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The Story of "Malice In Wonderland" - Paice Ashton Lord
Jon Lord16/04/2019

Paice Ashton Lord – Introduction

Nothing was made public but mysterious adverts appeared in the British music press during July 1976: “British Band Requires British Bass Player and Lead Guitarist for formation of new rock band by three established musicians”. In August 1976 the music papers confirmed Deep Purple’s split and announced that Ian Paice, Tony Ashton and Jon Lord were forming a new band to be known as Paice, Ashton, Lord

“We thought ‘If we carry on doing what we’d done before, it’ll be likened to Purple and it’ll never be accepted properly,” said Ian Paice. “So we decided to do something completely different.”

Martin Birch (Deep Purple’s producer for many years) was in charge of recording and the album took just ten days to lay down, followed by mixing and post-production work. Tony Ashton was very happy with the results, “We managed to achieve a tighter version of the First Of The Big Bands”. As Lord explained, one thing they didn’t want to end up being was laid-back. “Tony said when we started, ‘No Average White Band, it can’t be AWB!’, but you can’t get laid back when you’re playing with Ian Paice, he’s always pushing”. Paice also feels they’d cut a good album but one which perhaps took some getting into, “PAL was trying to do something ahead of its time, the sort of thing Level 42 became, a cross between jazz and rock”. As for the lyrics, Jon Lord explained; “Tony is a storyteller rather than a singer. I like rough and ready lyrics because to me that’s the essence of rock and roll”.

Marsden & Martinez

“If you want to know what hell on earth is like, try conducting auditions! It’s not that the musicians were bad or anything, it’s just that there were so many of them. We had about sixty bass players to listen to and this came down to a short list of four. Paul Martinez fitted right in within four bars.

Bernie Marsden was with Babe Ruth but he’d played with UFO and Cozy Powell’s Hammer, and it was Powell who told him about the audition. Jon Lord; “We were already looking at two other guitarists, Chris West was one, he played a very Jazzy style, but we wanted to keep the rock and roll element there. Another point in Bernie’s favour was his ability to sing”.

BBC Sights & Sound

PAL made their live debut on the new BBC show Sight & Sound In Concert on March 10. 1977, aired simultaneously on TV and radio. Although the prestige and publicity to be gained by this was enormous, the pitfalls were there and in retrospect PAL stumbled into some of them. The recording was fraught with problems; the band blew up the BBC generators twice, and had to rerecord one number three times. The pressure affected Tony Ashton and the audio was poorly mixed. Some of the critics really came down on PAL. “I’ve never seen such a comically anachronistic performance in my life,” wrote ZigZag magazine of the show. Of course Britain was at this time experiencing an upheaval in the music scene thanks to the arrival of Punk music and some were quick to jump on this new supergroup. More seriously perhaps, PAL needed to bring with them some of their former fans from Deep Purple, and speaking as one of the target audience, I wasn’t really ready for the huge change of musical direction so soon. Blackmore had already released two powerful Rainbow albums and played an amazing tour. PAL on the other hand, with brass, girl singers and funky rhythms, was going to take time to adjust to. But time was one thing they didn’t have.

Rainbow Theatre / Last Show

“I also went down to see what turned out to be their last show at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park in London. It began badly when Tony fell off the notoriously high stage at the very start of the concert and broke his leg (as Frank Zappa had done before), though as it was dark the audience didn’t really know what had happened. A light was in the wrong place and he went straight off into the orchestra pit,” says Paice. “We dragged him out and he did the show, but he was obviously not feeling great. But that was nerves, just not wanting to be up there on that big stage.”

Bonus Tracks / Long Lost second album

Lord and Ashton went over to America to promote the album before PAL regrouped in Germany to start their second album. This was about 75% completed by the end of 1977, just lacking vocals on some tracks as well as a few solos, as Ashton recalled. “We went back to Munich to start recording a second album and got some tracks done but the impetus had gone and we never finished the album. Sadly the master tape for the second album went missing and has never been found. I was chatting one day to Sandra Ashton about this when preparing the first CD reissue and she said Tony felt it was a real shame nothing could be found because when he listened to it a few days ago it sounded pretty good… It turned out that Tony Ashton had a monitor mix done on cassette so he could get some of the lyrics finished, and still had it. This has provided the source for the bonus tracks here.”

The End of PAL

Tony and Jon went on a skiing holiday over Christmas (they were both very fond of Switzerland) and in early 1978 they came to a mutual decision to fold the band. It was hard to keep momentum going and even harder to find the finance. The PAL film was completed but with the band effectively over it got shown only in a few cinemas and then vanished. There was talk of trying to lure David Coverdale into joining PAL, but this came to nothing. There was never an official announcement of the PAL split, instead Bernie Marsden joined Whitesnake for their first tour in February 1978. Finally in May that year Ian Paice simply told a reporter: “We broke up in March after 15 months together because the project was not living up to our expectations.”

Listen to “Remember The Good Times”:


All the pictures you find above as well as in the artwork were shot by Alan Messer, who accompanied the band throughout their career and provides us with these wonderful impressions from those days.

“I had photographed Deep Purple on tour in 1971 and an Albert Hall show, so I knew them and their manager. My studio was in Newman Street across from their office, Purple Records. I photographed Bernie Marsden and Paul Martinez in my studio, then soon after Jon Lord set up PAL, so I got to photograph the band at his home in Sonning for some promotional pictures and then some stage rehearsals. The photographs were used on the back cover of the LP.

I am delighted that earMUSIC have re-released MALICE IN WONDERLAND using many more of my photographs. This is a wonderful package and a chance to enjoy the big band music of one of the coolest super-groups of the seventies. I was a fan with a camera and an inside seat!”

Alan Messer – April 2019 –

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