Smoke on the Water

"Smoke On The Water" redirects here. For the song by Red Foley, see Smoke on the Water (Red Foley song).
"Some stupid with a flare gun" redirects here. For the Ass Ponys album, see Some Stupid with a Flare Gun.
"Smoke on the Water"

Cover of the 1973 German single
Single by Deep Purple
from the album Machine Head
B-side "Smoke on the Water" (live)
(From Made in Japan)
Released May 1973
Format 7"
Recorded December 1971
Genre Hard rock,[1][2] heavy metal[3]
Length 5:41 (album version)
3:54 (single version)
6:15 (Roger Glover remix)
Label EMI (UK)
Warner. Bros (U.S.)
Writer(s) Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ian Paice
Producer(s) Deep Purple
Deep Purple singles chronology
"Never Before"
"Smoke on the Water"
"Woman from Tokyo"
Audio sample
file info · help
Machine Head track listing

"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] ranked it number 5 on the Top 10 Guitar Riffs of All Time.


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. 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

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 [7] or occasionally a plectrum upstroke (to accentuate the tonic).[8]

In the August show in 1972 in Tokyo, Japan, Blackmore played the intro as follows:


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.


The lyrics of the song tell a true story: on 4 December 1971 Deep Purple were in Montreux, Switzerland, where they had set up camp 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 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. 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.[9][10] 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 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. "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.

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 No. 1"), before the local police shut them down.

Finally, after about a week of searching, the band rented 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 (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. The lyrics of "Smoke on the Water" 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, 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 series episode about Machine Head, Ritchie Blackmore claimed that friends of the band were not fans of the classic "Smoke on the Water" riff, because they thought it was too simplistic. Blackmore retaliated by making comparisons to the first movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, which revolves around a similar four note arrangement.


"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 "Space Truckin'" 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.[11] 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:

  1. 434 on Rolling Stone magazine's The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004)[4]
  2. 37 in VH1's 40 Greatest Metal Songs[12]
  3. 12 in Q magazine's 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks (March 2005)[6]
  4. 11 in VH1's "100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs" (January 2009)[13]
  5. 4 in Total Guitar magazine's "Top 20 Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever"[5]


Chart (1973) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report) 54
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[14] 11
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[15] 27
Canadian RPM Top Singles[16] 2
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[17] 11
France (SNEP)[18] 64
Germany (Official German Charts)[19] 20
South African Chart[20] 7
US Billboard Hot 100[21] 4
Chart (1977) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[22] 21
Chart (2012) Peak
France (SNEP)[23] 134

Alternative versions


Sales accomplishments

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA)[24] Gold 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Rock Aid Armenia version

"Smoke on the Water"

Cover for the "Rock Aid Armenia" charity release
Single by Rock Aid Armenia
Released 1989
Format 7" 12"
Recorded Week of 8 July 1989
Writer(s) Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ian Paice
Producer(s) Gary Langan and Geoff Downes
1990 reissue cover
Cover of the 7" resissue of the Rock Aid Armenia single
Music video
"Smoke on the Water" (Rock Aid Armenia) on YouTube

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.

Notable performances and uses

In events

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


  1. Andrew Winistorfer. "VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs list only slightly less annoying than their hip-hop list". Prefix. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
    11 Deep Purple - "Smoke On The Water"
  2. 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"
  3. 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."
  4. 1 2 500 Greatest Songs of All Time: Deep Purple, 'Smoke on the Water' Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 December 2011
  5. 1 2 Guns N' Roses top rock riff poll, BBC News, 2 May 2004, retrieved 4 January 2010
  6. 1 2 Tracks 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever! Q Magazine. Retrieved 18 December 2011
  7. Classic Albums - Machine Head. BBC. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
  8. Deep Purple - New York 1973 (Full Concert). YouTube. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  9. The Real Frank Zappa Book by Frank Zappa with Peter Occhiogrosso, pg. 112, ISBN 0-671-63870-X
  10. Bang Your Head by David Konow, page 26, ISBN 0-609-80732-3
  11. Video of Ritchie talking about the riff on YouTube
  12. "VH1 40 Greatest Metal Songs", 1–4 May 2006, VH1 Channel, reported by; last accessed 10 September 2006.
  13. " music". Retrieved 7 February 2009.
  14. " – Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  15. " – Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  16. "Smoke on the water in Canadian Top Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  17. " – Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  18. "Smoke on the water in French Chart" (in French). Dominic DURAND / InfoDisc. 1 July 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013. You have to use the index at the top of the page and search "Deep Purple"
  19. " – Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water". GfK Entertainment Charts.
  20. John Samson. "Smoke on the water in South African Chart". Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  21. "Machine Head awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  22. "1977 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive - 7th May 1977". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  23. " – Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water" (in French). Les classement single.
  24. "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
  25. "Guttenberg departs Defense Ministry with full military honors". Retrieved 23 March 2011.
  26. "Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden and Queen band members perform at charity rock show". NME. Retrieved 4 November 2012
  27. Neumyer, Scott (6 April 2015). "'Better Call Saul' Season One Finale Recap: 'Marco'". WSJ Speakeasy.
  28. Music You Heard on the Sopranos
  29. Episode 67: Join the Club
  30. 1 2 Spread Firefox, Crazy Records
  31. "Die Geschichte des Gitarrenweltrekords". Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  32. "Official Steve Morse Blog". Retrieved 4 May 2009.
  33. ""Thanks Jimi Festival" 2009 and Guitar Guinness Record". Retrieved 4 May 2009.
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