Does the following ring a bell?
“We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn't have much time
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground
Smoke on the water, a fire in the sky, smoke on the water”
They're the words to one of the world’s most famous rock songs (and with one of the most famous guitar riffs of all time by Richtie Blackmore): Deep Purple’s "Smoke On The Water"! An honour to have seen what’s left of Frank Zappa’s historic band, “The Mothers of Invention” (the words are taken from Plato’s motto: "Necessity is the mother of invention") at a concert in the small town of Camino al Tagliamento, located about 25 kms from Udine.
I actually got to speak to one of the three remaining members of Zappa’s band (Zappa died in the 1990s), Don Preston (piano and vocals. Amazing what the man can do with an iPhone hooked up to a synthesizer! He began playing the Moog synthesizer way before Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer), who was actually at the Montreux Casino matinee concert with Zappa in 1972. That was a very memorable concert for two reasons: first of all, some idiot had shot two Roman candles into the Casino’s ceiling while Frank and the Mothers were playing and second, in attendance were also the Deep Purple boys. Frank then put his guitar down and shouted: “Nobody panic, we’ve got a fire here”! (by the way, those two candles went right over Purple’s lead singer Ian Gillan’s shoulder. The entire song was basically written on the Casino burning down in a crashing inferno. It was bass guitarist Roger Glover though who gave the song its title as he woke up in his hotel room with smoke from the Montreux Casino drifting across Lake Geneva). A real treat for me meeting Don also because I’ve now seen Purple three times live, and we ALL wait for one thing: “Smoke On The Water”!
The two other remaining members of the band are Napoleon Murphy Brock (really dynamite on sax and great on vocals too!) and Roy Estrada (bass guitarist), who joined Frank way back in 1964. The two newer members are guitarist drummer Robbie Mangano (some pretty big shoes to fill in Frank’s place!) and drummer Chris Garcia.
From 1964 to 1974 they were known as the “Mothers Of Invention”. Considering that a few decades have gone by, they now go under the name of “Grandmothers (Re-Invented”)! While Zappa’s music was never really mainstream radio (your correspondent rarely listened to him), nevertheless he’s been considered one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. With a few added years to their bios, his old band still packed a great two-and-half-hour show with such memorable tunes as “Montana”, “Uncle Meat” and “Florentine Pogen”! Zappa and his Mothers-Grandmothers were wacky decades ago. The Camino concert certainly didn’t dispel one single iota of their amazing and wonderful wackiness!