Today in History: Some Stupid with a Flare Gun Inspires A Rock Classic [VIDEO]

On December 4, 1971, the Montreux Casino in Switzerland burned down during a concert by Frank Zappa after a fan set fire to the the venue by setting off a flare gun. You’ve heard that story before, but maybe you don’t remember. We’re pretty sure you remember the way the story is told, though–courtesy of Deep Purple’s classic rock track “Smoke on the Water”…
Yeah, the story sounds better when told through some immortal rock lyrics. Deep Purple had gone to Montreux to record the album that became 1972’s Machine Head, and ended up in a near-empty hotel after their mobile studio had been kicked out of other places over noise complaints. They were staying right across the lake from the casino. As the song informs us…

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

So, that’s what happened. Machine Head became a huge album for the Brits, and “Smoke on the Water” became a rock staple–featuring, of course, one of rock’s most classic riffs. Man, anyone can play that thing. It’s a shame that the band can’t get royalties for every time some guy has knocked that out as a warm-up on Guitar Hero. We should also note that today marks the 20th anniversary of Frank Zappa’s death. We bet that Zappa was pretty amused that there was a huge hit song based on his band’s personal misfortune. Rock ‘n roll is funny like that.

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