Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the water’ (Leaping Ahead #86)

Leaping Ahead Project 2016 #86: 160326

[Favourite guitar song (3)]

I make no apologies here for repeating again the story behind the song – because it doesn’t get much better than this. Deep Purple had gone to Montreux in Switzerland to record their 1972 album, ‘Machine Head’, the original intention being to use the Casino with the Rolling Stones mobile studio. But at a Frank Zappa gig on 4 December 1971, a disastrous fire put paid to that. All was not lost though as the band relocated to the Grand Hotel to finish things off.

It was here that the remaining song needed for the album was written and recorded. Eventually becoming the opening track of side 2, “Smoke on the Water” was inspired by events just after the fire that engulfed the Casino. Frank Zappa had wisely called a prompt end to the gig once the fire (caused by an over-zealous fan firing a flare) had set fire to the casino ceiling and rapidly taken hold. Watching it from a nearby restaurant, Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover coined the song’s name from the layer of smoke gathering over Lake Geneva after the flames had died down. Ian Gillan penned the lyrics and that uber-famous guitar riff was written by Ritchie Blackmore


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