Deep Purple Bring The Smoke to the Montreux Jazz Fest

Classic rockers Deep Purple and Alice Cooper were among many who kicked off the two week parade of joyful noise at the Montreux Jazz Festival, dispelling several myths about the 58 year-old gathering, the first being there's a bunch of be-bops filling the air.

Pop music, rock, and other genres are more than welcome.

Another fallacy is that it's in France. Montreux is in the French-speaking portion of Switzerland, so strap on your Swatches and pop open your Army knife.

One of the biggest highlights of the first few nights came from Deep Purple, who were making their 10th appearance at the chic fest.

But none of those gigs was as important to rock music as when they visited the city in late 1971 when Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice were in town to record what would be their classic album Machine Head that would give the world "Never Before," "Lazy," and "Highway Star."

But it was the fourth single, "Smoke On The Water," with its simple three chords that made every kid with their first guitar think they could play rock music.

The lyrics, however, were inspired by the Casino Fire the band saw as they were watching Frank Zappa at Montreux.

We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile, yeah
We didn't have much time now

The mobile in question? The Rolling Stones' mobile recording setup, which they indeed, utilized.

"[The fire] burned all afternoon, all evening, all through the night," bassist Glover said, explaining that before he went to sleep that fateful night in '71, he saw smoke along Lake Geneva and the title of the tune sparked in his head.

"And then I kind of really woke up and I said, 'what did I just say? Smoke on the water?' No idea what it meant. I mentioned it to Ian and he said, 'Yeah, sounds like a drug song, we better not do that.'"

During an interview Gillian explained he was super excited to see Zappa because Flo and Eddie from The Turtles were doing backup singing as part of the Mothers of Invention.

“We had done a show there and were looking for somewhere to make our new album when [Montreux promoter] Claude [Nobs] suggested the casino, so we went to Frank Zappa’s concert to check it out," he told The Times of London.

"I was listening to Flo and Eddie, of the Turtles, doing these beautiful backing vocals, when someone let off a flare gun and, minutes later, the place was in flames. Claude was a hero, pulling the kids out to safety.”

It all made it into the song.

Ritchie Blackmore having fun.

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, you guys are great

They burned down the gambling house
It died with an awful sound
Funky Claude was running in and out
He was pulling kids out the ground now

The setlist of Frank Zappa's set when the Casino Fire raged and "King Kong" had to be interrupted due to the situation.

The set-up has changed over the years. Montreux now has, ironically enough, a stage that literally sits on Lake Geneva and 5,000 fans can watch from the seats.

Meanwhile boats can also enjoy the music.

Deep Purple put the smoke machines to use when they played their classic hit. It was tres bien to say the least.

Deep Purple is on the road in Europe right now through the beginning of August in support of a forthcoming new album that drops next week.

August 14th they come to North America to tour with Yes. And watch out, Atlantic City, they play a casino there on 8/31. Beware flare guns.

Get your tickets on the Deep Purple website.

But yes, they play much more than their greatest hit.

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Last updated: 21 Jul 2024, 19:15 Etc/UTC