Roger Glover of Deep Purple: The Interview

Roger Glover Interview

Feature Photo by Daniel Knighton

In retrospect, Deep Purple’s 1972 record, Machine Head, reads as an iconic proto-metal masterpiece. Given that its track listing boasts classic cuts like “Lazy,” “Highway Star,” and the forever-loved FM radio staple, “Smoke on the Water,” that’s no surprise.

It’s been 52 years since Machine Head dropped, but for Deep Purple’s bassist, Roger Glover, who was there through it all, it’s still fresh in his mind. “I don’t quite know how to put this,” Glover says. “There are so many stories attached to it [Machine Head]. The actual story of Machine Head is catastrophe after catastrophe.

Even armchair Deep Purple fans probably know the origin story of “Smoke on the Water,” the lyrical themes for which were culled from a 1971 event at Montreux Casino in Switzerland, where the place literally caught fire during a Frank Zappa show, when an audience member fires a flare gun at the ceiling of the venue.

There were no significant injuries, but the event inspired Deep Purple’s classic track, as they were in attendance for a recording session that would take place at the venue the next day. “We’d played at Montreux a couple of times,” Glover recalls. “By ’71, we had a couple of albums under our belts, and we’d succeeded, but we wanted to record at a different place.

Thinking back on the intent of the Montreux sessions that never were, Glover says. “The place seemed cacophonous, loud, and exciting. Normally, everything is controlled when you go into a studio, so we were trying to get ahead of that problem.”

He continues, “We were to have the Rolling Stones’ mobile studio for three weeks, and we said, ‘Great, we’ll have that, and we’ll record at Montreux.’ Of course, as we know, it didn’t go as planned. But as they say, ‘All the best-laid plans don’t go according to plan.’”

The fire at Montreux put Deep Purple in a tough spot, as their intended soundscape was now washed away, leaving them to go back to the drawing board. But thankfully, there was a Plan B. “We managed to get into another theater called The Pavilion, which was small and not soundproofed. But we got the sound we were looking for, and by midnight of the first day, we’d record a jam.”

As for what that jam sounded like, Glover says, “It was kind of a mid-tempo riff that Ritchie [Blackmore] started. We got one take of it before the local police stopped us because we were keeping the whole town awake [laughs].”

“That place was very sleepy and laid-back in those days; a perfect town to retire to,” he says. “It was difficult to make a lot of noise at night. But despite it being hard to make noise at night and time running short because of the fire, we managed to somehow get enough down for the beginnings of ‘Smoke on the Water.’”

History shows that “Smoke on the Water” wasn’t just crucial to hard rock and metal history but also critical to Deep Purple’s fortunes. To Glover’s earlier point, records like 1970’s Deep Purple in Rock and 1971’s Fireball had been successful, but Deep Purple had not yet managed to break the scene entirely.

But all that changed when Machine Head dropped, and “Smoke on the Water’s” riff began to slink its way across the globe. “The thing about ‘Smoke on the Water’ is that by the time we’d thought we’d finished Machine Head, we were one song short,” Glover says. “So, we looked back at that jam we’d done just after the fire and started to sort through this thing we’d done while half asleep.”

Musing on if the band knew what they had in its infancy, Glover says, “Ian Gillan initially thought what we had sounded like a drug song, and said, ‘We don’t want to do that; we’re a drinking band.’ So, I don’t know who came up with the lyrics about the fire; we were constantly looking for ways to express ourselves, but we decided that making a song with those themes fit the bill well.”

Glover and his bandmates took pride in Machine Head when it was done, but Deep Purple has always been about forward movement rather than sticking in place or basking in would-be glow. And surely, they couldn’t have known they were making history. “We didn’t think much of the album, or the song [“Smoke on the Water”] at the time,” Glover admits. “All we knew was the album was finished, and we were happy with that.”

As for when the band realized the impact of what they had, Glover says, “It wasn’t until later those things changed, and “Smoke on the Water” became the iconic song of our career. That’s something you can’t plan. We never sat down and said, ‘Right, let’s write an iconic song.’ It was a very natural thing that came out of habit.”

Some 52 years, thousands of shows, and even more miles logged later, though, when asked about the impact of Machine Head, and specifically, “Smoke on the Water,” after taking a drag on his half-lit cigarette, Glover smiles, saying, “I don’t know… we literally wrote about what happened to us. But there’s just enough poetic license in thee to make people think it’s about something else.”

Ambiguity aside, even Glover knows it’s a gripping story. “Oh, it is,” he agrees. “I remember a DJ asked me many years ago, ‘Is it true you guys set fire to an island?’ I have no idea where he got that from… I don’t know?” But I know some people would give their left arm to sound like we did—even if I was never happy with my bass sound.”

“There’s a famous expression in music that says, ‘The older I get, the better I was.’ I guess it’s been that way for me and with Machine Head and ‘Smoke on the Water.’ Sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve got until you look back.”

Roger Glover of Deep Purple: The Interview article published on Classic© 2024 Protection Status


Be the first to know when a new article is published

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Dan Fogelberg Songs
Top 10 Dan Fogelberg Songs
Aretha Franklin Songs
10 Essential Aretha Franklin Songs
Roy Buchanan Songs
Top 10 Roy Buchanan Songs
Top 10 Emerson, Lake & Palmer Songs
Humble Pie Albums
Top 10 Humble Pie Albums
Bob Seger Albums
Our Ten Favorite Bob Seger Albums
Paul McCartney Albums
Top 10 Paul McCartney Albums
ZZ Top Albums
Our 10 Favorite ZZ Top Albums
Peter Frampton
Frampton, Foreigner, Ozzy, & Dave Matthews Band Voted Into Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame
Best Of Bruce Springsteen
2024 Best Of Bruce Springsteen CD Comes With No Rare Tracks
Earthquake In New York
Earthquake In New York This Morning, Like Nothing I Have Ever Felt
Monsters of Rock Cruise 2024: Day Five Review
An Interview With Isom Innus Of Foster The People & Peel
An Interview With Isom Innus Of Foster The People & Peel
Oliver Wakeman Interview
An Interview With Oliver Wakeman, Formerly Of Yes
Leslie Mandoki Interview
An Interview With Leslie Mandoki Of The Mandoki Soulmates
Marc Ribler Interview
An Interview with Marc Ribler of Little Steven’s Disciples of Soul
Motorhead Albums
Complete List Of Motorhead Studio Albums And Discography
Little River Band Albums
Complete List Of Little River Band Albums And Discography
Chevelle Albums
Complete List Of Chevelle Albums And Discography
Haim Albums
Complete List Of Haim Albums And Discography
9 Bands That Never Replaced Departed Members
Music CDs Comeback
Why Music CDs Have No Chance Of Making A Comeback
Classic Rock Bands Still Together But Overdue For A New Album
Classic Rock Bands Still Together But Overdue For A New Album
When Glam Bands Went Grunge In The 1990s
When Glam Bands Went Grunge In The 1990s
Taylor Swift Albums And Discography
Complete List Of Taylor Swift Albums And Discography
Carly Simon Hotcakes Album Review
Carly Simon’s HOTCAKES Album Still Sizzles After 50 Years
11 Tracks Of Whack Album Review
Walter Becker – 11 Tracks of Whack Album Review
Sammy Hagar Album Review
Why Sammy Hagar’s 1977 ‘Sammy Hagar’ LP Was One Of His Best