Smoke on the Water

Ian Gillan, at 75 years old, has sung Smoke on the Water since 1972. Whether with Deep Purple, the Ian Gillan Band, and Black Sabbath. He has sung the encore song in the range of 2,500 times for 50 years. I guess Ozzy Osbourne would be in the same dilemma by singing Paranoid.

Luciano Pavarotti expressed his jealousy of Gillan getting to sing Smoke on the Water. “He said, ‘I’ve heard you sing it six times, and every time it’s different. Sometimes you’re driving it on. Sometimes it’s laid-back. Sometimes the patterns change or the nuances are different, but it’s the same song.’ And he said, ‘If I did that with any of my famous arias, if I changed one scintilla of expression or interpretation, I would be crucified by the critics, and the fans because we’re not allowed to do that in opera. We have to mimic our original interpretation.”

“Deep Purple was watching the whole fire from their hotel window, and they said, ‘Oh my God, look what happened. Poor Claude and there’s no casino anymore!’ They were supposed to do a live gig [at the casino] and record the new album there. Finally, I found a place in a little abandoned hotel next to my house and we made a temporary studio for them. One day they were coming up for dinner at my house and they said, ‘Claude we did a little surprise for you, but it’s not going to be on the album. It’s a tune called “Smoke On The Water.’” So I listened to it. I said, ‘You’re crazy. It’s going to be a huge thing.’ Now there’s no guitar player in the world who doesn’t know [he hums the riff]. They said, ‘Oh if you believe so we’ll put it on the album.’ It’s actually the very precise description of the fire in the casino, of Frank Zappa getting the kids out of the casino, and every detail in the song is true. It’s what really happened. In the middle of the song, it says ‘Funky Claude was getting people out of the building,’ and actually when I meet a lot of rock musicians, they still say, ‘Oh here comes Funky Claude.”