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Ludwig Von Beethoven's Hard Rock Legacy

Ludwig Von Beethoven's Hard Rock Legacy

Smoke on the Water is one of rock's most famous riffs and great rock anthems.  Most budding guitarists learn the riff but few realise the core of the song had been inspired by Ludwig Von Beethoven's Fifth.

Ritchie Blackmore wrote in rigid fourths to create the famous riff.  He had listened to Beethoven's Fifth and inverted it. "I should really owe Ludwig a lot of money," Blackmore said.

Another little known fact about the song is that folklore would have us believe it to be a drug song — which, in fact, it is not.  Blackmore had given it a name, "Title No. 1" before the words were created.

Blackmore had the skeleton of the song written thanks to Ludwig. He and Roger Glover (the bass player) often used to write the music first and later find the words. But on this particular day the words weren't coming.

The band had been in Montreux with their producer Claude Nobbs and the Rolling Stones Mobile, ready for the production of their "Machine Head" album.  They heard that Frank Zappa would be playing at the casino.

While watching the concert they saw Frank pause after looking up in the rafters when Frank screamed over the microphone, "Fire!!!"  The building was evacuated and Deep Purple returned to their digs and went to bed.

Roger Glover awoke early and was looking across Lake Geneva to witness the casino devastated and eery plumes of smoke drifting across the lake.  He thought: "Smoke on the Water" and from that the rest of the song is built around the happenings of that night.

"Smoke on the Water" went on to chart strongly around the world, including number two in Canada and number four in the US. The album "Machine Head" was a worldwide number one.  It stayed in the Top 100 for 25 weeks.  To put that into perspective, few albums with the exception of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" did better.

Glover and Blackmore did a simlar lyrics twist with the song "Black Night"  The boys were recording in a spooky place in the wilds of the UK.  It was a dark and stormy night but the words weren't coming, again. Then Glover said "Black Night, Ritchie." "Yes, that's it!"  More booze and some time passed and the rest of the lyrics revealed themselves.

So in simple terms it's about a dark night in a remote and scarey place while getting drunk and "not feeling right".

Many of Deep Purple's songs were written this way and it's great fun to research the riddles inside them.


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