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
Format 7-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]

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and in the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Deep Purple English rock band

Deep Purple are an English rock band formed in Hertford in 1968. The band is considered to be among the pioneers of heavy metal and modern hard rock, although their musical approach changed over the years. Originally formed as a progressive rock band, the band shifted to a heavier sound in 1970. Deep Purple, together with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, have been referred to as the "unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal in the early to mid-seventies". They were listed in the 1975 Guinness Book of World Records as "the globe's loudest band" for a 1972 concert at London's Rainbow Theatre, and have sold over 100 million copies of their albums worldwide.

<i>Machine Head</i> (album) Album by Deep Purple

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

Contents

Composition

The Smoke on the Water riff Smoke on the Water riff.jpg
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. Blackmore later claimed that the riff is an interpretation of inversion of Symphony No. 5 by Ludwig van Beethoven, and that "I owe him a lot of money". [7] [8]

Ritchie Blackmore British guitarist and songwriter, guitarist of Deep Purple

Richard Hugh Blackmore is an English guitarist and songwriter. He was one of the founding members of Deep Purple in 1968, playing jam-style hard-rock music which mixed guitar riffs and organ sounds. During his solo career he established the heavy metal band Rainbow, which fused baroque music influences and elements of hard rock. Rainbow steadily moved to catchy pop-style mainstream rock. Later in life, he formed the traditional folk rock project Blackmore's Night, transitioning to vocalist-centred sounds. As a member of Deep Purple, Blackmore was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2016.

The term blues scale refers to several different scales with differing numbers of pitches and related characteristics.

Fender Stratocaster electric guitar

The Fender Stratocaster is a model of electric guitar designed in 1954 by Leo Fender, Bill Carson, George Fullerton, and Freddie Tavares. The Fender Musical Instruments Corporation has continuously manufactured the Stratocaster from 1954 to the present. It is a double-cutaway guitar, with an extended top "horn" shape for balance. Along with the Gibson Les Paul and Fender Telecaster, it is one of the most-often emulated electric guitar shapes. "Stratocaster" and "Strat" are trademark terms belonging to Fender. Guitars that duplicate the Stratocaster by other manufacturers are usually called S-Type or ST-type guitars.

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

Rolling Stones Mobile Studio

The Rolling Stones Mobile Studio was a mobile recording studio owned by the English rock band The Rolling Stones. Numerous bands and artists have recorded music using it, including Dire Straits, Deep Purple, Lou Reed, Bob Marley, Horslips, Nazareth, Fleetwood Mac, Bad Company, Status Quo, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Wishbone Ash and the Rolling Stones themselves. More recently, the unit has been acquired by the National Music Centre in Calgary.

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 [9] or occasionally a plectrum upstroke (to accentuate the tonic). [10]

Jon Lord English musician

John Douglas “Jon” Lord was an English composer, pianist, and Hammond organ player known for his pioneering work in fusing rock with classical or baroque forms, especially with Deep Purple, as well as Whitesnake, Paice Ashton Lord, The Artwoods, and The Flower Pot Men. In 1968, Lord co-founded Deep Purple, a hard rock band of which he was regarded as the leader until 1970. Together with the other members, he collaborated on most of his band's most popular songs. He and drummer Ian Paice were the only continuous presence in the band during the period from 1968 to 1976, and also from when it was reestablished in 1984 until Lord's retirement from Deep Purple in 2002. On 11 November 2010, he was inducted as an Honorary Fellow of Stevenson College in Edinburgh, Scotland. On 15 July 2011, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree at De Montfort Hall by the University of Leicester. Lord was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on 8 April 2016 as a member of Deep Purple.

Hammond organ electric organ

The Hammond organ is an electric organ, invented by Laurens Hammond and John M. Hanert and first manufactured in 1935. Various models have been produced, most of which use sliding drawbars to specify a variety of sounds. Until 1975, Hammond organs generated sound by creating an electric current from rotating a metal tonewheel near an electromagnetic pickup, and then strengthening the signal with an amplifier so it can drive a speaker cabinet. Around two million Hammond organs have been manufactured. The organ is commonly used with, and associated with, the Leslie speaker.

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

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. [11] [12] 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.

Montreux Place in Vaud, Switzerland

Montreux is a municipality in the district of Riviera-Pays-d'Enhaut in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland.

Switzerland federal republic in Western Europe

Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a country situated in western, central and southern Europe. It consists of 26 cantons, and the city of Bern is the seat of the federal authorities. The sovereign state is a federal republic bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning a total area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8.5 million people is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are to be found: among them are the two global cities and economic centres Zürich and Geneva.

The Rolling Stones English rock band

The Rolling Stones are an English rock band formed in London in 1962. The first stable line-up consisted of Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman (bass), Charlie Watts (drums), and Ian Stewart (piano). Stewart was removed from the official line-up in 1963 but continued to work with the band as a contracted musician until his death in 1985. Brian Jones was the original leader of the group. The band's primary songwriters, Jagger and Richards, assumed leadership after Andrew Loog Oldham became the group's manager. Their musical focus shifted from covering blues songs to writing original material, a decision with which Jones did not agree. Jones left the band less than a month before his death in 1969, having already been replaced by Mick Taylor, who remained until 1974. After Taylor left the band, Ronnie Wood took his place in 1975 and continues on guitar in tandem with Richards. Following Wyman's departure in 1993, Darryl Jones was contracted by the band to play bass. Since the firing of Stewart, the Stones have not had a keyboardist as a member of the band, but have had long working relationships with Jack Nitzsche (1965–1971), Nicky Hopkins (1967–1982), Billy Preston (1971–1981), Ian McLagan (1978–1981), and Chuck Leavell (1982–present).

Claude Nobs (2006), the "Funky Claude" mentioned in the song Claude Nobs1.jpg
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. [13]

"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." [14]

Impact

"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. [15] 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

Certifications

RegionCertification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA) [32] Gold1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Alternative versions

Personnel

Rock Aid Armenia version

"Smoke on the Water"
Smoke-on-the-water-armenia.jpg
Cover for the "Rock Aid Armenia" charity release
Single by Rock Aid Armenia
Released1989
Format 7- & 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
Smoke-on-the-water-armenia-reissue.jpg
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 games

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

In television

In world records

Further reading

Related Research Articles

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