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He was there and he was the last one out

View of downtown Montreux

A first hand account of the infamous fire at the Casino de Montreux on December 4, 1971:

I was heavily engrossed in the concert. Frank Zappa was playing again as the drum set had been fixed, and he had written a song about Switzerland, Swiss cheese and all that. Also, he had a large head of a bunny rabbit near the front of the stage (made of plastic or something similar) which in my mind kept on changing into a scary monster. I had taken a strong dose of an illicit drug and was totally engrossed by the show. A few seconds after the fire started my girlfriend said to me ´Peter, there’s a fire’ and I remember looking behind me and seeing a large ball of flame. Because I was very stoned it LOOKED BEAUTIFUL, perfectly circular and with flames and sparks flying in all directions. I could only see the beauty and not feel the danger! I actually thought that the fire was part of the show!! (Because Frank had such a crazy reputation, I and many other fans too, thought that anything could happen at one of his shows!). Frank Zappa continued playing for a few more seconds and then changed to the song ‘FIRE’ by Arthur Brown, which had been a big hit in the late 60’s. They just played a few bars from that song, and then dropped their instruments and quickly made their way off the stage down a small staircase without having to go into the audience. I seem to remember somebody at the microphone saying ‘Don’t panic’. In fact nobody did panic because nearly everybody was so stoned that fear didn’t kick in and the audience exited in a more or less orderly fashion (like sheep, one following the other)!

Read the whole story in author’s blog.

Thanks to Pär Holmgren for the info.



9 Comments to “He was there and he was the last one out”:

  1. 1
    LRT says:

    It broke out at 1hr:27, I don’t want to alarm anyone myself, most should know it’s all clearly documented in very good quality and actually for sale as one of the countless official Zappa boots. Of course the liberties taken at Youtube can’t find any repect for a product, so of course they went there on this one. But we do all prefer “physical merchandise,” or so I have hope for you anyway. 🙂 I hope the author gets a kick here as well, a fair exchange if you ask me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lpFeopjJhI

  2. 2
    scottbuster2000 says:

    If you listen to the bootleg Frank Zappa’s Mothers – Swiss Cheese the last track is Arthur Brown’s Fire. Frank and company were in full flight playing ‘King Kong’ when Don Preston abruptly ends the track with a wild feed back sustain which reminds me of the Lead Ups that House DJ’s often use today when transitioning from track to track. Don Preston – ”Fire! Arthur Brown” Frank Zappa – ”Ah, if you’ll just ah, calmly go toward the exit ladies and gentlemen.” “Go toward the exit calmly!” “Would you please calmly go toward the exit!” An audience member speaking French says “Peut se…Peut se toyer” [Eng – ‘You can…you can be cleaning’] “Oh la Swiss ici” [Eng – ‘Oh the Swiss here’] “Regard la” [Eng – ‘Look at that or look over there’] as he’s leaving.
    If you listen the boot The Mothers don’t in fact play Brown’s ‘Fire’ but end the track ‘King Kong’ because of the disruption and Don, upon seeing the blaze seizes the moment and Screams into the mic ‘Fire! Arthur Brown [Something Inaudible]’.

  3. 3
    MacGregor says:

    An interesting ‘account’ of what happened on that historical day. The first thing I thought of was, if this guy was that ‘out of it’, how did he remember all the details? But then again, FEAR is a huge emotion & maybe as it was all unfolding before his eyes, he snapped out of his drug induced state & became really aware of everything that was going down! On a comedy level, I had to laugh at the ‘don’t panic’ comment by a band member! It reminded me of the classic British comedy ‘Dad’s Army’ from the same era & Corporal Jones with his catch phrase ‘Don’t Panic, Don’t Panic’ etc, etc! But seriously, it would not have been funny at all being in that building at that moment in time! Cheers.

  4. 4
    Roberto says:

    @1 Larry, thatt bootleg circulate from years…so I don’t think the uploader need a kick…

    Anyway this is a fantastic and funny interview….

  5. 5
    Milan says:

    It actually is: “Fire! Arthur Brown in person!” and I thought it was Mark Volman saying it, but not sure.

    Here is a full transcript (with english translation of the french and german audience dialogue) of all the chatting that can be heard on the tape:

    http://globalia.net/donlope/fz/btb/swiss_cheese_fire.html#Fire

    and the translation:

    http://globalia.net/donlope/fz/lyrics/translations/BTB.html#Fire

  6. 6
    LRT says:

    Hey Roberto, you need to read instead of commenting who needs to do what, the mention of when the fire broke out in the essay addressed by what time in the clip. Use your eyes and follow as you read a post and connect it to the its topic pertain, don’t leap to stupid conclusions. ESPECIALLY WHEN I CLEARLY SAID “MOST SHOULD KNOW.” You waste bandwidth.

  7. 7
    Louis says:

    I do not want to rain on anyone’s party but after reading the “about” section of Peter Schneider’s blog, I would take what he has to say with a grain of salt. He claims to be a mystic and speaks of UFO’s, ET’s, time travel, astral travelling, psychometry, reincarnation, life after death, ghosts, dreams, psychic operations, weeping virgins (statues), shamanism, witchdoctors, psychics and other interesting topics that RATIONAL people would perhaps call “WOO-WOO”!

    Think what you will but this skeptic thinks that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” as was said by Carl Sagan. Perhaps you may disagree, but my worldview is guided by science, fact, and other silly little PROVEN things. I highly recommend the book “Why People Believe Weird Things” by Michael Shermer to get a taste of the strange things that some people believe or perhaps see:

    http://www.skepticblog.org/.

  8. 8
    Kerry says:

    Odd thing with his story, I recall reading a piece from Roger Glover (on his website maybe?), that after everyone had exited, he was wandering about alone inside the empty casino, admiring Zappa’s synthesizers.

    He made a mention that the fire seemed small at the time, and only after he went outside did the building go up in flames entirely. That sort of contradicts Peter’s story, but it is good reading regardless.

  9. 9
    Louis says:

    Kerry,
    There are lots of odd things about this story!

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