Gillan hails ‘perfect host’ Funky Claude
Bravery: Funky Claude Nobs
Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan has paid tribute to ‘Funky’ Claude Nobs, who died last week after a skiing accident.
The co-founder and organiser of the Montreux Jazz Festival was immortalised in Purple’s 1973 song Smoke On The Water – and Gillan also regarded him as a close friend.
The singer recalls a recent meeting with Nobs: “I had just checked in to The Palace Hotel in Montreux prior to our appearance at the festival. The elevator doors opened and out whooshed Claude on a scooter; had it been anyone else I would have been surprised. Flying by, he waved over his shoulder and called out ‘Hi, Ian, see you later!’ – then he was gone.
“No doubt on his way to move things along in the right direction, because the Montreux Jazz Festival was his baby. He mothered it from infancy to what it has grown into: internationally, the most highly respected and enjoyable annual event of its kind.”
The pair first met after the casino fire in 1971 that inspired Purple’s classic track. Gillan says: “Claude became a good friend. The lunches at his house were memorable – he was always the perfect host.
“He became known as ‘Funky’ Claude after his bravery when the blaze took hold. He went down into the basement to lead out the frightened kids trapped there. ‘Funky Claude was running in and out, pulling kids out the ground,’ as it says in the lyrics of Smoke On The Water.
“The words are a biographical outline of the making of our album Machine Head. The project could never have been completed had it not been for the brilliant efforts of the man who made things happen.
“We shall miss him terribly. Thank you, Claude, for all you’ve done.”
Meanwhile, Purple guitarist Steve Morse has offered more hints about the content of the band’s upcoming record, crediting producer Bob Ezrin and engineer Corky Cortelyou for their assistance.
Morse says: “This album stretches out in some new areas for us, instrumentally. Bob and Corky really got fantastic sounds on everything from the very first day. Musically, there’s a little bit of each of our lives in this album. Bob did the most amazing job with our pre-production; he really got ideas out of us that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”
The album’s title is yet to be announced, but it’s due on April 26, and will include a tribute to keyboardist Jon Lord, who passed away last year. Classic Rock is backing a campaign to have his childhood home in Leicester marked with a blue plaque.