Artist: Deep Purple

Smoke on the Water ~ Deep Purple

deep-purpleDeep Purple are an English hard rock band formed in Hertfordshire in 1968. Along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, they are considered to be among the pioneers of heavy metal and modern hard rock, although the members of the band have always refused to label themselves as heavy metal. The band has also incorporated pop and progressive rock elements. It was once listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s loudest band.

The band has gone through many line-up changes and an eight-year hiatus. The 1968-76 line-ups are commonly labelled Mark I, II, III and IV. Their second and most commercially successful line-up featured: Ian Gillan (vocals), Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), Jon Lord (keyboards), Roger Glover (bass guitar) and Ian Paice (drums). This line-up was revived from 1984-89 and again in 1993 before the rift between Blackmore and other members became unbridgeable. The current line-up including guitarist Steve Morse has been much more stable, though Lord’s retirement in 2002 has left Paice as the only original member.

Smoke on the Water

The lyrics of the song tell a true story: on December 4, 1971, Deep Purple had set up camp in Montreux, Switzerland to record an album using a mobile recording studio (rented from the Rolling Stones and known as the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio – referred to as the “Rolling truck Stones thing” and “the mobile” in the song lyrics) at the entertainment complex that was part of the Montreux Casino (referred to as “the gambling house” in the song lyric). On the eve of the recording session a Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention concert was held in the casino’s theater. During the gig a fire broke out: “In the middle of Don Preston’s synthesizer solo on “King Kong”, the place suddenly caught fire. Somebody in the audience had fired a flare gun into the ceiling, at which point the rattan covering started to burn”, as mentioned in the “some stupid with a flare gun” line. The resulting fire destroyed the entire casino complex, along with all the Mothers’ equipment. The “smoke on the water” that became the title of the song (credited to bassist Roger Glover, who related how the title occurred to him when he suddenly woke from a dream a few days later) referred to the smoke from the fire spreading over Lake Geneva from the burning casino as the members of Deep Purple watched the fire from their hotel across the lake. The “Funky Claude” running in and out is referring to Claude Nobs, the director of the Montreux Jazz Festival who helped some of the audience escape the fire.

Funky Claude died on January 9, 2013 in Lausanne, Switzerland from complications from being in a coma after a skiing accident three days earlier. He was 76.

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 ground
Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

They burned down the gambling house
It died with an awful sound
Funky Claude was running in and out
Pulling kids out the ground
When it all was over
We had to find another place
But Swiss time was running out
It seemed that we would lose the race
Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

We ended up at the Grand Hotel
It was empty cold and bare
But with the Rolling truck Stones thing just outside
Making our music there
With a few red lights and a few old beds
We make a place to sweat
No matter what we get out of this
I know we’ll never forget
Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

  • Audio from the 1973 album, Machine Head
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