Saturday, May 26, 1973

Deep Purple “Smoke on the Water” charted

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, 11 GR, 2 HR, 1 CL, 21 UK, 2 CN, 54 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.4 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 221.23 video, 520.78 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Ritchie Blackmore’s opening guitar riff may be “the most famous in rock history.” TB 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 It has become “the classic air guitar song,” TC “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

Jeff Tweedy of Wilco said, “This riff is absolutely the first thing I ever played on guitar, back when I was seven or eight years old.” JT He said “this riff is so dunderheaded and massive it blots out the sun” JT but “I cannot deny its importance to me, and countless others, as a budding musician.” JT “By the time I was a full-blown teenager, this bong-bruised, coughed-up lung of a song had evolved…to signify a distinct type of danger to a sensitive boy like myself.” JT

The song came about in 1971 during Deep Purple’s visit to Montreux, Switzerland – home of the famed Montreux Jazz Festival. Ian Paice, the band’s drummer, said, “We were fed up with traditional recording studios…We had played the Casino earlier that year, and the space was ideal” MM for recording their sixth album, Machine Head. The band went to see Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention at the Casino and a concert-goer shot off a flare gun during the show. The place caught fire and destroyed the venue.

Lead singer Ian Gillan said the band went to a restaurant nearby and watched the Casino burn. MM Bassist Roger Glover came up with the title “Smoke on the Water” to describe what he called “probably the biggest fire I’d ever seen…in my life.” WK The lyrics, written by Gilland and Glover in about twenty minutes, MM offered up a scene-by-scene account of the debacle. UCR

With their recording studio gone, Paice explained that they adjusted to new digs at Le Pavillion, a grand theater nearby that was closed for the winter. The band had already rented the Rolling Stones mobile studio and parked it outside, set up their gear inside, MM and 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.” Glover thought the latter would be the album’s big hit; DT in fact, none of the band anticipated “Smoke on the Water” being a hit. TB It wasn’t until more than a year later it was released as a single and went top 5 in the U.S. and Canada. WK With Gillan’s “banshee range” TC and Lord’s “pretensions towards classical music” TC they became a foundational band in the shaping of heavy metal.


Last updated 4/29/2024.

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