Machine Head (album)

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Machine Head
Machine Head album cover.jpg
Studio album by
Released25 March 1972 (1972-03-25)
Recorded6–21 December 1971
StudioGrand Hotel, Montreux, Switzerland with the 16 Track Rolling Stones Mobile Studio
ProducerDeep Purple
Deep Purple chronology
Machine Head
Who Do We Think We Are
Singles from Machine Head
  1. "Never Before"
    Released: 18 March 1972
  2. "Highway Star"
    Released: March 1972
  3. "Smoke on the Water"
    Released: May 1973
Alternative cover
25th anniversary CD slipcase
25th anniversary CD slipcase

Machine Head is the sixth studio album released by the English rock band Deep Purple. It was recorded during December 1971 in Montreux, Switzerland, and released in March 1972.

Machine Head is often cited as a major influence in the early development of the heavy metal music genre. Commercially, it is Deep Purple's most successful album, topping the charts in several countries following its release. The album reached number 1 in the United Kingdom and stayed in the top 40 for 20 weeks. It reached number 7 in the United States, in August 1973, remaining on the Billboard 200 for 118 weeks.


Deep Purple initially planned to record Machine Head in December 1971, at Montreux Casino in Switzerland. A mobile recording studio owned by the Rolling Stones had been booked and hotel reservations made,[1] but lead singer Ian Gillan contracted hepatitis. Cancelling a forthcoming tour of America, the band placed all their plans on hold, and Gillan was advised by his doctor to spend the next few months recuperating. Nevertheless, enthused by the new project, the band travelled to Switzerland to begin recording.[2] The Casino was a large arena built in a complex of casinos, restaurants and other entertainment facilities. The band had performed there in May 1971 and enjoyed both the location and Claude Nobs, founder and general manager of the famous Montreux Jazz Festival. Among others, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath had all performed there. The Casino closed for refurbishments each winter, and so the band arrived there on 3 December. One last concert date remained, following which they were to have the location to themselves.[3]


Frank Zappa's concert of 4 December at the Casino was made infamous when a member of the audience fired a flare into the building's roof. Although there were no fatalities, the resultant fire ruined Deep Purple's plans.[4] Nobs relocated the band to a nearby theatre called the Pavilion, where they recorded the basic tracks for a song provisionally named "Title No. 1". Bass player Roger Glover said he woke up one morning saying the title "Smoke on the Water" out loud. Later Gillan, based on the title, wrote the lyrics describing the band's experience in Montreux, recording the Machine Head album.[5] A photograph of the burning Montreux Casino would ultimately be included in the gatefold of Machine Head's album cover.

We had the Rolling Stones' mobile recording unit sitting outside in the snow, but to get there we had to run cable through two doors in the corridor into a room, through a bathroom and into another room, from which it went across a bed and out the veranda window, then ran along the balcony for about 100 feet and came back in through another bedroom window. It then went through that room's bathroom and into another corridor, then all the way down a marble staircase to the foyer reception area of the hotel, out the front door, across the courtyard and up the steps into the back of the mobile unit. I think that setup led to capturing some spontaneity, because once we got to the truck for a playback, even if we didn't think it was a perfect take, we'd go, 'Yeah, that's good enough.' Because we just couldn't stand going back again.

Ritchie Blackmore[6]

As a new location the Pavilion proved to be impractical, as nearby residents flooded the local police station's switchboard to complain about the noise the band made. Although the police were prevented from entering the building by the band's roadies, who held the venue's doors shut, the band were quickly evicted. They searched for other locations in which to record and settled on the empty Grand Hotel, on the edge of Montreux. With the mobile recording unit parked at the main entrance, they set up at the end of one of the building's corridors, off the main lobby.[7] An assortment of equipment and sound-insulating mattresses meant that to get to the recording van the band were forced to walk through bedrooms and across balconies. This proved so arduous that they stopped listening to playbacks of their recordings, instead performing until they were satisfied with what they had.[8]

A ballad entitled "When a Blind Man Cries" was recorded during these sessions, but not included on the album. Instead, it was used as the B-side on the "Never Before" single. The song appears as a bonus track on the album's 25th anniversary edition.

The supporting tour for Machine Head included a trip to Japan that would later become the double-live Made in Japan album. Four songs off Machine Head ("Highway Star", "Smoke on the Water", "Lazy" and "Space Truckin'") would be included on the final cut of the original Made in Japan LP.

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[9]
BBC Musicfavourable[10]
Christgau's Record GuideB[11]
MusicHound5/5 stars[12]
Record Collector4/5 stars[13]
Rolling Stonefavourable[14]
The Daily VaultA[15]

Machine Head hit the number one spot on the British charts within seven days of its release, remaining there for two weeks before returning in May for a further week. In the US, on initial release in 1972 the album peaked at number 34; the album then peaked at number seven in 1973 when "Smoke on the Water" became a hit, and the album remained in the Billboard charts for two years.[16] The first single released from the album, "Never Before", reached only number 35 in the UK and did not chart in the US. Prompted by heavy radio play of "Smoke on the Water" as an album cut, Warner Brothers eventually released it as a single in 1973. It would become a massive hit in North America, reaching number 2 on the Canadian RPM charts and number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100.[17]

Rolling Stone's Lester Bangs praised the lyrics to "Highway Star" and "Space Truckin'" as well as the entire album's music, although he was less complimentary about the lyrics for the remaining songs: "In between those two Deep Purple classics lies nothing but good, hard-socking music, although some of the lyrics may leave a bit to be desired." Concluding: "I do know that this very banality is half the fun of rock 'n' roll. And I am confident that I will love the next five Deep Purple albums madly so long as they sound exactly like these last three."[14] Robert Christgau rated the album a B, writing "I approve of their speeding, and Ritchie Blackmore has copped some self-discipline as well as a few suspicious-sounding licks from his buddies in London."[18] AllMusic critic Eduardo Rivadavia called Machine Head "one of the essential hard rock albums of all time."[9]

Machine Head contains classical and blues influences. Blackmore confirmed that the chord progression for the solos in "Highway Star" was inspired by the work of 18th-century composer Johann Sebastian Bach.[19] The song was actually composed by Blackmore and Gillan at the start of the Fireball gigs on a bus travelling to Portsmouth Guild Hall, in response to a question from a member of the press as to how the band created their material.[7]

Blackmore noted that Machine Head was recorded in about three weeks, remarking that "everything was natural and it all worked." He further stated, "I didn't like Fireball very much because we were just working too much. But we had about a month off before Machine Head, which allowed me to get my head together and write some stuff."[20]

Kerrang! magazine listed the album at No. 35 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time" in 1989.[21]

In an Observer Music Monthly Greatest British Albums poll, Ozzy Osbourne chose Machine Head as one of his ten favourite British records of all time.[22]

Machine Head is the subject of one of the Classic Albums series of documentaries about the making of famous albums. Machine Head was released on the multichannel formats DVD-Audio (2001) in a new 5.1 channel mix and SACD (2003) with the European quadraphonic mix, and more recently, also on SACD on 17 August 2011, by Warner Music Group in its Warner Premium Sound series (which has the same 5.1 channel mix as the 2001 DVD-Audio version).[23]

40th anniversary releases[edit]

The 40th anniversary edition of Machine Head was released on 8 October 2012 by EMI; it is a five-disc set accompanied with fully illustrated 60-page hardback booklet. Its contents include: Original album 2012 remaster (CD1), Roger Glover's 1997 mixes (CD2), Original album quad SQ stereo (2012 remaster) (CD3), In Concert '72 from Paris Theatre, London, 9 March 1972 – 2012 mix (CD4), 2012 high resolution remaster & surround mixes (DVD, audio only).

Also as part of the celebrations of the 40th anniversary celebrations Re-Machined: A Tribute to Deep Purple's Machine Head was released on 25 September 2012 by Eagle Rock Entertainment.[24]

Track listing[edit]

Original vinyl release[edit]

All tracks are written by Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice.

Side one
1."Highway Star"6:05
2."Maybe I'm a Leo"4:51
3."Pictures of Home"5:03
4."Never Before"3:56
Side two
1."Smoke on the Water"5:40
3."Space Truckin'"4:31

25th anniversary edition[edit]

Disc 1: 1997 Remixes
1."Highway Star"6:29
2."Maybe I'm a Leo"5:30
3."Pictures of Home"5:24
4."Never Before"4:01
5."Smoke on the Water"6:16
7."Space Truckin'"4:54
8."When a Blind Man Cries" (B-Side)3:31
Disc 2: Remastered
1."Highway Star"6:09
2."Maybe I'm a Leo"4:52
3."Pictures of Home"5:06
4."Never Before"4:00
5."Smoke on the Water"5:42
7."Space Truckin'"4:34
8."When a Blind Man Cries" (B-Side)3:32
9."Maybe I'm a Leo" (Quadrophonic mix)4:59
10."Lazy" (Quadrophonic mix)6:55

40th anniversary edition[edit]

Disc One: Original Album 2012 Remaster
1."Highway Star"6:08
2."Maybe I'm a Leo"4:52
3."Pictures of Home"5:08
4."Never Before"4:00
5."Smoke on the Water"5:42
7."Space Truckin'"4:35
8."When a Blind Man Cries"3:32
Disc Two: Roger Glover's 1997 Remixes
1."Highway Star"6:39
2."Maybe I'm a Leo"5:25
3."Pictures of Home"5:21
4."Never Before"3:59
5."Smoke on the Water"6:18
7."Space Truckin'"4:52
8."When a Blind Man Cries"3:33
Disc Three: Original Album Quad Sq Stereo
1."Highway Star"6:11
2."Maybe I'm a Leo"4:55
3."Pictures of Home"5:04
4."Never Before"3:59
5."Smoke on the Water"5:39
7."Space Truckin'"4:34
8."Smoke on the Water" (US A-Side Edit)3:50
9."Lazy" (Japanese B-Side)2:30
Disc Four: In Concert '72 (2012 Remix)
2."Highway Star"8:32
3."Strange Kind of Woman"9:17
4."Maybe I'm a Leo"6:17
5."Smoke on the Water"7:09
6."Never Before"4:34
8."Space Truckin'"21:46
9."Lucille" (Albert Collins, Richard Penniman)7:21
10."Soundcheck: Maybe I'm a Leo"4:32


Deep Purple
  • Martin Birch – engineering, mixing with Deep Purple
  • Jeremy "Bear" Gee – assistant engineer
  • Nick Watterton – Rolling Stones Mobile Studio operator
  • Ian Hansford, Rob Cooksey, Colin Hart – equipment technicians
  • Shephard Sherbell – photography
  • Roger Glover and John Coletta – cover design
  • Peter Denenberg and Roger Glover – remixing (1997)
  • Peter Mew – remastering at Abbey Road Studios, London (1997)



Region Certification Certified units/sales
France (SNEP)[48] 2× Gold 200,000*
Italy (FIMI)[49] Gold 50,000*
Japan (RIAJ)[50]
1989 release
Gold 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[51] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[52] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Kerrang! United Kingdom "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time"[53] 1989 35
Q United Kingdom "50 Heaviest Albums of All Time"[54] 2001 no ranking
Mojo United Kingdom "The Ultimate CD Buyers Guide – Rock"[55] 2001 66
Q United Kingdom "The 30 Greatest Classic Rock Albums Ever"[56] 2004 no ranking
Kerrang! United Kingdom "100 Best British Rock Albums Ever"[57] 2005 34
Classic Rock United Kingdom "100 Greatest British Rock Album Ever"[58] 2006 26
The Guardian United Kingdom "1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die"[59] 2007 no ranking



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  4. ^ Thompson 2004, p. 126
  5. ^ Thompson 2004, p. 127
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