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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

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

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