Up in Smoke

claude nobs during montreux casino fire

Work on the Machine Head book is proceeding, with Stephen corresponding with Jean Paul, who was at the Casino event the night the place went up.  And he clearly wasn’t afraid to get stuck in either.  This amazing photo we’ve seen before on this site, but we now know that is Jean himself on the right with Claude Nobs desperately trying to get one of the hoses round to tackle part of the blaze.  Jean was one of Claude’s best friends, and has been able to help us fill in some of his early career and  explain how the whole Montreux Super Pop and Jazz festival events came about.
During work on the book we’ve also found pictures of the blaze inside the casino roof which kicked the whole saga off (though you do wonder who would stop inside the hall to take such a picture…!), and a bewildered security guy on the stage with a megaphone trying to get people to take it seriously and leave.  The more I see of the event the more I’m amazed everyone got out safely.  Claude by the way reckoned the band only finished Smoke off for him as a thank-you tape given at a party before they left, and hadn’t intended it for the album….  We’re still trying to get the chronology sorted as photographer Didi Zill now thinks he snapped Ian writing the lyrics only a couple of days after the fire. As ever any info on the scene or events welcome!


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15 Responses to “Up in Smoke”

  1. robert clay Says:

    Have a question,it looks like day time when the above photo was taken. What time did the Frank Zappa concert start?

    • simon robinson Says:

      Unusually the Zappa show began in the late afternoon, we’re not sure if this was so Purple could get their gear in that evening or not.

  2. Leftin Says:

    The debate on why Smoke… remains Purple’s most famous song continues. I think the title and lyrical theme are more important than some think. The riff is instant and quite menacing, and needed something memorable to hang around it. Gillan/Glover never went for dull lyrical cliches, but what they came up with here was sombre and haunting. Gillan’s voice is at its best here, and, as on Woman from Tokyo, he’s giving it his all in a throaty roar which would’ve sounded fine on Burn. Which leads back to the topic of fire, and you don’t have to be a pyromaniac to find the stuff fascinating. All of which adds up to a major classic. So Purple’s trademark speed rock remains slightly overshadowed by a mid-paced track. Maybe that’s why Mk.2 (2) sped it up a fair bit onstage.

    Now, why is Dr Doctor UFO’s best-known song…?

    • simon robinson Says:

      It’s just damned catchy! The UFO song I mean. I went to see them in the late 70s not having heard them but curious to see Schenker, and that was the song which stuck in my mind afterwards…

      • Leftin Says:

        You’re right! But Pete Way once expressed surprise that a song where Schenker didn’t have a solo per se should become so well-known (imagine One More Rainy Day as Blackmore’s defining moment!). Wish I’d seen them in the late ’70s…

  3. Jean-Paul Marquis Says:

    Thank you to Stephen Clare. I am waiting his book !

  4. J. Mullen Says:

    Looking forward to this. I’m sure it’ll be up to the same quality standard of ‘Wait for the Ricochet,’ given those involved.

  5. Massimo Says:

    I can’t wait for the book to come out! Simon, will you have something on Ritchie’s gear for the album? It’s been the subject of speculation for years as most pictures show his AC30 in Roger’s corner but Didi Zill described his amp as being in the entrance hall by itself and miked directly into the Stones’ truck, which I believe it must refer to the Marshall stack. Any info on this? Thanks.

    • simon robinson Says:

      We are working with Didi on this to check every single frame and glean as much information from them as we can. He has a lot more than appeared in his book.

  6. cam simpson Says:

    great picture. am still amazed that everyone did get out safely

  7. Phil Says:

    …it’s a great photo

  8. CeeBee52 Says:

    Having been a fan of Deep Purple since the early 70’s, I can honestly say I’m tired and bored of reading and heariing about the casino fire!
    Every time someone does an interview , the song is mentioned and a band member has to go through the story again.
    I think DP should refuse to recount the story as any rock fan knows it off by heart.
    Every time Deep Purple feature an a rock compilation it’s ” Smoke ” that is put on the CD.
    Yes it was a big happening at the time, but does it have to be continually dredged up every couple of years.
    As far as I’m aware, no lives were lost.
    The event was recorded and immortalised in the song.
    That should be the end of it.
    Let journos find something else to write about.

  9. Timothy Says:

    Given that everyone has a different view on who wrote/dreamed the lyrics and what happened when etc there is one bit of concrete proof that would actually place things in a strict chronology – that is Didi Zills roll(s) of film! Is the frame with Ian’s writing in the early shots or late shots? I’m not suggesting that Didi only shot one roll of film, but any professional would have a basic numbering system to keep track of what’s done on any shoot, so it should be quite simple to dateline the sequence of pix and therefore an approximate date for said lyric writing! Or even just getting the rolls in sequence by noting the bands stubble growth/number of empty coke cans/fag packets lying around…

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