“….We all came out to Montreux On the Lake Geneva shoreline To make records with…

Written by on December 4, 2017


“….We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn’t have much time
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground

Smoke on the water, a fire in the sky
Smoke on the water

They burned down the gambling house
It died with an awful sound
Funky Claude was running in and out
Pulling kids out the ground
When it all was over
We had to find another place
But Swiss time was running out
It seemed that we would lose the race….”

The lyrics of the song are about a real event. On Dec. 4, 1971 Deep Purple were in Montreux, Switzerland, where they had set up camp to record an album using a mobile recording studio (rented from the Rolling Stones and known as the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio—referred to as the “Rolling truck Stones thing” and “a mobile” in the song lyrics) at the entertainment complex that was part of the Montreux Casino (referred to as “the gambling house” in the song lyric).

On that night, Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention played a concert in the casino’s theatre. This was to be the theatre’s final concert before the casino complex closed down for its annual winter renovations, which would allow Deep Purple to record there.

At the beginning of Don Preston’s synthesizer solo on “King Kong”, the place suddenly caught fire when somebody in the audience fired a flare gun toward the rattan covered ceiling, as mentioned in the “some stupid with a flare gun” line. The resulting fire destroyed the entire casino complex, along with all the Mothers’ equipment.

The “smoke on the water” that became the title of the song (credited to bass guitarist Roger Glover, who related how the title occurred to him when he suddenly woke from a dream a few days later) referred to the smoke from the fire spreading over Lake Geneva from the burning casino as the members of Deep Purple watched the fire from their hotel. “It was probably the biggest fire I’d ever seen up to that point and probably ever seen in my life” said bass guitarist Roger Glover, “It was a huge building. I remember there was very little panic getting out, because it didn’t seem like much of a fire at first. But, when it caught, it went up like a fireworks display”.

The “Funky Claude” running in and out is referring to Claude Nobs, the director of the Montreux Jazz Festival who helped some of the audience escape the fire.

Do you remember the first time you heard “Smoke on The Water” and did you have any idea at that time what the song was really about?

Hard to believe that this happened 46 years ago tonight.




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