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Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind

View of downtown Montreux

An online lifestyle magazine thrillist has profiled a certain Swiss town with a rich history connected to arts and music — from Lord Byron and Stravinski to Charlie Chaplin and Freddie Mercury. And it starts with a story of Frank Zappa and The Mothers being at the best place around, with a few instances of poetic license.

…If you’re familiar with this story, it’s possibly because the whole thing is recounted in the lyrics of Deep Purple’s 1972 hit “Smoke on the Water”: “We all came out to Montreux on the Lake Geneva shoreline,” and later, “But some stupid with a flare gun burned the place to the ground.” (Learning the intro riff is a rite of passage for beginner musicians to this day.) The band was in town to record their album Machine Head at the Montreux Casino, using a mobile studio they’d borrowed from the Rolling Stones (also mentioned in the song). Forced out of their rooms by the fire, they watched the whole thing go down.

After the fire turned the casino to rubble, Nobs proved himself a hero in more ways than one by helping Deep Purple find a backup recording space. They eventually ended up in the Grand Hotel in Territet, with mattresses padding the walls for soundproofing. It’s said that it was here that, recalling the events of the past few days, bassist Roger Glover woke up with the line “smoke on the water” running through his head. And also here that Nobs encouraged them to put the song on their upcoming album, envisioning great things.

The rest, as they say, is history. The casino was rebuilt and re-opened in 1975 (the festival has since spread out over venues, including the 4,000-capacity Auditorium Stravinski and the 2,000-capacity Montreux Jazz Lab, with one-offs at the new casino). “Smoke on the Water” has been covered at the festival by musicians from Santana to Jamie Cullum. And Deep Purple has now played the Montreux Jazz Festival nine times, with almost as many iterations of their hit song. On the festival’s 50th anniversary, they performed it with none other than Frank Zappa’s son, Dweezil.

Read more in thrillist.

14 Comments to “Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind”:

  1. 1
    Uwe Hornung says:

    “On the festival’s 50th anniversary, they performed it with none other than Frank Zappa’s son, Dweezil.”

    That’s a nice touch. I wonder what Uncle Frank thought of DP in general? His musical taste could be unexpected, for instance he liked Slade for Jim Lea’s “lead bass” playing and even saw them at a gig.

  2. 2
    MacGregor says:

    I watched the Zappa documentary last night & there was no mention of the incident at Lake Geneva at all. Being a historical film on Frank’ life from the beginning I was surprised by that. However at the very end when there was a montage showing his life flashing by, I did see a building engulfed in flames. Talking of Frank ever mentioning other rock artists, I remember reading many years ago that he said he doesn’t listen to rock music at all. I can’t ever recall him talking about other artists, however Ian Anderson said a few years ago that he received a message to call Zappa in the early 90’s. He didn’t know what that could be about, but as Frank was terminally ill at that time Anderson dialled the number & pulled out after a few seconds. He said he felt uneasy at talking to someone at that stage of their life & wasn’t sure what to say to him. It sounded like he regretted not going through with the phone call. I could only imagine it may have been a call from Zappa saying how he liked Tull for various reasons, maybe not, who can tell. Tull had the comedy dress up sort of thing going on throughout the 70’s at times & also as we know were a serious rock band led by Anderson’s pursuit of various themes & endeavours. The Zappa movie I recommend to anyone interested in Zappa, it is well documented & not over the top in any way. Cheers.

  3. 3
    Uwe Hornung says:

    I’m sure Zappa listened to other rock music, he had encyclopedic knowledge of other forms of music (you have to know what you want to ridicule) and you don’t stumble across people like Eddie Jobson, Terry Bozzio or Steve Vai by sealing your ears and leafing thru the telephone book until you like a name. Don’t forget that he discovered the Alice Cooper Group too back in the early 70ies. I’m sure that he was aware of Jethro Tull’s music and I’m sure that he both appreciated and had ample derision (as for any Brit Prog band, he liked to make fun of those) for it.

    “He said he felt uneasy at talking to someone at that stage of their life & wasn’t sure what to say to him.”

    Shame. So many people can’t, it’s a widespread Western social deficiency. But most terminally ill people are actually relaxed about discussing their nearing end and even welcome sharing their thoughts. As you get older – I’m turning 62 this year – you tend to have those conversations more often. I used to be awkward about it myself, these days if I’m with someone who is close to dying, I actually steer toward the subject if the situation is right. We share all little ailments we have among each other, but the ultimate threat is shrouded in silence – that is just plain unnatural.

    You can crack jokes with dying people just as much as you can ask them what their thoughts and feelings are about leaving this world. It’s all one package.

    And btw, when it’s time for me to be cremated (and I likely will because my wife wants to be too), I want them to play – you guessed it – BUUUUURN! Going out with style and not some whimpy stuff.

  4. 4
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Being Zappa quotes, do take them with a pinch (or two …) of salt please …


    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 months in jail and later became a US Senator.”

    Polish your rusty German!


    And here’s Zappa Jr with the boys, he solos like his dad:


  5. 5
    MacGregor says:

    I doubt Ian Anderson is losing any sleep over not talking to Zappa back in the early 90’s. They didn’t know each other, if my memory of the interview film clip is correct. He even joked at the end of it about what Frank may have wanted to talk to him about, a classic Ian Anderson view on things. The Zappa documentary I watched did talk about the git who pulled him off stage & what happened as a result of his injuries. It showed photos & some video footage of Frank hobbling about & in the wheel chair etc. He even said a comment about “knowing who your friends are when you are in a wheel chair for 9 months”. I am not a fan of Zappa’s music in general & I only own ‘One Size Fits All’ on cd. I have listened to plenty over the decades & watched some decent live concerts, however it is not my cup of tea at all. Regarding what he says at times, yes indeed take it with a pinch of salt. I haven’t read a lot of interviews with him, I just remembered that one when a journalist asked the proverbial question, ‘what rock music do you listen to & what artists do you like’. It was a good response from Zappa. There seems to be a thing in music where certain people presume other musicians do listen to their fellow rockers etc. It is absurd really, why would they? As one of the greats said years ago, who’s name escapes me at present, “be yourself & avoid any outside distractions & influences as much as possible”. Zappa certainly was himself & kudos to him for being that & more. In regards to Frank, this world could be a much better place with a few others like him, in some respects. Here is a classic comedy jam with our very own comedian Norman Gunston, back in the mid 1970’s, superb humour. Cheers


  6. 6
    Uwe Hornung says:

    ‘There seems to be a thing in music where certain people presume other musicians do listen to their fellow rockers etc. It is absurd really, WHY WOULD THEY? As one of the greats said years ago, who’s name escapes me at present, “be yourself & avoid any outside distractions & influences as much as possible”. ‘

    Herr MacGregor, “WHY WOULD THEY NOT?” I cry, I think that is just a convenient myth in nearly all cases to enhance one’s own image as the “lone artist”. It just sounds cooler than, say, Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest gushing in the early 80ies how he loved A-ha and considered their debut a work of art, listening to it all the time while breaking the law on the metal god’s lengthy US tours.

    Others have been less than coherent in their claims: Depending on which Blackmore interviews you read, he either

    – never listens to other people’s music at all (never mind all the covers he is attracted to) or

    – was prompted by Robert Plant’s appearance to fire Rod Evans and

    – by the release of Led Zeppelin II to record In Rock,

    – listens to radio all the time and “digs the melodies of Blondie and ABBA” or

    – appreciates Carmen (the flamenco-imbued progsters which never had any airplay so he must have heard them somewhere else).

    If you’re a musician yourself, it’s hard to avoid other musical influences (nor do I see any specific merit in it – if that were the case blind painters would be the best artists). Music is everywhere all the time, there is no escaping it. And of course if you play an instrument or sing yourself you cannot help but analyse what other people do and begin to wonder how they do it.

    Ritchie especially is a real magpie/influence sponge (and I use both terms lovingly with him), I mean hell (or: Burn!) he even patterned Mk III in a laid out master plan after Free (a singer like Paul Rodgers, a bass player like Andy Fraser, with Mistreated even a song like Free’s Heartbreaker) because they had caught his attention. And seeing Hendrix was pivotal for him in evolving his 70ies guitar hero style, moving from his beloved Gibson ES-335 to a more commanding-sounding Fender Stratocaster included. Or remember how he dissolved the Dio Rainbow line-up after a lengthy, not so successful US tour opening for REO Speedwagon and learning the hard way about the appeal of AOR music with the masses.

    I constantly listen to all kinds of music (even music I don’t really like) and my brain is always plucking apart and analyzing what it hears. It’s not only that I can’t help it, I actively enjoy doing it.

    PS: Speaking of Ian Anderson (“a classic Ian Anderson view on things”), he has – much like Francis Rossi in fact – a callous-caustic-slightly-mean-streak in him, I’ve noticed that before from his interviews. Refreshing at times, but hardly gentle.

  7. 7
    DeeperPurps says:

    MacGregor @ 5, I agree with you re Zappa. I never really “got” his music. I understand some of it is well composed and there is some virtuoso playing scattered amongst the various instruments on certain tracks: however it is not my cup of tea at all. I do have his double album Guitar, and his triple album Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar – he does some nice noodling solos on it, but his style was somewhat repetitive – many of the same phrases, and his technique was certainly not in the league of Blackmore, Morse or Bolin et al; but nonetheless enjoyable for what it is.

  8. 8
    MacGregor says:

    Yes indeed all or most musicians start out hearing & being influenced somewhere with another musician & feel inspired to start learning to play their respective instrument. The comment about ‘shutting out as much as you can’ without being unduly influenced etc, was from one of the great violinists or composers from earlier music, not popular modern day music. Informing their or his student(s) as such when teaching, ‘be yourself’ don’t get caught up in too much of somebody else’s technique etc, as it will ‘get in the way’. I never believed Blackmore saying that way back in the 70’s or 80’s, of course he listened to & was influenced by other artists. Zappa also to a degree perhaps & that response of his was probably his attitude to being asked that & to move on to the next question from that journalist. Why would these musicians want to talk about other musicians or music especially in a similar genre, if they don’t feel inclined to? Many guitarist in famous rock bands do not listen to other rock bands or music of a similar genre, why would they, it would be rather boring & pointless in many ways. For example Tony Iommi doesn’t listen to hard rock, metal etc. They listen to totally different music & artists, no doubt appreciating different forms of music & technique & getting as far away as possible from what they do themselves on a daily basis. Phil Collins was asked the same decades ago about other progressive rock bands. He wasn’t into Yes or Tull etc. He knew who they were & had probably heard a song or two on the radio or somewhere, but he had no interest in other rock bands, especially their contemporaries.
    It is horses for courses as we say, each to their own. However there is a perception from some people or an expectation, that certain musicians listen to their ‘rivals’ or competitors to hear what they are doing. Any way I myself do listen to all or most forms of music at times & enjoy it when in the mood. Regarding Ian Anderson, yes I know what you mean with his ‘caustic’ & sarcastic comments at times. However in regards to the Zappa phone call comments, he was very relaxed & light hearted about why Zappa may have wanted to talk to him, just lightening the mood no doubt. Cheers.

  9. 9
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Well, he was a skilled lyricist. No 4 in the German charts in 1980 (No 1 in Norway) – possibly because very few people understood what he was singing about. The Zappa fans loved him for that subversive entry. Introduced the English term “golden shower” to my unsuspecting country(wo)men before they could even get out their umbrellas. A cultural transfer so to leak. And ‘tower of power’ wasn’t name-checking the band either …


  10. 10
    Andrew M says:

    In an interview decades ago, Ritchie said that at the time he only listened to Zeppelin and Bach. The Bach could be pretentiousness, but I heard him play a bit of the third Brandenburg concerto’s third movement at a Rainbow concert in the seventies.

    I’ve also had the weird experience of attending a concert of genuine Renaissance music and suddenly recognizing a melody familiar from a Blackmore’s Night song.

    As Jon liked to say, it’s all music.

  11. 11
    MacGregor says:

    DeeperPurps @ 7 – indeed Frank isn’t really known for his guitar playing per say, although some hold him in high stead for it. However he is a composer of some brilliance, just not as pretty with the melodies etc as other ‘rock’ classical & progressive composers, to my ears. He was influenced by that composer Edgard Varese who sounds dark & strange in many ways, although a sound effects type of influence on many apparently.
    It is the vocal rubbish I despise on so much of the rock ‘n roll music of Zappa’s, too much messing about for me. I watched the 1973 concert ‘live at the Roxy’ recently & enjoyed most of it. I think the early to mid 70’s is his strongest material in many ways, hence me owning OSFA. That album was loaned to me back in the 80’s on a cassette & it took a long time to grow on me.
    I purchased it on cd later on & I have read other peoples views on it on the tube & they say it is their favourite album because there is less of the vocal histrionics on it, stronger songs. Maybe I was lucky having that album lent to me. Each to their own, it may be hilarious for Zappa & the band & others the ‘comedy’, but for me I give it a wide berth!
    I respect him for his intellect & philosophical views on many things & of course his musical nous. He did pass away far too young, a great shame. Cheers.

  12. 12
    MacGregor says:

    Yes Frank was very good with the words, lyrics etc. Didn’t he have an album or a song ‘Does Humour Belong In Music’? Also the phrase ‘shut up & play yer guitar’ whilst being a popular catchphrase for many at concerts no doubt, would have been heard being yelled out from certain audience participants regularly at Zappa concerts me thinks. Each to their own. Cheers.

  13. 13
    Jet Auto Jerry says:

    RE Zappa Music – Out local library has CD’s that you can check out (Including the last 2 from Purple) and there was a new release (2021) that I just listened to of Zappa’s last show in the US titled Zappa ’88: The Last U.S. Show (and it also has a couple of tracks from other shows on the same tour). Yes there are the lyrical stylings of Zappa when he does a Beatles Medley and some other “Zappa-esq” things (Theme from Bonanza), but there are also covers of Stairway to Heaven (with horns replacing some Lead Guitar) and Whipping Post that are pretty straight forward for the most part which surprised me. I will probably buy a copy of it at some point and highly recommend a listen if you can. He may not be a Guitar God, but you can’t deny that his bands were tight!

  14. 14
    MacGregor says:

    All the musicians that worked for Zappa are incredible & also very resilient no doubt. To have to learn that material & put up with Zappa’s desires would be stressful at times I imagine. Some of the musicians interviewed over the years talk about those ‘expectations’ & other things. A stern test of ones ability & a bar set extremely high. A good challenge for many of them & they all did wonderfully well. It is complex music at times & Zappa is held in the highest regard for good reason. I purchased the ‘Does Humour Belong In Music’ dvd a while ago, found it in a bargain price bin & to be honest I haven’t watched most of it. I will have to try to watch it in full shortly, one has to be in the mood for certain types of music, well anything really, however Frank has that reputation for testing the mood more than most. He seems like he gets off on testing everyone, he he. he Bless him.Cheers.

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