Did anyone see that animated Dio/magical psychedelic frog cartoon I posted the other day with my Spring Non-Mixtape (right)? Hopefully you did, but if not you should definitely go back and check it out. The song featured in that video is a tiny puzzle piece in a much larger picture, I picture I'd like to take a couple minutes to share with you today. This is probably common knowledge to you old-school rocker types, but all you young 'uns gather 'round and listen up. Uncle Cobras has a magical story for you today...
Once upon a time, there was a band called Deep Purple. Deep Purple was totally kick ass, and counted amongst its ranks a bass player named Roger Glover. Roger Glover would later go on to join a band called Rainbow with a guy named Dio, but we'll get to him later. Roger was getting tired of playing in Deep Purple around the year 1973, and wanted to try something different. The singer from his band, Ian, had decided to quit and was replaced by a ninny named Coverdale. Deep Purple was still very popular, but Roger needed to spread his wings and fly.
This is Roger. Fly, Roger, fly!
Roger thought that the best thing to do would be to adapt a children's book into a full-scale progressive rock opera. So in 1974, that's what he did.
Basing his compositions on the anthropomorphic subject matter present in author Alan Aldridge's 1973 tale The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast (which in turn was inspired by an 1807 poem by William Roscoe), Roger put together a collection of songs about butterflies, mice, toads, and bats having a party in the forest. He gathered a bunch of his friends together to make the record, including the legendary Glenn Hughes, John Gustafson from Quartermass, Ronnie James Dio from Elf, the aforementioned Mr. Coverdale from Deep Purple, several members of the funk-rock band Fancy, and the entire The Mountain Fjord Orchestra. But it didn't end with a concept album.
In 1975, Roger Glover's The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast became a full-on stage production. As Dio couldn't be present, Glover enlisted former Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan to perform, as well as procuring the narrative talents of "Thriller"'s Mr. Vincent Price (above, left). In fact, the entire list of people involved with the Butterfly Ball reads like something of a mid 70's Hard Rock Who's-Who. Check it out.
Glenn Hughes sings "Get Ready" (note brief intro featuring Vincent Price):
One of the album's best songs, "Watch Out For The Bat" (sung by John Gustafson from Quartermass):
Longer live version HERE.
David Coverdale sings "Behind The Smile":
The "other" Dio-sung track, "Homeward" (+"psychedelic" fan-made video):
Half-hour documentary on the making of Butterfly Ball featuring interviews with Dio, Roger Glover, Eddie Hardin, Ray Fenwick, and Alan Aldridge: ONE. TWO. THREE. (Highly recommended, it contains footage from the arcane "theatrical version" of Butterfly Ball that you're not likely to find elsewhere.)
Right: The book version of The Butterfly Ball And The Grasshopper's Feast, by Alan Aldridge and William Plomer. Check out some original art here.
You can read another writeup on the Butterfly Ball project, as well as download the original 1974 album in its entirety, over at Orexis of Death. Of course, the Butterfly Ball album doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts (how could it?). But it's still an extremely interesting (and satisfyingly goofy) listen.
I myself had been familiar with Glover and Dio's "Love Is All" for years, but had somehow managed to remain ignorant of the rest of the story until just recently. Soooo epic.