Deep Purple: The making of Machine Head (documentary)

Front cover

Machine Head is the sixth studio album released by the English hard rock band Deep Purple. It was recorded through December 1971 in Montreux, Switzerland, and released in March 1972. Machine Head is often cited as a major influence in the early development of the heavy metal music genre. Commercially, it was Deep Purple's most successful album, topping the charts in several countries following its release. The album reached number 1 in the United Kingdom and stayed in the top 40 for 20 weeks. It reached number 7 in the United States, remaining on the Billboard 200 for 118 weeks.

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Deep Purple initially planned to record Machine Head in December 1971, at Montreux Casino in Switzerland. A mobile recording studio owned by the Rolling Stones had been booked and hotel reservations made, but lead singer Ian Gillan contracted hepatitis. Cancelling a forthcoming tour of America, the band placed all their plans on hold, and Gillan was advised by his doctor to spend the next few months recuperating. Nevertheless, enthused by the new project, the band travelled to Switzerland to begin recording. The Casino was a large arena built in a complex of casinos, restaurants and other entertainment facilities. The band had performed there in May 1971 and enjoyed both the location and its owner, Claude Nobs. Amongst others, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath had all performed there. The Casino closed for refurbishments each winter, and so the band arrived there on 3 December. One last concert date remained, following which they were to have the location to themselves. Frank Zappa's 4 December concert at the Casino was made infamous when a member of the audience fired a flare into the building's roof. Although there were no fatalities, the resultant fire ruined Deep Purple's plans. Nobs relocated the band to a nearby theatre called the Pavilion, where they recorded the basic tracks for a song provisionally titled "Title No.1." Bass player Roger Glover said he woke up saying the title "Smoke on the Water" out loud, one morning. Later Gillan based on the title, wrote the lyrics describing the band's experience in Montreux, recording the Machine Head album. A photograph of the burning Montreux would ultimately be included in the gatefold of Machine Head's album cover.

Inner gatefold

Smoke on the Water

As a new location the Pavilion proved to be impractical, as local residents flooded the local police station's switchboard to complain about the noise the band made. Although the police were prevented from entering the building by the band's roadies, who held the venue's doors shut, the band were quickly evicted. They searched for other locations in which to record and settled on the Grand Hotel, on the edge of Montreux. With the mobile recording unit parked at the main entrance, they set up at the end of one of the building's corridors, off the main lobby. An assortment of equipment and sound-insulating mattresses meant that to get to the recording van the band were forced to walk through bedrooms and across balconies. This proved so arduous that they stopped listening to playbacks of their recordings, instead performing until they were satisfied with what they had. The song entitled "When a Blind Man Cries" was recorded during these sessions, but not included on the album. Instead, it was used as the B-side on the "Never Before" single. The song appears as a bonus track on the album's 25th anniversary edition. The supporting tour for Machine Head included a trip to Japan that would later become the double-live Made in Japan album. Machine Head contains classical and blues influences. Blackmore confirmed that the chord progression for the solos in "Highway Star" was inspired by the work of 18th-century composer Johann Sebastian Bach. The song was actually composed by Blackmore and Gillan at the start of the Fireball gigs on a bus travelling to Portsmouth Guild Hall, in response to a question from a member of the press as to how the band created their material.

Highway Star

Machine Head hit the number one spot on the British charts within seven days of its release, remaining there for two weeks before returning in May for a further week. In the US, the album reached number seven, remaining in the charts for two years. Allmusic critic Eduardo Rivadavia called Machine Head "one of the essential hard rock albums of all time." Kerrang! magazine listed the album at No. 35 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time" in 1989. Machine Head is the subject of one of the Classic Albums series of documentaries about the making of famous albums

Track listing

1. Highway Star
2. Maybe I'm a Leo
3. Pictures of Home
4. Never Before
5. Smoke on the Water
6. Lazy
7. Space Truckin


Deep Purple:
Ian Gillan–vocals, harmonica
Jon Lord–keyboards
Ritchie Blackmore–guitar
Roger Glover–bass
Ian Paice–drums, percussion

Additional personnel:
Martin Birch–engineering, mixing
Jeremy Gee-assistant
Nick Watterton–technician
Ian Hansford, Rob Cooksey, Colin Hart–equipment
Shephard Sherbell–photography
Roger Glover, John Coletta–cover design
Peter Denenberg, Roger Glover–remixing (1997)
Peter Mew–remastering (1997)