This is the rock anthem. The song’s massive popularity has lasted for decades, and learning to play the intro is one of the first tasks every guitarist must tackle. Paice plays an accented sixteenth-note pattern on his hi-hat, gradually building the intensity until the vocals enter. He uses buzzes, ruffs, and occasional hi-hat openings during the groove to help subtly shape his beats around the vocal lines, which helps make his part breathe. He punctuates all the section changes with very tasty fills. Chops are required.
“When we were recording the Machine Head album, the first track that we did was the backing track for ’Smoke On the Water,’” Paice explains. “We did it in a ballroom right across from the Grand Hotel in Montreux. We were recording in the evening, and Montreux that time of year is a sleepy little Swiss town. When there is no other noise and you have a rock and roll band playing very loud in an empty ballroom, the sound goes for miles. We were just about getting towards the end of the take for the basic tracks and the police were trying to break into the ballroom to stop us because of all the complaints about the sound. And the road managers were actually holding the doors shut to keep them from breaking in before we finished the track.
“Then we went on to record the rest of the record, and we thought no more about it. It was just a backing track with a nice riff. It was only after the casino burned down that the riff and the words came together. And the words came from Roger [Glover, bass] watching the smoke from the casino drift lazily across Lake Geneva. It’s a pretty controlled track from the drums. There’s a little bit of phasing at the end on the cymbals, because that was a time when we used phasing. It was a nice effect.”
This is another great hard rock tune and perhaps the ultimate Deep Purple track from the classic lineup featuring Ian Gillian. According to Paice, the song was an homage to all the great early rockers who influenced the bandmembers.
“’Highway Star’ is out-and-out rock and roll,” he states. “It’s taking all the influences from the great stuff from the ’50s and throwing them all together in one joyous piece of mayhem. All the ideas — they come from Little Richard, they come from Gene Vincent, they come from Elvis Presley — they come from all those rock giants. It was the music that we grew up with, and it meant something to each one of us.” Check out this perfect drum fill that Paice places just about a minute into the tune. It in itself is a classic slice of rock history.