My song today is ‘Smoke on the Water’. This song comes from the album by the hard-rock group ‘Deep Purple’ called ‘Machine Head’ and was released as a single in 1973. In 2004, the song was ranked Number 434 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of ‘The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time’. The song also ranked Number 4 in ‘Total Guitar’ magazine's ‘Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever’, and in March 2005, ‘Q Magazine’ placed ‘Smoke on the Water’ at Number 12 in its list of ‘The 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks’. The famous riff is played on a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar and there is also a distorted organ in the arrangement.
Blackmore later claimed that the main power chord riff is an interpretation of inversion of ’Symphony No. 5’ by Ludwig Beethoven.
BACKGROUND: The lyrics tell a true story. On 4th December 1971, Deep Purple was in Montreux, Switzerland, to record an album using a mobile recording studio (rented from the Rolling Stones).On the eve of the recording session, a Frank Zappa and ‘The Mothers of Invention’ concert was held in the casino's theatre. This was to be the theatre's final concert before the casino complex closed for its annual winter renovations, which would allow Deep Purple to record there. At the beginning of Don Preston’s synthesizer solo on ‘King Kong’, the place suddenly caught fire when somebody in the audience fired a flare gun toward the rattan-covered ceiling, as mentioned in the song’s line “some stupid with a flare gun”. Although there were no major injuries, the resulting fire destroyed the entire casino complex, along with all the Mothers' equipment.
The ‘smoke on the water’ that became the title of the song (credited to bass guitarist Roger Glover, who related how the title occurred to him when he woke from a dream a few days later), referred to the smoke from the fire spreading over Lake Geneva from the burning casino as the members of Deep Purple watched from their hotel. "It was probably the biggest fire I'd ever seen up to that point and probably ever seen in my life," said Glover. "It was a huge building. I remember there was very little panic getting out because it didn't seem like much of a fire at first. But, when it caught, it went up like a fireworks display.”
Because of the incident and the exposure, Montreux received when ‘Smoke on the Water’ became an international hit, and Deep Purple formed a lasting bond with the town. The song is honoured in Montreux by a sculpture along the lakeshore (right next to the statue of Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury) with the band's name, the song title, and the riff in musical notes. The new casino in Montreux displays notes from the riff as decoration on its balustrade facing the gambling hall.
When this song was released I was just out of training and was starting my new career as a Probation Officer in Huddersfield in West Yorkshire; a job I stayed in until I retired prematurely on the grounds of ill-health in 1995.
As for the group ‘Deep Purple’, I must confess that being an ardent fan of Country and Western and a Rock and Roll songs, that I never heard them until the past fifteen years (early 2005). During my earlier years, my musical tastes were ballads, pop, jazz, rock and roll, and country and western. I could not stand the sound of 'hard rock' and it was not until a few years ago when I was in my mid-70s when I first heard the song I sing today. I was immediately blown away, particularly by the guitar playing and the unique sound and sophisticated arrangement that ‘Deep Purple’ produced.
As for any life experience, today’s song reminds me of, it is the title of the song more than the words or its melody of which I have a fond recollection.
I once recall a male colleague during the mid-1980s being persuaded by another Probation Officer colleague of mine from the Huddersfield Office to buy his wife a racy pair of knickers to spice up their sex life. The incident had come about as the result of another colleague reading a newspaper article about the expansion of Ann Summer’s retail business which had started its life specialising in sex toys and lingerie. At the time, Ann Summers-labelled products tended to be more erotic in style than anything else on the market.
Since the first Ann Summers shop was opened in Marble Arch, London in 1970, the brand name quickly grew. Within one year (1971), Ann Summers was purchased in 1971 by brothers Ralph and David Gold, who turned it from a standard sex shop into an established high street brand and lingerie boutique. In 1981, Jacqueline Gold initiated the ‘Party Plan’ concept to increase business. Initially, the Ann Summers parties were as much a way of circumventing regulations restricting the display of sex toys as they were a marketing tactic, but their ‘party popularity’ quickly grew and the numbers of Ann Summers Party
Organisers mushroomed until 4,000 Ann Summers Parties took place every week in the UK. They were often an ideal precursor for wives wanting to earn a bit of extra money by having many female friends around to one’s home for a night of laughs and female fun, after which Ann Summer’s products would be ordered and sold.
The Ann Summers parties were exclusively women-only and included the presentation of sex toys and lingerie in the informal setting of someone's home; usually the home of one of the attendees who would invite all her female friends. The evening also involved the perusal of a catalogue and the enactment of ‘party games.’ Naturally, the person hosting the night in their own home would get a selection of the items free via the receipt of a commission on the total amount of goods sold.
Back to the male Probation Officer conversation in the Huddersfield Office staff room during the 1980s. One of the Probation Officers indicated that his sex life had become non-existent since the birth of their second child. Someone laughed and suggested that “he look elsewhere until his wife started showing an interest again”. He quickly knocked that suggestion on the head, stating that he loved his wife and that whatever his physical needs being unmet were, there was no way he’d ever contemplate having an extramarital affair. The next response in the room was “Then, why don’t you buy her a pair of sexy knickers?”.
Further discussion revealed that the Probation Officer making the ‘new sexy knickers’ remark wasn’t expressing a blasé attitude or wild suggestion, but one based on his own personal experience. The bottom line was that he had previously read in some female magazine that ‘crimson scarlet’ or ‘jet black’ were the two colour of ladies knickers that turned men on the most at their mere sight, but that ‘deep purple’ was the colour that represented ‘independence and strength of womanhood’, and that colour of lingerie reportedly turned women on and made them feel sexy. Following this disclosure, the ‘knickers proposer’ was asked if the purchase of deep purple knickers had worked for him and he smilingly said, “Yes, but not for the reason you think!” He went no farther in his explanation that lunchtime, nor indeed for a long time thereafter.
1990 would approach before I was to learn what he had meant several years earlier in the Probation Office staffroom discussion. I was having a drink with him in the nearby ‘Sportsman’ pub one lunch break, and being just the two of us, I asked my colleague to reveal the story ending about the deep purple knickers, he had left ‘up in the air’ without explanation.
Having decided to spice up his non-existent sex life, and after reading about the effect of different coloured knickers on the women wearing them and their men seeing them, my male colleague said that he eventually plucked up the gumption to go into an Ann Summers Shop to buy his wife a pair of sexy deep purple knickers. While at the counter, and being the only man in the shop, he was aware that he stood out like a sore thumb and started to think that other female customers in the shop might see him and instantly consider him as being some kinky pervert who wanted the deep purple knickers to wear on himself. My probation colleague found himself engaged in a whispered discussion with the attractive looking shop assistant about the size of his wife’s thighs etc as he inquired as to the most suitable style of knickers to purchase for her.
The bottom line in the story is that when he gave his wife the deep purple knickers, the two of them had the best night of sex he’d ever experienced, and have been having regular sex of a most satisfying nature ever since!
There is, however, a twist in the tail that is worthy of one of Roald Dahl ‘Tales of the Unexpected’. When he bought the deep purple knickers from the Ann Summers shop, the shop assistant was most helpful and obliging in her advice offered. Upon getting home that evening, my colleague looked at the deep purple knickers he intended to present to his wife later when they went to bed, but then started to fear that the knickers were too small. Being afraid of offending her by giving her a present that she couldn’t get into, he went to her dresser in the marital bedroom and examined the size of her underwear in the knicker drawer.
One quick glance at his wife’s range of beige knickers and he knew that he’d seriously boobed. All of his wife’s knickers were of the Bridget Jones ample sized variety. He instantly realised if ever his wife tried to wear the deep purple knickers he had bought her that she would rip them to shreds attempting to get them over her bottom and thighs. So, he never gave them to her.
Hearing this I reminded him that he’s already admitted to giving them to ‘his wife’ and that they had worked like a dream. He smilingly replied, "I wasn’t lying, Bill. I did them to ‘my wife’, but it just wasn’t ‘that wife’; it was my current wife, Sandy, wife number two.”
Further explanation revealed that when he initially went into the Ann Summer’s Shop to buy the sexy deep purple knickers, he and the attractive shop assistant got on like a house on fire and by the time he left the shop, they had exchanged telephone numbers. Within one week, they had started seeing each other and before too long, their affection became too hot to handle and their relationship developed into a full-blown affair. My colleague said that the new woman in his life was sexually obliging in every way, and the first thing he noticed about their sexual relationship was that she seemed to be in it to please him and always wore either scarlet or black sexy underwear without any prompting from him.
My friend said he divorced his wife, and within the next two years, he had remarried his new lover. He never gave the original pair of deep-purple knickers he bought from the Ann Summers shop to his first wife, and within one day of purchasing them, the sexy deep purple knickers found their way inside his neighbour’s dustbin. No doubt, some lucky wife of a Huddersfield dustbin collector found them too irresistible to refuse.
Love and peace Bill xxx