Certain Songs #297: Deep Purple – “Smoke on The Water (Osaka, Japan 08-15-1972)”

made in japan Album: Made in Japan
Year: 1972

Where even to begin with this iconic piece of history? The fact that it was based upon a true story, and so wasn’t just another chick song or road song? The fact that writing a song about something that happened while you’re recording the album the song is on felt cool and fresh?

The fact that the studio version of this song was a #4 hit single right here in the U.S.A.? And this live version was a hit itself? And in fact, the single edit (of course) of the Made in Japan version the one I remember being played on KYNO-AM, not the studio version, which I’ve always felt was significantly weaker.

Nah, of course you gotta start with THE RIFF!!

All together now:

Dun dun dun
Dun dun dah dun
Dun dun dun
Dah dun

On Made in Japan, of course, Ritchie Blackmore starts off by playing THE RIFF once, and then teases us by starting it again and then going off into some random-seeming chords, like he’d rather be doing anything else. Which, even then, he very well might have been.

But of course, the power of THE RIFF compels him, and he starts playing it for reals.

Dun dun dun
Dun dun dah dun
Dun dun dun
Dah dun

Dun dun dun
Dun dun dah dun
Dun dun dun
Dah dun

Dun dun dun
Dun dun dah dun
Dun dun dun
Dah dun

And with Ian Paice riding the high-hat, Roger Glover rumbling and rumbling on the bass and Jon Lord doubling THE RIFF on his Hammond, that opening of “Smoke on the Water” is proof that the simplest things are often the best. Which is good, cos there is literally nothing on heaven and earth more simple than the “Smoke on the Water” riff, and yet it’s practically the rock ‘n’ roll equivalent of the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or some shit.

I’ve also always kinda like Gillan’s phrasing on the last verse:

We ended up at the Grand Hotel, eoooooh-oooh
It was empty, cold and bare
With the Rolling truck Stones thing just outside
Makin’ our music there.

“Rolling truck Stones thing” is one of those weird intentional fuck-ups that just grabs your attention without fully bumping you from the songs.

Of course, that’s after Blackmore’s second amazing moment of the song. That guitar solo that ends with the single note lick that simultaneously hangs in space forever while speeding up time to boot!

You know:

Waoahhhaaawwwwww
Ent ent ent ent ent ent ent entententententententententneneneneneneeeeeeee

There’s also a killer Lord keyboard solo (which should be a Word Press macro) and a closing duel between Lord and Blackmore, but by that time, all of the damage is pretty much done.

I never saw any incarnation of Deep Purple, but Tim & I did see Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow once at Selland Arena during that weird period after Ronnie James Dio left and when they had a couple of (terrible) hit singles, and while I don’t think they did “Smoke on The Water” (at that point, Blackmore’s contempt for — well, everything, really — was in full force), I did see another artist cover it.

That artist would be the Patti Smith Group. When I saw her in 1996 at the Warfield on her comeback tour, they brough out Patti’s son (with MC5 guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith) Jackson to play THE RIFF while Lenny Kaye forgot the words. It’s possible that Tom Verlaine was involved, as well. It was as fun as it was surprising.

“Smoke on the Water” live in Japan 1972 (same tour, different night)

Comments are closed.