Smoke From A Distant Fire – The Sanford/Townsend Band | Top 40 Chart Performance, Story and Song Meaning

Chart Performance: Pop (#9); 1977

Story Behind The Song By Ed Osborne

An angry response to a roommate’s comment kick started the creation of one of 1977’s “one hit wonder” songs. It all began in a duplex shared by Ed Sanford and Steven Stewart. Stewart aspired to be a great classical guitarist and practiced into the wee hours in pursuit of his goal. Sanford’s goal of getting a good night’s sleep understandably conflicted with Stewart’s. One morning Ed’s songwriting partner, John Townsend, witnessed an exchange between the just-awakening Ed and not-yet-retired Steven. Ed exhorted Steven to stop wasting time on classical junk and to write something that would earn some money. Retorting that anyone could write that pop crap, Steven spun out an R&B-ish rhythm. John took a seat at the piano and expanded on Steven’s riff. A college poem of Ed’s – Smoke From A Distant Fire – provided the title. Sanford and Townsend included the song on their self-titled debut album which went nowhere until Smoke burned up the singles chart; after which it was re-titled and re-released.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2023 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.

Produced by:

  • Barry Beckett
  • Jerry Wexler

Lyrics Written by:

  • Ed Sanford
  • John Townsend
  • Steven Stewart