Smoke From A Distant Fire by The Sanford Townsend Band (Warner Bros, 1977)

This song stuck out like a sore thumb in the summer of 1977 and that’s probably what drove it up the charts into the Top 10. Deemed a blue-eyed soul duo, this pair of Alabama songwriters added so much more to their sound as this record shows. Recorded in Muscle Shoals, AL this piece of jazzy rock aided by John Townsend’s soulful vocals also tips its hat to the Beach music of the 50s & 60s. Tell me you don’t turn this up on a warm sunny day when it comes on the radio.

But it wasn’t that easy for S&T. In fact when their debut record was released in 1976, it came and went without much fanfare. Then some radio stations started to play Smoke and it picked up momentum, eventually persuading Warner Bros to rerelease the album and retitle it, Smoke From A Distant Fire a year after its original release. But it was hard to followup and S&T are now labelled a one-hit wonder. My feeling is if you’re only gonna be remembered for one hit, make it a good one. And they sure did.

The song lyrically starts off sad & forlorn with the guy realizing that he’s getting cheated on and the relationship is over, ‘that mist in your eyes feels like rain on the fire in my soul.’ Poor dude. But it quickly turns to anger when he feels like he’s the one who’s gotta break it off. He gets to the point where he’s like, ‘See ya, don’t wanna be ya.’ But it says it in a much colder way:

Don’t let the screen door hit you, on your way out.
Don’t you drown when your dream boat runs onto the ground

Oh snap! But he doesn’t stop there. He basically jinxes the guy she’s seeing and reminds her he’ll figure it out too and diss her just as hard, esp when ‘he’ll taste the aftertaste’.

Yikes! Hope you’re wearing a condom, dude.

Leave a comment


  1. Steve Rose in England

     /  October 25, 2011

    Does anyone know who the other musicians were on the ‘Smoke’ recording? .. rarely has a band sounded so together on what is a beautiful, soul wrenching yet inspirational song. A one hit wonder?.. thing is, how do you follow a song like that?

  2. Craig Buzzart

     /  February 11, 2012

    Roger Johnson lead Guitar
    Otis Hale second guitar and horns
    Jimmy Varley Drums
    JerrY Rightmer Bass
    John Townsend Keyboards Vocals
    Ed Sanford Hammond B3 and vocal

    I was with these guys for years . Thanks for the words

    Craig Buzzzart aka Buz

    • Pete McKnight

       /  July 30, 2014

      I seen a discography of the tune several years ago that listed several members of Little Feat on the Smoke session.

  3. Pete McKnight

     /  July 30, 2014

    Typo. I HAD seen a discography……

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