Saturday, May 26, 1973

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

Updated 1/26/2019.

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Smoke on the Water

Deep Purple

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

Released: May 1973

First Charted: 5/26/1973

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

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

Radio Airplay *: --

Video Airplay *: 103.0

Streaming *: --

* in millions


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

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