Is Deep Purple’s Hit ‘Smoke On The Water’ Based On Real Life?

The pioneers of heavy metal and modern hard rock, Deep Purple, have an extraordinary music career that spans over more than four decades. Throughout its active years, the band has managed to earn the title as the world’s loudest band upon being listed in the 1975 Guinness Book of World Records. Their success isn’t just related to their loud sound as Deep Purple is also one of the most influential bands in the history of rock.

During their music career, Deep Purple released a total of 21 studio albums such as ‘Deep Purple in Rock,’ ‘Machine Head,’ and ‘ Burn.’ All of these monumental records gave birth to the all-time classics of the band including ‘Highway Star,’ Speed King,’ and ‘Child in Time.’ However, every fan of the band knows that the most special track of the band is often considered to be ‘Smoke on the Water‘ due to its timeless guitar riff and the lyrics that tell a unique story. We’re here today to dig deeper into those lyrics and find out if they’re actually true.

‘Smoke On The Water’ Is The Most Loved Song By Deep Purple

Although ‘Smoke on the Water‘ was first featured in Deep Purple’s sixth studio album ‘Machine Head’ on March 25, 1972, the song was not released as a single until a year later, in May 1973. Although the band members didn’t have high expectations for the track, the single still reached No. 4 on the Billboard pop singles chart in the United States during the summer of 1973.

However, this was only the beginning since over the years, the track was characterized as one of the greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stone and one of the greatest guitar tracks by Q Magazine. According to many fans and music critics, the most outstanding aspect of the track is its guitar riff. It’s even fair to say that nearly every guitar player knows and appreciates the guitar riff of ‘Smoke on the Water’ since it’s iconic yet easy to play.

Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke On The Water’ Was Based On A Casino Fire

In addition to its legendary guitar riff, ‘Smoke on the Water’ also has one-of-a-kind lyrics that convey an interesting story that makes fans question if it’s real or made up. The lyrics of the song state that Deep Purple is in Montreux, on the Lake Geneva shoreline, to make music and they come across Frank Zappa and Mothers of Intervention. Their happiness is interrupted when ‘some stupid’ fires a flare gun and burns down the casino while the band members are just standing there watching the incident happening.

The opening verse and chorus of the song follow:

“We all came out to Montreux / On the Lake Geneva shoreline / To make records with a mobile

We didn’t have much time / But 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 / A fire in the sky / Smoke on the water”

Apparently, the lyrics are completely true as the band was indeed in Montreux, Switzerland to record an album, ‘Machine Head,’ using a mobile recording studio at the entertainment complex that was part of the Montreux Casino on December 4, 1971. Prior to their recording session, there was a Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention concert in the casino’s theatre.
The casino suddenly caught fire after a person from the audience fired a flare gun toward the rattan-covered ceiling. Although there weren’t any major injuries, the huge fire destroyed the entire casino complex in addition to Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention’s equipment. The title of the song was based on the smoke from the fire spreading over Lake Geneva from the burning casino as the Deep Purple members watched the whole fire from their hotel room.

You can listen to ‘Smoke on the Water’ below.