Click and Burn: a sonic history of the Zippo lighter

Last year, Zippo announced the sound trademark of its iconic windproof lighter. The Zippo lighter’s click is now officially one of the most recognised sounds in the world, joining an impressive lineup of trademarked sounds including Nokia’s original ringtone, THX’s Deep Note, and the coin sound effect from Super Mario Bros. Impressively, it’s one of the only analogue sounds on that esteemed list.

The sound, look, and feel, of a Zippo lighter has echoed through popular culture almost as long as the brand has been in session, from film, to television, to music. Here we examine how this tool and talisman has inspired musicians over the decades.

zippo history

Nothing sounds like a Zippo lighter. Find out how history’s most famous flame ignited a creativity in these musicians.

Sting – It’s Probably Me (feat. Eric Clapton)

Sting’s 1992 hit It’s Probably Me is one of the best examples of a Zippo lighter cementing its cult status in the music world, with samples of the lighter opening, closing, and igniting forming the beat of the song. Akin to the cash registers in Pink Floyd’s Money, here Zippo sits at the very heart of Sting’s process.

While the instances of a Zippo lighter sample appearing in songs number in the thousands, the vast majority of these remain uncredited or unassuming enough to pass by the casual ear. Sting’s effort stands out, but no doubt you’ve heard that famous click in hits more times than you know.

Serge Gainsbourg – Ford Mustang

Way back in 1968, Serge Gainsbourg released his studio album Initials B.B., featuring the charming ditty Ford Mustang. It’s classic Gainsbourg; racy and effortlessly cool, and contains one of the earliest Zippo references we could muster.

A bottle
Of fluid Make-up
A flash
A browning
And a pick-up
A collection
Of Edgar Poe
A Zippo lighter

G-Eazy – Been On

Oakland rapper G-Eazy has a career of worldwide hits in his back pocket, few are bigger than Been On in 2013.

The clip features Eazy lighting up a king-sized blunt with his Zippo, filmed in glorious black and white slo-mo. Absorb it below.

The Birthday Party – The Friend Catcher

Before Nick Cave was Nick Cave, he cut his teeth in gothic post-punk outfit The Birthday Party, releasing a trio of spine-chilling records between 1979 and 1983.

1979 track The Friend Catcher portrays the Zippo lighter in an alarming light, amidst the song’s most frantic verse.

She, by the hair of my chinny chin chin
Eee-oh eee-oh eee-oh eee-oh
Like a Zippo smokes the way
Hope, around

Post Malone – Congratulations

And just like that, we’re into the modern day. In 2017 Post Malone crossed paths with Quavo for Congratulations, a chartbuster in every sense of the word, and another step upon Malone’s path to total pop culture domination.

The video, now sitting pretty at over one billion views, features Malone lighting up his 100,000th career ciggie with a Zippo.

Find out more about Zippo here.