"Highway Star" is one of British rock group Deep Purple's most famous songs. It is characterised by a long classically-inspired guitar solo and organ solo. Organist Jon Lord claimed that the organ solo is based on a Bach-like sequence. The song appears on the album Machine Head and is the fastest song (tempo-wise) recorded on the album.
This song was born on a tour bus going to Portsmouth in 1971 when a reporter asked the band how they wrote songs. To demonstrate, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore
grabbed an acoustic and began playing a riff consisting of a single "G" repeated over and over, while vocalist Ian Gillan
improvised lyrics over the top. The song was refined and was performed that same night. The song first appears on the 1972 LP Machine Head
. The track remains one of the band's staple live performances, and was the set opener for many years. These days the song is usually an encore.
Two live versions of this song can be heard on the Deep Purple-Extended Versions Live Compilation CD. The first version heard on the CD is fused with the song "Not Fade Away
The structure of the song consists of a 25 second guitar introduction, before the band launches into the thumping opening riff, which soon leads into the first vocals section (0.55). The first two verses are sung, then Jon Lord
begins his organ solo (2.14). The organ solo lasts for about a minute, then Ian Gillan
sings the third verse of the song (3.24). At the conclusion of the third verse, the guitar solo
starts (4.07), and lasts for just under a minute and twenty seconds. Then, the fourth and final verse, which in the original recording is simply a repetition of the first verse, is sung, finishing around 6.10. Depending on the version, there may be a 15 second-long exit section before the end of the song. When the song is played live, Gillan has been known to improvise its lyrics, as seen in the official video for the song.
Because of its fast tempo, "Highway Star" is covered by numerous bands in the speed metal genre as well as other bands from other genres.
Appearances in other media
- Part of this song was played during a Rob and Big episode when Big was showing Rob that he knows how to protect Rob in a car
- A cover version of "Highway Star" by Kaleb James is featured in one stage of the Nintendo DS video game Elite Beat Agents.
- In The Simpsons episode "Viva Ned Flanders", Homer Simpson sings his own version of the song, replacing the word "car" with "Ned".
- An instrumental version of Highway Star is featured in Super Nintendo title Rock N' Roll Racing.
- "Highway Star" was the original name for the NES game Rad Racer until they were asked to change it by Deep Purple. The name, however, was still used as the title for the game in Japan, and one of the tunes in the game is inspired by the song.
- The song can be heard very briefly in the film Dazed and Confused.
- The master recording of this song is a playable track in the music video game Rock Band. The song also plays during the game's introduction video. In Rock Band, the volume of the organ solo has been decreased to make it easier for players to hear and play their respective instruments.
- Yuuya Fungami, a character in part four of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, names his stand ability "Highway Star".
- A cover version of this song can be played on Guitar Freaks 3rd mix/drummania 2nd Mix.*
- In an episode of Metalocalypse, the character Toki Wartooth proclaims that a car has 'Big fat tires and everything!', referencing a line in the song.
- In the anime series Bubblegum Crisis, an advanced motorcycle named "Highway Star" was built by the mechanic Mackey Stingray.
- The song is played briefly in the episode "1998-1999" of That '70s Show.
- Highway Star is the name of an enemy in the Capcom video game Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter for the Playstation 2 console.
- Highway Star was the original name of the Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers, when they were still a classic rock cover band.
- In the CSI episode, "Cockroaches", the song can be heard in the beginning while the camera follows the red car behind the dumpster truck.
- During the My Name is Earl episode "Dad's Car" in Season One, the song is played during a drag race between Earl and Billy Reed.
- In a devil may cry episode 2 the demon and the episode are titled "Highway Star".