Ian Gillan Admits Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke On The Water’ Was Just A Warmup Track

Deep Purple’s frontman Ian Gillan recently talked about the band’s most iconic song, ‘Smoke on the Water,’ during a radio interview with KSHE 95. He confessed that the song was originally a warmup track but was then used to fill in the missing seven minutes on their 1972 album.

‘Smoke on the Water’ is not only Deep Purple’s most known song, but it is generally one of the most popular songs in rock and roll history. Its legendary riff that runs throughout the song has inspired many guitar enthusiasts, and the band received the attention they deserved after the song’s release. The riff was ranked No. 4 in Total Guitar’s Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever list.

Ian Gillan talked about the song recently, and to his fans’ surprise, he admitted that they used to play it as a warmup in recording sessions. When there was a seven-minute gap in their 1972 album ‘Machine Head,’ they decided to turn it into a song that is seven minutes long. This coincidence made the band use their simple riff to form a song that is admired to this day.

Ian Gillan talked about ‘Smoke on the Water‘ stating:

“It’s very nice. It’s very nice to have stuff like that in the repertoire in a show. There’s a lot of stuff from that era that we still keep in the show, and obviously, that’s one that’s known all around the world. The strange thing about that, that was just a throwaway track on the album, ‘Machine Head.’ We were short on material, the producer said, ‘You’re seven minutes short, guys…’ So we took it, it was a warmup track just to get through the soundcheck, and that was the ‘Smoke on the Water’ backing track.

And Roger Glover and I wrote the lyrics, the story of the casino burning down, the fire, and what happened during those tumultuous days. It was very much part of our history. We had no idea. In fact, nobody had any idea, and a guy from Warner Brothers came to a show in America one day, and he saw the reaction of the audience to ‘Smoke on the Water,’ and he’d hardly heard it, and he looked at the album, ‘It’s seven minutes, OK?’

We took it in the studio, did an edit, down to three minutes, and bang, it was played on the radio all over the world the following week, and still is. It’s quite amazing. You know – that’s just lucky, some A&R guy, he spotted it. Otherwise, it would’ve never been so well-known as it is.”

The lyrics were written by Roger Glover, who is also the band’s bassist, and they had no idea that it would be this big. The song was also edited down so it could be played on the radio without a problem. It received a Gold certificate by selling 1 Million as a single in the United States.

You can have a listen to the all-time classic below.