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Smoke On The Water

by

Deep Purple



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song is about a fire in the Casino at Montreux, Switzerland. The band was going to record their Machine Head album there right after a Frank Zappa concert, but someone fired a flare gun at the ceiling during Zappa's show, which set the place on fire. The band was relocated to another hotel and recorded the album in the Rolling Stones mobile studio. See a photo of the fire in Song Images.
Frank Zappa, who is mentioned in the lyrics, lost all his equipment in the fire. He then broke his leg a few days later when a fan pulled him into the crowd at a show in England. This prompted Ian Gillan to say "Break a leg, Frank," into the microphone after recording this for a BBC special in 1972.
Deep Purple bass player Roger Glover came up with the image of smoke on the water. He thought it was a great title, but was reluctant to use it because it sounded like a drug song.
Ritchie Blackmore has an affinity for Renaissance music, which he writes and performs in his duo Blackmore's Night. He says that he first took an interest in the form in 1971 when he saw a BBC program called Wives of Henry VIII, and that there is indeed a trace of Renaissance in "Smoke On The Water." "The riff is done in fourths and fifths — a medieval modal scale," he explained on MySpace Music. "It makes it appear more dark and foreboding. Not like today's pop music thirds."
The band did not think this would be a hit and rarely played it live. It took off when they released it as a US single over a year after the album came out. Talking about the song's merits as live material, Roger Glover said in Metal Hammer, "I think 'Smoke On The Water' is the biggest song that Purple will ever have and there's always a pressure to play it, and it's not the greatest live song, it's a good song but you sorta plod through it. The excitement comes from the audience. And there's always the apprehension that Ritchie (Blackmore) isn't gonna want to do it, 'cause he's probably fed up with doing it."
The water that provides a base for the smoke in this song is Lake Geneva, which the casino overlooked.
"Funky Claude," as in the lyrics "Funky Claude was running in and out pulling kids out the ground," is Claude Nobs, a man who helped rescue some people in the fire and found another hotel for the band to stay. He is the co-founder of the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival.
Nobs explained to Gibson.com how this song arose out of the ashes: "Deep Purple were watching the whole fire from their hotel window, and they said, 'Oh my God, look what happened. Poor Claude and there's no casino anymore!' They were supposed to do a live gig [at the casino] and record the new album there. Finally I found a place in a little abandoned hotel next to my house and we made a temporary studio for them. One day they were coming up for dinner at my house and they said, 'Claude we did a little surprise for you, but it's not going to be on the album. It's a tune called "Smoke On The Water.'" So I listened to it. I said, 'You're crazy. It's going to be a huge thing.' Now there's no guitar player in the world who doesn't know [he hums the riff]. They said, 'Oh if you believe so we'll put it on the album.' It's actually the very precise description of the fire in the casino, of Frank Zappa getting the kids out of the casino, and every detail in the song is true. It's what really happened. In the middle of the song, it says 'Funky Claude was getting people out of the building,' and actually when I meet a lot of rock musicians, they still say, 'Oh here comes Funky Claude.'"
The B-side of the single was another version of the song, recorded live in Japan.
In 1989, Former members Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Gillan released a new version of this with Robert Plant, Brian May, and Bruce Dickinson. They called the project "Rock Aid Armenia," with proceeds going to victims of the Armenian earthquake.
Homer is heard crooning to this song in an a episode of The Simpsons in which he uses medicinal marijuana. (thanks, Jeff - Hudson, MA)
Pat Boone covered this on In a Metal Mood. On the album, he performed heavy metal songs with string instruments, pianos, etc., but in this case kept the famous guitar riff and even allowed the guitarist a solo. Otherwise, it sounded very jazzy.
The famous guitar riff is performed in the 2003 Jack Black film School Of Rock. (thanks, Brett - Edmonton, Canada)
On June 3, 2007 in Kansas City, Kansas, 1,721 guitarists gathered to play this song together and break the record for most guitarists playing at one time. The entire song was played, though only the one lead guitar played the solo. Guitarists from as far as Scotland came out for the event. The event was organized by radio station KYYS. See the photo in Song Images. It's hard to compete with outsourcing, however, and the record was beaten on October 26, 2007 when 1,730 guitarists gathered in Shillong, India to perform "Knocking On Heaven's Door."
This was used in commercials for Dodge trucks. The song plays on a jukebox that a guy is eyeing in an antique store. His wife gets her way and they take home a piece of furniture instead - the point being the large payload capacity of the truck. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
According to an interview with Ian Gillian on VH1's Classic Albums: Machine Head, the band did not have much money when recording this album and were renting a recording studio. They stayed past when they were supposed to get out. As they were recording this song, the police were knocking on the door of the studio to kick them out. (thanks, Ben - Baltimore, MD)
In a 2008 survey of students from music schools across London, this topped a poll to find the best ever guitar riff. Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" came second and Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" third.
According to the London Times newspaper, Ritchie Blackmore was embarrassed to present this song to his fellow members of Deep Purple because it was such a Neanderthal tune for a guitarist of his caliber to come up with.
The lyrics, "Swiss time was running out" meant that their visas were going to expire soon. They wrote the songs and recorded them in a matter of weeks. (thanks, Ed - Canton, OH)
Many beginners try to play this when they pick up a guitar, and they usually play it wrong. Here's how: Use the open G and D strings as the starting point and you pluck the strings with a finger each, not a pick. Lots of people play this from the 5th fret of the A and D string, which is wrong. (thanks, Glen - Auckland, New Zealand)
Fender.com asked Ritchie Blackmore how he came up with the song's famous riff. He replied: "Ian Paice (Deep Purple drummer) and I often used to jam, just the two of us. It was a natural riff to play at the time. It was the first thing that came into my head during that jam."
Deep Purple
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Comments (100):

Wayne, I do remember nights with insomnia, as WLS played the live Made in Japan version. I was only 10 years old, at the time.
- Dave, Wheaton, IL
The new cover version is better by METALLICA
R.I.P. JON LORD
- ulysses, dorrigo, Australia
One of the most over-played oldies on the radio. The song is okay. Along with the famous guitar riff, the visuals conjured up by the lyrics propelled this song to its legendary status. Listening to it, you feel like a spectator watching the whole studio go up in flames. The words "smoke on the water" are sung low and drawn out just like the smoke would look like. The next words sung: "fire in the sky!" and the tune leaps up, the words dance just as flames do.
- Camille, Toronto, OH
Ah, the reason I don't, nor will I ever, own a flare gun...
- Amanda, Acton, MA
I've been listening to this song for 40 years now and never really listened to the words but today I did and much to my surprise I finally understood what the song was really about. I had the awesome pleasure of visiting Montreux in 2006 and saw where the have the music fest. I actually went to the casino there wondering if it was rebuilt because it is right at Lake Geneva? There is a statue of Freddy Mercury of Queen at the band shell where the fest is held. My dream is to one day go back and attend the music fest there. Does anyone know what hotel the band was staying in? Just wondering because I stayed at the Swiss Hotel which I believe is actually called the Hotel Suise can't really remember that part but it did overlook the casino & the lake. If you ever get to visit Europe make sure you see Montreux it is beautiful as is all of Switzerland!!!!
- M J , Saint Johns, FL
It's a great song, just too bad it's been so overplayed. Like "Stairway to heaven"
- Budoshi, Sandnessjøen, Norway
ok, being the history geek i am, i thought this song was about the underwater atomic bomb tests during the cold war; i mean it makes sense!--when it exploded from underwater, there was a collosal mushroom cloud of smoke 'on the water', and fire clouds 'in the sky' above the smoke part! and,it's more meaningful and time-relative than some casino fire, but ok...
- Lily, los angeles, CA
There's heaps of DVD footage of Blackmore playing this riff and yet people still argue about the correct method. Jesus!!! (deaf and blind perhaps) And Blackmore was right, Clapton is a bore.
- Al, Tamworth, Australia
I really like this song that tells a real story, a true story. To bad that stupid with a flare gun
did that. I wonder how much money they lost because of that dummy? To bad they didn't catch him.
And I heard the title "Smoke On The Water" came from the smoke settling on the water of Lake Geneva.
Roy Butler
Dalton Georgia, U.S.A.
3-18-2010
- Roy, Dalton, GA, GA
It's beautiful -- it plays the riff, then adds just ONE instrument to the opposite ear & plays it again, then one more,(switching ears)
- Cyberpope, Richmond, Canada
The song I discovered the joys of stereo headphones with!
- Cyberpope, Richmond, Canada
first thing i ever played on bass. then again, wasnt it everyone's?
- chloe, St. Louis, MO
Smoke on The Water was done by Jake in 2 and a half men in an episode.I didn't know it was about a hotel fire.
- Jennifer Harris, Grand Blanc, MI
Listened to SMOKE in the car today! My daughter loved it too! Great Rock 'n Roll spans all generations!
- Dennis, North Arlington, NJ
A classic rock song. The "Made In Japan" live version is the best. Ritchie Blackmore is lean and mean!
- wayne, Salem, VA
Black Night is wayy better
- nady, adelaide, Australia
Thanks for your mentioning that the single was released long after the album. I was in college when the single was released. The first time I heard it, I had a weird deja-vu feeling-as if I had heard the song before. I always put this down to it being such a classic riff. Here it turns out I had probably heard it before off the album in the dorm!
- Dave, Philly, PA
One of those songs that has you hooked and reeled in before the first riff is over. So, was this a "throwaway" song to fill the album?
- Fred, Birmingham, AL
Somebody here said Smoke on the water was covered by Iron Maiden, but I download this song and I think this is a Paul dianno`s cover (first Maiden singer) not a Maiden`s cover.
- Carlos, Caracas, Venezuela
Re: the "Rolling Truck Stones Thing" -- I'd call that creative license... it sounds better. Plus, it adds interest... as if he wasn't quite familiar with it.
- Robert, Snellville, GA
cool song and another good song by deep purple is "burn".
- Randell, Sydney, Australia
The guitar riff on this is practically the best ever. I don't know what better; this or American Woman... Killer drums and bass, too.
- Max, Laconia, NH
Iron MKaiden's excellent 'Live After Death' double live album was recorded using the Rolling Stones recording truck
- Luke, Manchester, England
The stand out for me on this song is the superb drumming.
- Craig, melbourne, Australia
My first memory of this song was early 1978 when i was 10 years old, each time i'd walk past the music room at St.Augustines Geelong all i'd hear would be the opening riff to Smoke on the water... it was intoxicating then as much as it is now......... 9.8.2007
- Gerry Walsh, Melbourne, Australia
One of greatest rock songs of all time ! You can't beat the opening part of this song.
- Mike, Hueytown , AL
If you come down to Montreux, you'll find a metal sculpture on the Lake Geneva shoreline which illustrates to notes to this mega-classic riff.
- Tom, Lausanne, Switzerland
Easy riff, lots of people get it wrong though. Here's how to play it correctly: a href="http://www.guitarchordsmagic.com/guitar-song-chords/smoke-on-the-water.html">Smoke on the Water Guitar Tabs.
- Dirk, Brasschaat, Belgium
See, George, I said I was dense...or maybe that was cynicism. I just assume that bands are talking wink-nudge euphemisms all the time; thanks for correcting. I shouldn't always be so hasty. And hey - the Nats just dropped 2 of 3 to the O's. Congrats, but I still wouldn't trade owners....
- .jpg, Washington, DC
"A few old beds..." refers to the fact that they had to place old mattreses against tha wall of the room they were recording in to improve the acoustics initially after the fire. The makeshift "studio" became so warm, the band members were sweating. This set-up proved unworkable, so it was then that they were transfered to the Stones mobile studio. It has nothing to do with a "red light district".
- George, Baltimore, MD
Maybe I'm dense - no, that's not a maybe - or too old, but "With a few red lights and a few old beds/We made a place to sweat"? The whole song's about making music; then an abrupt segueway to, uh, 'red-light district' business?
- .jpg, Washington, DC
"It seemed that we would lose the race" refers to the band having the Rolling Stones mobile recording studio for only a limited time. They had to find a new place to make the recording quickly in order to make use of it.

Lots of different bands used this facility, including Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones (of course), and others as diverse as The Chieftans, Miles Davis and Willie Nelson.

It was upgraded several times over the years and was in use until fairly recently, when it was sold to a museum.
- Jim, Bronx, NY
I don't understand how anyone can think this is about drugs if they know the lyrics. I don't even understand how the words "Smoke on the water" relates to drugs. Post a comment about this if you have an answer.
- Josh, Boca Raton, FL

Yeah, smoke on the water can be reffered to a bong cause when you smoke a bong the smoke is on the water
- Broc, Catasauqua, PA
I've always wondered what the line, "...it seemed that we would lose the race..." meant. When I was in high school the previling wisdom was that DP was in a race with another band to record an album. Someone once said that the other band was Chicago. Does anybody know if this is correct?
- gerald, St. Louis, MO
This song is used in one of the Dodge Avenger commercials. Buy one at Baraboo Motors.
- Alex, Baraboo, WI
every person i know thinks the first line is "we all came down the mountain"!!!!
urggg.
amazing song.
- lexie, haifa, Israel
I don't understand how anyone can think this is about drugs if they know the lyrics. I don't even understand how the words "Smoke on the water" relates to drugs. Post a comment about this if you have an answer.
- Josh, Boca Raton, FL
cool song i can play it now
- thomas, cleveland (around), OH
im joes brother,she is a woman.what riff is the song in? i would like to play this song
- joe, shelby, WI
im a woman!
- joe, shelby, WI
this is the coolest thing I HAVE EVER DONE! i think you are weird! blah blah blah!call me baby!
- joe, shelby, WI
bill sucks but call that number!


PS I ROCK BETTER THAN YOU if you wanna meet me go to hotmail.com and chat for a while. ill be there ocationnaly
- joe, shelby, WI
Deep purple rocks out loud and im lonley and the rock sleeps at burger king
- joe, shelby, WI
juhfujhcv lugqd






sorry my dumb son just did that
balls
- joe, shelby, WI
This song is really cool and if anyone wants a cookie call 1507 453 9444
- bill, Minneapolis, MN
I used to think this was a drug song but after reading some comments I agree it is about that infamous fire.
- Eric Forman, Steven's Point, WI
this song is pretty overplayed. the only recording of it i can stand is off of Made in Japan
- Nicholas, Vancouver, Canada
Good song but not the best of Deep Purple
- Nooxara, Albany, AK
one of the main reasons I picked up a guitar is because of Purple. This song rocks.
- Devon, Westerville, OH
Claude Nobs, mentionned in the song as "Funky Claude" was (and still is) the man in charge of the Montreux Jazz Festival (don't let the name fool you) where DP were playing. The Casino was the venue before the fire and the Festival was later relocated to the Stravinksi Auditorium, also in Montreux. The Festival lasts two weeks and is worth a visit. It's in July. www.montreuxjazz.com
- Jay, Geneva, Cheezland
this song is sweet. I can't believe that Blackmore said that Clapton can't play guitar. I think Blackmore needs to get his head out of his a$$.
- Devon, Westerville, OH
so many bands hav cut "Smoke On The Water" like Led Zepplin and Pink Floyd but it never sounds as good as the original
- Nathan, Adelaide, Australia
What's even more amazing about this album (Machine Head) is that it was written, rehearsed and recorded in less than two weeks. That freshness and energy hold up well even to this day.
- George, Ottawa, Canada
Great raw, yet intricate song that does not have all of the over-production over-rehearsed but bland "perfections" of much of today's music. That raw energy is the key to the song's attraction and longevity.
DP even kept the error in this song's lyrics and did not re-record it to straighten out the flub. Ian Gillan sang (when referring to the band having had to re-locate their recording studio to the Grand Hotel from the Casino stage) "the Rolling Stones' truck thing" (referring to the RS mobile recording unit).
Interestingly Procol Harum released an album entitled "Grand Hotel" and in 1973 DP returned to Montreux to record their album "Burn".
- George, Ottawa, Canada
Highway star by DP is by far better.
- Music Natzi, Albany, NY
Iron Maiden has covered this in concert before along with we will rock you by queen.
- Brandon, Morristown, TN
Jack Bruce wrote the riff to Sunshine Of Your Love, duh!
- Jo-C, Lima, Peru
whoaaaa classic riff
- maya, cal, United States
It's a good song, but there are about 100 better DP tracks. By the way, in the live versions, specially the MK3 ones, they never sing the third verse. Instead, they repeat the first one. Does anybody knows why is that?
- JoaquÃ?n, Chaguito City, Chile
About not playing the song in a guitar store, well it's just that EVERY begginer guitarist always seems to try out this riff, so a lot of times people play it in guitar stores, and it must get annoying for the employees.
- katie, somewhere, NJ
Just one question. Why shouldn't you play this in a guitar store. I've heard or read that about a dozen times, but I've never understood what's so wrong with playing this. Thanks.
- Kyle, Anna, OH
Thought I submitted a message, I hope I'm not repeating...As for Deep Purple, forgive me but I much prefer Richie Blackmore's Rainbow with Joe Lynn Turner on vocals as well as Deep Purple's reunion album Perfect Strangers (I think released about 1985). As for Ronnie James Dio, I don't think he fit in with Rainbow. I like his solo stuff and his work in Black Sabbath's "Heaven & Hell."
- Todd, Denver, CO
Great song, but the Made In Japan version OWNS the studio version by far! Blackmore's timing is a little off in the solo but it's still good. As far as rock guitar riffs go, this is probably the most recognizable. Never play it in a guitar store though - that goes for "Stairway To Heaven" as well.
- Chet Walters, ink specialist, Bethlehem, PA
I agree Jon. :D

Some kid at my school (I'm 14) was 'singin'' (he's... wierd) the beginning of this song. I asked him what it was; Smoke on the Water. It's now on my iPod :D

I found this song in a new classic rock piano book I have. :)
- Stephen, Altamont, IL
I love Deep Purple. They were one of the heaviest bands of the '70s - too bad most people don't even know the name of this song (or the band for that matter) which produced what is possibly the most well-known rock riff of all time.
- Jon, Regina, Canada
This is one of my favorite Deep Purple songs. The riff is very cool sounding, even if it is incredibly simple. As usual, Blackmore solos like nothing else , especially on the live version from "Made in Japan". Unfortunately, the riff is the only thing people know the song, and the band, for. Buy Machine Head and see what I and others mean about this band having better stuff. Plus you get Ian's operatic shrieks which are missing from this song!
- Will, Nashua, NH
I agree with Dino, what about woman in tokyo
- Ross, Independence, MO
For those who are wondering,I believe Deep Purple got their name from a 1963 song by Nino Tempo and April Stevens
- Pete, Carbondale, PA
It is #426 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
- Ross, Independence, MO
This song is widely regarded as the anthem of rock and roll. I myself like Child in Time much better.
- Shawn, Philadelphia/Pittsburgh, PA
I agree with dino. This song is only famous for its riff, not the lyrics, and the riff is overrated. Get over it, there's better songs out there.
- AJ, Cleveland, GA
yo dave from lansing - he says the rolling drunk stones not rolling truck stones thats why u were confused. im assuming the stones were pretty f-d up at the time.
sean from philly
- sean, philly, PA
This Song Is Considered The Hymn Of Hard Rock
is amazing, because Deep Purple and Black Sabath were the only 2 groups of the '70s that played Hard Rock, when that genre din't even exist. I Can't belive this band isn't in the Rock N Roll hall of fame
- AdRiAnA, Monterrey, Mexico
I always thought the song was about the Vietnam War. haha, i'm dumb
- Louie, Wang Town, LA
one of the top 10 greatest riffs of all time hands down!!!
- Nathan, ohsweken, Canada
My classic rock cover band always gets a huge response to this. Based on the bit from Austin Powers 3, we refer to it as 'Shmoke and a Pancake'.
- Rob, Santa Monica, CA
Isn't there a song from the Late 50's called smoke on the water?
- Kel, Bucksport, ME
Daryl,
Bruce actually took most of the lead vocals for Cream.
- Doug, Sydney, Australia
I thing its overrated. there are some great deep purple songs like child in time and soldier of fortune.
- dino, athens, Greece
Deep purple is a legend.
Smoke on the water is the greatest hit of Deep Purle.
Smoke on the water is a legend.
- Thomas, St.-Niklaas, Belgium
me too, I love this song, but I prefer too another song from "come taste the band" album... it called "place in line"...

but "smoke" ROCXS!!!
- odracir, Santiago, Chile
Hey Darrle Stoke from England It's Eric Clapton on Guitar Jack Bruce on Bass and GINGER BAKER ON THE DRUMS AND AT THE TIME he was one of the best drummmers so how could you not include him and I'm only 15 and even I know that. Yeah, and This riff is so massively supreme
- Michael Picard, Lapwai, ID
Great song, but I prefer another of Deep Purples songs - "hush", not as popular but just as good.
- Taal, Brisbane, Australia
Actually Daryl, Clapton only took lead vocals on some Cream songs, Jack Bruce was the real lead singer..And the drummer was Ginger Baker...
And by the way, Frank Zappa was not pulled off the stage. He was actually thrown off the stage by a man who thought Frank had been eyeing his girlfriend all evening..He spent more than a year in a wheelchair after that with more injuries than just a broken leg...
- Rob, Heerlen, Netherlands
I know this probably isn't the true meaning of the song, but its what it reminds me of. It reminds me of the morning after a music festival when everything is kind of trashed, but really serene. I went to a music festival in the mountains, and it was by a big lake. When I woke up, there was a thick layer of fog over the lake and the sky was red, hence, "smoke on the water, and fire in the skies."
- Alex, Charleston, WV
Actually Annette, Cream was Eric Clapton - guitar - vox, Jack Bruce - bass, back vox and the drummer...i can never remember his name.
I dont think Clapton was onstage as a solo artist with session players now was he?
That came much later...
- Daryl, Stoke, England
The riffs played in School of Rock are, in order, Iron Man, Smoke on the Water and Highway to Hell. Back in Black features later in the film.
- Tom, Trowbridge, England
Anyone know why he sings "Rolling Truck Stones" when "Rolling Stones' Truck" would have made more sense? Was that an error that they just left in, or was it said that way on purpose?
- David, Lansing, MI
School of Rock is one of the greatest movies! This song is awesome and the riff is wicked!
- Shana, Pembroke, Canada
Those are some great riffs on guitar but has anyone ever wondered what they'd sound like on violin?
Smoke on the Water:(on D string)Eflat-F#-G--Eflat-F#-Aflat-G--Eflat-F#-G-F#-Eflat

Iron Man:(on G) G-B#-B#-C-C--Dflat-C-Dflat-C-Dflat-C--Aflat-Aflat-B-B

Sunshine of Your Love: (on D) G-G-F#-G (on G) C-Bflat-Aflat-G-Aflat-G (Repeat exact riff)

Highway: (on D) E-E-Fflat--F#-F#-G--F#-F#-G-F#-G-F#-B-B

If you liked these, check out my part for "The Ocean" by Led Zeppelin
- Chris, Whitesboro, NY
The third riff Jack Black plays in "School of Rock" is the "Highway to Hell" intro, not "Back in Black". Or at least I think........
- Chris, Whitesboro, NY
Sorry Kevin... Eric Clapton WAS Cream - so Ariel is right!
- Annette, Oegstgeest, Netherlands
Ariel, Sunshine of your love is by Cream.
- kevin, Pittsburg, PA
the riff from this song, along with Ironman by Black Sabbath, Back in Black by AC/DC, Layla, and Sunshine of your love by Eric Clapton are the best known riffs in all rock music
- Ariel, Woodbridge, CT
Definately the most ass kicking riff of all time.
- Lacy, Yukon, OK
I LOVE this song... has an awesome beat. Very kickass!
- Melanie, Reader, WV
yeah i just saw school of rock last night great movie for rock fans!
- jason, wylie, TX
Amazing song! Everyone knows this riff whether
they've heard of Deep Purple or not.
- Andrew, Bowmanville, Canada
What a rock song. Best rock riff ever. Nothing like it
- Geoff, Adelaide, Australia
Rob Nen's theme song! Yeah Baby
- tom, moraga, CA
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