillation at the time is now an elemental ingredient in a broader field.

'Do what thou wilt…' is essentially anarchic as it must embrace taboos and eventually lead to rule breaking. I'll go along with that although I do have a caveat in that I am repulsed by the idea of hurting anyone. But what else is there for adventurous minds except stifling convention in a time when free and hopefully collective/kindred spirits are needed more than ever before. Fortunately, through ethereal congregation (internet), there are new fertile pastures in which to flourish.

That's all a bit heavy isn't it; but there you go.

Cheers, ig

John C Micallef

Dear Mr Gillan,

Just a short note to thank you, and the rest of the Deep Purple Band, for giving us such an excellent album (CD?) Now What?!, I just never tire listening to it.

Love the lyrics, love your voice, love the tunes!

On a different note, we have just been graced with the attached EU Council position on Tobacco. Very amusing...or perhaps not! So they want to make tobacco less attractive and less addictive? Who knows, it'll be sex, next!

Beats me how this is going to improve on our quality of life, perhaps we'd all start living till 200 when we stop smoking? Our hospitals will be half empty and the tax bill will go down. Well, we all know this is not the case, and once tobacco sales go down, the governments will start scratching their heads and wonder where to get the money from. So I guess they'll start taxing us for living - taxing our houses, our cars (even more), they'll be taxing us for using light, and they'll probably start taxing those that live in the dark, too!

I'd love to read your opinion on the subject (I know you've tackled it before).

So now I'll go back to watch the news and the people rioting/celebrating/revolting in Egypt...I don't think that the subject was tobacco ban over there, but still there was plenty of smoke...

Very warm greetings from Malta.

Take care,



Dear John,

I have touched on this a few times over the years. My first real smoke inhalation was during my childhood. Growing up in London I experienced the dreaded smog many times until - after the bad one in '52 - my lung x-rays showed dark shadows and I was sent to spend the summer of '53 with my uncle Ivor (Watkins) in the Isle of Wight. That was probably the best holiday I ever had. Ivor was a beach photographer by day and a Boogie Woogie jazz pianist at night; performing outside a bar in Blackgang Chine which was just a step off the path to the beach: I didn't miss a beat while sipping my Pepsi through a straw as the trio in silk shirts stirred something deep inside.

After the Clean Air Act of 1953 the sulphurous atmosphere seemed to disappear overnight. In the '60s I remember looking in amazement at the dazzling pressure-washed walls of The Natural History Museum and The Royal Albert Hall; that had hitherto been like the lungs of London - black with grime.

A short digression…I still remember - when I was a gay young blade - the look of horror on the faces of my American friends when I mentioned blithely that I was 'dying for a fag'. It got worse…when I told them I'd had to 'knock my sister up' whenever I got home late from a gig (semi-pro days). And in case any Americans reading this need help, a 'fag' is a cigarette and my sister didn't get pregnant on account of me forgetting my door key.

I believe that - after security - taxation should be used to provide the essentials: Clean air and water, supporting food supply and shelter, along with a bit of strategic/infrastructure providence and a safety net for those who need help from us all.

Yes, they'll tax anything that moves now, that's why I go slow.

Cheers, ig

Mike Nagoda

(Hello I sent this email to Ian to the Q and A email address, but got a delivery failure notice twice. Could you please forward it to him and see that he gets it? Thanks so much!)

Hi Ian! I'm a big fan of your's from Toronto and I first want to say that I absolutely love Now What?! I think it might be my favourite studio album next to Purpendicular, which has beat out In Rock, Machine Head and all the other classics, and is eclipsed only by Made In Japan as my favourite Deep Purple album.

There is something very magical about Purpendicular every time I listen to it, it just brims with such life and energy and positivity. I actually have a question that I've been wondering about for quite some time now: who is doing the voice of the vicar/priest at the very beginning of Cascades? Is that you or someone else?

I hope to see you and DP if you ever come to Toronto again, I love every thing you guys do, you guys and of course Jon are my heroes. I've been a fan since I was 17, I'm now 27, and Purple was one of the reasons I got into playing rock music and started playing keyboards and guitars in bands. One of my dreams has always been to play Smoke with you guys on stage (I play slide guitar with two slides, and am one of two people in the world as far as I know who does), but I know that's probably very unlikely to happen. Still I can always dream and maybe one day it will come true! Take care, and I hope to see you guys in Toronto again! Thank you so much for the music, it changed my life!

Mike Nagoda


Dear Mike,

Thank you for your letter and perseverance; don't quite know what happened there but finally you got through. Yes, that was me in my vicar role…I can't actually remember what I said and listening to it on my laptop doesn't help much. Probably something similar to my occasional intro to Speed King…Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls…we are gathered here tonight to ROCK AND ROLL!!!

I have since been defrocked, but bless you all anyway.

Cheers, ig

John Dam


When is Ian Gillan come back to Faroe Island :-)



Dear John,

Thanks for the invitation; I remember the Faroe Islands with great affection after my trip there in June 1992.The approach to the airport was unusual to say the least. As we flew alongside cliffs that rose above us, directly towards what looked suspiciously like Gibraltar, I made eye contact with one of the brightly coloured birds perched a few feet from our port wing. 'No worries' she seemed to say - although her lips were moving in a modern puffinese patois that was hard to read as we screamed by with our gear down - 'the landing strip is just around the corner where there's a gap in the cliffs. The plane will swerve violently left at the last minute and crash onto the runway - no big deal, they do it every day.'

The cockpit door was open so I could observe the oncoming rock, which loomed ever larger in the windscreen. But, just as the puffin predicted, we negotiated the chicane with practised aplomb and touched down quite lightly, considering.

It was raining and there was a general strike. The ferries (from the airport island to the gig island) were not operating so we commissioned a fishing boat and loaded our gear onto the open deck. The skipper set off into the gale and very kindly allowed an old lady to squeeze into the doghouse up front to shelter from the violent storm. The rest of us stood with our equipment in the lashing rain. For about two minutes that was, until I saw a kerfuffle at the door of the tiny wheelhouse.

Our dearly beloved drummer - Lenny Haze - was forcing his way into the captain's cabin and in the process edging out the poor old lady back into the rain. He was shouting something - probably that we were all going to die unless he stood by the wheel - but his words were borne away on the wind.

So, we landed safely on the main island and made it to our hotel, which was buried in the hillside. On the way we noticed a few Faroese lying in the street. They were 'tired' with alcohol because all the drinking laws had been cancelled that day, or so I was told by a local who said there was no point having laws that everyone ignored. That was over twenty years ago, I wonder if you have brought them back; probably with a vengeance - like Perth Australia, where you can't have an after dinner liqueur on its own; it must be diluted…Duh!

Anyway, the show - and the visit in general - was a riot of shared hibition and joyful celebration. I woke in the night to find a sheep in my room (the window opened at ground level on to the sloping hillside). I seem to remember she had nice lips and lovely eyes; her name was Margaret or Barbara…something like that.

I'm afraid there are no immediate plans for a return to your fabulous and remote islands, but you never know. In any event the memories of '92 will stay with me forever.

Cheers, ig

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