One of Deep Purple‘s biggest hits, the song “Smoke On The Water” from the 1972 album Machine Head is not only recalled by the catchy Ritchie Blackmore guitar riff but also by the lyrics, inspired by a real incident that happened during a Frank Zappa concert in Switzerland.
In an interview with Madhouse magazine back in 1988, Frank Zappa talked about the Deep Purple hit song and recalled that day at the Montreux Casino.
What Frank Zappa said about Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water”
So the last time I saw you was 1971 in Montreux, Switzerland. When that dummy with a flare gun burned the place to the ground.
“That was wild. Was that you running out screaming and pushing old ladies and little children to the ground to escape? It was a bad scene but at least Deep Purple got a hit song out of the deal. Those sons of bitches owe me some money.”
You seem to have had a lot of trouble with the fans back then. The same week as the fire in Montreux, Some guy pushed you off the stage as well.
“Yes the band thought I was dead…My head was over on my shoulder, and my neck was bent like it was broken. I had a gash in my chin, a hole in the back of my head, a broken rib, and a fractured leg. One arm was paralyzed. The 15-foot fall also crushed my larynx. One leg healed an inch shorter than the other. I walked in a circle for a few months.”
“He said he pushed me because he wanted me to play Peaches en Regalia and his girlfriend was in love with me and his dog told him to do it. The crew caught him, beat him and sodomized him and held him for police. He spent 12 minths in jail and later became a US Senator.”
Ranked number 426 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time the song is one of Deep Purple’s biggest hits released on their 1972 album “Machine Head”.
Blackmore later said that the main power chord riff is an interpretation of inversion of Symphony No. 5 by Ludwig van Beethoven, and that “I owe him a lot of money”.
The musician recalled the songs and artists that were the inspirations for many Deep Purple riffs in an old TV interview posted by Ritchie Blackmore Youtube Channel. One of the ones he explained was “Smoke On The Water”, saying: “‘Smoke On The Water’ was at fourths. We had a riff, I played the riff and I said ‘Well, maybe he should go to (he shows on guitar the chords) and that was it. Ian wrote the tune around that.