Way back when I was in junior high school (known as "middle school" these days), I came across a Deep Purple hits compilation called Purple Passages in the school library's listening room.
The album artwork (strangely, a deep blue) entranced me but the song "Hush" really blew my mind (man) and I became an instant fan. Up until then, I had enjoyed the occasional AM radio hit: The Beatles, The Monkees (on the same level as far as I knew then - hah!), The Turtles, etc. But this was hard rock - a doorway to a new, more powerful, more exciting world of music.
I recently came across this "live in the mansion" version. Clearly the stars of the show were Ritchie Blackmore on guitar and Jon Lord on keyboards. (I also couldn't help noticing that none of the ladies had breast implants in those days - nice.)
Up until now, I hadn't thought much about whether Deep Purple wrote the song or not. Turns out, they didn't, Joe South did. However, he wrote it for a fellow Alabaman, Billy Joe Royal, which peaked at number 52 on the US charts in 1967:
Then, I found out that Australian Russell Morris had covered the song in 1968, several months before Deep Purple released theirs. It reached #15 on the Australian charts (though I doubt very many Americans heard it at the time). There's an innocent charm not found in other versions:
Russell is still performing it in 2010 , a little slower but with more soul.
There have been a handful of other interesting covers, including an over-the-top French performance by Johnny Hallyday (a comination of Rod Stewart, Roger Daltrey and Tom Jones) from 1969; a 1992 metal version by Gotthard, most notable for the sexy pics accompanying the video, and a spirited version by the UK's Kula Shaker from 1996.
But at the top of Hush mountain, Joe South stands tall as the originator of the song, and to my ears the most soulful. This performance, recorded in 1969, is "more than brilliant, it is electric, innovative" as Joe Viglione writes on Allmusic.com. Backing vocals, impassioned lead vocal, thumping bass, swing, this song just kicks it on all levels. Turn it up!
Sadly, Joe South will never be as well known as some other names associated with this song, but he deserves to be. At least we know...