Writers: Deep Purple
Producers: Deep Purple
Recorded: Early December 1971 at the Pavilion Theater and the Grand Hotel in Montreux, Switzerland
Released: March 1972
|Players:||Ian Gillan – vocals
Roger Glover — bass
Jon Lord — organ
Ian Paice — drums
|Album:||Machine Head (Warner Bros., 1972)|
Legend has it that Deep Purple wrote “Highway Star” during a bus ride from London to Portsmouth, England to begin its fall 1971 tour of the U.K. The group actually performed it at that show, leading some to believe it had actually been worked on earlier.
Former guitarist Ritchie Blackmore has always cited this as one of his favorite Purple tracks and was particularly happy with his solo. “I worked out the solo before I recorded it. That run in thirds is an old run I used to play years earlier. Johnny Burnette taught me that run, and I hadn’t used it in years. It isn’t original, but it is exciting. I like classical chord progressions, like in the solo — that’s a Bach progression.”
An edited version of “Highway Star” was released in September 1972 as the second single from the Machine Head album. It didn’t chart, and most rock stations stayed faithful to the full-length version of the song.
“Highway Star” was Deep Purple’s usual concert opener during the mid-‘70s and again during the reunions of the “Mach II” lineup that featured singerIan Gillan and bassist Roger Glover. It was also one of the only songs from that lineup that was played by subsequent editions of the band.
Machine Head was one of the most dramatic albums in Deep Purple’s history. The group was slated to record the album, using the Rolling StonesMobile Studio, in December 1971 at the Casino in Montreux, Switzerland. The group had been advised to record the album away from its native Britain in order to be spared taxes.
The night before Purple was to begin recording the album, Frank Zappa & the Mothers Of Invention played a concert at the Casino. During the show, an audience member fired a flare gun into the roof, setting the building on fire. It burned to the ground, taking no lives but destroying all the Mothers equipment and leaving Purple without a place to record. The image of watching the Casino burn from the hotel bar stuck with the band, inspiring it to write Machine Head‘s biggest hit, “Smoke On The Water.”
The Machine Head album peaked at Number Seven on the Billboard 200 and has sold more than two million copies.
However, tensions within the band were increasing — particularly over artistic direction and songwriting credits. At the time, Blackmore predicted “I suppose we’ll see the year out if we’re lucky.