[hand] [face]
The Original Deep Purple Web Pages
The Highway Star

Where was the fire? A different perspective

Frank Zappa bassist Jim Pons was onstage performing with Zappa when someone in the audience fired a flare gun into the ceiling of the casino in Montreux and burned down the building in December 1971 – the inspiration for Deep Purple’s “Smoke On the Water.” Hear him tell his version of the story here.

With thanks to Chris.

7 Comments to “Where was the fire? A different perspective”:

  1. 1
    James Steven Gemmell says:

    (I’m no longer at the below email address – JG)

    From: James Gemmell [mailto:j.gemmell@comcast.net]
    Sent: 29 May 2013 13:45
    To: Ian Gillan
    Subject: Flare Gun Shooter
    Ian: This chick claims her father shot the infamous “flare gun”. I don’t know if this

    Well he should shut up about it; if he did do it he’s a total asshole and belongs in jail.
    It’s only because of Claude that many people weren’t killed; as it is many were lacerated and badly hurt.
    Maybe he should come to Montreux on the 19th July this year and see what the police have to say about it.

    I’d be happy to put him up on stage to make his ‘confession’.

    Sorry James, just arrived in Rabat and have a press conference any minute so haven’t seen the youtube yet.
    Got to run, ig

  2. 2
    Gregster says:


    So that’s what really happened……

    Peace !

  3. 3
    Wormdp says:

    Great insight to Frank’s life around Smoke

  4. 4
    CN says:

    Jim Pons is an amazing guy. He was there to record Happy Together with the Turtles. While touring with the Turtles in the UK he met the Beatles and had a long chat with Paul M – Jim talks about it in the interview; played with Zappa and was on stage for the inspiration of Smoke on the Water – he saw it go down! And even more serendipitous winds up working for the New York Jets and designs their helmet logo that they wore from 1977 to 1997 and our now wearing again in 2024!!! What a life!!


  5. 5
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Help me, what is new in this account? That the fire first developed at a balcony and not at the ceiling and that burning debris then fell to the (I presume wooden) floor and ignited another fire source?

    That seems all very much in the usual range of how people remember these things.

  6. 6
    Martin says:

    Lovely interview with Ian Gillan on German-British friendship – in German only!


  7. 7
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Yup, that was a good interview, I came across it too. Treads some ground not usually trodden in DP interviews:

    How Big Ian first came to Germany in 1965 with Episode Six and gigged in Cologne, Frankfurt and Munich living on hot dogs and, yes, dog food (‘Frolic’ dog pellets were a popular staple among younger people when they ran out of money to buy real food, they didn’t taste that bad and were nourishing).


    And how WW II damage rubble sites were still prevalent everywhere – as they were in London where he had grown up. I actually remember that too, in the 60s and even 70s rubble sites and burned out ruins in larger German cities were still a frequent sight like here in Frankfurt the Old Opera House which wasn’t rebuilt until the early 80ies:


    Plus how his parents encouraged him to go to Germany (rather than have second thoughts given how the memory of war was still fresh) “and find some friends there”, it was his first trip to another country ever.

    Also how Purple rehearse for their tours in Europe with TDA Rental in Bottrop (and have so for several years).



    Bottrop is a 120.000-population-city in the Ruhrgebiet, sort of like the British Midlands (mining and heavy industry heritage) of Germany.

Add a comment:

Preview no longer available -- once you press Post, that's it. All comments are subject to moderation policy.

||||Unauthorized copying, while sometimes necessary, is never as good as the real thing
© 1993-2024 The Highway Star and contributors
Posts, Calendar and Comments RSS feeds for The Highway Star