Deep Purple split up after releasing their 1975 album Come Taste The Band
. When they returned in 1984, it was with the Mark II lineup of Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Glover, Ian Gillan, Ian Paice and Jon Lord - the team that brought us "Smoke On The Water
." Only Lord and Paice remained from the Come Taste The Band
album. This lineup last played together in 1973 and split under a torrent of internal dissent. When they returned, it wasn't the kind of warm-and-fuzzy reunion where all was forgiven, but more about learning to get along with a new maturity to guide them. The phrase "perfect strangers" seemed to fit.
The song's lyric was written by lead singer Ian Gillan, who talked about the meaning in a Songfacts interview
. "'Perfect Strangers' is a contradiction in terms, like an oxymoron," he said. "That was pretty much how we described it – there was a lot of suspicion and worry and nervousness about getting together again and having a reunion, and when we all sat around in the basement of this old house in Vermont, there was a log fire and three feet of snow outside.
We had a couple of beers, and nobody started playing. Then, Paicey [Ian Paice] started tapping away and people started grooving, and a little shuffle came along. In five minutes everyone had a smile on their face.
So, 'Perfect Strangers' was how we were before, and 'Perfect Strangers' are how we are afterwards – with two opposite meanings to the phrase."