13 Aug / 2012Story of “Smoke on the Water”

The Story of song “Smoke on the Water”


I was shocked to read this column, Zara Hatke(or “kuch bhi”) by Rahul da Cunha in Midday,dated July 22, 2012. A gross mistake!!!.

At least the newspaper editor & or the writer should have done some research on this song. Anyway, the article has no reference to this song or the singer on any level.

However for the sake of this song, the band, and late John Lord, I wish to clarify this epic rock song.

From Deep Purple’s biography <Smoke on the Water: The Deep Purple Story> by Dave Thompson, I have  paraphrase their story.

December 1971.

Swiss resort town of Montreaux a recording at the Casino, a vast arena, which had casinos, theatres, bars and casinos. Deep Purple were the first band to record here.

They loved this place and its owner Claude Nobs, who was very good friend of the band.

During December Casinos was closed for concerts, and Purple had initially cancelled their tour due to Ian Gillian’s illness.

However on Dec 4, when the last act, a matinee by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention were to perform(last leg of their European tour) Ian Gillian changed his mind, and demanded reschedule for the band to perform.

On Dec 3, the band flew out to Montreaux and checked into the Hotel Eden, and later set off to check the venue at Casinos.

Ian Gillian was spellbound by the Frank Zappa & his band – however, later he recalls “a guy of Mediterranean appearance walking in, and pointing something towards the ceiling…. He thought nothing of it until he heard a sudden crack, saw a brilliant flash – and the building began to burn!.

It seems this concertgoer for no reason had arrived at the concert armed with a flare gun, which he fired into the tinder-dry roof of the old hall.

Casino was left in ruin, as staff tried to help people move out, even Zappa marshaled fans out of the building!!

Amazingly nobody was killed, but the band(Mothers of Invention) lost $50,000 worth of equipment.

Claude Nobs salvaged the situation and relocated Deep Purple to the Pavilion, another theatre, which was located in the heart of city’s residential place.

However it didn’t work as Purple’s heavy amplified equipments was very loud for the entire neighborhood. They had to discontinue, as police were banging on their doors!.

Glover recalls, “ the only thing we recorded was a riff of Ritchie’s, which we called “Title No1.” and can almost hear the banging on the door, as it fades out…

A week later, they thought of writing a song over this, and Glover came up with a title…

of course its called “Smoke on the Water”

It seems he was awakening from a dream with the words on his lips, and his initial impression was to make great tag for a drug song- but later he and Gillian decided to utilize it as a description of their own experiences of the Casino blaze.

One of the most pervasive images of the disaster was the sight of smoke from the fire, caught by the downdraft from the surrounding mountains, billowing out across the waters of Lake Geneva.

The riff was simplicity itself, so much so that in later years, Ritchie Blackmore found himself having to defend it against the musical snobs who insisted that because it was so simple, just four notes, it couldn’t be any good….

Ritchie responded this argument straight on their face, and suggested, go home and listen to the opening moments of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony!.

The author says, “ What the good people of Montreaux did not know was just how privileged they were that night. The pounding racket that had roused them from their slumbers was, in fact, the maiden performance of a song that, within months, would enshrine their town as firmly into rock’ n’roll legend. It would take its place among the all-time classic rock anthems”.

Long live rock’ n roll’!!.

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