Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” sounds like a pleasant track, but the song was born out of a tragic incident.
On December 4 1971, the band was in Montreux, Switzerland, to record their next album in the Rolling Stones’ mobile studio, held on the lot of the Montreux Casino. A day before recording was about to begin, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention were going to perform at the adjacent theatre. This was the last scheduled show before renovations were to take place, allowing Deep Purple the opportunity to record.
It was then that somebody with a flare gun shot it at the ceiling, and the whole complex went up in flames. Luckily, there were no major injuries–but the Mothers of Invention’s equipment was completely destroyed.
The “smoke on the water” refers to the smoke that spread across Lake Geneva as the fire raged, and Deep Purple watched from their hotel. “Funky Claude” refers to Claude Nobs, the director of the Montreux Jazz Festival, who helped audience members escape the blaze.
The new casino that was built in Montreux displays notes from the riff serving as decoration in its gambling hall.(more…)