Highway Star (song)

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"Highway Star"
Highway Star-Lazy.png
1972 Japanese single sleeve
Song by Deep Purple
from the album Machine Head
ReleasedMarch 1972
Recorded6–21 December 1971
Montreux, Switzerland
6:39 (The 1997 Remixes version)
LabelEMI (UK)
Warner Bros. (US)
Producer(s)Deep Purple
Vinyl video
"Highway Star" on YouTube

"Highway Star" is a song by the English rock band Deep Purple. It is the opening track on the band's sixth studio album Machine Head (1972) and is the fastest song in tempo on the album. It is characterised by long, classically-inspired guitar and organ solos.[4]


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 is the opening track on the live albums Nobody's Perfect (1988), Come Hell or High Water (1994), and From the Setting Sun… (In Wacken) (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). This part consists mostly of fast, arpeggiated notes with a late Baroque/Early Classical influenced feel and makes use of the harmonic minor scale. 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. Blackmore wanted a very Bach like sound and worked out the solo note by note over the chord progression Dm, Gm, C, A which itself was borrowed from Bach.[8] 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.[9]

The guitar solo would gain recognition when readers of Guitar World voted it No. 15 in their list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Solos".[10]


Deep Purple[edit]



The song was covered by the Gwar[11] 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.

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.[12]

In 2018, a cover by Cory Todd was used in the science fiction television series The Expanse, in the episode of season 3 "Delta-V".[13] The lyrics of the song were rewritten in the mix of English and Belter Creole, a constructed language made for the TV series by Nick Farmer, that was used in the show by Belters, the inhabitants of the asteroid belt and outer planets.[14] The lyrics were additionally adjusted to fit the in-universe setting, with the references to the car in the song being replaced with the spaceship.[15] The full version of the song was later placed on The Collector's Edition version of the TV series soundtrack, that was realized on December 13, 2019.[13]

Other bands to record the song include Dream Theater, Point Blank, Stryper, Metal Church, Buckcherry, Type O Negative, Faith No More.[16]


  1. ^ Vinny Cecolini (20 June 2015). Shootin' the Sh*t — Volume One: Conversations with Rock Anti- Heroes, Icons & Metal Gods. BearManor E. p. 58. GGKEY:WN9DDZBW0R5.
  2. ^ Martin Popoff (2003). The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs of All Time. ECW Press. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-55022-530-3.
  3. ^ Jeremy Wallach; Harris M. Berger; Paul D. Greene (27 December 2011). Metal Rules the Globe: Heavy Metal Music Around the World. Duke University Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-8223-4733-0.
  4. ^ ":::: Roger Glover – the official website". Archived from the original on 11 March 2007.
  5. ^ "Roger Glover Interview". www.stevemorse.com. Archived from the original on 15 September 2005.[dead link]
  6. ^ "From the Setting Sun... (In Wacken) by Deep Purple on Apple Music". iTunes. Archived from the original on 29 November 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  7. ^ Tim Hall (23 July 2015). "Ritchie Blackmore – 10 of the best". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  8. ^ April 2015, Guitar World Staff 13. "100 Greatest Guitar Solos: No. 15 "Highway Star" (Ritchie Blackmore)". guitarworld. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  9. ^ deeppurpleos (10 May 2010), Deep Purple - Highway Star-German TV, archived from the original on 13 December 2021, retrieved 6 July 2016
  10. ^ "100 Greatest Guitar Solos: No. 15 "Highway Star" (Ritchie Blackmore)". guitarworld.com. 13 April 2015. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  11. ^ Helber, Bob; Tartan, Frances; O'Hara, Gail (15 September 1987). "Death Piggy Spews and GWAR Too". Commonwealth Times. Richmond Va. pp. 1, 12–13. Archived from the original on 19 October 2014. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  12. ^ "Re-Machined: A Tribute to Deep Purple's Machine Head - Various Artists - Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic.
  13. ^ a b "The Expanse - The Collector's Edition". amazon.com.
  14. ^ "That Cool Dialect on The Expanse Mashes Up 6 Languages". wired.com.
  15. ^ Cory Todd (12 December 2019). "Highway Star (Belter Version)". youtube.com. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021.
  16. ^ Steve Huey. "Who Cares a Lot: Greatest Hits - Faith No More - Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic.