Roger Glover Reveals How Deep Purple’s ’Smoke on the Water’ Really Came to Be: ’It Was Just a Jam’

Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover recalled how the band came up with the legendary hit song “Smoke on the Water,” which ultimately became their landmark piece.

The story covered in the lyrics is widely known to rock fans these days. The infamous fire in the Montreux Casino in Switzerland did delay the band’s creative process for the upcoming album “Machine Head.” But despite time restraints, they managed to record the album using the legendary Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, with “Smoke on the Water” coming up as the last-minute piece.

Speaking to Eska Rock in a recent interview, Glover looked back on the writing and recording process for the “Machine Head” album. Putting himself back in that time and place, he said that they just “jam things out” first, Glover explained (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“Ritchie is the instigator of most of the riffs, but not all of them — some, I do. Usually, it’s an odd kind of band because we start with the instrumental first. We don’t even think about what the songs are about until afterwards.”

Roger Glover z okazji 50 lecia kultowego albumu Deep Purple - "Machine Head".

“And that’s because the musicians in the band are so good that they just love to play. So Ian Gillan, with my help, tends to sort of wait until the backing tracks are finished, and then figure out what’s gonna go on top, which is backwards to what most people do.”

After the infamous fire in the casino, Deep Purple were looking for a new place to use as a recording room. As the song’s lyrics later reflected, they were out of time. The first spot was the Pavillion, a theatre that was suitable for their needs.

“‘Smoke on the Water’ happened because when the fire stopped us from using the casino,” Roger added. “[Funky] Claude Nobs — who was in charge — managed to find another venue. It’s like a small theater not far. We sat up there and started to record, but we only managed to do one track, which was around about midnight on that day.”

As for the song, Glover says that he didn’t think much of it at the time. It was, more or less, just a groovy “mid-tempo” piece with a great-sounding riff. He continued:

“And it was just a jam, we didn’t know what it was going to be. It was a mid-tempo with a kind of interesting riff. And we just threw out a very quick arrangement, and then the police stopped us.”

Fortunately, they managed to score another venue which they converted into a great recording studio, along with the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio that was at their disposal. He continued:

“So five days later, we managed to find the Grand Hotel and get set up in there. We were desperate right now, because we only had the Rolling Stones Mobile [Studio] for three weeks. We thought, ‘Three weeks is enough to make a record.’ Well, now it’s less than two weeks. It was short. So we were really up against the wall.”

However, as he then added, having that pressure and a tight schedule actually helped them create a good album.

Deep Purple - Smoke On the Water (Official Music Video)

“And I think maybe that helped,” Glover added. “It kind of brought us together as a band. We were trapped in this situation. We had to finish this album. And we’re running out of time.”

The song and its title came kind of spontaneously. And it seems it was the best possible setting for them to create a massive hit and, more importantly, one of the best songs ever created.

“We were short one song, and we thought, ‘Well, let’s listen to that thing we did in the small theater.’ And after the fire, I’d said to myself — I actually woke up in bed one morning and said — ‘Smoke on the water!’ out loud to an empty room. And I thought, ‘Wow, that’s an interesting title for a song!'”

Deep Purple - Smoke On The Water (Live from Montreux 2007)

“So that’s what we used, and so let’s write a song about what happened here. So the lyrics and songs come from real life. They come from stories of things that happen to us, or things we read in the newspaper, or whatever it is.”

“It’s all part of where the lyrics come from. The whole thing is very instinctive. We rely on instinct.”

Instinct or not, just make sure that you don’t play this song in a guitar store.

Photo: Stefan Brending (2022 Lieder am See – Deep Purple – Roger Glover – by 2eight – 9SC6667)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.