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"Smoke on the Water"
Single by Deep Purple
from the album Machine Head
B-side "Smoke on the Water" (live)
(From Made in Japan)
Released 1972, single in May 1973
Format 7"
Recorded December 1971
Genre Hard rock, heavy metal[1]
Length 5:42 (album version)
3:54 (single version)
Label EMI (UK)
Warner. Bros (U.S.)
Writer(s) Ritchie Blackmore
Ian Gillan
Roger Glover
Jon Lord
Ian Paice
Producer Deep Purple
Deep Purple singles chronology
"Never Before"
"Smoke on the Water"
"Woman from Tokyo"
Audio sample
file info · help
Machine Head track listing
"Never Before"
"Smoke on the Water"
French single cover

"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.



The Smoke on the Water riff

"Smoke on the Water" is known for and recognisable by its central theme, a four-note "blues scale" melody harmonised in parallel fourths. The riff, played on a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar by Ritchie Blackmore, is later joined by hi-hat and distorted organ, then drums, then electric bass parts before the start of Ian Gillan's vocal.

We all came out to Montreux, on the Lake Geneva shoreline

To make records with a mobile, we didn't have much time

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 uses two fingers to pluck[2] so the pairs of notes can be played exactly simultaneously, to match the organ's timing more closely.

The song order is intro(riff)-verse-chorus-riff-verse-chorus-riff-solo-riff-verse-chorus-riff-solo. The first solo is performed on guitar by Ritchie Blackmore, and 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 4 December 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. In the middle of Don Preston's synthesizer solo on "King Kong", the place suddenly caught fire when somebody in the audience fired a flare gun into the rattan covered ceiling, as mentioned in the "some stupid with a flare gun" line.[3][4] 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.

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 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.

Like other Deep Purple's songs (such as Child in Time, Black Night or Burn), the main riff is similar to an existing tune. In the case of "Smoke on the Water", the riff is based on Carlos Lyra's song titled "Maria Moite" performed by Astrud Gilberto (on the album Look at the Rainbow - 1965).[5]

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.


"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. 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 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.[6] 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.

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.

Cover versions

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, done for the Rock Aid Armenia charity.

The song has been covered by many bands including 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 Rock Aid Armenia. It was performed by rock act G3 and featured on the release G3: Live in Tokyo.

R&B/swing singer Pat Boone covered the song in his 1997 album In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy, with Blackmore doing a guest appearance as lead guitarist. German DJ/techno veteran Uwe Schmidt covered the song in Latino lounge style under the alias of Senor Coconut on the 2003 album Fiesta Songs.


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

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.

In the 1970s, the song was used in advertisements for the Woodford Glen Speedway, situated just one mile southeast of Kaiapoi, not far from the Waimakariri River, in the South Island of New Zealand, to inform the Canterbury public about their upcoming races and demolition derbies, which are still carried out over the summer months to this day.

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. On Sunday June 3, 2007, in Kansas City this record was topped with 1,721 guitarists[10]. The record was again topped on Friday May 3, 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, they also played "Hey Joe" which was made famous by Jimi Hendrix.[11][12]

The iconic nature of the song has led to its inclusion in several music-related video games. A cover version of "Smoke on the Water" is one of the playable songs for the PlayStation 2 game Guitar Hero, and the same cover version is a downloadable track in Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360. It is also featured in Guitar Hero: Smash Hits as a master track. 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. The song is playable in the online game Stick Dudes Gone Wild: Rock Band.


Sales accomplishments

RIAA certification[13] (United States)

Date Designation Total Sales
August 28, 1973 Gold 500,000


  • Christe, Ian (2003). Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal. HarperCollins. ISBN 0380811278


  1. ^ 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."
  2. ^ Classic Albums - Machine Head. BBC. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  3. ^ "The Real Frank Zappa Book" by Frank Zappa with Peter Occhiogrosso, pg. 112, ISBN 0-671-63870-X
  4. ^ "Bang Your Head" by David Konow, page 26, ISBN 0-609-80732-3
  5. ^ Nick Soveiko (2009-10-10). "Creative minds work in mysterious ways". Retrieved 2010-01-12. 
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ "VH1 40 Greatest Metal Songs", 1–4 May 2006, VH1 Channel, reported by; last accessed September 10, 2006.
  8. ^ " music". Retrieved February 7, 2009. 
  9. ^ BBC News, 2004-05-02,, retrieved 2010-01-04 
  10. ^ Spread Firefox, Crazy Records
  11. ^ "Official Steve Morse Blog". Retrieved 4 May 2009. 
  12. ^ ""Thanks Jimi Festival" 2009 and Guitar Guinness Record". Retrieved 4 May 2009. 
  13. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum database". Retrieved February 20, 2009. 

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