Johnny Townsend of Sanford-Townsend Band was kind enough to tell us about this song:
"In the spring of 1974 Ed Sanford and I had just signed a publishing deal with Chappell Music. They gave us a nice advance and a weekly stipend and for a couple of unknown writers, this was a rare deal. Ed and our friend Steven Stewart (co-writer on Smoke...) were sharing one half of an old duplex in Hollywood at the time. I used to drop by and hang out, write or whatever, almost on a daily basis. Now Steven was an aspiring classical guitarist at the time. He used to stay up 'til the wee hours, sometimes daybreak, bent over his music stand practicing his scales, or some classical piece.
He was driven to become a great player. I was over one morning as Ed was just waking up and Steven hadn't been to bed yet. Ed was complaining about not getting any sleep and barked at Steven, 'When are you gonna stop wasting your time on that classical crap and write something that will make you some money.' Steven picked up his guitar immediately and started playing what I thought was a really cool R&B type rhythm and replied with 'Anybody can write that crap.' I said, 'Apparently you just did' and went straight to the piano and embellished on his idea. While going through some old song ideas in my notebook I always carried, I found one that actually was the title of a poem that Ed had written while in college. I extracted the title because it seemed to be a perfect fit for the chorus idea I had and that all sort of amalgamated into Smoke From A Distant Fire.
Basically, the song started as a joke and that joke is still making us money to this very day.
I love songwriting I guess because I've always enjoyed puzzles, crosswords, anagrams and the like. It's different every time and I still couldn't tell you exactly where they come from. I think many of the great melodies are universal melodies that exist out in the cosmos somewhere and certain people have the knack of reaching out with their minds, hearts or spirits to bring them back to us." (Get more at johntown.com