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The Highway Star

Cruise control is the key

For all the fans of lovely Elizabeth: watch her giggle her way through the masterpiece that, by our count, have spawned at least three heavy metal sub-genres, before lending the name to an obscure website.

Thanks to Mike Whiteley for the heads-up.

50 Comments to “Cruise control is the key”:

  1. 1
    Adel Faragalla says:

    The Ultimate Heavy metal song of all time.
    To be honest Martin Birch should have been inducted into the hall of fame as well. He was the six member.
    Peace ✌️

  2. 2
    Gregster says:

    @1. I’d sooner go with the heaviest “car-song” ever recorded lol ! And imo, it’s way-too-musical to be branded Heavy Metal, with all of its movement & key-changes…But so-be-it if it’s spawned “x’ amount of sub-genres, as who am I to dispute this ?…

    “8-cylinders, all mine”…( Yes, Ian sings 6-cylinders most of the time, but I have 8 under the bonnet ).

    The only problem with Martin & the R&RHoF, is that the Wasp would have collected many awards for his efforts with other bands inducted over the years !

    Peace !

  3. 3
    George Martin says:

    I don’t care what anybody says.
    Highway Star is the greatest song in the history of this planet!
    Always has been, always will be!

  4. 4
    George in Ohio says:

    All things considered, Purple’s best overall song. Miles ahead of “Smoke.” Yeah, there are times I want to listen specifically to any number of classics – “Child in Time,” “Speed King,” “Burn,” “”Perfect Strangers,” “Lazy,” “Space Truckin,””Hard Lovin’ Man,” “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming,” “Hush” all quickly come to mind, depending on my mood. But give me “Highway Star” absolutely anytime, any place – and I’m happy.

  5. 5
    Uwe Hornung says:

    She insulted Roger’s bass as a “pedal tone” – we should burn her at the stake, the woman is damned, let’s make her burn with a wave of the ha-and!

    Seriously, it’s a glorious song. Swift, but not rushed, pushy, but not heavy-handed, life-affirming, but not dumb, with two wonderfully melodic solos and a catchy melody. What’s not to like?

  6. 6
    Max says:

    … and Sammy Hagar says so, too!


  7. 7
    Leslie S Hedger says:

    She does a great job reviewing this and other songs!!

  8. 8
    Ivica says:

    “Highway Star” is the best A1 (Ritchie’s fast song)
    “Speed King”,”Fireball, “Burn” ,”Kill the King”,”Death Alley Driver”,”Spotlight Kid ” “Wolf To The Moon” fantastic songs too ,but HS is something special
    HS has all the best things that DP gives instrumentally as best RnR band. Intro, melodic phrase, energy, middle part “eternal war in solos of guitar and keyboard”, rock drumming with jazz soul,solid bass line and top singing.

  9. 9
    Buttockss says:

    The ultimate driving song of all time. She is most “excited” kinda like an orgasmatron! don’t ya think.

  10. 10
    Uwe Hornung says:

    In my recollection, these guys were the first ones to cover it:


    They did it faithfully, but with a Yank, almost Southern Rock (Point Blank were from Texas) feel, the harmony vocals during the chorus and Blackmore’s iconic solo actually played by two guitars live are kinda cute.

  11. 11
    Uwe Hornung says:

    ‘“8-cylinders, all mine”…( Yes, Ian sings 6-cylinders most of the time, but I have 8 under the bonnet ).’

    You ghastly show-off. I only have two and they are not even hiding from sight underneath some bonnet! Take the torque to the wild side …


  12. 12
    stoffer says:

    My favorite song of all time….not just DP but ALL! I enjoy all MK’s versions of this iconic tune as well as covers by other bands, but nothing beats the original and the MIJ version 🙂

  13. 13
    Joerg says:

    @10 Uwe, The Puhdys covered it in 1973 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpJOiFSUIQU

  14. 14
    Orhun Yakin says:

    I also happen to like this version by Metal Church:


  15. 15
    Tony says:

    Hey guys what do you think of this one …..? Enjoy…..


  16. 16
    Thomas says:

    @13 Yes, one of my first Singles; A-Side Hell Raiser, also covered by Puhdys

  17. 17
    Gregster says:

    @11… Well, Uwe, if you “only” have 2-cylinders, they don’t get much better than that ! And perhaps you’re not quite a ‘Highway Star” with regards to what Ian’s suggesting…But among the ranks of a “Speed King” you’d certainly qualify for sure, especially when the traffic-jams start around peak-hour !

    ( That said, the 8-cylinders I have are only small ones, though the burble, economy & easy-going smooth power delivery are quite nice…( 1973 MB 350 SLC ).https://www.classicdriver.com/en/car/mercedes-benz/slc/1974/188503

    Peace !

  18. 18
    Uwe Hornung says:

    That’s actually one of the greatest aspects of riding a bike to get to work (which I mostly do unless there is ice on the streets or a monsoon coming down), Gregster, traffic jams lose their dread! But don’t worry, my car-crazy little brother has a Dodge Hellcat (replacing the Mustang he had before) so 8-cylinders are well taken care of in the family.

    Liebe Landsmänner aus dem Osten: Ah, yes, the legendary Puhdys! I saw them around 1978 in Darmstadt at a DKP-Festival (introduced by no less than Herbert Mies, then-chairman of the West German communist party) – it was a great gig, back then I only knew their Rock’n’Roll album with 50ies standards


    and perhaps a handful of songs that had been played on West German radio. Live, the Deep Purple influence in their sound was clearly (and pleasantly so) audible. But I’ve never heard their version of Highway Star before, so danke for the enlightenment (though the guitar solo harmonies on their version are a bit on the doubtful side and it doesn’t really swing!).

    The Metal Church version is already way too speedy for me, I regret to say, I can’t relate to that ultra-fast stuff. As a matter of fact, Highway Star in its Machine Head version (and perhaps also Fireball, the song) is/are about as fast as I still like “my rock” – Rainbow’s Kill the King for instance never did anything for me, because it was just too darn fast. Can’t move my butt to that in time I guess!

  19. 19
    MacGregor says:

    The Machine Head version of Highway Star is the one for me. no doubt because it was the first heard & those studio enhanced vocal screams were a revelation to a innocent 13 year old. And it isn’t as frantic as the much loved MIJ version. Also inspired back then to the opening to Speed King in all it’s cacophony glory & the ‘lift off’ sound at the start of Fireball before Paice’s incredible drumming intro kicks in. Regarding fast songs yes I can take only one per album at best, but I do have a liking for Fireball, Kill the King, Spotlight Kid & those sort of songs Blackmore seems to inspire. Not to the point of mosh pitting with the clan at a gig though. Although I would prefer to do that than in my younger days than ‘shake my butt’ at a gig. That could get anyone into trouble, especially in the mosh pit with those rabid metal heads. Cheers.

  20. 20
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Ok, MacGregor, you’re beginning to sound all, uhum, rooful, let’s start gently with a few easy moves first at 02:05:


    For more advanced learning, we’ll then progress to this here:


    For consolation: all beginnings are difficult …


  21. 21
    Dr. Bob says:

    I find it interesting that in my 4 decades of listening to the 5 decade old album that in the early days it was side 2: Smoke on the Water, Space Trucking, and especially Lazy that got me hooked on Deep Purple, but over the years Highway Star and Pictures of Home have become my favorites.

  22. 22
    MacGregor says:

    Thanks for those clips Uwe, however I was seriously thinking of going in at the deep end, ala David Lee Roth. Better call an ambulance first though, just in case. Let’s Dance the David Bowie clip filmed in an outback Australian, (Carinda in central NSW) one horse & one pub town. We have observed a few dance moves out here in Oz land in our time, especially all the way out here in the outback & even whilst living under a rock. Bowie knew were the real dancers were lurking. Cheers.

  23. 23
    Dr. Bob says:

    Who else though that “Cruise control is the key” was in reference to DP playing on a FL cruise in a couple of weeks?

    Lovely Elizabeth’s sheer joy expressed while listening to Highway Star is so infectious. I am not sure that I experienced that much fun and shouts of “that’s so cool” upon my 1st listen.

  24. 24
    Uwe Hornung says:

    It’s always good when young people learn things.

    My first memory of hearing Machine Head was the immediate impression how neatly produced it sounded – you could here each and every instrument to optimal effect in its own “space”. It’s a mighty yet totally uncluttered engineering job. Plus DP’s songwriting had hugely advanced, there wasn’t a song I didn’t like – then or today. You could also understand Big Ian’s lyrics extremely well – if you’re not a native speaker like me that is quite a factor. Try to make out Robert Plant’s lyrics from a Zep record of the period in comparison! Ian Gillan could be understood as well as Paul McCartney or John Lennon on The Beatles records – and that is saying something.

    And of course a large part of MH’s lasting charm is that it is the first album with Roger’s legendary Rickenbacker 4001 in full bloom:



    That “angry piano wire” overdriven sound (a product of coincidence and necessity as much as it was a choice by Roger) shaped and shapes MH’s overall sonics. His bass had been nowhere as prominent on In Rock (Fender Precision Bass) or Fireball (Fender Mustang Bass). On Machine Head it became a vital part of the DP sound and it stayed that for both MiJ and WDWTWA (even Burn was still recorded with a Ric by Glenn even though he had never played one with Trapeze).

  25. 25
    MacGregor says:

    Have to love that Rickenbacker, what a sound it is. One one a few reasons Chris Squire is my favourite bass player. Thanks for that isolated track, I will listen to the Blackmore one soon.
    Regarding the sonics of MH it was chosen for a Quadrophonic mix for a reason no doubt. It just has a nice crisp clean sound & the mix is great. Not that Quad or surround sound suits ‘rock’ music in general all that well. I do remember hearing it on a JVC Quad system in the early 80’s. It was good to hear for the sake of it, however Dark Side Of The Moon was much more suited to Quad & surround & the atmosphere at the time. Cheers.

  26. 26
    James Gemmell says:

    Jon Lord’s work on that tune is pretty incredible. I’d like to hear Ritchie do an album with Graham Bonnet. Happy Groundhog Day to one and all

  27. 27
    Bengt says:

    And here is a version of Highway Star from the Japanese band Murasaki:


  28. 28
    max says:

    @ 18

    Err…talking about too fast… Try Secret of the Dance. Now THAT is a tad too fast for me – as it was for Little Ian if we believe the stories of him refusing to join Gillan (Unchain your Brain may not have been helpful here…)

    Kill the King grooves along quite nicely …

  29. 29
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Some of the Gillan stuff was so hysterically fast, it sounded like they were taking the piss! But, strangely, I never minded it with them, possibly because I was such a fan of the Underwood/McCoy rhythm section, they were like clockwork (more so than any Rainbow rhythm section doing ultra-fast stuff, neither Cozy nor Rondinelli were Mr Accurate).

    I mean you could really not take their frantic version of Lucille seriously, could you? And I’m sure they didn’t either.


    Of course, as a Priest fan I’m no stranger to their speed metal tracks too, things like Exciter, Freewheel Burning, Screaming for Vengeance and, of course, Painkiller. If it’s not more than one track per album, I’m fine with it

    DP’s ultra-speed (= much faster than Highway Star) songs output is pretty limited given how long they have been at it as a band playing heavy music. I can think of Fireball, Gypsy’s Kiss and Dead or Alive. Burn (probably my favorite DP number of all time) is fast, but so cleverly arranged it never sounds like speed metal. When Whitesnake would do it live, it sometimes approached the genre and I never liked that. Mk VIII would never do anything speedy with their own compositions – they just played Fireball quite often in their live set.

  30. 30
    janbl says:

    Try to listen to the first 1:30 minute of this japanese band (B’Z):


  31. 31
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Domo arigato, they start like Deep Purple and then switch to being Nippon Jovi! : – ) But it all makes sense, early Bon Jovi was after all a band that owed more to DP than it ever did to LZ.

    Not bad at all these B’Z guys, me like.

  32. 32
    MacGregor says:

    Gillan band era was hyper indeed. When I went to that 1981 gig in Sydney, man were they ‘pumped’. Unchain Your Brain alright, as it is frazzled after listening to that song. Regarding Purple covering the one fast track each album, well most albums scenario, TBO album has Twist in The Tail as well. Very ‘Spotlight Kid’ in riff & tempo but I like it & on the CHOHW dvd concert it is grand. The fast tracks must be a Blackmore thing & I like that. With Rainbow Lost in Hollywood although not a great song has an up tempo feel to it, but not as fast. Not sure about the S&M album though. It is such a mellow album I can’t remember hearing a fast track on that, could have forgotten though. Do the Morse era DP do any fast tracks, there are a few albums there I am not very familiar with so I am not sure. Cheers.

  33. 33
    MacGregor says:

    Upon reflection the faster up tempo song or instrumental is a younger musicians thing. The Steve Morse Band from the late 1980’s & into the 90’s have a few fast instrumentals here & there. I enjoyed them more back in the day, now days not so much. The Morse era DP probably doesn’t need to rock out at speed & Ian Paice & Ian Gillan may be well over that also. As we grow older the need for speed is, well irrelevant in many ways. Hence the younger eras of many artists having a song or two whilst rocking out. The fastest song I have in my music collection is Living Colour’s ‘Times Up’ song, from that album. Man is that hectic, at least it is a short song, although it isn’t my cup of tea. They performed it live in 1993 & it was hectic along with a few others from that Stain album. All good fun when you are young. Iron Maiden tend to fall into that trap repeatedly I have noticed over the years, too predictable at times. As Uwe also stated, so too with Judas Priest. Cheers.

  34. 34
    VD says:

    Hey Cisco is the only “fast” Morse-era song I can recall.

  35. 35
    MacGregor says:

    Hey Cisco, how could I forget it, I have always owned Purpendicular from it’s initial release. It isn’t the greatest of songs though. But that tempo is there indeed. Cheers.

  36. 36
    Uwe Hornung says:

    I was actually thinking about Hey Cisco as an example of Mk VIII going fast, but then somehow forgot, thanks! Though speedy, I always liked it because it was feathery-airy – it grooved – rather than ham-fisted.

  37. 37
    MacGregor says:

    I listened to Purpendicular for the first time in ages today & found the same songs of high standard. Rather good songs: Vavoom, Rosa’s Cantina, A Touch Away, Sometimes I Feel like Screaming, The Aviator, Loosen My Strings. It is always nice when certain songs still stand up so well after all these years. Cheers.

  38. 38
    stoffer says:

    Really like Hey Cisco as well as Rosa’s Cantina from Perpendicular. I wasn’t sure if I liked it at the time (Ted was originally my fav) but really began to appreciate the Morse era after release of Abandon. IG’s vocals also slowed down in this era.

  39. 39
    Max says:

    Cascades: I’m not your lover …anybody? I would count it in 😉 Even a little Hell to Pay maybe …

  40. 40
    Uwe Hornung says:

    I loved Loosen My Strings – still do. Came about via Roger checking the tuning of his bass and Steve saying: “Hey, that’s cool, wait a minnit!”


  41. 41
    George in Ohio says:

    “Purpendicukar” will and should be regarded first and foremost as an excellent coming out party for Steve Morse. There is a freshness in the album that is a significant change of pace from the last few MKII albums with Ritchie. And that’s no cheap shot at Blackmore, but in my mind just a legitimate (and needed) change in direction. Kudos to Steve and what he brought to the table.

    That said, I maintain the album was every bit as much a Jon Lord achievement as it was Steve’s. It’s trite to say this, as it repeats a truism about Purple and why they are unique from other bands. But listen to any song on “Purpendicular” and tell me that song wouldn’t be lesser without Jon’s contributions. To me, “Purpendicular” is one of Jon’s best DP albums. Even when he’s not starring with his superb soloes, his supporting work (‘rhythm guitar”) caliber is absolutely stellar. Whether you focus on Steve or Jon – either way, it’s a terrific album.

  42. 42
    Max says:

    Well Uwe, considering your age we might let Loosen My Strings pass as an uptempo number … but ohne Anerkennung eines Rechtsanspruches.

  43. 43
    Uwe Hornung says:

    But Max, even as a young man I liked my music not too fast and my sexual encounters of some gratifying duration! Never been a quickie man.

    Purpendicular saw Jon (and everyone else from the original Mark II) crawl back out of a shell into which Ritchie’s egocentric antics had seen them retreat before. That is what made that album so liberating and a breath of fresh air – especially in comparison with the life-drained TBRO which sounded like DP were doing forced labor time together in some quarry.

    I do think in hindsight that Jon began to miss Ritchie more and more in the (touring) years that followed, a kind of musical Stockholm Syndrome if you like ; – ), I believe he realized that Ritchie’s lack of predictability and mood swings kept him (Jon) more on his toes live, giving him inspirational spurs of the moment. You don’t really compete with Steve Morse, that is not the way he communicates musically. and his performances were of course much more reliable – has every anybody seen or heard Steve Morse not give a shit? But in the studio, Jon’s talents were certainly unleashed both on Purpendicular and Abandon (a much darker, but nevertheless interesting album than its predecessor, probably the darkest DP album since In Rock or Burn).

  44. 44
    MacGregor says:

    Jon Lord indeed. The first wonderful memory that unfolded as I listened to Purpendicular for the first time in such a long time, was Jon Lord’s presence. Some of those songs that are my favourites just happen to have Lord quite prominent, wonderful it is. I do agree with Uwe in regards to Lord possibly not getting into the change of banjo players like he used to, in the live essence of unpredictability. As annoying as Blackmore may have been at times for the various members of DP, he did keep them on their toes it seems. As for the Abandon album, maybe it is time I try again to listen to it, I couldn’t get into it all those years ago. Time will tell. Cheers.

  45. 45
    MacGregor says:

    Gypsy’s Kiss & what great lyrics there from Gillan, or perhaps Glover or both of them.
    ‘Ya who’ Jumme gae bile ya heed
    The Senorita said
    I’ll drag your lungs out through your nose
    Space truckers free and high
    Teamsters get you by and by
    That should keep you on your toes’

    “John Wayne, the Alamo
    Crazy Horse, Geronimo I’ll smoke a piece with you
    Mind, body heart and soul
    We got rock and roll, And there’s nothing they can do’

    Clever wonderful lyrics in that song I have never forgotten & it always brings a smile when I remember them or hear the song. A good all round fast song from Purple. Bravo. Cheers.

  46. 46
    Uwe Hornung says:

    If you play a little (or even a lot) guitar or are interested in the more technical aspects, this is the best analysis of Ritchie’s Highway Star solo I have yet found. Played on a Les Paul as opposed to a Strat (it’s a bit easier on a Gibson because of the shorter scale), but still the guy knows what he is doing and really takes it apart.


    Ritchie’s solo is often described as “harmonized”, i.e. there is more than one guitar playing on the Machine Head version. That is only half-correct, he plays harmonies in places, but not all the time. In part, one guitar plays the same solo in a different key without any harmonic adjustments which leads to notes from guitar track 1 and guitar track 2 not being in harmony all the time, but sometimes being even in disharmony; that is why the Highway Star solo sounds so full of tension and edgy compared to, say, dual lead lines from the Allman Bothers or Wishbone Ash who often stuck to traditional harmony rules.

    Whether Ritchie did this on purpose or by accident or because he simply didn’t know any better, I have no idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if what we hear on the Machine Head version was actually work in progress (Ritchie starting with only a rough idea of the harmonies, but then liking what he heard even if it wasn’t a pure harmony) which Ritchie halted at one point because he was already pleased with the interim results.

    Anyway, we now live in the post EvH/Randy Rhoads era so we have all gotten used to similar sounds. However, the Highway Star solo was recorded in December 1971! At that time, Ritchie’s solo must have sounded to other guitarists like he was from another galaxy – it was so far-out and avant-garde to anything that had been done or even attempted before. It is a milestone in recorded guitar playing.

  47. 47
    MacGregor says:

    This guitar only Blackmore track of Highway Star is an eye or that should be ear opener. Wonderful & while I am only a drummer who enjoys this sort of music, it is great to hear all the ‘idiosyncrasies’ of his playing. The same with Steve Howe on a few of those Yes classic’s & also John Paul Jones on a few of Zeppelin’s earlier songs.
    Although one thing that really bothers me is why didn’t they all use Pro Tools & also Auto Tune on the vocals & get it right in the first place. Cheers.


  48. 48
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Lol, there are way more slight bum notes and inaccuracies in Ritchie’s original takes for the iconic Highway Star solo than in what Andy plays in the demo I posted. But that is ok, Ritchie ‘invented’ it and it was 1971 not 50 years later with all the developments in guitar playing technique since then. Ritchie had no youtube tutorials, he had to rely on his talent, what he learned off Big Jim Sullivan and his observations of Hendrix, Clapton, Beck and Page (he nicked little things off everyone of them, but mostly Hendrix I believe).

    Mind you, it’s a difficult solo to play and not just for the ultra-fast widdly-widdly bits, but for the extreme amount of bendings and double-stop bendings (bendings over two strings) in short succession that have to be really accurate. Tommy obviously never sat down to learn the thing and given his style and technique I wager the guess that it would have been hard work for him. He wasn’t into those types of scales at all. Yet in an alternative universe, if Mk IV had played Highway Star at their last Liverpool gig as an opener just right with Tommy replicating the solo correctly note for note, he might have broken the ice and history might have been different.

  49. 49
    MacGregor says:

    I will have to admit I didn’t notice many ‘glitches’ in that Purple HS from listening to the complete band song for 50 years, until now upon hearing that individual track. Same with Steve Howe, although I have heard the occasional muffed note here & there on a few Yes albums, that early 70’s era. I like it, as people say it is part of the charm of it & it also shows that experimental raw improvising style that those guys have. There are plenty of comments from ‘modern’ day music aficionado’s being critical of that but thankfully they get put in their place from the music lovers that appreciate substance over style, if that is the way to put it. The humorous track I heard was from John Paul Jones, possibly Whole Lotta Love in the middle section. When he is waiting for the moment to re enter playing & you can hear him fidgeting about on the take, touching strings & or pickup etc. Little noises here & there, getting impatient perhaps I don’t know. That is the way it was back then, much better in many ways to hear the human side of it. Yes the youtube learners can play no doubt, but as we know they didn’t come up with it in the first place. I remember a guitarist who I used to jam with, stunning player, big fan of old school players originally but then became obsessed with Malmsteen & that technical speed thing in the early 90’s. He started to laugh & put down the older players messing up little things. I told him promptly, they invented it, they are the ones who inspired so many including him. He continued to become too technical correct that guitarist, to much of a show off & critical of the very players that inspired him in the first place. Regarding Tommy Bolin was he a Purple fan at all, he may not have been into Blackmore’s playing I don’t know. Having to learn a few things may not have been his thing although he obviously had to learn some of it. I don’t think I have ever heard MK3 let alone MK4 playing HS as I couldn’t get through the whole Last concert in Japan album decades ago when listening to it. I didn’t want to hear anyone other than Blackmore on guitar & Gillan singing on those DP songs. Cheers.

  50. 50
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Bolin knew exactly two Deep Purple songs (and only from the radio) when he joined them: Hush and Smoke On The Water. He came – unlike Clem Clempson who had unsuccessfully auditioned earlier – totally unprepared and with half his equipment not working, yet won them over. He was very much a jammy player. In fact one of his concerns was that DP wouldn’t be jammy enough for him, because in his mind Limey bands weren’t as good as Yank bands at that – he was pleasantly surprised how DP invalidated that preconception almost immediately, by joining his guitar lead in a lengthy jam. And David Coverdale spluttering in elation “See, what did I tell you!” to his bandmates after the first jam track concluded.

    Returning to the subject of Highway Star, it sure has left its mark, listen to this here from 1991, the song picks up at 00:45 and is full of – lovingly executed – references to Highway Star (they’ve also nicked the chorus and never denied that this was “their” Highway Star):


    The track is co-written by Mark Mangold, who also played inter alia in American Tears aka Touch (managed by Brue Payne), a name that should ring a bell with those people who own the “Live At Donnington” Various Artists sampler (with the Bonnet-line up live tracks):


    Applying my “Alien Test” once again, that is the song I would play if a Martian asked me what “US AOR” is – it encapsulates why the Yanks are so good at it.

    Mangold also co-wrote this here:


    Yeah, I dig Cher too, don’t mess with the old (in parts) girl. One of the most distinctive female rock/pop voices ever.

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