“Smoke On The Water” – Deep Purple
Montreux Casino, Montreux, Switzerland.
Consistently ranked as one of the top guitar riffs of all time and routinely one of the first songs beginner guitarists learn, Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” was inspired by a true event. On December 4, 1971, Deep Purple were in Montreux, Switzerland to start recording a new album. They rented the Rolling Stones’ mobile recording studio (referred to in the song as the “Rolling truck Stones thing”) and were about to start recording at the Montreux Casino (referred to as “the gambling house” in the song). On the eve of the sessions, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention were performing at the casino’s theatre when somebody in the audience shot a flare gun into the ceiling (again, referred to in the song – “some stupid with a flare gun”). The place caught on fire and Deep Purple bassist, Roger Glover, came up with the title “Smoke On The Water” referring to the smoke from the fire spreading over Lake Geneva.
With no place to record, the band quickly searched for other locations in Montreux. They first setup in a theatre called The Pavilion where the band started to record before locals complained of the noise and forced them to look for a new venue. Finally, the band rented the nearly empty Montreux Grand Hotel (also mentioned in the song) to finish the rest of the recordings including “Smoke On The Water” that would become the Machine Head album.
The Montreux Casino was originally built in 1881. By the late 1960’s the site hosted several concerts including the Montreux Jazz Festival, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple. After the fire, the casino was rebuilt and is still open today.