This is an extract from my Deep Purple biography published in 1983, about the group’s disastrous visit to Indonesia in December 1975.
The book was ‘authorised’ insofar as some of the group (Jon Lord, Ian Paice, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover and Glenn Hughes) all gave me interviews, as did both their managers, two record producers and some members of their road crew. Ritchie Blackmore declined for reasons best known to himself and my planned interview with David Coverdale fell through because his disagreeable manager wanted to set conditions that I found unacceptable. No-one vetted the manuscript, however, and the book was remarkably candid, far more so than most authorised biogs that simply serve as PR exercises, perhaps because at the time no one thought that Deep Purple had an afterlife beyond the split in 1976. Jon Lord proved especially forthright in telling his story, a true gent.
In November 1975 Purple flew from Hawaii to New Zealand for one show, and then to Australia for five. Japan was next on the itinerary but a promoter in Indonesia got in touch and proposed they stop off on the way for a show in Jakarta – but when they got there things went terribly wrong…
From Australia Purple were scheduled to fly north to Japan but on the way a concert had been arranged at the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. Their brief visit to this undemocratic island nation was shattered by the most distressing event in the entire history of the group: a week later reports reached the English press that a member of their security staff had been killed ‘after falling down a lift shaft’. What is certain is that Patsy Collins, their affable Cockney bodyguard, was never seen again and that tour manager Rob Cooksey was ripped off to the tune of $750,000. The episode has never been fully explained.
“It was a set-up,” says Cooksey who even now is reluctant to talk about the matter. “The story from the word go was that we were due to play a theatre in Jakarta that held 7,000 people and, as we were on our way from Australia to Japan and had our own plane, it seemed like a good way to pick up some extra money. I’d been approached by an Indonesian guy called Danny Sabri and he sent us a deposit of $11,000. That’s all we ever got.”
When Cooksey arrived and went to inspect the venue he received his first shock. It was an enormous outdoor stadium that held 125,000 people and they had never promoted a concert like this before. The stage was made from orange boxes and the security was the Army who were in total control and in league with the promoters.
“Initially I told Sabri that we weren’t gong to play for the price agreed and I wanted to call the whole thing off but he insisted we could re-negotiate. They’d also planned a second show the folowing night which we knew nothing about until we got there.”
The first concert was performed before over 100,000 people in a state of some apprehension and Cooksey realised that, taking into account the ticket price and calculating Deep Purple’s concert fee on the same basis as their American concerts, the group’s gross for the two shows ought to have been in the region of $750,000. He demanded a meeting with the promoters at Purple’s hotel after the show.
“It started off quite pleasantly and then developed into an argument. Then they left me alone. Very soon after that there was an incident on one of the floors and Patsy was killed after falling six floors down a lift shaft. He fell through these central heating and pipes and water ducts right through into the basement but it didn’t kill him instantly. He crawled out and got into a minibus outside the hotel and just murmured ‘hospital, hospital’. He died shortly after that.”
Cooksey was woken up at 4am and, with Glen Hughes and the second bodyguard – “Paddy the Plank” – taken to the police station and informally charged with being implicated in Collins’ murder.
“It’s my opinion it was a set up to get me out of the way,” says Cooksey. “The band had to play again that night and they were quite literally taken from the hotel at gunpoint and pushed up on to the stage. They let Glenn out to do it but they’d only played for 20 minutes when the place went crazy. The crowds rioted and the police set dogs on them.”
Cooksey remained in a jail overnight and, with Hughes and Paddy, was brought before a hearing the following morning. “The judge looked like some General Amin type, all medals everywhere, and he had this big revolver which he kept playing with... he kept spinning the cylinder and putting bullets into it. He said in his opinion the whole thing had been a tragic accident and all we had to do was go through the formality of having our passports photostatted. The bottom line was we paid $2,000 to get our passports back.”
From the courthouse the trio were taken to the airfield where the plane was waiting with the rest of the group and crew on board. But their problems weren’t over yet. “One of the wheels had a puncture and the captain requested the use of a special jack and torque wrench but we had to pay $10,000 to use it… plus they didn’t have anyone there who knew how it worked. [Roadies] Ozzie Hoppe, Baz Marshall, myself and the engineer from the plane ended up changing a wheel… on a Boeing 707. Feelings were running so high at this point that there was a plot hatched to grab one of these officious little Indonesians and throw him out somewhere over the ocean on our way to Japan. Fortunately I heard about it and scotched it.
“It was a horrendous experience. We lost Patsy and we should have made three quarters of a million dollars but in Indonesia there is nothing you can do. When I was in prison Ozzie Hoppe called our lawyer in Los Angeles and he flew to Indonesia just after we left. He arranged a meeting with the promoter but they chased him around the room with a machete. He landed in Tokyo not long after we did and said ‘forget it’. We just had to write it off.”
Patsy Collins was a well liked figure on the London music scene, an employee of the Artists Services security company and a frequent visitor to the Speakeasy Club and other haunts of rock musicians. He had worked for several well known acts and, with his usual partner ‘Fat Fred’ had been featured in a hilarious aticle in Melody Maker in which their exploits were graphically described by writer Roy Hollingworth. Romantic stories that Patsy never died and for reasons best known to himself decided to concoct a story with an anonymous confidante and disppear into the anonyminity of the Australian outback are whispered even now. While his fondness for cold lager provides the flimsiest of motives, no one in the Deep Purple camp seems to have actually seen the body. There the matter must rest.