The New European: The quiet town where rock got heavy… and hairy

From Deep Purple, to Led Zeppelin, Bowie and Queen, the Swiss town of Montreux has seen them all. Sophia L Deboick explores how this idyllic lakeside spot secured its unlikely place in the annals of rock history

It’s a lyric only slightly less famous than the infectious riff that precedes it: ‘We all came out to Montreux / On the Lake Geneva shoreline/ To make records with a mobile/ We didn’t have much time’. While Ritchie Blackmore’s staccato four note opener to Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water, so evocative of the golden age of British rock, has earned a place in many a ‘Most Iconic Guitar Riffs of All Time’ poll, these lines tell a story that was not only foundational for the band and their music but made Montreux a legend.

This Swiss municipality in the shadow of the Alps, as anodyne and sober a setting as it sounds, was an unlikely breeding ground for some of the heaviest and hairiest music of the 1970s but became so by way of a world-famous festival, tax exiles, cutting-edge recording technology and a casino inferno.

Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan’s lyrical retelling of the band’s 1971 sojourn in Montreux may have had a literal, back-of-a-fag-packet feel, but it became the town’s musical creation myth…

The New European, 14 April 2017, pp. 21-23.

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