In which we have a bit of a laugh and keep a check out the ways this immortal rock track has embedded itself into popular culture…  if you spot Smoke On The Water cropping up anywhere you wouldn’t normally expect it to, let us know! Obviously some of the links below may go, do let me know if that’s the case. One or two of these stories may have been blogged on the site before, but most appear here for the first time. Check out the forthcoming book Fire In The Sky about the song and album. When you’ve read this lot, move on to page two for the next batch!

Smoke On The Water stories  [30] Smoke In The Jar

Smoke In A Jar.jpg

Tim Summers spotted this wheeze from the caterers at a Kiev Deep Purple concert in 2012 – curious to know what it was all about, he ran the story through some translation software: “Deep Purple band under his loud laugh kindly agreed to leave at the first imaging autographs own songs. Catering company Meat & Lounge part of Royal family commissioned concert BonapArt company provided meals concert in Kiev. There is always a place of work, but there is also a desire to get a souvenir from the world of music legends. Quart jar half full of water, and half of cigarette smoke with a small white bumazhechkoy on board was placed on the table, group to sign. Collective long laugh at such an idea. For the first time the group left the team for autographs later jar with a blue lid. I’m sure they’ve seen a lot, but not a quart jar with water and smoke from cigarettes.” “I’m glad A Gypsy’s Kiss wasn’t their big worldwide hit,” mused Tim.

Smoke On The Water stories  [29] Smoke On The Porter

This brew was produced by a craft brewery in Denmark a few years ago and is now sold out, nice bottle though!


Smoke On The Water stories  [28] Highway 61 Resurfaced

highway 61 resurfaced.jpg

U.S. writer Bill Fitzugh is a part-time DJ AND his books are well written humourous looks at the foils and foibles of current society. In his 2005 book “Highway 61 Resurfaced“, one of the villains, Crail is a Deep Purple fan who decides to request Smoke On The Water as he lurks outside a radio studio while up to no good. The author uses the lyrical line of Frank Zappa to time a sequence leading to an attack and also references the band earlier in the book. Thanks to Mohan Thampi. The book title is recommendation enough on it’s own!  Simon.

Smoke On The Water stories  [27] Question of taste

Bill Murray’s Afghanistan-based rock’n’roll comedy Rock The Kasbah came out late in 2015 and the film featured performances from the actor and co-stars Zooey Deschanel and Leem Lubany, a mix of classic rock tracks and covers from the Rock the Kasbah cast.

bill murray smoke on the water.jpg

The film is about tour manager Richie Lanz’s (Murray) unsuccessful USO trip of Afghanistan, which ultimately leads him to the discovery of an Afghan woman (Lubany) with an extraordinary voice. The soundtrack features three Cat Stevens covers from Lubany, as well as “Bitch” by Deschanel and his cover Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” from Murray. There is a full band version and an acapella one which Bill performs in front of a group of warlords. Much as I usually enjoy Murray, the film trailer makes for very uneasy viewing given the suffering the people over there have endured for a century or more. But if you can get past that, here’s one of the trailers:

Smoke On The Water stories  [26] Tribute

One of the zillions of often patchy tribute CDs came out in 1994 and was called Smoke On The Water – A Tribute. It was not however ten different versions of the song, just an overall selection of Purple cover versions. Smoke was fronted by US rock singer Robert Mason. Joe Lynn Turner did Lazy (with Malmsteen) and Glenn Hughes fronted Stormbringer. One for completists.

Smoke On The Water  tribute CD.jpg

Smoke On The Water stories  [25] Ring of fire

It sounds like it would just not work, but there’s a mash up out there called Ring Of Smoke (Johnny Cash vs. Deep Purple) put together by MadMixMustang (an alias one assumes to avoid the copyright owners getting onto them). And it just synchs very well. It appeared in 2011 but is still out there. Simon Robinson.

Smoke On The Water stories  [24] Stick to doughnuts

There is often an end of season concert at the last F1 race, and at least two of these, 2010 and 2011, Sebastian Vettel has been pushed into playing Smoke On The Water for the crowd. “It counnd’t be any worse than last year” he comments in 2011. There is a short iPone clip on the web if you want to torture yourself! Thanks to Gareth Toms.

Smoke On The Water stories  [23] Purple jazz

In 2012 Deep Purple turned up on FrenchTV guide site CultureBox.  After a dual language interview with Ian Gillan, the band did a great four minute lounge jazz version of Smoke On The Water.  This was archived on their site but now seems to have gone.  The French hosts even played Ian Gillan a clip of the Joe Lynn Turner line-up to show him how it ought to go! Tim Summers

Smoke On The Water stories  [22] A girl in every port

I was in the US Navy in 1974-75, on my first Western Pacific cruise on the USS Enterprise (CVN 65).  We would regularly pull into the US Navy base at Subic Bay, Philippines.  At night, most of the sailors would be out in the town of Olongapo to hit the bars.  Almost every one had a band made up of local musicians and every band that played rock played “Smoke On the Water”!  It was played so much that a common joke among the sailors was that the song was the national anthem of the Phillipines! Edwin Senior. Nice one Edward, quite a ship you were aboard looking at the stats!


Smoke On The Water stories  [21] Chant

For a nice short medieval monastery chant rendition which should appeal to Ritchie and Co., the very funny BBC4 radio comedy show The Castle slipped just such a version into their show, as one of a number of medievalled up rock links between scenes! I cannot find this online which is a shame. Simon Robinson.

Smoke On The Water stories  [20] Still Game

One of our favourite Scottish TV comedy shows Still Game (starting back in 2002 and ending with five sold out shows in Glasgow in 2019) entitled one of their episodes Smoke On The Water, but I’ve yet to work out exactly what the link between the story and a voyage down a Glasgow river in a sinking boat is!

Smoke On The Water stories  [19] Massive organ

You’ve never really heard Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” until you’ve heard it blown up on a 5,000-pipe church organ, apparently. In August 2011 Albinas Prizgintas, the music director at Trinity Episcopal Church on Jackson Avenue, staged another of his classic rock-on-the-organ concerts at Trinity. The event included reimagined rock songs, including “Smoke on the Water,” Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks,” Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post,” Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung,” Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale,” The Who’s “I Can See for Miles,” a Rolling Stones medley, Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and “Manic Depression,” and Iron Butterfly’s “In a Gadda da Vida.” The show was his way of noting this week’s Hurricane Katrina anniversary. “I figure that if I play loud enough and fast enough, it will drown out the memory of the catastrophe that still lingers and hovers over this city,” Prizgintas commented. Keith Spera, The Times-Picayune. You can read the full story at the paper’s website.

Smoke On The Water stories  [19] Fish-tank

Canadian comedian Rich Hall reckons to have done an entire recreation of the Smoke On The Water story for one of his early stage shows. With a very limited budget, and the need to transport the set all the way to New Zealand where he was booked to perform, he decided to stage his recreation in a fish-tank. Sadly, exact details of the show remain sketchy, mainly due to the fact that Rich’s agent couldn’t be bothered to pass my request for more information on to him (surely it couldn’t be that he did but Rich himself wouldn’t reply?). From his autobiography though, we know he performed the show in New Zealand, in the town of Dunedin, which he gleefully relates was named after the townsfolk couldn’t decide whether to call the place after Edinburgh or Dundee. And yes, he might be making that bit up, except he got the information from a Taxi driver in the town. Anyway Rich Hall, one of my favourite comedians due to the way he introduced a celebrity into each of his short lived BBC series, then rowed them onto a lake and shot them (off camera), is forgiven for getting the actual details of the Smoke story totally muddled up, and resetting the fire on a boat in the middle of the lake / fishtank. Simon Robinson.

Smoke On The Water stories  [18] Stabsmusikcorps der Bundeswehr

The popular German defence minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, was accused over his doctorate being mostly plagarism. For that reason he decided to step down from his political position on March 01, 2011. Nevertheless, he received his farewell from the German military with a “tattoo”. He was allowed to pick three songs that were then performed by the “Stabsmusikcorps der Bundeswehr”, a brass band of the German military. Though there was much speculation that one song would be an AC / DC song, the media were surprised to hear that he would prefer “Smoke On The Water”. Guttenberg was born on December 05, 1971, a day after the casino fire in Montreux. German television (ARD) broadcasted the brass band performance of SOTW live and just before the band starts playing the two commentators discuss the fact that it is the first time that the “Stabsmusikcorps” performs the song and they received the score two days before the performance on March 10, 2011. The two other songs performed were marches. Peter Stickler. Fantastic Peter!  Or should that be Fantastische? They should issue this as a single…

Smoke On The Water stories  [18] Scalextric

Smoke’ gets a mention in the introduction to David Quantick’s book The Dangerous Book for Middle Aged Men. Peter Stickler. Well spotted Peter. Quantick is an old NME journo but redeemed himself by helping pen the awesome On The Hour comedy series (so awesome news channels thought it was what they should be doing and now all news sounds this way!). Anyway the book is out in paperback on Penguin (order from a bookshop or lose them). They must be good because you never see them in charity shops (unlike Jeremy Clarkson, one charity shop here now has a whole shelf devoted to his oeuvre!); here’s a quote: “That dangerous age has arrived. It’s the male menopause. The mid-life crisis. The time when suddenly you find your partner has put a whole Scalextrix track in your attic without you noticing. He’s bought an electric guitar and insists on playing ‘Smoke On The Water ‘to the cat at all hours. It that time when no matter what you say they suddenly don’t mind making a fools of themselves…”  Lose a housepoint for spelling Scalextric wrong. Hmm, now I have boarded our loft out…

Smoke On The Water stories  [17] More pink

Years ago I told you about a cover version of Smoke coupled with (Ten Years After’s) Love Like a Man. I did a search for the title the other day and found that it’s by a German(?) band called ‘Domino’, from an album called the Pink Project (or was it the other way ‘round?). A question from Gareth Toms! I did a follow up and the band is called Pink Project. The mash up (they attempt to blend the two tracks) is on an album called Domino but the German label Ultraphone thought it was so great they put it out as a pic sleeve single back in 1983. They were wrong, but it is fun in a weird way, sort of disco beat, lots of synths and some vocals. It was also issued on a 12″ if you’re a real masochist.

pink-project-smoke on the water.jpg

Smoke On The Water stories  [16] To make reeeckords

I live in New Zealand and  bought an album from a French swing band called Pink Turtle. There is a couple of covers of some interest to Purple fans. Smoke On The Water and Love is All. Spotted by Anthony Latz. I had to go and have a listen, and it is quite laid back and jazzy, but fun to here some of the pronunciation. If Ian Gillan hears this he will be singing “to make reeeckords” from then on!

Smoke On The Water stories  [16] Smalls

UK singer / songwriter Judith Owen’s compilation album “The Beautiful Damage” (Songbook Vol. 1), a collection of songs past and present from the jazzy, folky chanteuse, pulls together a range of material from her earlier albums plus three new songs, and her take on ‘Smoke On The Water’. Sadly this doesn’t feature real-life hubby Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap! Spotted by Stuart Hamilton

Smoke On The Water stories  [15] Gas Natural 

In 2009 on TVE 1, the main Spanish TV channel, I saw an ad which uses quite a chunk of Smoke. It was for Gas Natural and showed a band playing it, all dressed in a 70’s style. Then it zoomed in on the singer and hey presto he’s in the shower at home, his fake moustache comes off and he’s been dreaming. Quite funny. The agency no doubt got paid a fortune for it anyway! Thanks to Neil Cutler

Smoke On The Water stories  [14] Posh

Back in May 2012 Key Matters on Radio 4 featured Smoke, as the programme notes explained: “Ivan Hewett explores the way in which different musical keys appear to have unique characteristics of their own. In this second programme, Ivan is joined by musicologist Cliff Eisen to explore the key of G minor, a favourite key of Mozart’s for expressing failure, anger and loss.”  They sagely discussed how Smoke on the Water reminds them of Mozart as they played a verse and chorus, which makes a change from Beethoven comparisons. Spotted by James Bateman

Smoke On The Water stories  [13] Zappa repays the favour

At a Frank Zappa gig on February 27, 1988 Royal Oak Theatre, Detroit, MI, in Crew Slut, during the final encore of the show Frank quoted the riff to “Smoke on the Water” in his soling! Thanks to Matt Kean

Smoke On The Water stories  [12] More talent

Slovak singer Miroslav Šmajda sung a cover of Smoke on the Water in November 09 during a final of Czech/Slovak talent show “Cesko Slovenská Superstar”…

Smoke On The Water stories  [11] X-Factor winner

Italian singer and Italian X-Factor winner Matteo Becuccie issued his debut album “Cioccolato amaro e caffè” (“Bitter chocolate and coffee”) in November 2009 for Sony Music Italy. The album includes an acoustic version of Smoke on the Water, reinterpreted and sung in Italian. The song is titled “Fuoco nel Cuore” (literally, “Fire in the heart”). Thanks to Francesca Becucci.

Smoke On The Water stories  [10] Searching For The Young Soul Rebels

“The blast of radio static that greets the opening salvo of Dexys Midnight Runners’ album Searching For The Young Soul Rebels fluctuates between interference and Deep Purple, The Sex Pistols and The Specials. “A powerful euphemism not only for the changing landscape of the decade that preceded the album, but also for the unsettled times in which  it was released in.” According to one expert.  Who perhaps misunderstand the word Euphemism…  Simon Robinson

Smoke On The Water stories  [9] Simples

Guitarist magazine interviewed Francis Dunnery (from It Bites) in 2009 who noted the pleasures of keeping it simple with a memory of playing ‘Smoke On The Water’ in his bedroom when he was 10 years old… Thanks to Tony Bilny

Smoke On The Water stories  [8] Axel Rudi Pell…

Long term renowned Ritchie Blackmore fan Axel Rudi Pell celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the start of his solo career in 2014. The ex-Steeler guitarist commemorated this event with a massive three-hour headline show at the Bang Your Head festival in Balingen, Germany, on 11 July 2014, during which he was joined on stage by a number of special guests and musicians he’d either worked with or admired, including Graham Bonnet, Doogie White and Tony Carey from Rainbow’s illustrious past. Instead of finishing the show with one of his own classics  – and he’s certainly got enough to choose from – he elected to round things off with a batch of covers, and the final numbers of the evening were ‘Mistreated’, ‘Since You Been Gone’ and ‘Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll’, with ‘Smoke On the Water’ wrapping things up once and for all. Thanks to John Tucker

Smoke On The Water stories [7] Conch Shell Blowing

At Florida’s 49th annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest in 2010, Steve Gibson, 58, blew excerpts from the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” and Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” to win first place first in a men’s Conch Shell Blowing competition.
“The trick is to get the shell vibrating, and that’s how you make the sound,” said Gibson. Apparently Conch Shell Blowing it has been a Key West tradition since the early 1800s, when the shell was used as a maritime signalling device…

Smoke On The Water stories [6] The Greatest Songs Ever

Just a great full page and a wonderful photo!


Smoke On The Water stories [5] Bono and Smoke

Bono has been mocking Deep Purple during an interview in 2011, saying how uncool they were compared to Led Zeppelin. However, an old friend of the band was chatting to Q Magazine some years before, explaining that U2 were not above reinventing their punk pedigree to help their street credibility. He said that all he could recall of their early rehearsal sessions was playing ‘Smoke On The Water’ over and over again! He was at it again according to the Moscow Times, who said U2 went to Sochi to meet President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010 before a show there. Bono joked that he might have to cancel the meeting after hearing that Medvedev was a Deep Purple fan.
“That’s it. I’m gone,” Bono said, pretending to stand up and go when told by journalists. The rest of the group then started humming the riff to Smoke on the Water. “We prefer The Beatles,” Bono said. “I think even Deep Purple prefers The Beatles.” Certainly to U2 I should imagine! Thanks to Vincent Budd

Smoke On The Water stories [5] Up the Tigers

For many years now Leicester Tigers football team have come out from their dressing room to the Machine Head version of Smoke On The Water. It usually stops just as Ian’s about to start singing.  Steve Kelly says it’s certainly quite surreal to hear 20,000 + fans clapping along to the riff “like we’ve suddenly been transported from Leicester to Osaka.”  Thanks Steve. The Leicester Tigers connection is due to Martin Johnson (ex-Tigers/England Captain/Coach) being a huge fan according to one of our readers below. Here’s a clip!


Smoke On The Water stories [4] An iron fist

Who were the first group (outside the immediate band members of course) to cover Smoke On The Water on record? Simon’s delving for the Machine Head Biography seemed to suggest that the first  to cut a version were Forcefield, sometime in 1986. Some older readers will remember Forcefield, who had quite a pedigree, with Cozy Powell on drums, Neil Murray on bass and Ray Fenwick on guitar. Ray put it together as a studio project for a Japanese label where it did quite well, although back home it came out on the cheapo President label.  The less of a household name Peter Prescott did vocals (and was replaced by Graham Bonnet for follow ups, though they never toured.)

Hooked On Rock Smoke On The Water

However I found an album in a charity store called Hooked On Rock, which came out in 1985, and comprised a bunch of South African session musicians called Iron Fist belt through twenty five rock classics per side, all linked together disco medley style! And they kick off with …. “Smoke On The Waaarder”. This also appeared on a 12″ maxi single in parts of Europe. So they just pip Forcefield to the honours, unless any of you can tell us otherwise!


My name is Stephen from Numulgi, Australia, and I have made a short video of ‘Smoke on the Water’ (played without an instrument). I’m no musician, but I hope you, and other fans of the great riff, enjoy it.
We certainly did Stephen!  It’s played on a CD jewel case, dragged across the edge of a desk.  What else?  Some of us will recall using a clear plastic ruler to do similar silly things back at school…

The trailer for the forthcoming Bill Murray movie ‘Rock the Kasbah’ shows the comic actor bawling out a drunken version of ‘Smoke on the Water’ . Many have suggested a physical resemblance between him and Ian Gillan; not sure I can see it myself. [TS]

Ever wondered what the individual parts of Smoke On The Water sounded like?  Someone has hacked the Guitar Hero computer game and posted Jon Lord’s take on YouTube.  It makes fascinating listening.  This was laid down at The Pavilion during their first take of the backing track before local Police brought the session to a close.  In an interview Jon said he doesn’t think he ever got to redo it, so this slightly experimental run-through became the final version.

8 Responses to “SMOKE ON THE WATER Stories”

  1. Robin L Haddon Says:

    BBC 2 – The Great British Menu S14 E7 on 03/04/2019. One of the chef’s starter courses named ‘Smoke on the Water’ (the first riff he played on guitar) and snippets of the song played during the episode.

    • simon robinson Says:

      A few people seem to have watched this Robin! For those who don’t know, it’s a TV cookery competition.

  2. Bernard Maasdijk Says:

    Don’t think anyone mentioned this already. If someone did I apologise, but there’s an episode of The Sopranos where Tony is parking his car and on the car radio Smoke on the Water is playing. I’m afraid I haven’t been able to find the season and episode numbers.

  3. Paul Says:

    I had the Kung Fu Album! My god what a load of crap that was. And Dopes on the water I remember. The lyrics were changed to o worth Swiss bankers or something. Load of bollocks. What we are all missing now is an enormous amount of pink………

  4. Kevin Says:

    I am pretty sure there was a cover of this in 73 or 74 by Reggie Guitar or something similar. I used to have the album it was on which was called Kung Fu. Lost in a house move unfortunately. Paid the glorious sum of 50p for it from a jumble sale. It was full of covers the other main one I remember being ” I can see clearly now”. There was also a 1980 version called Dopes on the water which was some god awful electro pop thingy that made me want to vomit.
    I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some kind Funky Junction type album released mid 1972 that we still haven’t discovered.

  5. biggirltravels Says:

    The Leicester Tigers connection is due to Martin Johnson (ex-Tigers/England Captain/Coach) being a huge fan. I asked the club on Twitter a few years ago.

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