Thursday, February 02, 2006

Moment of Clarity

Like many people, I often have trouble deciphering song lyrics. Every once in a while, when I hear a song that I have misunderstood for years and years, I suddenly hear a previously misunderstood verse with complete clarity. It happened to me last night. After a very long day at work, I was rocking out to my favorite nighttime radio program when Alice cued up Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water". One of my favorite things about Nights with Alice Cooper, besides Alice's witty banter, is all of the deep cuts he plays. "Smoke on the Water" is anything but a deep cut, so I was kind of bummed, but that soon changed when I, for the first time in my life, correctly heard the second line of the song as: "On the Lake Geneva shoreline". I still would like to know if the lyrics to the song are based on a true story. Did Deep Purple ever go to Switzerland for a recording session with Frank Zappa that ended in an unfortunate string of arsons? Perhaps Alice clued in the listeners later on, but my drive ended before the end of the song.

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4 comments:

gregorykwu said...

More proof that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, the song is really based on a true story. I, like Noune, was convinced this story was 100% fruit juice BS. From allmusic.com's review of Smoke on the Water:

It's near impossible to mention Deep Purple's 1972 classic "Smoke on the Water" and not immediately think of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's trademark guitar riff. Just about every guitarist in the world past and present has at some point plucked Blackmore's world-famous chromatic riff, which turned out to be the band's best-selling and most enduring single of their career. The song's lyrics contain a true story within: In December of 1971, the band was planning on recording their next album ( Machine Head) at the Casino in Montreux, Switzerland, utilizing the Rolling Stones' Mobile Studio. But the plan was not to be — on the same night the band arrived to begin recording, Frank Zappa was playing the venue, when a fire destroyed the Casino (due to an overzealous fan shooting a flare gun at the roof). The quintet immediately moved to the Pavillion, where recording finally commenced — and "Smoke on the Water" was soon penned. Strangely, the band was not impressed initially with the song, and it was not issued as a single in the U.S. until more than a year after the March 1972 release of Machine Head (May 1973), where it peaked at number four on the charts. On the concert stage, the song would be extended to allow Blackmore to stretch out — as evidenced by the lengthy version on their classic Made in Japan release.

Although I always suspected Frank Zappa was behind the fire, I guess it's not true.

dhodge said...

Good sleuthing there, Wu. I still like Homer Simpson's lyrics for "Smoke on the Water" better than the original.

They burned down the gamblin' house /
It died with an awful sound /
I am hungry for a candy bar /
I think I'll have a Mounds

MDS said...

It's funny, I know that guitar riff like I know Beethoven's Fifth, but if you had asked me before I read Wu's comment I wouldn't have been able to tell you that it comes from Smoke on the Water.

dhodge said...

Not surprising, that riff has really transcended the song it comes from and even the band that performs it. If I remember correctly, Beavis and Butthead used to sing that riff on a fairly regular basis.