Montreux, Switzerland, and the band Deep Purple will forever be linked because of the song “Smoke on the Water.”
A seminal track off the seminal early-’70s album Machine Head, “Smoke on the Water” and its steamrolling guitar riff signaled Deep Purple’s conversion from prog-rock masters to proto-metal mashers.
One of the architects of the transformation was bassist Roger Glover, who joined the band with singer Ian Gillan just prior to the making of 1970’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
The album sought to join classical music and rock in an interesting new way, but it flopped.
When guitarist Ritchie Blackmore assumed leadership of the band, Purple went in for a harder, driving rock aesthetic. Glover gave the new sound muscle and dexterity. He recently talked to Goldmine about the making of Machine Head in conjunction with a new CD and double DVD release from Eagle Rock Entertainment called “They All Came Down to Montreux: Live at Montreux 2006.”
Through various lineup changes, Deep Purple has persevered. Blackmore is no longer in the band, and keyboardist Jon Lord is gone, but drummer Ian Paice remains, along with Glover and Gillan. And guitarist Steve Morse has added stability as well. Here’s what Glover had to say:
Goldmine: Do you remember much from the show recorded for the DVD release?
Roger Glover: Well, Montreux … Obviously, we’re connected with Montreux at the hip in a way, mainly because the song “Smoke on the Water” was written there. But apart from that, Montreaux has always been the home of the jazz festival and also the home for a very big European television awards ceremony ? the European equivalent of your Emmies I guess. It’s called the Golden Rose of Montreaux, so it’s a well-known place anyway.
But I think the song “Smoke on the Water ” put it much more on the map on an international level, and back in those days, it really was a jazz festival, but it kind of opened up a little bit and allowed blues in and of course, now and then a little of everything. It’s not really a jazz festival; it’s just a festival of music. And we’ve done it three times. I haven’t heard the recording. I remember that particular night we were in the middle of three or four gigs in a row, and we were all exhausted, and it was very hot, very hot night ? there’s no air in the thing. And I remember … coming off stage I said to one of the guys working there, I said, “How come you built this lovely building, but you didn’t put air conditioning in?” ‘Cause you know that’s so American. That’s stupid. Anyway, it was a hot night, and I can’t remember much about the gig, to be honest.
GM: It must have been an honor to close the festival that year?
RG: Absolutely an honor; Claude Nobs, who’s featured in the song as “funky Claude,” is still in charge of the thing, and we’ve done it three times now ? closed the show three times ? and this one, of course, they recorded. Actually, the first one was recorded too, in 1996, but you know, we’re just a live band, and we’re not particularly savvy when it comes to self-promotion. We don’t even know when records are being released. So asking me to comment on it … go buy it, yeah (laughs)
GM: Why did you want to record Machine Head in Montreaux?
RG: It was available. At that time, we were all British, and we all came from that part of the world, and taxes were incredibly high back in the early ’70s, and we had an accountant that figured out that if we wrote and recorded songs outside the country, we wouldn’t have to pay British tax, which is certainly fair enough.
So, we looked around the continent to see where we could go, and we’d played Montreaux several times before that ? it was a regular fixtu