a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History

Smoke on the Water

Original Artist: Deep Purple

Original Album: Machine Head (1972)

Debut: 1999-07-18

Historian: Charles Franz

Perhaps Deep Purple's most famous tune, “Smoke on the Water” riffs are a favorite of budding guitarists everywhere. The song is about a 1971 Frank Zappa concert in Montreux, Switzerland, attended by the members of Deep Purple shortly before the recording of Machine Head. The show was cut short by a fire started by a fan that burned down the venue and sent smoke across Lake Geneva. Reportedly the band didn’t think the song had much potential and it didn’t become a hit until it was released as a single in the U.S. in 1973. A full-on “Smoke on the Water” jam appears in “Icculus” from the 7/18/99 Oswego third set, during which Trey explains that according to the Helping Friendly Book, Heavy Metal is evil, except for Deep Purple, whereupon the first verse of “Smoke” is played. Trey then offers that “Smoke” is the same song as “Cat Scratch Fever,” but “Smoke” is the better song. He’s right. Teases of "Smoke" can be also be found in the excellent versions of "You Enjoy Myself" on 8/9/93 and 8/14/93.

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