Rocktober 29, 2023

Rocktober 29th! 

Today our song is: Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple

Wikipedia tells us this about the song:

The lyrics tell a true story: on 4 December 1971, Deep Purple were in Montreux, Switzerland, to record an album (Machine Head) 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 lyrics) at the entertainment complex that was part of the Montreux Casino (referred to as "the gambling house" in the song lyric).

On the eve of the recording session, a concert with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention was held in the casino's theatre. This was 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 synthesiser solo on "King Kong", the place suddenly caught fire when somebody in the audience fired a flare gun towards the rattan-covered ceiling, as mentioned in the "some stupid with a flare gun" line.  Although there were no major injuries, 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 bassist Roger Glover, who related how the title occurred to him when he 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 from their hotel. Glover said that, "It was probably the biggest fire I'd ever seen up to that point and probably ever seen in my life. 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.  Swiss police named Zdeněk Špička, a Czechoslovak refugee living in Épalinges, as a suspect in the case, but he fled Switzerland shortly after.

Left with an expensive mobile recording unit and no place to record, the band was forced to scout the town for another place to set up. One promising venue (found by Nobs) was a local theatre, the Pavilion, but soon after the band loaded in and started working/recording, neighbours took offence at the noise. The band was only able to lay down backing tracks for one song (based on Blackmore's riff and temporarily named "Title No.1"), before local police shut them down.

After about a week of searching, the band rented the nearly-empty Grand Hôtel de Territet and converted its hallways and stairwells into a makeshift studio, where they laid down most of the tracks for what would become their most commercially successful album, Machine Head (which is dedicated to Claude Nobs).


Be sure to stop by tomorrow to see what is next on the list! 


  1. Another fascinating back story for one of my favourite songs! Thanks for the insights, Mary.

  2. I love the back stories on these songs...very interesting and great song.


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