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Song Stories

“Smoke on the Water”

Deep Purple | 1973

On the evening of December 4, 1971, Deep Purple were watching a Frank Zappa concert at the Montreux Casino in Switzerland, when someone shot a flare gun and set fire to the ceiling of the venue -- completely destroying it. This served as the inspiration behind their hit "Smoke on the Water." "That was a riff I made up on the spur of the moment, in Switzerland," explained Ritchie Blackmore. "It was a case of keeping it incredibly simple. I remember Pete Townsend saying to me, 'You've got to keep things simple and take the audience with you.'" Purple were planning on recording their next album, Machine Head, at the Casino but had to move the sessions to the nearby Grand Hotel.

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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