December 4, 1971 — Montreux Casino burns to the ground

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention liked to say that they brought the house down when they played. One time, they really did.

Montreux Casino’s entertainment complex caught fire during a concert Zappa and the band played on December 4, 1971, when some idiot fired a flare gun into the ceiling, which was covered with a flammable rattan surface. The entire complex burnt down, taking with it all the instruments and equipment belonging to the band. As the smoke billowed out across Lake Geneva, it was observed by the members of Deep Purple, who had arrived in Montreux that evening to begin recording their next album.

The events they witnessed that night led them to write a song about it. Bassist Roger Glover is credited with the song’s title – “Smoke on the Water” – and although all five members of the band are credited as the writers and composers, and Ritchie Blackmore composed what may well be the most recognizable guitar riff in rock and roll history…

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One Comment

  1. My brother John Peachey was the disc-jockey at the time of the fire in Montreaux casino. Not only did Deep Purple loose all their equipment, but John lost all his best records. Many of which were irreplaceable, being one off demo discs. John shone his DJ’s spot light on the only un-locked door, and people, many high, followed the beam of light thinking this was part of the act, and lay on the grass outside going – ‘wow’ as the casino burnt!

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