Alternate universe

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.


Filed under August 2008, Sounds

5 responses to “Alternate universe

  1. Randy

    I won Made in Japan from a local radio station back in 1974. I almost wore it out in the first week. You are so right about the Smoke on the Water version on this album the solos are killer. Also, Space Truckin on Made in Japan kicks booty and takes up one whole album side!

  2. jb

    The difference between the studio version of “Smoke on the Water” and the live version from “Made in Japan” is the difference between somebody telling you about the famous fire at Montreaux and actually finding yourself in the middle of it while it’s happening.

  3. Shark

    I worked at WKAU/Kaukauna (near Appleton) back in the mid-80s. We were a Top 40 station that played a few classic album cuts at night. One of them was the live version of “Smoke on the Water” which was on one of those K-Tel compilation albums. It clocked at 7:27…and I played it every chance it came up in rotation. On the record label, someone (who probably worked there 10 years earlier) wrote “TASTY!” after the listing for “Smoke on the Water.” Come to think of it, he was right…that version of “Smoke on the Water” is a “tasty” album cut.

  4. Oh yeah! JB’s got it about right. Although “tasty” works, too.

  5. Interesting coincidence…I made a disc of songs from the Summer of ’73 for my 10-year old and the version of SOTW that came up was the MIJ version. He calls it “Barbecue on The River,” which will be the topic of a post later this month on F45.

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