Smoke on the Water

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"Smoke on the Water"
Smoke on the Water.jpg
Cover of the 1973 German single
Single by Deep Purple
from the album Machine Head
B-side"Smoke on the Water" (live)
ReleasedMay 1973
Format7-inch record
RecordedDecember 1971
Genre
Length
  • 5:41 (album version)
  • 3:54 (single version)
  • 6:15 (Roger Glover remix)
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Deep Purple
Deep Purple singles chronology
"Never Before"
(1972)
"Smoke on the Water"
(1973)
"Woman from Tokyo"
(1973)
Machine Head track listing
Audio sample

"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]

Composition[edit]

The Smoke on the Water riff

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

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

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]

During an August 1972 show in Tokyo, Japan, Blackmore played the intro as follows:

-------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------
------8-10_----8-11-10__------8-10_-8-----
---10-8-10_-10-8-11-10__---10-8-10_-8-10__
---10-------10-------------10---------10__

There are two solos in the song; the first was performed on guitar by Ritchie Blackmore, and the second was performed on an organ by Jon Lord until the song fades out.

History[edit]

The lyrics tell a true story: on 4 December 1971, Purple were 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 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. This was to be the theatre's final concert before the casino complex closed down for its annual winter renovations, which would allow Deep Purple to record there. At the beginning of Don Preston's synthesizer solo on "King Kong", the place suddenly caught fire when somebody in the audience fired a flare gun toward the rattan covered ceiling, as mentioned in the "some stupid with a flare gun" line.[9][10] Although there were no major injuries, 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 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 Purple watched from their hotel. "It was probably the biggest fire I'd ever seen up to that point and probably ever seen in my life" said Glover. "It was a huge building. I remember there was very little panic getting out, because it didn't seem like much of a fire at first. But, when it caught, it went up like a fireworks display". 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 loaded in and started working/recording, neighbours took offence at the noise. The band was only able to lay down backing tracks for one song (based on Blackmore's riff and temporarily named "Title No.1"), before local police shut them down.

After about a week of searching, the band rented the nearly-empty Montreux Grand Hotel and converted its hallways and stairwells into a makeshift 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. Its lyrics were composed later, primarily by Gillan and based around Glover's title, and the vocals were recorded in the Grand Hotel.

Because of the incident and the exposure Montreux received when "Smoke on the Water" became an international hit, Purple formed a lasting bond with the town. 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. The new casino in Montreux displays notes from the riff as decoration on its balustrade facing the gambling hall.

On the Classic Albums episode about Machine Head, Ritchie Blackmore claimed friends of the band were not fans of the "Smoke on the Water" riff, which they thought too simplistic. Blackmore retorted by making comparisons to the first movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, which revolves around a similar four note arrangement.[11]

"The amazing thing with that song, and Ritchie's riff in particular," observed Ian Paice, "is that somebody hadn't done it before, because it's so gloriously simple and wonderfully satisfying."[12]

Impact[edit]

"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. ("Never Before" and "Highway Star" were the first singles issued from the album.) 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 performances of the tune, featuring extended interplay between Blackmore's guitar and Jon Lord's Hammond organ would become a centrepiece 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 songwriters 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 Rainbow was resurrected briefly in the mid-1990s and for three European concerts in June 2016.

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.[13] Actually played using "all fourths" (or double stops) as specified by Blackmore, a power chord-driven variation on the main recognizable riff is not difficult, and is consequently often played by learners.

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

Chart history[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA)[30] Gold 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Alternative versions[edit]

  • The 1997 Roger Glover Remix version which appears on the 25th Anniversary Edition reissue of Machine Head features a version of the song with an alternate Blackmore guitar solo recorded at the time, and includes Ian Gillan uttering the phrase "Break a leg, Frank", among other comments. 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 version that appears on Deep Purple in Concert also includes Gillan's "Break a leg" comment.

Personnel[edit]

Rock Aid Armenia version[edit]

"Smoke on the Water"
Smoke-on-the-water-armenia.jpg
Cover for the "Rock Aid Armenia" charity release
Single by Rock Aid Armenia
Released1989
Format7- & 12-inch records
Recorded8–15 July 1989
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Music video
"Smoke on the Water" (Rock Aid Armenia) on YouTube
1990 reissue cover
Cover of the 7" reissue of the Rock Aid Armenia single
Cover of the 7" reissue of the Rock Aid Armenia single

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.

In popular culture[edit]

In games[edit]

The iconic nature of the song has led to its inclusion in several music-related video games.

  • The song is available as a downloadable track for the guitar game Rocksmith.[33]
  • The song is playable in the online game Stick Dudes Gone Wild: Rock Band.[34]

In television[edit]

  • The song features prominently in the Better Call Saul season 1 finale episode, "Marco" (airdate 6 April 2015). First, Marco hums it while waiting in the alley for Slippin' Jimmy and his mark. Next, Jimmy drums it on his steering wheel, when leaving the courthouse in Albuquerque, after standing up his interview for a partnership-track job. Finally, the song plays just before the closing credits.[35] In Better Call Saul season 2 episode 1, Jimmy bellowed the song intro after quitting office and refusing new job.
  • The song has featured in several episodes[which?] of The Sopranos, including "Join the Club".[36][37]
  • Beavis and Butt-Head prominently features the titular characters vocalizing the guitar riff.

In world records[edit]

  • 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.[38]
  • On Sunday 3 June 2007, in Kansas City this record was topped with 1,721 guitarists.[38] 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.[39]
  • 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.[40][41]

Further reading[edit]

  • Christe, Ian (2003). Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-380-81127-8.
  • "Smoke On The Water - the story". Deep-Purple.net.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Andrew Winistorfer. "VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs list only slightly less annoying than their hip-hop list". Prefix. Archived from the original on 7 July 2013. 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' Archived 3 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 December 2011
  5. ^ a b Guns N' Roses top rock riff poll, BBC News, 2 May 2004, archived from the original on 14 August 2009, retrieved 4 January 2010
  6. ^ a b Tracks 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever! Archived 26 January 2013 at WebCite Q Magazine. Retrieved 18 December 2011
  7. ^ Classic Albums - Machine Head. BBC. Archived from the original on 1 January 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
  8. ^ Deep Purple - New York 1973 (Full Concert). YouTube. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. 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. ^ In an interview with CNN Ritchie Blackmore told Richard Quest: "It's interpretation of an inversion, in tone back and play back and forth. It's actually Beethoven's 5th. So I owe him a lot of money."Quest for rock 'n' roll - Ritchie Blackmore Archived 7 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ Rees, Paul (April 2017). "To Infinity… and Beyond?". Classic Rock #234. p. 39.
  13. ^ Video of Ritchie talking about the riff on YouTube
  14. ^ "VH1 40 Greatest Metal Songs", 1–4 May 2006, VH1 Channel, reported by VH1.com Archived 2 March 2012 at WebCite; last accessed 10 September 2006.
  15. ^ "spreadit.org music". Archived from the original on 21 March 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
  16. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  17. ^ "Ultratop.be – Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  18. ^ "Smoke on the water in Canadian Top Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Archived from the original on 21 April 2016. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  19. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  20. ^ "Smoke on the water in French Chart" (in French). Dominic DURAND / InfoDisc. 1 July 2013. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013. You have to use the index at the top of the page and search "Deep Purple"
  21. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water". GfK Entertainment Charts.
  22. ^ John Samson. "Smoke on the water in South African Chart". Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  23. ^ "Machine Head awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Archived from the original on 16 November 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  24. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, August 4, 1973
  25. ^ "1977 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive - 7th May 1977". Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on 15 March 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  26. ^ "Lescharts.com – Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water" (in French). Les classement single.
  27. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (December 26, 2017). "Image : RPM Weekly".
  28. ^ Musicoutfitters.com
  29. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 29, 1973
  30. ^ "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. 
  31. ^ "Guttenberg departs Defense Ministry with full military honors". Archived from the original on 14 March 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
  32. ^ "Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden and Queen band members perform at charity rock show" Archived 2 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine.. NME. Retrieved 4 November 2012
  33. ^ "Rocksmith - Deep Purple - Smoke on the Water on Steam". store.steampowered.com. Archived from the original on 31 December 2017.
  34. ^ "Stick Dudes Gone Wild: Rock Band FAQ". YoYo Games Forums. 31 January 2018. Archived from the original on 1 February 2018. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  35. ^ Neumyer, Scott (6 April 2015). "'Better Call Saul' Season One Finale Recap: 'Marco'". WSJ Speakeasy. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017.
  36. ^ "Original TV Soundtrack - Fuhgeddaboudit! Music You Heard on the Sopranos Lyrics - SongMeanings!". songmeanings.com. Archived from the original on 12 November 2013.
  37. ^ "Episode 67: Join the Club". walletbiopsy.net. Archived from the original on 13 November 2013.
  38. ^ a b "Spread Firefox, Crazy Records". spreadfirefox.com. Archived from the original on 30 May 2008.
  39. ^ "Die Geschichte des Gitarrenweltrekords". Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  40. ^ "Official Steve Morse Blog". Archived from the original on 30 April 2009. Retrieved 4 May 2009.
  41. ^ ""Thanks Jimi Festival" 2009 and Guitar Guinness Record". Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. Retrieved 4 May 2009.

External links[edit]