Saturday, May 26, 1973

Deep Purple hit the charts with “Smoke on the Water”

Last updated 2/10/2021.

Smoke on the Water

Deep Purple

Writer(s): Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ian Paice (see lyrics here)

First Charted: May 26, 1973

Peak: 4 US, 3 CB, 2 HR, 1 CL, 21 UK, 2 CN, 54 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 221.23 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Ritchie Blackmore’s opening guitar riff has become legendary; it has been “painstakingly imitated by budding guitar players of many future generations, and also patiently taught to the younger set by Jack Black in the movie School of Rock.” UCR Total Guitar magazine ranked it the fourth greatest guitar riff ever. WK Keyboardist Jon Lord said the song’s working title was “‘Durh Durh Durh’ – a transliteration of the riff.” RS500

The song came about in 1971 during Deep Purple’s visit to Montreux, Switzerland – home of the famed Montreux Jazz Festival. While the band were busy recording their Machine Head album at the Montreux Casino complex, a concert-goer shot off a flare gun during a show by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. The place caught fire and destroyed the venue.

Bassist Roger Glover came up with the title “Smoke on the Water” to describe how the smoke from the fire was rising over Lake Geneva while the band watched. Glover said “It was probably the biggest fire I’d ever seen…in my life.” WK Lead singer Ian Gillan described it as “an inferno…The wind was coming down off the mountains and blowing the flames and the smoke over the lake. And the smoke was just like a stage show and it was hanging on the water.” UCR His subsequent lyrics offered up a scene-by-scene account of the debacle. UCR

Deep Purple relocated to the practically deserted Montreux Grand Hotel to complete work on Machine Head. They converted hallways and stairwells into a makeshift studio. WK The band were were rushed to finish and wrote much of the material on the spot. However, “Smoke on the Water” serves as “evidence that perhaps sponaeity was a very good thing.” UCR

The Machine Head album was released in March 1972 and supported by the release of the singles “Highway Star” and “Never Before.” It wasn’t until more than a year later when “Smoke on the Water” was released as a single. The band didn’t expect it to be a hit, but the song went top 5 in the U.S. and Canada. WK

Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, May 19, 1973

Stevie Wonder hit #1 with “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”

First posted 11/7/2020.

You Are the Sunshine of My Life

Stevie Wonder

Writer(s): Stevie Wonder (see lyrics here)

First Charted: March 17, 1973

Peak: 1 US, 1 CB, 1 HR, 1 AC, 3 RB, 8 CL, 7 UK, 5 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 27.14 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

This song followed “Superstition,” the lead single from 1972’s Talking Book, to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 – ten years after Wonder’s first run to the top with 1963’s “Fingertips (Part 2).” It received nominations for Grammys for Record and Song of the Year and won for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. In accepting the award, Wonder said, “I would like to thank all of you for making this night the sunshine of my life.” BR1

It is “a disarmingly simple love song,” JB “but of course, it’s only the composition that’s simple.” JB Its “candy-coated pop” TL could make it feel “nauseating or naively charming, or even nausteatingly charming.” SL-85 It is probably why it is also “one of the most covered (and ‘lounged’) songs ever.” SL-84

The song also showcased “a rare generosity in someone of Stevie’s star status” SL-84 in that the song’s first few vocal lines are given to Jim Gilstrap and Gloria Barley (although some accounts say it is Lani Groves). All three were backup singers for Wonder. WK The song was actually recorded during the making of Music of My Mind, Wonder’s previous album, but held back because it was “deemed unsuitiable for the mood of that album.” SL-84

There was also speculation that the song was held off for awhile since Wonder had entered into a relationship with Barley although still married to Syreeta Wright, SL-85 who’d been the inspiration for the song. BR1 Wright was a secretary and aspiring singer at Motown Records who married Wonder in 1970. According to some sources, the pair divorced in 1972, but Wright claimed they were married until 1975. SF

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Stevie Wonder
  • DMDB page for Talking Book album
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 333.
  • JB John Bush, All Music Guide
  • SL Steve Lodder (2005). Stevie Wonder: A Musical Guide to the Classic Albums. Backbeat Books: San Francisco, CA.
  • SF Songfacts
  • TL Josh Tyrangiel and Alan Light (11/13/2006). Time Magazine “All-TIME 100 Albums
  • WK Wikipedia