Story By: G.H. Harding


PURPLE HAZE --- In honor of the 40th Anniversary of the historic California Jam Festival, Eagle Rock Entertainment will release Deep Purple Live in California 74 for the first time on CD and Digital Audio on April 1.

By the mid-seventies, Deep Purple was one of the biggest selling rock acts in America, and Live In California 74 demonstrates exactly why. Taking place at the end of their 28-date tour promoting Burn, the CD showcases the band performing before 200,000 people as the headliner of the Cal Jam Festival. Closing their trek with a triumphant climax, the classic line-up of Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), David Coverdale (vocals), Glenn Hughes (bass), Jon Lord (keyboards), and Ian Paice (drums) pummel through an explosive set of songs from Burn, as well as classics like “Space Truckin’” and the classic “Smoke On The Water.”

40 years later, this set still resonates as a concert for the ages; who can’t be moved when “Smoke On The Water” comes on the radio? "Smoke On The Water" was first released on their 1972 album Machine Head. In 2004, the song was ranked number #434 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, ranked number #4 in Total Guitar magazine's Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever, and in March 2005, Q magazine placed the song at number #12 in its list of the 100 greatest guitar tracks.

The lyrics of the song tell a true story: On December 4 in 1971 Deep Purple had set up camp in Montreux, Switzerland to record an album using a mobile recording studio (known as the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio—referred to in the song as the Rolling truck Stones thing and the mobile) at the entertainment complex that was part of the Montreux Casino (referred to as "the gambling house").

On the eve of the recording session a Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention concert was held in the casino's theatre. In the middle of Don Preston's synthesizer solo on the song "King Kong," the place suddenly caught fire when somebody in the audience fired a flare gun into the rattan covered ceiling, as mentioned in the "some stupid with a flare gun" line. The resulting fire destroyed the entire casino complex, along with all the Mothers' equipment. The "smoke on the water" that became the title of the song (credited to bassist Roger Glover, who related how the title occurred to him when he suddenly woke from a dream a few days later) referred to the smoke from the fire spreading over Lake Geneva from the burning casino as the members of Deep Purple watched the fire from their hotel.

The "Funky Claude" running in and out is referring to the late Claude Nobs, the director of the Montreux Jazz Festival who helped some of the audience escape the fire.

Left with an expensive mobile recording unit and no place to record, the band was forced to scout the town for another place to set up. One promising venue (found by Nobs) was a local theatre called The Pavilion, but soon after the band had loaded in and started working/recording, the nearby neighbors took offence at the noise, and the band was only able to lay down backing tracks for one song (based on Blackmore's riff and temporarily named Title n°1), before the local police shut them down.

The only song from Machine Head not recorded entirely in the Grand Hotel was "Smoke On The Water" itself, which had been partly recorded during the abortive Pavilion session. The lyrics of the track were composed later, and the vocals were recorded in the Grand Hotel.

The song is honored in Montreux by a sculpture along the lake shore (right next to the statue of Queen-frontman Freddie Mercury) with the band's name, the song title, and the riff in musical notes.

Ritchie Blackmore claimed that friends of the band were not fans of the classic "Smoke on the Water" riff, because they thought it was too simplistic. Blackmore retaliated by making comparisons to the first movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, which revolves around a similar four note arrangement—and is arguably the most famous piece of music in the world. A true classic for sure.

CHER AND CHER ALIKE --- Cher opened her 2014 Dressed to Kill Tour on Saturday night at the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, AZ. The singer, who will play 49 shows over the coming months, was in her normal full regalia with multiple costume and set changes along with a lot of off-the-cuff comedic patter between numbers.

The set list covered 49 years of music, going back to the Sonny and Cher hits “I Got You Babe” (sung with a projected video of Sonny) and “The Beat Goes On” up through four songs from her latest album, Closer to the Truth. She covered all of the phases of her career including the 1970's TV star (“Gypsy's, Tramps and Thieves,” “Half Breed,” “Dark Lady”), her late 80's resurgence (“I Found Someone,” “If I Could Turn Back Time,” “Just Like Jesse James”) and the late 90's comeback with her biggest hit, “Believe.”

Every song in the 20-selection set, with the exception of "Dressed to Kill" and "Welcome to Burlesque" were former singles but, in a half century career, a few things were left out.

Missing were the top ten hits “You Better Sit Down Kids” (1967), “The Way of Love” (1972), “Take Me Home” (1979) and “After All” (1989) along with the Sonny & Cher songs “Baby Don't Go” (1964), “All I Ever Need is You” (1971) and “A Cowboy's Work is Never Done” (1972).

CLOSING NOTES --- Great to hear The Zombies’ “She’s Not There” in the new TV-advert from Coco Channel. Can't beat the classics …

The forthcoming 14-date Monkees tour 2014 finds the group landing at: Hampton Beach Casino on 5/22; The Borgata in Atlantic City on 5/23; NJPAC in New Jersey on 5/24; The Paramount in Huntington, Long Island on 5/25; and, The Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Philadelphia on 5/27 …

Can’t quite wrap my head around the untimely passing of designer L’Wren Scott. I first met here in the heady-Herb Ritts days and was immediately a fan. I read an article where it said the rest of The Stones didn’t care for her, which is not true at all. Why tarnish such a star? I don't get it at all …

Here’s a quick snap of PR-pasha David Salidor and May Pang from The Monkees 2014 convention. Again, a great time …

I was in Mexico for a week and I must confess, one of the most enjoyable nights was listening to a heavy-duty infused evening of dance music from the late-great 70’s, including Donna Summer; The Trammps; Gloria Gaynor; Blondie; and, The Village People … great music and memories for sure …