Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: Montreux, a flare gun, Beethoven, Frank Zappa, and Freddie Mercury

If you’re in my age range this just might be in your album collection…

When’s the last time you threw that or some other hard rock LP on a turntable? Ten, 20, 30, 40 years ago?

Boston’s debut album is not in my collection but I have something similar that’s the focus of this week’s oldie.

The date is December 4, 1971.

The place…

Montreux, Switzerland.

Frank Zappa was doing a concert at the Casino in Montreux. During the show someone in the audience shot a flare gun up at the wooden ceiling. The Casino immediately went up in flames.

With the help of someone who was sitting behind the arsonist, he was identified, charged and convicted.

Sitting in the audience were members of the British rock band. They along with everyone else were moved out quickly and safely. Zappa even helped to smoothly usher out fans.

From a nearby restaurant the band watched as the fire died down, leaving a layer of smoke had covered Lake Geneva. The Montreux disaster influenced a track on their next album.

Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore…


Rarely did the band do “Smoke on the Water” in concert. They did in Osaka, Japan in 1972 for what some critics claim is the best live album ever.

“Funky Claude,” as in the lyrics “Funky Claude was running in and out pulling kids out the ground,” is Claude Nobs, a man who helped rescue some people in the fire and found another hotel for the band to stay. He is the co-founder of the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival.

In the last verse, Ian Gillan sings about recording the song in the Grand Hotel, “With a few red lights and a few old beds.” It was too bright in the hotel, so they put in red bulbs to solve the lighting issue. The acoustics were another problem, so they improvised sound soak by using mattresses as sound baffles.

The lyrics, “Swiss time was running out” meant that their visas were going to expire soon. They wrote the songs for their next album and recorded them in a matter of weeks.


“Made in Japan” sold one-million copies and peaked at #6 on Billboard’s album chart.

Blackmore turned 75 this year.

There’s a memorial to Deep Purple and their classic song near the rebuilt casino.

The memorial is not far from a statue of Freddie Mercury.

Why Freddy Mercury? “Queen” recorded seven albums at a studio in Montreux.

OK, was that music much too heavy for you?

Then try this…



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