Smoke on the Water

Last updated

"Smoke on the Water"
Smoke on the Water cover.jpg
Cover of the 1973 German single
Single by Deep Purple
from the album Machine Head
B-side "Smoke on the Water" (live)
Released1 May 1973 [1]
RecordedDecember 1971
  • 5:41 (album version)
  • 3:54 (single version)
  • 6:15 (Roger Glover remix)
Producer(s) Deep Purple
Deep Purple singles chronology
"Never Before"
"Smoke on the Water"
"Woman from Tokyo"
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, [5] ranked number 4 in Total Guitar magazine's Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever, [6] and in March 2005, Q magazine placed "Smoke on the Water" at number 12 in its list of the 100 greatest guitar tracks. [7]



The Smoke on the Water riff Smoke on the Water riff.jpg
The Smoke on the Water riff

"Smoke on the Water" is easily identified by its central theme, developed by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. It is a four-note blues scale melody in G minor, [8] 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 main power chord riff is an interpretation of inversion of Symphony No. 5 by Ludwig van Beethoven, and that "I owe him a lot of money". [9]

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. [10] [ infringing link? ]


We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn't have much time
But Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground
Smoke on the water
A fire in the sky
Smoke on the water

—Opening verse and chorus of "Smoke on the Water", recollecting the fire.

The lyrics tell a true story: on 4 December 1971, Deep Purple were in Montreux, Switzerland, to record an album ( Machine Head ) 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 Deep 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. [13] Swiss police named Zdeněk Špička, a Czechoslovak refugee living in Épalinges, as a suspect in the case, but he fled Switzerland shortly after. [14]

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. [15]

After about a week of searching, the band rented the nearly-empty Grand Hôtel de Territet 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). [16] [17]

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. [15]

Because of the incident and the exposure Montreux received when "Smoke on the Water" became an international hit, Deep 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, Blackmore claimed that 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.

"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." [18]


"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, [19] number 2 on the Canadian RPM charts, and it propelled the album to the top 10 more than a year after its release. 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 concerts, as in the live version found on the album Made in Japan . Warner Brothers included the live version of "Smoke on the Water" from Made in Japan as the B-side of the "Smoke on the Water" studio single.

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.

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


Chart history


RegionCertification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI) [37] Gold25,000Double-dagger-14-plain.png
United Kingdom (BPI) [38] Silver250,000Double-dagger-14-plain.png
United States (RIAA) [39] Gold1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Double-dagger-14-plain.png Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Alternative versions

Rock Aid Armenia version

"Smoke on the Water"
Cover for the "Rock Aid Armenia" charity release
Single by Rock Aid Armenia
Recorded8–15 July 1989, Metropolis Studios in Chiswick, London.
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

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. [40] The single made it to the UK Top 40 Singles Chart. [41]

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. [42] The track's producers were Gary Langan and Geoff Downes.

In world records

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 . [43] On Sunday 3 June 2007, in Kansas City this record was topped with 1,721 guitarists. [43] 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. [44] 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. [45] [46]

See also

Related Research Articles

Deep Purple English rock band

Deep Purple are an English rock band formed in Hertford, Hertfordshire, in 1968. They are considered to be among the pioneers of heavy metal and modern hard rock, although their musical approach has changed over the years. Originally formed as a psychedelic rock and progressive rock band, they shifted to a heavier sound with their 1970 album Deep Purple in Rock. 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 albums worldwide.

<i>Machine Head</i> (album) 1972 studio album by Deep Purple

Machine Head is the sixth studio album released by the English rock band Deep Purple. It was recorded in December 1971 at Montreux, Switzerland, and released on 25 March 1972 on Purple Records.

<i>Perfect Strangers</i> (album) 1984 studio album by Deep Purple

Perfect Strangers is the eleventh studio album by the British rock band Deep Purple, released in 29 October 1984. It was the most successful album recorded by the reformed 'Mark II' line-up.

Highway Star (song) 1972 song by Deep Purple

"Highway Star" is a song by the English rock band Deep Purple. It is the opening track on their 1972 album Machine Head and is the fastest song in tempo on the album. It is characterised by long, classically-inspired guitar and organ solos.

<i>Deepest Purple: The Very Best of Deep Purple</i> 1980 compilation album by Deep Purple

Deepest Purple: The Very Best of Deep Purple is a compilation album by the British hard rock band Deep Purple, released in 1980 on LP. It features the original hits of Deep Purple before their 1984 reunion. Aided by a TV advertising campaign it would become Purple's third UK No. 1 album. In 1984 this compilation additionally was published on CD.

<i>The House of Blue Light</i> 1987 studio album by Deep Purple

The House of Blue Light is the 12th studio album by British rock band Deep Purple, released in 1987. It's the second recording by the re-formed Mark II line-up, and the sixth studio album overall by this formation of the band.

Maybe Im a Leo 1972 song by Deep Purple

"Maybe I'm a Leo" is a song by the British rock group Deep Purple, from their 1972 album Machine Head.

Black Night Original song written and composed by Deep Purple (Blackmore-Gillan-Glover-Lord-Paice)

"Black Night" is a song by British hard rock band Deep Purple, first released as a single in June 1970 and later included on the 25th Anniversary version of their 1970 album, Deep Purple in Rock. It became a hit following its release, peaking at No. 2 on UK charts, and remains Deep Purple's highest charting UK single. It topped the charts in Switzerland, and is one of only two singles from the band to chart in Ireland, peaking at No. 4, thus making it the group's only Irish Top 10 hit. It was also the second non-album single penned by the band and also reached number 6 in South Africa.

Space Truckin 1972 song by Deep Purple

"Space Truckin'" is a song by British hard rock band Deep Purple. It is the seventh and final track on the Machine Head album and its lyrics talk of space travel.

"Lazy" is a song by Deep Purple from their 1972 album Machine Head. A live performance of the song can be found on the album Made in Japan, released later the same year.

"Pictures of Home" is a song by the British hard rock group Deep Purple, from their 1972 album Machine Head. It begins with a drum introduction by Ian Paice and features a fast-paced, driving guitar riff and bass line with several instrumental solos.

<i>Total Abandon: Australia 99</i>

Total Abandon: Australia '99 is a double live album and DVD by British hard rock band Deep Purple, recorded at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia on 20 April 1999. When the album was released in September 1999, it was only available in Australia. From 12 October 1999, it was made available as a mail order merchandise in Europe. Later, it was also sold in music stores. In USA, the album was not released until 2012; this edition was cut to only one disc.

<i>Live at Montreux 2006</i>

Live at Montreux 2006: They All Came Down to Montreux is the first live release by English hard rock band Deep Purple's mk VIII lineup. This concert was recorded in Montreux, during 2006 Rapture of the Deep tour. Besides a DVD release, the concert film has also been released on HD DVD and Blu-ray.

<i>Live at Montreux 1996</i>

Live at Montreux 1996 is a live album and DVD by British hard rock band Deep Purple, recorded in 1996 and released in 2006.

<i>Live in Paris 1975</i> 2001 live album by Deep Purple

Live in Paris 1975 is a live album by the British hard rock band Deep Purple, recorded in 1975 at the Palais des Sports in Paris. It was meant to be released before the 1975 Come Taste the Band album, but was not released until 2001 by Purple Records. See also Made in Europe (1976) and Mk III: The Final Concerts

<i>Live in Montreux 69</i> 2006 live album by Deep Purple

Live in Montreux 69 is a live album by English rock band Deep Purple, recorded 4 October 1969 in Montreux, released in 2006. It was recorded in the Montreux Casino that burned down two years later.

<i>Deep Purple in Rock</i> 1970 studio album by Deep Purple

Deep Purple in Rock is the fourth studio album by Deep Purple, released on 5 June 1970. It was the first studio album recorded by the Mark II line-up of Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice.

The Deep Purple European Tour was a year-long successful concert tour by British hard rock band Deep Purple, lasting from July 1969 until June 1970. The band played mostly United Kingdom shows, also covering Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium. It was the first tour to feature the classic Deep Purple line-up: Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord and Ian Paice. It is considered to be the pre-tour for the In Rock album, as the band mostly played songs from the upcoming album.

Live at Montreux 2011 is a live release by English hard rock band Deep Purple's mk VIII lineup credited as Deep Purple with Orchestra, and performed alongside the Neue Philharmonie Frankfurt conducted by Stephen Bentley-Klein. This concert was recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival on 16 July 2011. Besides a 2CD release, the concert film has also been released on DVD and Blu-ray. All formats were released on 7 November 2011 by German label Eagle Rock Entertainment. In 2015 a vinyl collector's edition of the album was released for a Record Store Day.


  1. "Deep Purple singles".
  2. 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"
  3. 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"
  4. 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."
  5. 1 2 500 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
  6. 1 2 "Guns N' Roses top rock riff poll", BBC News, 2 May 2004, archived from the original on 14 August 2009, retrieved 4 January 2010
  7. 1 2 Tracks 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever! Archived 17 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine Q Magazine. Retrieved 18 December 2011
  8. Ian, Paice; Jon, Lord; Roger, Glover; Ian, Gillan; Ritchie, Blackmore; Purple, Deep (25 March 2008). "Smoke on the Water". Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  9. Thompson, Dave (2004). Smoke on the Water: The Deep Purple Story. ECW Press. p. 128. ISBN   978-1-55022-618-8.
  10. Classic Albums - Machine Head. BBC. Archived from the original on 1 January 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
  11. The Real Frank Zappa Book by Frank Zappa with Peter Occhiogrosso, pg. 112, ISBN   0-671-63870-X
  12. Bang Your Head by David Konow, pg. 26, ISBN   0-609-80732-3
  13. "Claude Nobs, Montreux Jazz Festival founder, dies". BBC News. 10 January 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  14. "The Czech Man Behind 'Smoke on the Water'". 8 December 2016.
  15. 1 2 "How Deep Purple created their best hit 'Smoke on the Water'". The Independent. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  16. "Deep Purple revient sur le lieu où est né "Smoke on the Water"". Tribune deGeneve. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  17. Deep Purple release 'Machine Head' BBC. Retrieved 19 October 2011
  18. Rees, Paul (April 2017). "To Infinity… and Beyond?". Classic Rock #234. p. 39.
  19. "Machine Head awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Archived from the original on 16 November 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  20. "VH1 40 Greatest Metal Songs", 1–4 May 2006, VH1 Channel, reported by Archived 29 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine ; last accessed 10 September 2006.
  21. " music". Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
  22. " – Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  23. " – Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  24. " – Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  25. "Top RPM Singles: Issue 4875." RPM . Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
  26. " – Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. To see peak chart position, click "TITEL VON Deep Purple"
  27. " – Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  28. "Smoke on the water in French Chart" (in French). Dominic DURAND / InfoDisc. 1 July 2013. Archived from the original on 27 November 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013. You have to use the index at the top of the page and search "Deep Purple"
  29. John Samson. "Smoke on the water in South African Chart". Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  30. "Deep Purple Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
  31. "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, August 4, 1973". Archived from the original on 9 June 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  32. "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  33. " – Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water" (in French). Les classement single.
  34. Canada, Library and Archives (26 December 2017). "Image : RPM Weekly".
  36. "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 29, 1973". Archived from the original on 15 July 2014. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  37. "Italian single certifications – Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana . Retrieved 11 March 2019. Select "2019" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Smoke on the Water" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  38. "British single certifications – Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water". British Phonographic Industry . Retrieved 1 February 2019.Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Smoke on the Water in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  39. "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. 
  40. "Rock Aid Armenia - Smoke on the Water '90 (Vinyl)". Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  41. "UK chart 1989". 23 January 2019. Retrieved 9 October 2020.
  42. "Rock Aid Armenia" . Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  43. 1 2 "Spread Firefox, Crazy Records". Archived from the original on 30 May 2008. Retrieved 29 May 2008.
  44. "Die Geschichte des Gitarrenweltrekords". Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  45. "Official Steve Morse Blog". Archived from the original on 30 April 2009. Retrieved 4 May 2009.
  46. ""Thanks Jimi Festival" 2009 and Guitar Guinness Record". Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. Retrieved 4 May 2009.

Further reading