Highway Star (song)

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"Highway Star"
Highway Star-Lazy.png
Cover of the 1972 Japan single
Song by Deep Purple from the album Machine Head
Released March 1972
Recorded 6–21 December 1971
Montreux, Switzerland
Length 6:09
6:39 (The 1997 Remixes version)
Label EMI (UK)
Warner Bros. (US)
Writer(s) Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ian Paice
Producer(s) Deep Purple
Machine Head track listing

"Highway Star" is a song by the English rock band Deep Purple. It is the opening track on their 1972 album Machine Head and is the fastest song in tempo on the album. It is characterised by long, classically-inspired guitar and organ solos.[4] Organist Jon Lord claimed that the organ and guitar solos were based on Bach-like chord sequences.


This song was born on a tour bus going to Portsmouth in 1971 when a reporter asked the band how they wrote songs. To demonstrate, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore grabbed an acoustic guitar and began playing a riff consisting of a single "G" repeated over and over, while vocalist Ian Gillan improvised lyrics over the top. The song was refined and was performed that same night.[5] The song first appears on the 1972 LP Machine Head. The track remains one of the band's staples in live concerts, and was the set opener even before it was released on any album.

The very first live version released, recorded live for German TV program Beat-Club in September 1971, is featured on the History, Hits & Highlights '68–'76 DVD. It's the opening track on the live albums Nobody's Perfect (1988), Come Hell or High Water (1994), and From The Setting Sun… (In Waken) (2015).[6] The most famous live version is featured on the 1972 live album Made in Japan. The Guardian said, "Blackmore’s playing is like a force of nature on the [Made in Japan] version; those slashing chords in the intro, and that amazing solo featuring the distinctive neo-classical descending runs, combining the spirits of Bach and Jimi Hendrix."[7]


The structure of the song consists of a 35-second bass/guitar introduction, before the band launches into the thumping opening riff, which soon leads into the first vocals section (0:55). The first two verses are sung, then Jon Lord begins his organ solo (2:14). The organ solo lasts for about a minute, then Ian Gillan sings the third verse of the song (3:24). At the conclusion of the third verse, the guitar solo starts (4:04), and lasts for just under a minute and twenty seconds. Then, the fourth and final verse, which in the original recording is simply a repetition of the first verse, is sung, finishing around 6:10. Depending on the version, there may be a 15-second-long exit section before the end of the song. When the song is played live, Gillan has been known to improvise its lyrics, as seen in the official video for the song.[8]

The guitar solo would gain recognition when readers of Guitar World voted it No. 19 in their list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Solos".[9]

Appearances in other media[edit]


Texas band Point Blank (band) recorded the song on their 1980 MCA album "The Hard Way" recorded by Terry Manning.

The song was covered by the Gwar side project X-Cops in their 1995 album You Have the Right to Remain Silent..., with the lyrics changed to reflect the band's police brutality theme.

The song was frequently covered live by alternative metal band Faith No More during the late 1990s, with a live version of the song appearing on their 1998 greatest hits album Who Cares a Lot?.[10] Faith No More's version is significantly shorter than the original.

It was covered by gothic metal band Type O Negative which was included on the 2002 NASCAR compilation album NASCAR: Crank It Up along with the band's 2006 compilation album The Best of Type O Negative.

Highway Star was also covered by Christian metal band, Stryper on their 2011 release The Covering, a collection of twelve cover songs from bands that inspired Stryper and helped to shape the band's sound and musical identity.

In 2012, a tribute album featuring cover songs from Deep Purple's Machine Head was released, titled Re-Machined: A Tribute to Deep Purple's Machine Head. On this album, a live recording of "Highway Star" was featured by rock supergroup Chickenfoot, as well as a version recorded by Glenn Hughes, Steve Vai, and Chad Smith.[11]

More recently, this song was covered by thrash metal band Angelus Apatrida on their 2015 release Hidden Evolution.



External links[edit]