Smoke On The Radio

Smoke On The Water American promotion label 1973As most fans know, the studio / live edits of Smoke On The Water were issued as a (more or less) contemporary single almost everywhere but Britain. It first appeared in North America in the spring of 1973, and it was the success of the single there (top five in US and Canada) which inspired most other countries to follow suit.
A lot of the success in North America has been put down to it being taken up by radio stations there and heavily played. However 40 plus years on there is little documentary evidence to back this up. Researching for the upcoming Machine Head book, we are hoping fans in the U.S. and Canada (or anywhere else) who might have any knowledge of the song’s presentation on the radio stations there might be able to shed some light on it. Perhaps you have recollections of hearing the song played a lot on certain stations; maybe you worked in a radio station and can shed light on how it was programmed, or know someone who did, and can give us a bit of an insight into Smoke On The Water on U.S radio back in the spring of 1973. Do get in touch.

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15 Responses to “Smoke On The Radio”

  1. WK McLennan Says:

    Greetings From Edmonton, Alberta Canada, I was a young man of 12 in 1971, So When Machine Head was out in March of ’72 & Made in Japan in April of ’73 Our top AM Rock Station was 630 Ched. Both the studio version & Made in Japan versions of Smoke on the Water were Huge. Not just on the radio, but every local band had to know it. Every student of junior high & Senior High age had both albums in their Record Collections. As a Matter of fact, Paul Dean & Matt Frenette of future Loverboy fame were in a very popular Circuit band, called Great Canadian River Race during those years & played several times at Ottewell Junior High where I heard Paul do killer versions of both Smoke on the Water & Woman from Tokyo from the Who Do We Think We Are album. Great Memories, indeed.

  2. Doug Anderson Says:

    I should probably know this but are these single edits available on CD these days? I expect the singles a’s and b’s s the obvious place to start.

    • simon robinson Says:

      I don’t think they are Doug. It wasn’t on As and Bs, and the CD singles box set only included UK releases, and it didn’t come out here.

    • Javier Says:

      The US single edits of both the studio and live Smoke On The Water are featured on a double CD set from 2010 called “Singles & E.P. Anthology ’68-’80”.

  3. Scott W. Says:

    My 2 cents worth…All I can remember is Smoke being played here in the US on AM and FM radio at the time from ’72 onwards. As I was only 10 years old at the time I was not into music yet but my mom played Elvis, Gene Vincent (there’s a DP connection!) Motown, Janis Joplin etc. My music interest would come 4 years later. But a contemporary ’72/’73 memory was of a very loud drug and drink fueled party around the corner from my house where the cool, party hearty young adults lived. I distinctly remember the strains of Jon’s intro to Lazy blaring away as some of the reveler’s picked up a very bloodied and intoxicated resident of the house who had fallen flat on his face! A few years later I was at the riverbottoms and this same guy was drunk (again) jumping off a cliff into the water and reemerged clutching a bottle of Jack Daniels which he prceeded to drink as he bobbed to the water surface. Once again music was blaring out of a nearby car and was either Thin Lizzy or Zeppelin if memory serves!

  4. Leftin Says:

    Smoke… got two mentions in i (subsidiary of The Indie) last week, although one was merely to point out that Sweet Child of Mine’s riff has usurped it in Rolling Stone’s latest poll of the things. Whole Lotta Love seems to have slipped from the top 3.

  5. James Says:

    In Australia, we had a program that I think was syndicated from America hosted by Wolfman Jack. He often started the program with Smoke on the Water

  6. Gary H Says:

    I too was in Grade 8 in Spring 1973 and lived in a small town in British Columbia, Canada where the radio station would play rock tunes for about an hour each night. Though I don’t recall ever hearing Smoke on it, I do remember hearing Woman From Tokyo there a few times.

    I did have a 45 rpm vinyl version of the studio edit one side, live edit of Smoke on the other side. It had been lent to me by a friend. I know it was making the rounds between several friends, so it was generating a buzz in that way.

  7. Jim C. Says:

    By the 70’s, Purple was invisible to AM radio here.The first FM heavy airplay I remember was Strange Kind of Woman off Fireball. Other album tracks got played, but SKOW was played ALL the time. There were no standout tracks off Machine Head, it seemed like they played Hwy Star, Maybe I’m A Leo, Lazy and Space Truckin’ equally. When WDWTWA! came out, WFT, Rat Bat Blue, and Our Lady got heavy FM airplay. MIJ came out and FM focused on Hwy Star, SKOW, Lazy and Space Truckin’. Then the late spring/early summer of ’73 came and suddenly the edited live version of SOTW appeared on AM radio. It didn’t seem to build slowly, it seemed that one day it appeared on playlists and then exploded. It went from AM airplay to jukeboxes and everywhere I went it seemed to be playing. It was the live version that received all the early play. (Despite being called a double A-side later, I firmly believe it to be a single to promote Made in Japan.) Here in Kansas City, SOTW received so much play that some of the places with jukeboxes began complaining that kids were playing it too much. I saw signs taped to jukeboxes asking people NOT to play it! On occasion you’d hear the edited studio version on AM radio, but the edited live version was THE version that broke the song nationally. In later years, when the song became a classic rock staple, it was exclusively the full studio version. I haven’t heard anything but the Machine Head version in years, but it remains the “go to” Deep Purple track for radio stations across the country.

  8. jamie williamson Says:

    Hmm… the first time I remember hearing Smoke on the radio was in the car olate summer on the way back from a baseball game in Boston early June ’73– the live version. The guy driving responded to my saying ‘hey, it’s Deep Purple’ by cranking up the volume… of course, when it got to the guitar solo it was wot? huh? Of course it was on all over the place within the next few weeks, and it was mainly the live version; I really don’t remember the studio version being played at all (eastern Connecticut/Rhode Island/Eastern Mass). I’d gotten Machine Head at the beginning of 8th grade late summer 72, and everything else as I found it that fall, but the then “hip” radio stations (WAAF in Worcester & WBCN in Boston) I remember playing Space Truckin a fair amount, and then Woman from Tokyo (WDWTWA came out right after New Year 73 in the US), and I think I remember Highway Star and Maybe I’m a Leo, but never Smoke.

    • simon robinson Says:

      Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to help on this, some really interesting comments and useful insight as well. We’ll be crediting you in the book!

  9. Frank Traum Says:

    I recall reading an article in Time magazine around 1974 which had an article about an American radio programmer who claimed that he was responsible for breaking “Smoke On The Water” and other songs to the American audience.

  10. Les Hedger Says:

    WLS in Chicago was a top 40 hits AM radio station. They played the single live version of “Smoke” a lot. The song became so popular that they actually started to play the full album version which was unusual for an AM station as they wanted to keep most songs to 4 or less minutes. On FM radio they always played the full album cuts of Purple songs usually from MH thru the Burn album. Now all we ever get is “Smoke”.

  11. Dave Binnie Says:

    I was in Grade 8 in the spring of 73′ and remember how it was played so often on CKOC Hamilton, and CHUM Am in Toronto, Ontario Canada. It was usually the live edit that was played. In my school auditorium we would have lunch, and I remember it being played there. Roger’s bass line was out front as the WB sound engineers had really made him prominent in the mix. We had huge speakers with tremendous bottom- end, and it really made the song powerful. I bought MIJ when it came out, and was glad to hear the song with solos intact. I do remember it being in the top ten for a very long time .

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