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FRENCH SWITZERLAND


Story by Jordan Staggs Photos by Alison Smith and Megan Smith I


n the late 1960s and early ‘70s, Montreux, Switzerland, was known worldwide for


its music concerts and famous Mountain Studios. T ese days, the lakeside city experiences a blatant lack of live


music, especially rock ‘n’ roll, making what was once a mecca for famous bands and fans into a virtual musical wasteland. Nearly the only homage to the city’s rich symphonic history is a statue of Freddie Mercury gazing out at the crystal waters of Lake Geneva. So how does a city that became so iconic in music history


experience such a downward spiral with the industry? It’s a tragic tale worthy of a good rock ballad, for sure. T e Golden Rose, or Rose D’or, entertainment festival brought


many of Europe’s leading television and music industries together with the goal of promoting creativity, quality and originality in onscreen entertainment. “I think the city hosting the Golden Rose event each year had a lot to do with putting the city on the entertainment map,” said Simon Robinson, founder of the United Kingdom’s Deep Purple Appreciation Society and Darker than Blue entertainment magazine. “It also had a long history as a destination resort going back to the Victorian era, when it was seen as a good mid-point on the long journey between Northern Europe and Italy.” T e festival held concerts and galas on the shores of Montreux for 43 years before moving to Lucerne in 2003. “Following the student riots in France in the late ‘60s,


unrest spread to Germany in the early ‘70s with a lot of radical movements,


some of whom targeted the rock business,”


Robinson said. “T is gave rise to the bootleg industry, which was originally designed to sell albums cheaper than ‘capitalist’ big record labels, but also made some promoters look over the border to Switzerland to put shows on.” T e Montreux Jazz Festival, the brainchild of Claude Nobs


and Atlantic Records chief Nesuhi Ertegun, started in 1967 and played host to some of the biggest names in music, including


114| ALPINE LIVING 2011


Above: Muisc legends B.B. King and Ray Charles (left to right) are paid homage at the front lawn of the Fairmont. | Photos by Megan Smith Opening page: The old stage door at the Montreaux Casino where fans come to pay tribute to Freddie Mercury. | Photo by Alison Smith


Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin and B.B. King among hundreds of others. T e festival has grown into one of the world’s most famous music events to this day and is held every year in the Conference Center along the Riviera. T ose two weeks caused a complete 180-degree spin in the


city’s music scene, but some of the locals don’t exactly embrace the event. “It’s two weeks of madness,” said Jack Lauber, a die-hard music


fanatic living in Montreux. Lauber, who once published the monthly entertainment magazine Fusion now runs the music website fusions.ch. “Some people fl y away, and some are happy.” Back in the day, Mountain Studios kept the music scene alive


through its recording business, and many bands came back year aſt er year for concerts and festivals, including rock legends such as Queen, T e Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd. “I think maybe it’s because they had a special relationship


with Claude Nobs,” Lauber said. Lauber’s friend and fellow music guru Norbert Muller runs


montreuxmusic.com, a site dedicated to the entertainment history in the city. “You used to see many, many musicians,” Muller said. “I mean


festivals, rock


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