Smoke on the Water: Frank Zappa, Deep Purple, and the Montreux Casino fire

The Montreux Casino fire is one of the most mythologized moments in the history of rock. Taking place on the shoreline of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva, the fire would end up inspiring one of rock’s best-known tracks and become cemented in the genre’s history forevermore. On December 4th, 1971, the historic Montreux Casino burned to the ground. The magnificent landmark that had been built for symphony orchestras in 1881 was now a smoking, hollowed-out shell of its former self. The age-old tale is that the fire started nearly 90 minutes into a performance by Frank Zappa’s band, The Mothers of Invention. Interestingly, the outbreak of the fire and the subsequent announcement can be heard on 1992’s bootleg album Swiss Cheese/Fire.

‘Funky’ Claude Nobs and Jean-Paul Marquis first responding to the 1971 Montreux casino fire, after they got the kids out (immortalized in Deep Purple’s song ‘Smoke on the Water’)

The band were performing their classic ‘King Kong’ from 1969’s Uncle Meat, when the fire started. During keyboardist Don Preston’s solo, it is said that a flare gun was shot and that the projectile hit the wooden roof of the Casino and then the fire spread swiftly. An attendee at the show, Pete Schneider, presented a slightly different version of events in a 2009 blog post, explaining: “The fire was started by a young man from Eastern Europe (who fled the very next day back home),” he alleged. “I do not think that it was started by a flare gun as it says in the song, but by the boy throwing lighted matches in the air, and one of them got stuck on the very low ceiling… So the fire started right above where the boy was sitting on the low-lying ceiling beams”read more >

Musique à Montreux 1971 Vintage Men’s T-Shirt

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