Imagine believing for 35 years that you have a certain song in your collection, only to find that for 35 years, you’ve been wrong. So it is with “Smoke on the Water.”
I was certain I’d had it on vinyl since I was in high school. But as I was digging through our albums a while back, I realized I don’t have Deep Purple’s “Machine Head.” Never have.
Yet when I went to a record show a couple of weeks ago in beautiful suburban New Brighton, Minnesota, I passed on several chances to pick up “Machine Head.” Didn’t really need it. I already have an album that has — for me, at least — the definitive version of “Smoke on the Water.”
“Smoke on the Water,” Deep Purple, from “24 Carat Purple,” a best-of album from 1975. (It’s taken from “Made in Japan,” their 1972 live album. It was recorded 36 years ago this month, on Aug. 15, 1972, in Osaka, Japan.)
It took me exactly 20 seconds to be sold on this version. That’s how long Ritchie Blackmore’s heavy false start lasts before he kicks into the tune as you know it. It’s worth it for that alone.
That this version also has spectacular solos by Blackmore and keyboard player Jon Lord — and some fierce lick-trading between them at the end — is just icing on the cake.
It also was a hit at the only party we ever had at my house. But that’s another story for another day.