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Vineyards and Chateau, Montreux, Switzerland Interesting Montreux Information: Montreux hosts several noteworthy festivals:
  • Freddie Mercury's Montreux Memorial Day, annually September 1st and 2nd since 2003.
  • The Montreux Jazz Festival, annually in July since 1967;
  • The Golden Rose Festival, annually in spring (1961-2003), which awarded the Golden Rose of Montreux, an international award for television;
Montreux boasts one of the most beautiful walks along the lake, stretching from Villeneuve all the way towards Vevey. The main square of the town, Place du Marché, features a statue of Freddie Mercury facing Lake Geneva. Some of the numerous small villages around Montreux include La Tour-de-Peilz, Clarens, Territet, and Villeneuve.
The Chateau of Chillon provides a marvelous view of the entire Lake of Geneva and can be easily accessed via bus, walk or boat.

Deep Purple made Montreux famous with their song "Smoke on the Water", which tells the events of 1971, when a Frank Zappa fan with a flare gun set the Montreux Casino on fire (see below).

Concerts - Smoke On The Water   by Michael Russell

In this article we're going to tell the true behind the scenes story of one of the most famous songs in rock history that was actually the result of an incident at a concert.

Everyone knows the song "Smoke On The Water". Every kid who ever picked up a guitar for the first time plunked out that four chord blues riff. For many kids, it's the only thing they were ever able to play. And many of these kids think they know the story of how that song was recorded. 

Yes, there was a fire, a bad one. But what most, if not all of them, don't realize is that the fire that broke out that day was during a Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention concert.

Chillon Castle and Lac Leman, Near Montreux, Swiss Lakes, Switzerland
The date was December 7, 1971. It was thirty years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Maybe that should have been an omen. Certainly this was not an insignificant date in history.

Anyway, Deep Purple, the band who recorded "Smoke On The Water" was setting up their camp in Montreux, Switzerland to record their next album. They were going to use a mobile recording studio to do this which they rented from The Rolling Stones, known as their Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. They set up at the Montreux Entertainment Complex which was part of their casino. This is referred to as the "gambling house" in the lyrics of the song.

Well, on the eve of their recording session Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention were performing live in concert at the casino's theater. They were to perform a number of their popular songs including the epic "The Nancy & Mary Music", "Sharleena", "Duke Of Prunes", and "Hungry Freaks Daddy". Frank Zappa was strange to say the least. However, before they could really get into the meat of their performance a fire broke out during the concert. It was said to have been caused by a Swiss fan shooting a flare gun at the ceiling, as was stated in the "some stupid with a flare gun" line that ultimately destroyed the entire casino complex, along with all of Frank Zappa and The Mother's equipment.

The smoke on the water that was talked about in the song was the smoke from the fire that spread over all of Lake Geneva. From their hotel across the way from the casino, the members of Deep Purple watched the fire burn and the smoke cover the lake. In the lyrics they mention a "funky Claude" running in and out. This was actually the director of the Montreux Jazz Festival running in and out of the casino trying to get people to safety.

The aftermath of all this was that Deep Purple had no place to record and Frank Zappa and the Mothers were part of the most famous concert in history to get cancelled mid way through.

Deep Purple eventually found another place to record, using a near empty Montreux Grand Hotel. They converted its hallways into a makeshift recording studio.

As for Frank Zappa, the concert was cancelled and never rescheduled. But he had become a part of history that little kids with electric guitars will be thankful for, for a very long time.

Featured Montreux Hotels  /  top

About the Author - Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Concerts  
Fairmont Le Montreux Palace Montreux
Fairmont Le Montreux Palace is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, overlooking the Alps. Built in 1906, this Jewel of Belle-Époque architecture offers a traditional and elegant atmosphere, and a personalised and attentive service in true Swiss style. Fairmont Le Montreux Palace is member of Leading Hotels of the World.  Fairmont Le Montreux Palace's two restaurants, two bars and nightclub offer a vast palate of choice for all guests. Begin your evening in an intimate atmosphere and with live music at Harry's New York bar. Enjoy your meal in a traditional french ambiance at La Brasserie du Palace. Take advantage of the terrace overlooking the lake and the Alps, open during the warm summer season. Fairmont Le Montreux Palace is again nominated Best City and Business Hotel in Switzerland 2008 by the magazine Bilanz.
Grand Hotel Excelsior Montreux
The Grand Hotel Excelsior is an impressive Victorian property situated in a picturesque location on the banks of Lake Geneva, 500 metres from Montreux centre. Dining options include a summer terrace restaurant and the main restaurant with ornate, period detail, large, decorative windows and antique furniture, both serving fresh, seasonal cuisine. Guests can workout on the fitness equipment, swim in the large indoor pool, and relax in the wellness centre with its sauna, solarium and thermal bath. Guests can also enjoy the Biotonus Clinic with massages, regenerative treatments and medical check-ups. Lake Geneva offers a selection of water sports and Montreux itself boasts numerous bars and restaurants, along with a casino and a jazz festival. Chillon Castle is two kilometres away, and Scex Rouge, accessible by cable car and with panoramic views of both the French and the Swiss Alps, is 24 kilometres away. Geneva International Airport is 95 kilometres away, with an approximate driving time of 50 minutes. 
Hotel Eden Palace Au Lac Montreux
Hotel Eden Palace Au Lac enjoys an excellent position on the banks of Lake Geneva, Switzerland with views across the Alps. It is located in Montreaux, 20 metres from the Casino Barriere and eight kilometres from Lausanne. This 6-storey hotel is housed in a handsome purpose-built period building from 1896 set in gardens with palm trees. The outdoor swimming pool overlooks the lake and is bordered with a sun terrace, loungers, parasols and a poolside bar. Further amenities include a sauna and fitness equipment. Restaurant Chuga at Hotel Eden Palace Au Lac serves French specialities and international dishes in a traditional setting with lake views and features a terrace and live music. The hotel has six conference and meeting rooms with wireless Internet access. The Charlie Chaplin Museum celebrates the legacy of possibly the 20th century's greatest film star from the silent era with exhibits and film showings. 
Royal Plaza Montreux
The modern Royal Plaza Montreux is located on the banks of Lake Geneva, in the centre of Montreux, Switzerland. Set amidst Swiss greenery, the Royal Plaza Montreux offers panoramic views of the Alps, the lake, and the town of Montreux. The onsite La Croisette restaurant serves French cuisine and fresh local delicacies. The restaurant features an extensive wine list and live piano music in the evenings. The terrace offers lake views. Breakfast buffets and Sunday brunches are served in the top-floor Belvedere restaurant. The Cafe Du Lac offers afternoon tea, Italian specialities, pastries, and ice cream on a lakeside promenade. The Piano Bar features live piano music and movie-themed decor, while the Sunset Bar offers cocktails and lake views. Guests can swim in the Atlantis Spa's heated indoor pool or work out in the well-equipped fitness room. Saunas, steam rooms, a spa tub, and massages services are also available (fees apply). A 10-kilometre footpath runs from the hotel to along the lake's shores.
Villa Toscane Swiss Q Hotel Montreux
The Art Nouveau Villa Toscane Swiss Q Hotel is located in the centre of Montreux, Switzerland, just 100 metres from the Stravinsky Auditorium and Lake Geneva. Montreux train station is two kilometres from the hotel. The Villa Toscane Swiss Q Hotel occupies an Art Nouveau villa with a roof terrace and a garden terrace where drinks are served. Staff at the 24-hour front desk can offer local sightseeing advice. There is an onsite sauna. The hotel serves a complimentary buffet breakfast. There's 24-hour room service and a lounge bar serving snacks and drinks.The Villa Toscane Swiss Q Hotel's 46 guestrooms are decorated in a contemporary style with cream decor and stuccoed ceilings. All rooms feature wireless Internet access (surcharge may apply), satellite television, desks and minibars. Refrigerators and microwaves are available on request. It's less than five kilometres to two of Montreux's most famous museums, the Vieux-Montreux and the Swiss Toy Museum. 



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Latest update: May 11, 2019