Saturday, December 3, 2011

We All Went Down To Montruex: 40 Years Since "Smoke on the Water"

It was 1971 and English rock band, Deep Purple, were enjoying success. The band originally formed around 1968 and the band was in its second line-up, which fans believe is the definitive line-up of the band and is known as Mach II. Deep Purple consisted of singer Ian Gillan, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, bassist Roger Glover, drummer Ian Paice, and keyboardist Jon Lord. Blackmore, Paice, and Lord were the only original members while Gillan and Glover were new to the band. In 1971, the band had released the album Fireball. The band was planning to record their next album in Montruex, Switzerland with the help of the Rolling Stones’ Mobile Studio.  None of the band was prepared for what would happen on December 4, 1971.
On that day of December 4, 1971, Deep Purple was going to play at the Montruex Casino which was also where the band planned to record their next album. The band was on the bill with Frank Zappa and the Mother of Invention for a matinee performance. Zappa and the Mothers went on and just a few minutes into the song “King Kong”, someone is the audience fired a flare gun. The ceiling, which was covered in rattans, started a fire. The Mothers stopped performing and Frank calmly told the audience to exit the building and to not panic. The casino ended up burning to the ground and Deep Purple were left without a place to record. Bassist Roger Glover later said he had this vision stuck in his head from the fire of “smoke on the water”.
A few days later, Deep Purple started recording their new album at a theater called The Pavilion. The band recorded there for a few days with the Rolling Stones’ Mobile Truck Studio but the police shut them down. Finally, the band ended up recording the album at the Montruex Grande Hotel. The place was pretty empty and bare. However, the band was able to lay down most of the album. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore had this guitar riff written but there were no words to it. The rest of the band added music to this guitar riff but still, there were no lyrics. Blackmore then suggested that the band write an autobiographical account of the fire and recording the album. The band went with the idea and Glover came up with a title for the song: “Smoke on the Water”.
      In 1972, Machine Head was released. It became the band’s most successful album ever and it also had a hit single with “Smoke on the Water”. Deep Purple were now more famous than they were before. In 1973, Ian Gillan and Roger Glover left the band. Deep Purple carried on with different members up until 1976, when the band split. Deep Purple reunited in 1984 with the Mark II line-up. The last time the Mark II line up was together was in 1993. After this, Ritchie Blackmore quit the band mainly due him wanting to do something else and his feud with Gillan. Today, Deep Purple is still together. Of the Mark II line-up Gillan, Glover, and Paice are the only ones still in the band. Still, Deep Purple have made their mark in rock history as one of the greatest bands ever. Also, “Smoke on the Water” continues to influence musicians and is usually one of the first songs someone learns to play while learning to play guitar. Every song has a story and “Smoke on the Water” is just an example.

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