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“That Smell” was released in 1977 off of the band’s fifth studio album Street Survivors. Although the song was never released as a single, it has an interesting story behind it that simply can’t be ignored.
Ronnie was inspired to write the song due to what he saw as an increasing amount of recklessness in the band. As a result, he and Allen wrote “That Smell” as a warning against such behavior.
In the book Classic Rock Stories by Tim Morse, Ronnie said he was worried about what could happen to the band if they kept up their behavior. “I had a creepy feeling things were going against us, so I thought I’d write a morbid song,” he said.
The lyrics are a haunting reminder to never take a single day for granted, saying that “tomorrow might not be here for you” and the “angel of darkness is upon you.”
Street Survivors was released on October 17, 1977, featuring “That Smell” as the second track on the album. Three days later on October 20, Ronnie, guitarist Steve Gaines, and Honkette Cassie Gaines died in a plane crash while on their way to a show.
With all of that in mind, “That Smell” takes on a whole new meaning as being slightly prophetic, predicting the tragedy that would strike the band days after its release.
Just months before the crash, the band performed the song during a concert at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park, New Jersey. You can watch that performance in the video below.
The story behind “That Smell” is certainly a dark one, but when put into context, it makes you have an even greater appreciation for the truly unforgettable song.