Home » Unveiling Beethoven’s Influence on Ritchie Blackmore for ‘Smoke On The Water’

Unveiling Beethoven’s Influence on Ritchie Blackmore for ‘Smoke On The Water’

In the ever-evolving landscape of music, inspiration weaves a complex tapestry, drawing from diverse sources. Even legendary bands, such as Deep Purple, find their iconic songs shaped by a fusion of past influences, creative innovation, and an occasional nod to classical roots. Ritchie Blackmore, in a 2007 interview with CNN, shed light on the classical underpinnings behind Deep Purple’s success, particularly in their iconic song ‘Smoke on the Water.’

In the video, Blackmore delves into the technical intricacies of the song’s renowned riff, linking it to classical music, notably the compositions of Ludwig van Beethoven. Explaining the connection to Beethoven’s works, Blackmore said:

“People play it this way [playing ‘Smoke on the Water’], which is not correct. It is played in fourths, rigid fourths, which is going back to the Medieval Times. That’s how they played. A lot of parts were parallel fourths. So now you have [playing his guitar] Beethoven. Bomb bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb bomb bomb. And I thought, ‘Play that backward. Put something into it, and you’ve got bom, bom, bom. Bom, bompa, bom. That’s how I came up with it.”

Delving Deeper into the Secrets of ‘Smoke On The Water’

Later, the host chimed in with a question: “Are you suggesting that the iconic riff of ‘Smoke on the Water’ is derived from Beethoven?” Ritchie responded with a touch of humor: “It’s an interpretation of inversion. You turn it back and play it back and forth. It’s actually Beethoven’s Fifth. So I owe him a lot of money.”

Roger Glover Explores the Riff

‘Smoke on the Water’ transcends being just a song; it’s a cultural phenomenon. Its iconic riff stands as one of the most distinguishable in the history of rock, often serving as a rite of passage for aspiring guitarists. During a 2022 conversation with Classic Rock, Roger Glover delved into the narrative behind the song and its riff, stating:

“The riff is so simple yet so distinct from anything else. And I know, Ritchie himself has said it’s like Beethoven in a way – Beethoven’s fifth. What Beethoven does with just very few notes, that riff does it with very few notes too. But it’s got a hint of Eastern mysticism in it, just by the semitone lift. Instantly recognizable and yet nothing like anything else. In retrospect, ‘Smoke on the Water’ is pretty hilarious. It’s like writing a song about any mundane daily activity: ‘I went to the grocery store / To buy some cheeeese.'”

In a February 1991 conversation, Blackmore revealed that people often play the riff of ‘Smoke on the Water’ incorrectly, altering its sound. He attributes the enduring popularity of the song, akin to the famous opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, to its simplicity. Blackmore also shared that hearing straightforward riffs in songs like ‘I Can’t Explain’ and ‘My Generation’ gave him the confidence to compose similarly simple yet impactful music. You can watch the CNN video here and listen to ‘Smoke on the Water’ below.

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