Highway Star

Album: Machine Head (1972)

Songfacts®:

  • This adrenaline-fueled rocker is about a man and his love for his high-powered car, which he says can out-race anything else on the road. It spawned a sub-genre known as "speed metal," a division of heavy metal later popularized by bands such as Motörhead and Metallica. The song is responsible for many speeding tickets.
  • According to Deep Purple bass player Roger Glover, the band wrote "Highway Star" on their tour bus on the way to a gig at the Portsmouth Guildhall (in the UK) on September 13, 1971, where they debuted the song. They wrote it because they were getting sick of their opening number, "Speed King"; "Highway Star" became their opener from that point on. The song evolved through live performances, and was recorded for the Machine Head album in December 1971.
  • This is one of the most famous driving songs in rock, right up there with Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild," Golden Earring's "Radar Love."
  • Ritchie Blackmore's guitar solo on this track was ranked #15 on Guitar World magazine's 2008 list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. In the issue, Blackmore explained how he did it: "I wrote that out note for note about a week before we recorded it. I wanted it to sound like someone driving in a fast car, for it to be one of those songs you would listen to while speeding. And I wanted a very definite Bach sound, which is why I wrote it out – and why I played those very rigid arpeggios across that very familiar Bach progression – Dm, Gm, Cmaj, Amaj."
  • This is the opening track on Machine Head, an album recorded in Montreux, Switzerland, but not where they intended. Deep Purple wanted to record in a concert venue to get the acoustics of a live performance, so they booked the Montreux Casino. The day after they arrived in Switzerland, Frank Zappa played the casino. Deep Purple was in the audience and saw the place light up - literally. Someone shot a flare into the ceiling that could fire and set the wooden building ablaze. Everyone got out safely , but the casino burned to the ground. They ended up using the Grand Hotel, where they were staying, as a studio, using the Rolling Stones' mobile truck to record (this unit, a 16-track studio on wheels, was what they planned to record with all along, but they ended up parking it outside the hotel instead of the casino).

    The band embraced the disorder, improvising to get quality sound by setting up in various rooms and corridors. They ended up achieving their goal of capturing their rugged live sound on tape. The album went down as one of the greatest in the history of hard rock, most notable for "Smoke On The Water," which tells the story of their adventure in Montreux.
  • In America, this was released as a single in 1972 but didn't chart. The Machine Head album seemed to have run its course there, but in May 1973, "Smoke On The Water" was issued as a single, 14 months after the album was released. That song took hold, rising to #4 in and becoming a bona fide rock classic.
  • This has been featured in several episodes of That '70s Show. It was also used in the movies Wolf (2004) and Dazed and Confused (1993).
  • Per custom at the time, this song is credited to all five band members: Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, and Roger Glover.
  • The Machine Head album closes with another speedy song, "Space Truckin'," but that one is set in the Milky Way, where they dance around the Borealice.

Comments: 33

  • Ng99 from LondonJon Lord plays his Hammond through a Marshall stack rather than Leslie cabs on this track. He explained this on a BBC4 documentary.
  • Geo from New Mexico Radar love came out after Highway Star!!!
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenLooks like I picked the wrong week to quit listening to songs about amphetamines.
  • Curtly from Redcar, EnglandIts all about amphetamines (speed), for example '8 cylinders all mine' referring to speed in capsule form .And 'on the road again' meaning being on speed ,and of course the reference to 'speed inside my brain' .The car is a metaphor for a person being on speed. Body control as well referring to the fluency you have whilst on speed.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxOne of many songs a friend of mine called "music to bend the speed limit by."
  • Ray from Ccs, VenezuelaMy favorite guitar solo! Ritchie Blackmore is the greatest guitar player ever! He´s got the feeling, technique and breakneck speed!
  • Christopher from Santiago, ChileMaybe there's one allusion to drugs on the line "I have speed inside my brain". Speed is a slang to amphetamines. Anyway, this song is awesome and it's fun to play on Rock Band, too.
  • Mike from Stevenson Ranch, CaIf Madonna can get into the Hall Of Fame then why cant these guys these guys are the best when it comes to hard rock
  • Reed from New Ulm, MnThe whole song is pretty Awesome! particularly the drumming!
  • Cyberpope from Richmond, CanadaPretty obvious he intends the ambiguity. . .

    Both are his alone; both give him joy; Both have speed. . .

    This & Child in Time are my two fave Deep Purple songs (DP being my fave group of al)
  • Dave from Huntington Beach, CaYes, the song implies that Ian Gillan is singing about a car - but there is also ambiguity used here. He makes frequent comparisons to his girl throughout, some which are overtly suggestive (I "seed" her, for instance). One could easily argue that the lyrics are written from a teenage male perspective, a person confused as to what is more important - as they both are "fast" and make him feel good. Is this "his car" or is it "his girlfriend" ? Perhaps they are both one in the same, and that is the whole point.
  • Scott from London, OnRe: Daniel, Charlotte. The entire keyboards for this album were in fact played through a Marshall amplifier and not the standard Leslie's that are common with keyboards.
  • Al from Bumfuque, Bhutanthe live version of this song on MADE IN JAPAN is flat out stoopid sick! it is punk rock in the solo, total whammy bar noise at the end. check out YOUTH YOUTH YOUTH by Generation X. definitely influenced by this tune.
  • Brunospfc from Maxassucetiz, Burkina FasoIf you know this song and never hear that while driving a good car in high speed, you dont understand it 100%
  • Tim from Santa Maria, CaThis is easily one of the most awesome songs to play on Rock Band. That solo is just too awesome for words.
  • Sharkman from Livonia, MiA guitar solo is a song within a song. It has a beginning and an end, and somewhere in between, it has to inspire some kind of emotional response from the listener. Highway Star does all this and more, which is why it is so highly regarded.
  • Michael from Morris County, NjGReat song. Really grasps the power and energy of hard rock.
  • Greg from Port St. Lucie, Flthis was rated as the No. 8 guitar solo of all time on DigitalDreamDoor.com
  • Daniel from Charlotte, NcThe organ solo is awesome, it sounds like they put it through a guitar amp
  • Sam from Lincoln, NeRitchie Blackmore's guitar solo is very reminiscent of Eddie Van Halen's fingertapping in "Eruption". Kinda makes you wonder.
  • V-starr from ?????????, MiCool song... but its kinda hard trying to get that solo down on Rock Band
  • Soutiman from Mumbai, IndiaIt's a superb hard rock song, which is absolutely an anthem. I'll make my kids listen to it and they better like it too.
  • Matthew from Milford, MaThis song is playable in Elite Beat Agents. Seriously, what kind of stupid dog falls asleep on the back of a pickup truck?
  • P from Z, United Statesthis was featured on a car racing game on snes called rock n roll racing.
  • Mike from Hueytown , Alcool song.....rarely played on the radio
  • Dougie from Delhi, IndiaIn his autobiography Gillan writes that the band hired a bus to take them and some journalists to a gig in Portsmouth. One journalist asked how they go about writing a song, so Blackmore started strumming on the guitar and Gillan just started singing adlib. They refined it and by the end of the night had Highway Star. In the sleeve notes for a live album it adds that they rehearsed it at soundcheck.
  • Eric Forman from Steven's Point, WiIt was featured on the Dazed & Confused soundtrack album.
  • Justin from Albany, NyThis is by far my favorite song by deep purple. Both solos are incredible, the keyboard solo and the guitar solo.
  • Sindre from MosjÃ?en, NorwayWell... What is there to say...? It's a great song, and the theme speaks for itself. If in doubt, get a hold of the "Deep Purple" - 71'-72" DVD. Gillan clearly states that the song is about "racing around and having fun," or something
  • No_id_please from Hippy Town, Cothis song is really good but not as well knwn as it should be.
  • Devon from Westerville, OhHighway star is a sweet song. One of my favorites from Purple. The solo is awesome.
  • Miro Jones from Joinville, ScYou're wrong. Gillan said that this song was composed on the touring bus when a reporter asked him how they do make music. At the same time Blackmore was playing a steady note (G) and Gillan started singing a melody that you know as Highway Star...
  • Halmyre from Dunfermline, ScotlandHighway Star was written while on the way to a concert; it was played that same night.
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