Smoke on the Water

Smoke on the Water

Infobox Single
Name = Smoke on the Water

Artist = Deep Purple
from Album = Machine Head
B-side = Smoke on the Water (Live in Japan)
Released = 1972
Format = seven-inch Gramophone record
Recorded = December, 1971
Genre = Hard rock, heavy metal
Length =

  • 5:42 (album version)
  • 3:54 (single version)

Label = EMI (UK)
Warner Bros. Records (US)
Writer = Ritchie Blackmore
Ian Gillan
Roger Glover
Jon Lord
Ian Paice
Producer = Deep Purple
Certification =
Chart position = * #4 (US, Billboard Pop Single Chart)
Last single = "Never Before"
This single = "Smoke on the Water"
Next single = "Woman from Tokyo"
Misc = Extra tracklisting
Album = Machine Head
Type = studio
prev_track = "Never Before"
prev_no = 4
this_track = "Smoke on the Water"
track_no = 5
next_track = "Lazy"
next_no = 6
Extra album cover 2
Upper caption = UK single cover
Type = studio

Lower caption =

"Smoke on the Water" is a song by the British hard rock band Deep Purple. It was first released on their 1972 album "Machine Head". In 2004, the song was ranked #426 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and in March 2005, Q magazine placed "Smoke on the Water" at number 12 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks.


title=Deep Purple - "Smoke on the Water"
description=30 seconds (of 5:42)

This song is known for and recognisable by its central theme, a four-note "blues scale" melody harmonised in parallel fourths. The riff, played on a Gibson ES-335Fact|date=July 2008 electric guitar by Ritchie Blackmore, is immediately joined by hi-hat and drums and electric bass parts before the start of Ian Gillan's vocal. Jon Lord doubles the guitar part on a Hammond B3 organ played through a distorted Marshall amp creating a very similar tone to the guitar. Blackmore uses two fingers to pluck so the pairs of notes can be played exactly simultaneously to match the organ's timing more closely."Smoke on the Water" is the only song on "Machine Head" that is not played on his famous Fender Stratocaster.Fact|date=July 2008 Blackmore cited that the reason for using the Stratocaster on the other tracks was, that it was harder to play than the Gibson.citequoteFrom then and on he always plays on the Fender Stratocaster.Fact|date=July 2008 The song order is riff-verse-chorus-riff-verse-chorus-riff-solo-riff-verse-chorus-riff-solo. The first solo is performed on guitar by Ritchie Blackmore, whereas, the second and final solo is performed on an organ by Jon Lord until the song fades out.


The lyrics of the song tell a true story: on December 4, 1971, Deep Purple had set up camp 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 "the mobile" in the song 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. During the gig a fire broke out: "In the middle of Don Preston's synthesizer solo on 'King Kong', the place suddenly caught fire. Somebody in the audience had fired a flare gun into the ceiling, at which point the rattan covering started to burn" [ "The Real Frank Zappa Book" by Frank Zappa with Peter Occhiogrosso, pg. 112, ISBN 0-671-63870-X] [ "Bang Your Head" by David Konow, page 26, ISBN 0-609-80732-3] , as mentioned in the "some stupid with a flare gun" line. 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 suddenly 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 the fire from their hotel across the lake. 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.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 had loaded in and started working/recording, the nearby neighbours took offence at the noise, and the band was only able to lay down backing tracks for one song (based on Blackmore's riff and temporarily named "Title nº1"), before the local police shut them down.

Finally, after about a week of searching, the band rented out the nearly-empty Montreux Grand Hotel and converted its hallways and stairwells into a makeshift recording studio, where they laid down most of the tracks for what would become their most commercially successful album, "Machine Head".

Ironically, the only song from "Machine Head" not recorded in the Grand Hotel was "Smoke on the Water" itself, which had been recorded during the abortive Pavilion session. The lyrics of "Smoke on the Water" were composed later, and the vocals were recorded in the Grand Hotel.

After 1973, vocalist Ian Gillan and bass guitar player Roger Glover quit the band, and were replaced by David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes, who divided the vocals between each other. For this song, they divided it up so that Coverdale sang the first verse, Hughes sang the second verse, and they both sang the third verse and the choruses in harmony. However, rather than sing the third verse with the as-written lyrics, they chose instead to repeat the first verse every time they sang it.

When Steve Morse joined the band, it became a "Deep Purple" tradition to have him play a solo preceding this song in concert. This solo would consist of a medley of solos, licks, and riffs from many various classic rock songs. Rather than blend them into one another, Morse separates most of the licks by playing some one-handed tapping in between them.


"Smoke on the Water" was included on "Machine Head", which was released in early 1972, but was not released as a single until nearly a year later. 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 single 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 performance of the tune, featuring extended interplay between Blackmore's guitar and Jon Lord's Hammond organ would become a centerpiece 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 song-writers 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 the Rainbow was resurrected briefly in the mid 1990's. 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. Actually played using "all fourths" as specified by Blackmore (or double stops), a power chord-driven variation on the main recognizable riff is not difficult, and consequently it is constantly played by learners.

According to Dimebag Darrell Abbott’s brother, Vinnie Paul Abbott, "Smoke on the Water" was the first song that "Dimebag" learned on the guitar, and the first song that they played together.

Alternative versions

*The remixed CD re-issue of "Machine Head" features a version of the song with an alternate Blackmore guitar solo recorded at the time.
* The version that appears on "Deep Purple in Concert" includes Ian Gillan uttering the phrase "Break a leg, Frank". This is a reference to injuries that Frank Zappa had sustained as a result of being attacked onstage by an audience member at a concert in London, six days after the Montreux fire. A broken leg was among those injuries. The phrase can, also, be heard on the Roger Glover Remix of the song included on the Anniversary Edition reissue of "Machine Head".
* There is a remake of this song featuring Ian Gillan, Ritchie Blackmore, Brian May, David Gilmour, Bruce Dickinson, Tony Iommi, Keith Emerson, Chris Squire, Roger Taylor, Paul Rodgers, Bryan Adams and Alex Lifeson all done for the Rock Aid Armenia charity.
* R&B/swing singer Pat Boone covered the song in his 1997 album "", with Blackmore doing a guest appearance as lead guitarist.


"Smoke on the Water" has received the following rankings:
* #426 on Rolling Stone Magazine's The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
* #37 in VH1's 40 Greatest Metal Songs ["VH1 40 Greatest Metal Songs", 1-4 May 2006, "VH1" Channel, reported by [] ; last accessed September 10, 2006.]
* #12 in "Q" magazine's 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks (March 2005)

The song is honored in Montreux by a sculpture along the lake shore (right next to Freddie Mercury's statue) with the band's name, the song title, and the riff in musical notes.

The song has been covered by the English heavy metal band Black Sabbath, heavy metal band Soulfly, Power Metal band Metalium, Korean Thrash Metal band Crash, Brazilian Progressive Power Metal Angra, and many others, and was recorded by the supergroup Rock Aid Armenia. It was performed by rock act G3 and featured on the release "". On his album "Children of the Night", Canadian rocker Nash the Slash featured a parody entitled "Dopes on the Water". Barenaked Ladies quoted the misheard lyric "Slow motion Walter, the fire engine guy" in the song "Tonight Is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel" on their 2000 album "Maroon". The song is also sampled in "Everybody Jump 2007" by electronic group Anti-Funky.

In 1994, in Vancouver, 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. On Sunday June 3rd, 2007, in Kansas City this record was topped with 1,721 guitarists [ [ Spread Firefox, Crazy Records] ] .

The iconic nature of the song has led to its inclusion in several music-related video games. "Smoke on the Water" is one of the playable songs for the PlayStation 2 game "Guitar Hero" and is also a downloadable track in "Guitar Hero II" for the Xbox 360. It is a playable song in the PlayStation 2 game "SingStar Rocks!" and in the Japan-only Nintendo DS rhythm game "Daigasso! Band Brothers". It is also available on Wii's "Rayman Raving Rabbids 2" as a minigame, without Verse 3. The song also appears in Konami "Guitar Freaks 4th Mix".

In "School of Rock", Dewey Finn (Jack Black) teaches "Smoke on the Water" to Zach Mooneyham (Joey Gaydos). Apple, Inc. incorporated this scene in its commercial for Apple TV.

The Simpsons character Otto Mann refers to the song when he claims that rock music is about "far off lands, deals with the devil, and smoke in relation to water". The song is also referenced in an episode when Homer Simpson smokes medicinal marijuana, and he sings this song with the lyric "I am hungry for a candy bar, I think I'll eat a Mounds." The name of the song is also referred to in the "The Simpsons" episode "Smoke on the Daughter".

The animated characters Beavis and Butthead often played the initial riff on the air guitar whenever they are pleased with something, or are just bored.

The song is also referenced extensively in an episode of "Two and a Half Men".

The music to the song was used in a television commercial for the 2008 Dodge Avenger, when a Dodge scientist, testing gear shifts from three different cars, discovers that he can play the opening riff to "Smoke on the Water" with the gear shifts. It has also been used in Great Britain on a television ad for Strongbow cider.

The song has also been played following touchdowns at New York Jets football games, and it is the tune when the Leicester Tiger Rugby Union Team runs out when playing games at home.


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