On the Lake Geneva Shoreline

Lake Geneva/ Lac de Genève/ Lac Leman/ from Lausanne, 2008

This is Switzerland’s Lac Léman as seen from Lausanne. If you’re in your late 40s or early 50s and anything like me, it’s likely that you owe a debt of gratitude to Deep Purple for introducing you to one of Western Europe’s largest lakes.

They referred to it as Lake Geneva in ‘Smoke on the Water’, their classic 1971 tune based on their real life recording experience in Montreux, about 14 miles (23km) up the shoreline from where this was taken.

The band was in Montreux to record tracks for what would become Machine Head, their most commercially successful album; Smoke on the Water would become the opening track. They were planning to use a mobile recording studio they rented from the Rolling Stones —”to make records on a mobile”.

The night before the recording session, a Frank Zappa concert was held in the Montreux Casino theatre —the song’s “gambling house”— where “some stupid with a flare gun” fired into the ceiling, starting a blaze that would destroy the entire casino complex.

That was 43 years ago today.

Smoke on the Water has lived on valiantly, its classic opening riff still a favorite among beginner guitar enthusiasts. Upon its release as a single in 1973, it reached No. 2 on Canada’s RPM Top Singles chart and No. 4 on the US Billboard 100. In 2004 Rolling Stone included it on its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list (No. 434) and in 2009 VH1 ranked in 11th on its 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs. Total Guitar magazine has it at No. 4 among the Top 20 Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever.

A sculpture memorializing the song sits along the Montreux shore. I haven’t seen that, but I have visited Kavarna, Bulgaria, home to the world’s only memorial to Ronnie James Dio AND to what is quite likely the largest collection of publicly financed heavy metal murals. Among those depicted is Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan.

Today’s Pic du Jour, the 325th straight, was taken in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 02-Sep-2008. The version of the song below, an all-star recording for Rock Aid Armenia, was recorded in July 1989.

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