100.000 Watts Of Nostalgia
by J. Siemens
The woman is called Jane and has nervously dancing brown eyes. “No, no photos in the dressing room, no, no photos during the dinner and no, never photos of all of them together!” It is warm in the stadium of Madison a small town in Wisconsin, and Jane is sweating and shouting and on her belt black walkie-talkies are fixed like guns. “Stop, Pink Floyd is not a band like any other band!”. A lunatic?. No, Jane Sen cares for reporters who want to talk to Pink Floyd. Great start.
After the sunset, the stage yawns like a big throat in the stadium, we can escape from Mrs. Sen. Somewhere in the basements of the stadium one can find the three old gentlemen who answer questions so unwillingly.
Keyboarder Rick Wright combs his grey hair, drinks red wine and asks: “Do I come on the grill now?”.
Floyd-boss and guitarist Gilmour twinkles with his blue-grey eyes, “Are you the hangman?”.
And Drummer Nick Mason a pausbäckiger Gemüts-Brite” [couldn’t find a proper translation for that]raises his hands: “I’m only a employee of the company Pink Floyd”.
Lots of laughter, small words.
Although what they will perform in a minute out there in Madison is everything but sheepish. Quite the contrary, notorious gigantic the “phon-battle” Pink Floyd has gone again on a world tour and will be playing in Germany next week. Pink Floyd has notoriously big ‘High Tech stuff’ in their luggage.
700 tons of steel for the stage, 100.000 watt quadraphonic soundsystem, 300 speakers, 330 vari-lights and two Oxford lasers which, a technician, are maybe not allowed in Germany [of course they were allowed], fog-machines, blimps and pyrotechnic equipment. We remember summer ’89 when the Floyds nearly played the old and venerable town Venice into ruins. No, it wouldn’t be that heavy this time.
“Pink Floyd has become kind of Disneyland” says Nick Mason, “we’re entertaining whole families.” And 200 people of Floyd employees who build up the gianto-stuff provided by a big kitchen that bakes bread, uses 1000 eggs a day and 1200 bags of tea.
But the charm of that concert community deludes. You need not much to feel the sadness that is behind this project Pink Floyd. “The Division Bell” is the name of the new CD, a wobbling and grumbling piece of music from the feather of David Gilmour. And a big piece of mid-life-crisis that Gilmour is singing there. ‘Where were you, when I was burned and broken’ and ‘I knew the moment had arrived for killing the past and coming back to life’:
Prose of a student, combined with well known Floyd guitars. Nevertheless TDB was in America and Europe on the first place in the charts for five weeks. 5 million CDs were sold (600.000 in Germany). And, wonder number two: most of stadiums of the world tour were sold out shortly after the tour was announced.
“I really don’t know why it still works” says Nick Mason, “For the older ones, who know us from the past, we are a remembrance, they are 50 and want to see the pictures from their past again. Everybody has his personal story connected with Pink Floyd”. But the young ones? 17 year old teenagers in front of the stage, holding hands during WYWH? “Maybe”, says Mason, “they’re simply more tolerant than their parents were. They listen to Nirvana, the Beatles, Lemonheads and Pink Floyd”. For Mason, Pink Floyd is only an employer. “I’m just drumming, you have to ask Dave about the lyrics.”
David Gilmour is the head of Pink Floyd today. Actually the band wanted to split and bury themselves several times, especially after the separation from major-Floyd Roger Waters. It was Waters with his rock-show The Wall at the beginning of the eighties who led the band to the top of their fame.
After his parting, Waters sued the remaining three unsuccessfully not to call themselves Pink Floyd anymore. “There is no reason not to go on anymore” says Gilmour and stamps quietly with his feed. Yes, he feels right to be Pink Floyd forever, that has been fixed in his mind.
To be honest, how difficult is it to grow old with the glory of the past and the fame of 14 albums? To go on stage again and again and sing ‘We don’t need no education’ and do psychedelic waehhauu” [imitating a guitar] time-traveling with several minutes long guitar-solos? Isn’t it dreadful becoming old, when the music gets worse and the girls get boring?
Gilmour scolds back: “Yes, of course, I’m 48, 48 man, everybody has problems with 48, haven’t they?” And that’s why people write lyrics like: ‘I never thought that you’d lose the light in your eyes’? Gilmours eyes get frosty: “The people like it, because its good music. Pink Floyd are still damned good!”
This new album he says, is a bitter-sweet remembrance of the past. “When we were friends.” And then, very quietly: “Life is a problem, for me, too.”
The problem Pink Floyd wanders on stage at 9 p.m. During the last half an hour there were lots of sound kitsch [my electronic dictionary says that this funny German word exists in English, too. Can’t believe it.] like waterfalls, sounds of birds and so on in the stadium. And then it starts –
Two hours [buy a new watch!] of thundersound, artificial fog green lasers, sometimes flashing through the night, sometime oscillating into a green roof – a light-opera produced like Leni Riefenstahl [did big glorifying movies for Germany during the Third Reich” for Hitler] and Steven Spielberg would have done it.
The audience staggers from Ahhhs” and Ohhhhs” – no chance to look away.
“Some criticized that the show overwhelms the music”, says Mason, never mind. In that case the people have something they can watch that night. They can listen to the CD at home.” That rock-music creates pictures in the mind, that music is part of our daydreams, that is not known to Pink Floyd.
Their daydreams are too tiered for those things. They don’t think anymore that rock-music is riot, beer, sex, riding bikes, long nights and all the other exiting things of freedom.
“I don’t want to get the children away from their parents with my music. I have children on my own.” says David Gilmour. And so they don’t recognize, that TDB is kind of James-Last-sound, [This statement was really nasty. James Last produces boring music for very old ladies.] for hippies. The applause at Madison is vehement, but short. The audience is hoping to hear the old stuff soon.
There they are: cold, precisely, as if the CD was invented tonight. OOTD, ABITWP2. At one point, when the laser guns and fog-machines are pausing for a while, WYWH, Pink Floyds most honest piece, sneaks into the phon- orgy; quiet and vulnerable. Suddenly one can figure out thoughts in the air.
“Yes, we have some very good songs”, says Rick Wright, gray-haired keyboarder, laughing bitter: “we would dare to go to MTV-unplugged with. We wouldn’t need any electricity there.”
Actually Rick had already retired, “But than Dave was on the phone, and when he calls one has to come.” Maybe it’s only the temptation to show the young people outside what it is like to play music that comes from the heart, that forces Rick to go back on stage. “My son is drummer in such a trash-metal-band, all this loud stuff. These boys play unbelievable perfect, the can change times like crazy and their guitar playing is technically brilliant, like nobody was at our time.”
Then Rick’s voice gets scratchy: “But it’s all cold what they are playing. Cold and without soul.” Yes, and he says that to his son. “We don’t play that perfect, Dave is slow on the guitar, but we play with soul.”
It’s raining at Madison. The show is near the end, big inflatable pigs [that’s the end of the first half my friend] with spotlights in their eyes shaking over the stage, an artificial moon rises from the back. The crowd is yelling, wants to hear again ‘Money’ and ‘ABITWP2’ and something to join in. Full of despair they reach for everything Pink Floyd offers to participate. It’s not much.
Pink Floyd – that is no more the experimental group from Londoner clubs in the sixties, who wanted to re-invent the world [did they ever?]. No, Pink Floyd has become the symbol of contentedness, for those who equip their world with Prosecco [sort of sparkling wine, not directly cheap] waste-separation [glass, paper, tin…] and a VW-Golf [boring German Car].
And so it fits very well, that Pink Floyd is sponsored in Europe by Volkswagen [VW] and the Wolfsburger [means: people from the town called Wolfsburg, where VW has its factories] offer a Pink Floyd-Golf.
Nick Mason, the car-expert, has personally worked on the golf outfit. Mason laughs: “That was an interesting experience. Ferdinad Piech and Ignazio Lopez [two big VW bosses] were waiting for you, and asked you how the car should look like. And you say, okay, it’s for young people with family – two airbags and everything else that makes it safe. And, we are Pink Floyd, of course the best radio they had. They [Piech and Lopez] snipped with their fingers and said: no problem, we’ll do it. I still don’t know whether one of them has ever heard one of our albums.”
“Stop, David Gilmour wants to add something to the VW thing. That is all…”, than he switches the reporters tape off. And than there is crazy Jane again.