Smoke on the Water, Deep Purple’s most famous song, a single from 1972 album Machine Head. Known and immediately recognizable by all for his riff, one of the most iconic in the history of rock.
What not everybody knows is the real episode behind it. It happened in Montreux (Switzerland) in 1971 when, around the end of a concert by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, a spectator fired a rocket that ignited the whole casino (it had to shut down and reopened only in 1975). The title Smoke on the Water, credited to bassist Roger Glover, refers to the smoke spreading over Lake Geneva from the burning casino, while the members of Deep Purple watched the fire from their hotel. The event (and the track that recalls it) is still commemorated by a sculpture that shows the title and the initial riff in the form of a music sheet, located right below the casino, on the lakeside.
We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn’t have much time
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the groundSmoke on the water, a fire in the sky
Dario Giardi loves music, photography and writing. He is the author of “Trip among the notes. The Secrets of Musical Theory and Harmony”. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.