Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water

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Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water

Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water

Hard Rock Music

The story behind the song, which was written by group members Ritchie Blackmore, Ian, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, and Ian Paice, is as follows. Let’s go back to December 4, 1971. Deep Purple went with a mobile recording unit, which they rented from The Rolling Stones,  to Montreux, Switzerland, to record an album. They were going to use the entertainment complex that was part of the Montreux Casino (known as “the gambling house” in the song lyrics) as a recording space. That night was to be the last concert at the casino’s theatre before it closed for annual winter renovations. Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention were performing that night. During the song “King Kong,” someone fired a flare gun at the rattan-covered ceiling. This caused a fire, which burned down the casino and the Mothers’ equipment. The smoke spread over Lake Geneva. There were no major injuries, fortunately. Unfortunately, Deep Purple had to find another place to record. After a try or so and neighbors complaining about the noise, Deep Purple rented the almost-empty Montreux Grand Hotel and recorded their  album Machine Head. The album is dedicated to Claude Nobs (“Funky Claude in the song), the director of the Montreux Jazz Festival, who helped the audience escape the fire.

“Smoke on the Water” was released on their 1972 album Machine Head and in 1973 as a single. It was an international success, going to #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, #2 in Canada, and in the Top40 in Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany. In 1977, it went to #21 in the U.K. The song sold more than one million units and earned an RIAA gold record.

Because of the international notoriety of the song and the bond Deep Purple developed with Montreux, there is a sculpture along the lake shore with the band’s name, song title and a musical notation of the famous guitar riff. Oh, and that famous guitar riff has been played by many a budding guitarist. The guitar riff is doubled by Jon Lord’s Hammond C3 organ part (played through a distorted Marshall amp to create guitar-like sound). There are two solos in the song. The first is by Richie Blackmore on his guitar. The second is by Jon Lord on the organ.

Deep Purple formed in Herford, Herfordshire, England in 1968. On the track were Ritchie Blackmore (guitars), Ian Gillan (lead vocals), Roger Glover (bass guitar), Jon Lord (Hammond organ), and Ian Paice (drums). Over time, the lineup has changed, but the group continues to tour and perform internationally.

Here are the lyrics to “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple:

We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn’t have much time
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

They burned down the gambling house
It died with an awful sound
Funky Claude was running in and out
Pulling kids out the ground
When it all was over
We had to find another place
But Swiss time was running out
It seemed that we would lose the race

Smoke on the water, a fire in the sky
Smoke on the water

We ended up at the Grand Hotel
It was empty, cold and bare
But with the Rolling truck Stones thing just outside
Making our music there
With a few red lights, a few old beds
We made a place to sweat
No matter what we get out of this
I know, I know we’ll never forget

Smoke on the water, a fire in the sky
Smoke on the water

For More 70s Tunes

The System has daily featured music from all sorts of genres of 1970s music. You’re welcome to listen to any of the 40+ selections in The System. Thank you for stopping by. Hope you enjoyed “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple.

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