Smoke on the Water
|"Smoke on the Water"|
|Single by Deep Purple|
|from the album Machine Head|
|B-side||"Smoke on the Water" (live)
(From Made in Japan)
|Genre||Hard rock, heavy metal, Blues rock|
|Length||5:41 (album version)
3:54 (single version)
6:15 (Roger Glower remix)
Warner. Bros (U.S.)
|Deep Purple singles chronology|
"Smoke on the Water" is a song by the British 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, ranked number 4 in Total Guitar magazine's Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever, and in March 2005, Q magazine placed "Smoke on the Water" at number 12 in its list of the 100 greatest guitar tracks.
"Smoke on the Water" is known for and recognizable by its central theme, a four-note blues scale melody in G Dorian mode, 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  or occasionally a plectrum upstroke (to accentuate the tonic).
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 had set up camp in Montreux, Switzerland, 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. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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 constantly played by learners.
Chart performance and rankings
|Australian Kent Music Report||54|
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||11|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||27|
|Canadian RPM Top Singles||2|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||11|
|Germany (Media Control Charts)||20|
|South African Chart||7|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||4|
|UK (Official Charts Company)||21|
"Smoke on the Water" has received the following rankings:
- 434 on Rolling Stone magazine's The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004)
- 37 in VH1's 40 Greatest Metal Songs
- 12 in Q magazine's 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks (March 2005)
- 11 in VH1's "100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs" (January 2009)
- 4 in Total Guitar magazine's "Top 20 Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever"
- 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.
- Ritchie Blackmore – guitars
- Ian Gillan – lead vocals
- Roger Glover – bass guitar
- Jon Lord – Hammond organ
- Ian Paice – drums
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||1,000,000^|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
Rock Aid Armenia version
|"Smoke on the Water"|
Cover for the "Rock Aid Armenia" charity release
|Single by Rock Aid Armenia|
|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|
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.
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, and the band Iron Maiden. It was performed by rock act G3 and featured on the release G3: Live in Tokyo.
Rolf Harris did a swing jazz version of the song on his 1993 album Rolf Rules OK.
Dread Zeppelin, a combo-style cover band of reggae, Elvis and Led 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 giving a guitar solo. German DJ/techno veteran Uwe Schmidt covered the song in Latino lounge style under the alias of Señor Coconut on the 2003 album Fiesta Songs.
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".
Notable performances and uses
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 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. 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.
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.
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.
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11 Deep Purple - "Smoke On The Water"
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