Smoke On The Water
“We first came to Montreux, it was a gig on the regular circuit. If you were playing any tour of Europe, chances are you play the Montreux casino because it was a regular gig. It was a 3000 seater venue in this odd place called ‘The Casino’ and we came to… I think we did it twice before.
“We were looking for somewhere different rather than a recording studio to get some kind of live sound because studios were pretty horrible in those days. We’d looked around for a live setting and the casino came up – it was free, it was available and Claude Nobs who ran it said, “Yeah, you can have it for about three or four weeks, or something like that, there’s no one coming in.”
“We checked it out and it looked a great place just to put a mobile unit in and make a record. So that was the arrangement, we had The Rolling Stones mobile truck which is probably one of only two trucks around at the time that had those capabilities. We rented that and it arrived here and we all arrived here and so we were lucky enough to get the help from Claude Nobs.
“He said, “Actually there’s one more gig to go before you can start moving your gear in and that’s a Frank Zappa gig which is tomorrow afternoon, three o’clock matinee performance.” So we went along, fire came in right over my right shoulder, two flares like roman candles from a flare gun and just went into the trunking in the back of the building, seemed to fizzle out but then they caught fire. Everyone was told to leave, we left.
“Claude Nobs went down into the kitchens to get the young kids who had fled down there, got trapped in there, and with great bravery led them out through the smoke.
“Basically everyone got out and it went up in flames, it was an enormous fire. That was it, that was the venue gone, we went to the down the lake here to the Eden au Lac hotel and watched the wind from the mountains blowing the flames and smoke across the lake here and it was awesome. The shock of this whole place burning down was pretty amazing. And Claude, I mean, that was Claude’s life going up in flames. Claude could have just disappeared then but he stayed in with us when he had all this other chaos going on around him and he found somewhere else for us to record.
“I mean we had The Rolling Stones truck parked outside and we had to find somewhere else. We moved into, I think within two days, we moved into what was then ‘La Pavilion’. It’s a beautiful old theatre in the middle of town, Art Nouveau place, gorgeous. We set up on the stage there, and we had we come really with very little preparation, we were just going to wing it. We had no time, we were in between tours and Ritchie came up with this riff.
“We were recording quite late at night, just got the lake, silence, all the local burgers [folks? – Ed] gone to bed at 7:30, fast asleep. The moment that you write something, it’s a very private moment, actually it’s a moment between five people in a room and Ritchie came out with this riff that we didn’t think about that much at the time.
“We’re cranking out this backing track and it’s just echoing around the hills and across the lake and we were doing the first or second take, I think it was the first, but I could be wrong. We were in the middle of doing it when the the roadies heard the police cars coming up you know and they actually battened against the doors (the roadies) to stop the police coming in and stopping us doing the tape. People upset you know, the racket we were making, they called it a racket, we call it… it was really, and so we ended up at the Grand Hotel as it says in song and recorded all these tracks.
“I woke up one morning in the hotel and you know that kind of half asleep, half awake state, you haven’t opened your eyes yet but you’re kind of half awake and I said the words out loud, “Smoke on the Water”. I have no idea whether it came from a dream, or whether it came from the image of the smoke hanging over the lake, or whatever it was but those words kind of hit me and I opened my eyes and I said, “Did I just say something out loud to myself, alone in a room?”
“So we had one song to do and one day to do it in. We didn’t quite know what to do with it and Ian and I were talking we thought about why don’t we write what happened to us in very unusual circumstances? Let’s write the story of how we made the album, an autobiographical song.”Ian Gillan, Ian Paice and Roger Glover (1265)
“We thought it was so modern to be living in the space age [in 1971 – Ed] – the idea of being a space trucker as opposed to a road trucker was interesting. ‘Boring Alice’ was someone we all knew quite well.”Ian Gillan (1266)
“It’s not literal – nothing in that song is literal. It’s all a play on words, like, “We’d move to the Canaveral moonstop” and “pony trekker” and “Borealice.” It’s all nonsense.”Ian Gillan (1279)
When A Blind Man Cries
“The one song that’s not on the album but was recorded in that room is ‘When a Blind Man Cries’ which has gone on to have a life of its own. There’s a lot of the lyrics of that sum up the making of ‘Machine Head’. As much as ‘Smoke on the Water’ is the story of what happened, ‘When a Blind Man Cries’ there’s a lot of the atmosphere.”Roger Glover (1266)
“The idea of telling a story based on the principle that there’s always someone worse off than you are, no matter how down you are, captured in the phrase “when a blind man cries”, you know something’s wrong [that Deep Purple line up broke up shortly after the making of ‘Machine Head’ – Ed].”Ian Gillan (1266)
Throw My Bones
“”Throw My Bones” is something that people did in prehistoric times to see if it was going to rain tomorrow or if they were going to be alive tomorrow. They started painting spots and they became dice – a game of chance. So, the idea of trying to find out what’s going to happen tomorrow, nobody knows that. I went through this whole Brexit thing, and people saying, “We don’t have enough information and what’s going to happen?” I’m thinking to myself, “I know everything I need to know. Who knows what’s going to happen? But I’m prepared.” That’s what the song is about. It’s just about being content with life as it is. It doesn’t mean to say that you just sit there and don’t do anything or you don’t have ambition. It just means to say that you don’t know what the future holds. It may be something you’d really rather not have.”Ian Gillan (1279)
Nothing At All
“One night, sitting in my little cottage by the Cumberland River across from the Grand Ole Opry, where I could hear the music, it came to me: We’re in a pretty precarious situation and we’re not taking it seriously enough. So, I thought of Mother Nature as an old lady in the song, and I thought of the line, “And she blew all the leaves off my tree,” which I thought was a nice pictorial description of the situation that potentially could happen. Then I wanted to reflect on the nonchalance of society. It’s a juxtaposition of me and the nonchalance and the severity of the situation. It’s just a little angle on a big issue.”Ian Gillan (1279)
“We had been apart for a while, so “Perfect Strangers” is a contradiction in terms, like an oxymoron. That was pretty much how we described it – there was a lot of suspicion and worry and nervousness about getting together again and having a reunion, and when we all sat around in the basement of this old house in Vermont, there was a log fire and three feet of snow outside. We had a couple of beers, and nobody started playing. Then, Paicey [Ian Paice – Ed] started tapping away and people started grooving, and a little shuffle came along. In five minutes everyone had a smile on their face. So, “Perfect Strangers” was how we were before, and “Perfect Strangers” are how we are afterwards – with two opposite meanings to the phrase.”Ian Gillan (1279)
Child In Time
“Through ‘Child In Time’ you’ll see the line, “The line that’s drawn between good and bad”. We were in the middle of the cold war any that time and things were terrifying. A lot of songs were written along that base but you never try to be too literal with a song, you try to be poetic if you can.”Ian Gillan (1281)