Smoke on the Water

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"Some stupid with a flare gun" redirects here. For the Ass Ponys album, see Some Stupid with a Flare Gun.
"Smoke on the Water"
Single by Deep Purple
from the album Machine Head
B-side "Smoke on the Water" (live)
(From Made in Japan)
Released May 1973
Format 7"
Recorded 1972
Genre Hard rock,[1][2] heavy metal[3]
Length 5:41 (album version)
3:54 (single version)
6:15 (Roger Glover remix)
Label EMI (UK)
Warner. Bros (U.S.)
Writer(s) Ritchie Blackmore
Ian Gillan
Roger Glover
Jon Lord
Ian Paice
Producer(s) Deep Purple
Deep Purple singles chronology
"Never Before"
"Smoke on the Water"
"Woman from Tokyo"
Audio sample
file info · help
Machine Head track listing

"Smoke on the Water" is a song by the English rock band Deep Purple. It was first released on their 1972 album Machine Head. In 2004, the song was ranked number 434 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time,[4] ranked number 4 in Total Guitar magazine's Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever,[5] and in March 2005, Q magazine placed "Smoke on the Water" at number 12 in its list of the 100 greatest guitar tracks.[6]


The Smoke on the Water riff

"Smoke on the Water" is known for and recognizable by its central theme, a four-note blues scale melody in G, harmonised in parallel fourths. The riff, played on a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar by Ritchie Blackmore, is later joined by hi-hat and distorted organ, then drums, then electric bass parts before the start of Ian Gillan's vocal.

We all came out to Montreux, on the Lake Geneva shoreline
to make records with a mobile, we didn't have much time

—Opening lyrics

Jon Lord doubles the guitar part on a Hammond C3 organ played through a distorted Marshall amp, creating a tone very similar to that of the guitar. Blackmore usually plays the main riff using a finger pluck [7] or occasionally a plectrum upstroke (to accentuate the tonic).[8]

The song order is intro(riff)-verse-chorus-riff-verse-chorus-riff-guitar solo-riff-verse-chorus-riff-organ solo. The first solo is performed on guitar by Ritchie Blackmore, and the second and final solo is performed on an organ by Jon Lord until the song fades out.


The lyrics of the song tell a true story: on 4 December 1971 Deep Purple were in Montreux, Switzerland, where they had set up camp to record an album using a mobile recording studio (rented from the Rolling Stones and known as the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio—referred to as the "Rolling truck Stones thing" and "a mobile" in the song lyrics) at the entertainment complex that was part of the Montreux Casino (referred to as "the gambling house" in the song lyric). On the eve of the recording session a Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention concert was held in the casino's theatre. In the middle of Don Preston's synthesizer solo on "King Kong", the place suddenly caught fire when somebody in the audience fired a flare gun into the rattan covered ceiling, as mentioned in the "some stupid with a flare gun" line.[9][10] The resulting fire destroyed the entire casino complex, along with all the Mothers' equipment. The "smoke on the water" that became the title of the song (credited to bass guitarist Roger Glover, who related how the title occurred to him when he suddenly woke from a dream a few days later) referred to the smoke from the fire spreading over Lake Geneva from the burning casino as the members of Deep Purple watched the fire from their hotel. The "Funky Claude" running in and out is referring to Claude Nobs, the director of the Montreux Jazz Festival who helped some of the audience escape the fire.

Claude Nobs (2006), the "Funky Claude" mentioned in the song

Left with an expensive mobile recording unit and no place to record, the band was forced to scout the town for another place to set up. One promising venue (found by Nobs) was a local theatre called The Pavilion, but soon after the band had loaded in and started working/recording, the nearby neighbours took offence at the noise, and the band was only able to lay down backing tracks for one song (based on Blackmore's riff and temporarily named "Title n°1"), before the local police shut them down.

Finally, after about a week of searching, the band rented the nearly-empty Montreux Grand Hotel and converted its hallways and stairwells into a makeshift recording studio, where they laid down most of the tracks for what would become their most commercially successful album, Machine Head (which is dedicated to Claude Nobs).

The only song from Machine Head not recorded entirely in the Grand Hotel was "Smoke on the Water" itself, which had been partly recorded during the abortive Pavilion session. The lyrics of "Smoke on the Water" were composed later, and the vocals were recorded in the Grand Hotel.

The song is honoured in Montreux by a sculpture along the lake shore (right next to the statue of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury) with the band's name, the song title, and the riff in musical notes.

On the Classic Albums series episode about Machine Head, Ritchie Blackmore claimed that friends of the band were not fans of the classic "Smoke on the Water" riff, because they thought it was too simplistic. Blackmore retaliated by making comparisons to the first movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, which revolves around a similar four note arrangement—and is arguably the most famous piece of music in the world.


"Smoke on the Water" was included on Machine Head, which was released in early 1972, but was not released as a single until a year later, in May 1973. The band members have said that they did not expect the song to be a hit, but the single reached number 4 on the Billboard pop singles chart in the United States during the summer of 1973, number 2 on the Canadian RPM charts, and it propelled the album to the top 10. Live performance of the tune, featuring extended interplay between Blackmore's guitar and Jon Lord's Hammond organ would become a centerpiece of Deep Purple's live shows, and a version of the song from the live album Made in Japan became a minor hit on its own later on in 1973.

The principal song-writers included the song within their subsequent solo ventures after Deep Purple had split up. Ian Gillan in particular performed a jazz-influenced version in early solo concerts. The band Gillan adopted a feedback-soaked approach, courtesy of Gillan guitarist Bernie Torme. This song was also featured live by Ritchie Blackmore's post-Deep Purple band Rainbow during their tours 1981–83, and again after the Rainbow was resurrected briefly in the mid-1990s.

During Ian Gillan's stint with Black Sabbath in 1983, they performed "Smoke on the Water" as a regular repertoire number on encores during their only tour together. It remains one of the few cover songs that Black Sabbath has ever played live.

The song is popular among beginner guitarists, but Blackmore himself has demonstrated that most who attempt to play it do so improperly.[11] Actually played using "all fourths" as specified by Blackmore (or double stops), a power chord-driven variation on the main recognizable riff is not difficult, and consequently it is played by learners.

"Smoke on the Water" has received the following rankings:


Chart (1973) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report) 54
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[14] 11
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[15] 27
Canadian RPM Top Singles[16] 2
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[17] 11
France (SNEP)[18] 64
Germany (Media Control Charts)[19] 20
South African Chart[20] 7
US Billboard Hot 100[21] 4
Chart (1977) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[22] 21
Chart (2012) Peak
France (SNEP)[23] 134

Alternative versions[edit]

  • The remixed CD re-issue of Machine Head features a version of the song with an alternate Blackmore guitar solo recorded at the time.
  • The version that appears on Deep Purple in Concert includes Ian Gillan uttering the phrase "Break a leg, Frank". This is a reference to injuries that Frank Zappa had sustained as a result of being attacked onstage by an audience member at a concert in London, six days after the Montreux fire. A broken leg was among those injuries. The phrase can also be heard on the Roger Glover Remix of the song included on the Anniversary Edition reissue of Machine Head.


Sales accomplishments[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
United States (RIAA)[24] Gold 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Rock Aid Armenia version[edit]

"Smoke on the Water"
Cover for the "Rock Aid Armenia" charity release
Single by Rock Aid Armenia
Released 1989
Format 7" 12"
Recorded Week of 8 July 1989
Writer(s) Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ian Paice
Producer(s) Gary Langan and Geoff Downes
1990 reissue cover
Cover of the 7" resissue of the Rock Aid Armenia single
Music video
"Smoke on the Water" (Rock Aid Armenia) on YouTube

Rock Aid Armenia, a charity project to help victims of 1988 Armenian earthquake made a charity re-recording of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water", with different vocalists singing various verses. The single made it to the UK Top 40 Singles Chart.

The track was recorded by an elite group of contemporary prog rock, hard rock and heavy metal musicians who gathered at the historic Metropolis Studios in Chiswick, London. Recording began on 8 July 1989 and was completed over 5 different sessions.

The rock musicians involved in the recording included Bryan Adams, Ritchie Blackmore, Bruce Dickinson, Geoff Downes, Keith Emerson, Ian Gillan, David Gilmour, Tony Iommi, Alex Lifeson, Brian May, Paul Rodgers, Chris Squire and Roger Taylor. John Paul Jones and Jon Lord were credited as "helping" behind the scenes with the track. The track's producers were Gary Langan and Geoff Downes. Talent co-ordination for the record was overseen by Jon Dee, with David Gilmour being the first to join up after a call from Dee. Ian Gillan's manager Phil Banfield also helped out with talent recruitment.

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by many bands including the English heavy metal band Black Sabbath, power metal band Metalium, Polish heavy metal band Acid Drinkers, Korean thrash metal band Crash, Canadian indie artist Nash the Slash (re-titled 'Dopes on the Water'), Brazilian progressive power metal Angra, and many others, and was recorded by Rock Aid Armenia. It was performed by rock act G3 and featured on the release G3: Live in Tokyo.

"Weird Al" Yankovic included this song in his first polka medley, "Polkas on 45."

Loudhouse recorded a version appearing in the movie Point Break.[25]

Rolf Harris did a swing jazz version of the song on his 1993 album Rolf Rules OK.

The song has been covered by the humorous reggae-influenced band Dread Zeppelin.

R&B/swing singer Pat Boone covered the song in his 1997 album In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy, with Blackmore doing a guest appearance as lead guitarist and Dweezil Zappa performing a guitar solo. German DJ/techno veteran Uwe Schmidt covered the song in a Latin lounge style as "Señor Coconut" on the 2003 album Fiesta Songs.

CJ Crew and The Firelighters Showgroup covered the song in the 2005 Dancemania compilation Covers 01.[26]

Carlos Santana covered the song on his 2010 solo album Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time. The song features Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach on lead vocals.

A segment of the riff is played in the Blue Öyster Cult song "The Marshall Plan".

German industrial metal band Knorkator recorded a German-language polka version titled "Nebel auf dem Wasser" (its exact translation) as High Mud Leader, on their eponymous album under that name.

Notable performances and uses[edit]

Leicester Tigers use this song to run out to at the start of every home game.

In 1994, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 1,322 guitarists gathered to play the world-famous riff all at the same time for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. On Sunday 3 June 2007, in Kansas City this record was topped with 1,721 guitarists[27] and just 20 days later in the German city of Leinfelden-Echterdingen by the group 'Party Blues In Bb' with over 1,800 other people involved.[28] The record was again topped on 1 May 2009, in Wrocław, Poland, when 6,346 guitar players, joined by current Deep Purple guitarist Steve Morse, performed the song during the Thanks Jimi Festival.[29][30]

On CBS Two and a Half Men, Jake Harper plays this song a couple of times throughout the series: Hey, I Can Pee Outside in the Dark (S1, E20), and I Merely Sleep with a Commie (S4, E17).

The iconic nature of the song has led to its inclusion in several music-related video games. A cover version of "Smoke on the Water" is one of the playable songs for the PlayStation 2 game Guitar Hero, and the same cover version is a downloadable track in Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360. It is also featured in Guitar Hero Smash Hits and Rock Band 3 as a master track. It is a playable song in the PlayStation 2 game SingStar Rocks! and in the Japan-only Nintendo DS rhythm game Daigasso! Band Brothers. It is also available on Wii's Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 as a minigame, without Verse 3. The song also appears in Konami Guitar Freaks 4th Mix. The song is playable in the online game Stick Dudes Gone Wild: Rock Band. The song is also available as a downloadable track for the guitar game Rocksmith.

The song is used in several episodes of The Sopranos, including "Join the Club".[31][32]

In March 2011, "Smoke on the Water" was selected by departing German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg for performance as part of his official military farewell ceremony.[33]

On 16 September 2012 at the Sunflower Jam charity concert at the Royal Albert Hall, Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice performed the song alongside guitarist Brian May of Queen, bassist John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, and vocalists Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper.[34]



  1. ^ Andrew Winistorfer. "VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs list only slightly less annoying than their hip-hop list". Prefix. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
    11 Deep Purple - "Smoke On The Water"
  2. ^ Gary Graff (1996). Visible Ink Press, ed. MusicHound rock: the essential album guide. ISBN 978-0787610371.  "Purple's heyday came during the early 70s- when "Smoke on the Water" entered the pantheon of hard rock classics"
  3. ^ Christe (2003), pg. 13, " Though Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" was a bona fide metal anthem and the first basic riff of a longhairded guitarist's repertoire, the band did not consider itself heavy metal."
  4. ^ a b 500 Greatest Songs of All Time: Deep Purple, 'Smoke on the Water' Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 December 2011
  5. ^ a b Guns N' Roses top rock riff poll, BBC News, 2 May 2004, retrieved 4 January 2010 
  6. ^ a b Tracks 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever! Q Magazine. Retrieved 18 December 2011
  7. ^ Classic Albums - Machine Head. BBC. Retrieved 30 October 2009. 
  8. ^ Deep Purple - New York 1973 (Full Concert). YouTube. Retrieved 19 August 2012. 
  9. ^ The Real Frank Zappa Book by Frank Zappa with Peter Occhiogrosso, pg. 112, ISBN 0-671-63870-X
  10. ^ Bang Your Head by David Konow, page 26, ISBN 0-609-80732-3
  11. ^ Video of Ritchie talking about the riff on YouTube
  12. ^ "VH1 40 Greatest Metal Songs", 1–4 May 2006, VH1 Channel, reported by; last accessed 10 September 2006.
  13. ^ " music". Retrieved 7 February 2009. 
  14. ^ " – Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  15. ^ " – Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  16. ^ "Smoke on the water in Canadian Top Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  17. ^ " – Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  18. ^ "Smoke on the water in French Chart" (in French). Dominic DURAND / InfoDisc. 1 July 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013.  You have to use the index at the top of the page and search "Deep Purple"
  19. ^ " – Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water". GfK Entertainment.
  20. ^ John Samson. "Smoke on the water in South African Chart". Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  21. ^ "Machine Head awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  22. ^ "1977 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive - 7th May 1977". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  23. ^ " – Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water" (in French). Les classement single.
  24. ^ "American single certifications – Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  25. ^
  26. ^ Discogs, Dancemania Covers 01
  27. ^ Spread Firefox, Crazy Records
  28. ^ "Die Geschichte des Gitarrenweltrekords". Retrieved 11 March 2011. 
  29. ^ "Official Steve Morse Blog". Retrieved 4 May 2009. 
  30. ^ ""Thanks Jimi Festival" 2009 and Guitar Guinness Record". Retrieved 4 May 2009. 
  31. ^ Music You Heard on the Sopranos
  32. ^ Episode 67: Join the Club
  33. ^ "Guttenberg departs Defense Ministry with full military honors". Retrieved 23 March 2011. 
  34. ^ "Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden and Queen band members perform at charity rock show". NME. Retrieved 4 November 2012

External links[edit]