A gracious offer of a free sleep over in banker’s heaven
"Since the Montreux Tourist Office's main objective was to fill up every hotel room available in the city through well planned various events, we offered a rooming alternative free of charge to music lovers. It was a place difficult to bypass, impregnated with an open mind of discovery and friendship that corresponded to the 70’s spirit."
As a member of the "hippie commune" that lived at 22 Route de Chillon from 1969 to 1974, which was attached to the Grand Hotel of Territet, steps away from where Claude Nobs lived, Gilles Chateau brings up the point about the importance of this "no charge" drop in center for the festival bound travelers. "The opportunity to live there, attended rare musical events without police brutality certainly contributed in attracting a good portion of the underground scene in the 70’s" ponders the French man. The maximum capacity was 30 bodies which was obviously not enough to accommodate everybody showing up at the door on any given night. But the ones who could not get in camped out on the shores of the Casino in full view of the locals who did not appreciate the display". Much to the dislike of the conformist Montreusiens right wing which opposed every progressive move, solidly united against the Pop concerts and the hippy generation. The ball was rolling: Montreux was becoming a mini Woodstock.
"Cops were recommanding us".
Hardcore members of the old Commune, who are all reaching 50 and live in Switzerland except for Gilles, gathered again at “Sonloup”for a time travel. It happened spontaneously. "It was an incredible adventure" recalls Bernard Kohli , alias "Little Joe". "We just wanted to change the world". There were no keys to our doors. The town was totaly booked during the festival, hotels were packed so the police actually sent us people. We had a budget to feed people but beyond that we had to improvise. Travelers brought in new ingredients and cooked for all of us. We experimented in different spices and dishes prepared for us by unexpected travelers from all over the world. Most of us worked at the festival and its many off shoots during the year in Montreux but those were only sidelines to the ones who worked full time at various jobs to pay the rent.
From Squating to ruling
Zesty detail: the rental agreement was signed by the only"major" member of the group who is now a well respected politician in the vicinity. "One morning, after a wild party the night before, we were lounging around in the living room, lifeless" recalls the notable with a smile "when we noticed a policeman quietly doing his round and leaving discreetly without a word. He probably thought we were listening to the Sunday mass broadcast on the radio…".
"Rock music brought us together" :
"The Jazz Festival’s fame owes a lot to rock and that’s the reason why we came to Montreux" underlines Gilles Chateau. The music we listened to in 1969 was the glue that kept us all together. We wanted to be like and look like Led Zeppelin. The rock scene of the seventies really made Montreux into what it is today. Together again, Jean Denis, Gérald, Victor, Françoise, Dominique, Pierre, Alex, Bernard et Gilles, the main core of the ex hippie commune, followed varied careers over the years. One is a university professor, another a medical expert, a biotechnology engineer, a graphic artist, a lab technician, even a press photographer…
A film should come out from their recent gathering, emphasizing this wild period in time that turned Montreux into one of the world capitals of music.
Who is Gilles Chateau ?
Born in 1951 in Mantes la Jolie, France, Gilles studied in Versailles and then Paris, where he graduated at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués in 1971.
Due to violent confrontations that take place on a regular basis at Rock concerts in France at the time, he decides to move to Montreux after witnessing the first extraordinary concert by Led Zeppelin on Terra Helvetica in March of 1970. The cool and easy vibes experienced at the show are nothing like what he is used to in his country of birth. So he joins the hippie commune of Territet in 1971 and becomes a full time member in 1973 before hitting the road in 1974.
Back in Switzerland in 1975 after spending a year on North and South American highways, he decides to immigrate to Canada permanently where he lives now. Gilles is the author of the book "Led Zeppelin-The Montreux Concerts". He comes back regularly to Montreux to share a glass or two with his old friends from the commune and enjoy some music at the Jazz Festival.
Gilles is curently Creative Director for Howe Brand Communications, an advertising agency in Toronto, Canada.
The hippie commune, text from Gilles Chateau
Montreux was all about growing up, making friends, falling in love, playing and listening to music - the best live music one could hear at that time anywhere in the world.
It was this incredible energy coming out of such a small town that blew people away and the generous amount of hospitality found everywhere.
We set up residence at 22 Route de Chillon which became famous for being the funkiest "commune" on the Swiss Riviera.
As a matter of fact, life was very good in Switzerland in the 70’ s. Work was easy to find and often well paid, there was no unemployment, the cops weren't harassing too much except for a few memorable occasions but we also had a policy that no drugs were to be kept or taken on the premises at any time.
Amazingly enough, everybody observed the rule and the local Police were unsuccessful in their raids.
This is was a good excuse to go for a walk, by the lake, light one up and come home a few hours later to indulge on the local "Spécialitée"... chocolate.
To this day, fifty years later, music can still be heard every summer on the shores of Lac of Geneva. Music goes on, trends fade away. Montreux remains one of the most sought after Jazz, Blues, Rock Music Festivals in the world.
Hippie crowds are gone, a beer is over $ 5.00, the commune folded in 1974. Some became sheppards, others moved on to different horizons and died of overdose in the 80’s. Montreux still welcomes music lovers but the mood has changed.
Where are you now ?
Montreux still welcomes music lovers from all over the world, while the mood has changed hearts and souls of early Zeppelin fans. Atmosphere that one can still feel in the fresh air of the mountains and in the echo of the sounds of the lake.
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