Pink Floyd - A Fleeting GlimpsePosted on by Liam C
Recently posted online by the website loudersound is a new interview with long-serving Pink Floyd/Roger Waters collaborator Snowy White.
Terence ‘Snowy’ White has always seemed like an accidental guitar hero. Raised on the Isle of Wight in the 1950s, the modest now 74-year-old was a British blues-boom disciple who tells us today that “the limit of my ambition was to play simple blues phrases over simple chord progressions – and it still is”.
White has done plenty of that across his four-decade solo career, which includes the ’83 hit single Bird Of Paradise, and continues with this year’s Driving On The 44 album. But fame also came calling whether he liked it or not, thanks to playing with peak-period Pink Floyd and an unravelling Thin Lizzy.
The new album’s lyrics often sound like you’re pining for the road. How hard was it to step back from live work in 2019 due to your health issues?
In some respects it was difficult, but I’ve had to admit to myself that nothing lasts for ever. My fingers don’t really do what my brain tells them to these days, and it became more stressful than fun. It was just time.
Studio-wise, though, it’s obvious that you can still cut it. Yeah, but I can do a guitar part then have a break, as opposed to doing an hour and a half solid.
You were close to Peter Green. What’s your favourite memory of him?
When he stayed at my parents’ house on the Isle of Wight. It only occurred to me recently how surreal it was, because he slept in my old bedroom, where I used to sit for weeks learning his guitar phrases – you know, there was Pete, snoring away. He’d help with the washing up, too. I washed and he dried. My mum thought he was a nice boy.
How do you feel when you see Peter portrayed as this tragic figure? Well, he turned into a slightly tragic figure. He went very strange in the end. I’d go and see him and he was in a really strange way, his fingernails so long they curled up. He’d just let himself go. That was sad. But I accepted it as Pete’s path.
Roger Waters has a reputation among music journalists as being pretty ferocious. Have we got him all wrong? Roger can be ferocious. He gets into places in his mind where he just doesn’t want to put up with any crap. Which is fair enough. He doesn’t put up with fools or people who aren’t pulling their weight, and he gets a bit cross with them. But if you’re working with him and you’re doing your best, then you get treated extremely well. He’s fun.
What makes you so good at working with superstars? It’s because I really don’t care. With Pink Floyd [he first toured with them in 1977] I didn’t even realise they were a particularly big band. I was quite narrow-minded. If it didn’t have a blues guitar solo in it, I didn’t listen. I was probably the only person in the UK who’d never heard Dark Side Of The Moon. Somebody said their manager had been trying to get in touch and maybe I should call him. I didn’t bother. I just sort of drifted into the gig.
You don’t get impressed by fame? No. And I can’t understand people who do. I mean, after a long tour playing stadiums and flying around in jets, I get back home and within ten minutes I’m up there unplugging the shower.
Pink Floyd - A Fleeting GlimpsePosted on by Liam C
Animals – 2018 remix (Pink Floyd Records/Sony Music) Remix by James Guthrie Engineering and Mastering: James Guthrie & Joel Plante
AFG exclusive review by Julie Skaggs
Beginning in 1992 with the Shine On boxset, the Pink Floyd archival reissues have encompassed a number of formats and offerings in regards to the whole of their recorded works, as well as special spotlights on particular releases. And now a long-awaited project is finally released – fans are receiving a band-mandated remix of an album which proved polarizing upon release as well as within the greater fanbase over the intervening decades, and yet as displayed by its themes and concerns, a work which remains timely and relatable. We have a chance to reassess it within the canon as well as on its own merits if we so choose, as James Guthrie’s new mixes -stereo and 5.1 – are a revelation for an album which displays the further evolution and realization of the Floyd’s artistic striving in the 1970s.
Originally released in 1977, Animals began its conceptual life during the band’s 1974 British Winter Tour with the introduction of two new songs in the setlist: “Gotta Be Crazy” and “Raving and Drooling,” compositions which even in their nascent form revealed a sharper-edged cynical aspect of their sound. And indeed – what followed their “blue” period with the recording and release of Wish You Were Here – was an album more satirical and containing more obvious social commentary which was immediately proclaimed as “Punk Floyd” by NME upon its release.
And in keeping with the band’s signature visual iconography, Animals features an album cover which stands as one of the most memorable and instantly recognizable images of its era or any other, reproduced in a number of other mediums, including the 2006 film Children of Men. A clever aphorism given physical actuality which was equal parts whimsy, metaphor, and reality.
Additionally over the years some in the band have come to consider Animals in terms of a punk aesthetic, although in Nick Mason’s estimation the album simply contains a more straightforward kind of sound, yet its overarching concept is in keeping with the way in which those albums of the Golden Era hung together within a particular idea and mood. It is a sonic departure in some ways from The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here while also maintaining the imaginative lyrical creativity and instrumental exploration which are hallmarks of ‘70s Floyd.
The new mix illustrates the timelessness of all Pink Floyd music but the album itself is very much a product of a particular time and place: England in the mid-1970s, in the midst of social and political upheaval as well as the band’s ever-developing autonomy: creating under the auspices of their own business, Britannia Row, which served as both recording studio and equipment rental concern. The setting, both macro and micro, had a decided effect upon the artistic direction as well as the audio outcome.
The album is loosely based on George Orwell’s 1945 novel Animal Farm, with every song referencing one of three animals: dogs, sheep and pigs. All have a position in the wider hierarchy which is obliquely referenced but it is more the character ascribed to each breed which is the target of Roger Waters’ acerbic wit and mordant narrative. In a seeming inverse of Wish You Were Here, the album is bookended by a short acoustic ballad which is meant to lighten the darker points of the overall concept with a brief redemptive respite, much like a glimpse of the sun after a tumultuous storm. The album is informed by concerns of social class struggle and psychological malaise as well as political posturing, giving voice to the timbre of the nation at the time (which was also suffering in the grasp of an unprecedented drought and heatwave during recording). The nation was beset with record unemployment and inflation as well as continued troubles in Northern Ireland.
Expectations – both external and internal – were beginning to weigh upon the band. Despite the overall darker tone of the lyrics, the music contains many beautifully transcendent passages among its variety of moods. As it primarily comprises three longer pieces the exploration of different moods is one of the album’s creative strengths. The nihilism which appears to influence the album is a prescient taste of things to come, but also meant to contain as much satirical bite as gloom-and-doom observation.
Animals is not one of the band’s Big Three releases, however it contains the same scope of creative and musical ambition as the others of that era, even with a despondent resonance. But in its original mix there is what has been typified in the fandom as an overall “murk” and “claustrophobia” to the sound which no doubt contributes to its overall reputation but also seems – at least in hindsight – sonically appropriate to the context of its concept. And this is in large part due to being recorded in the band’s new studio Britannia Row, which was built not by audio recording professionals but rather by Roger and Nick’s former classmate, architect Jon Corpe. The result was useful in some ways (designed for ease of use for whomever might be using the studio at the time, not necessarily requiring the presence of an engineer) and awkward in others (the control room was barely large enough to accomodate the entire band and their engineer at the same time). But the use of particular materials and methodology as well as the band’s own mishaps in the process (as documented by various recollections) was leading to a sound which seemed in some ways to defeat the sonic portraiture Pink Floyd had previously established as their standard. As example, the choice to equip the studio with components from MCI (Nick points out in his memoir Inside Out that the components were professional-quality for the time) was not necessarily the best choice even if the more affordable one, as evidenced by both James Guthrie and Bob Ezrin lobbying for replacements during the initial sessions for The Wall at the facility. As well, the decision to utilize the dbx noise reduction system for the album would prove another challenge during pre-production for the remix project. The end result might be said to have a certain naivete in terms of its palette which could be wholly due to the technical limitations of the experience entire. And that is what I would typify as the truly “punk” element of the album if it can be said to exist, a seeming departure not originally intended.
Those who remain loyal fans of the original mix will be heartened to have access to a high resolution physical version via the Blu-ray and it brings up a uniquely positive point to this particular release campaign: you can, if you desire, acquire the Big Box of all the formats or you can buy whichever format you want on its own. This is an acknowledgement of the needs and desires of all consumers which I believe has been long overdue in terms of the fandom. The demographic for this release is more than just audiophiles or obsessive collectors, and everyone deserves the chance to purchase the release in their desired format.
As I was provided the CD and the Blu-ray to preview for the purposes of this review those are the formats I will be discussing. My initial observations are thus: the Blu-ray is the best purchase in terms of overall choice, containing the stereo and 5.1 versions of the remix as well as the original mix, all in glorious high-resolution. The CD contains the stereo remix and is an especially great listening experience in the car with all bases covered in terms of the overall sonic image and subsequent enjoyment thereof.
The main focus of this project is a band-mandated new mix of the album, and so experiencing it in both stereo and 5.1 is exciting, each version having a particular appeal. The stereo mix is a chance to finally experience the album at its true potential, imbued with energy and nuance. The 5.1 is akin to pentimento, the high-resolution format and expansive elements revealing the entire widescreen vista of the world which the album creates, the depths of emotional and musical impact. As is characteristic of a Guthrie mix, the 5.1 is not gimmicky but dynamic and immersive, revealing a wealth of detail which existed within the recording even if we were unable to fully discern it until now. The pleasure of it is in finally hearing Animals elevated to those heights which the Golden Era recordings had previously established. The album is no longer an outlier but yet another piece of that classic mosaic, the works which established Pink Floyd as not only one of the most successful bands of the era, but also one of the most creative and impactful.
It is important to acknowledge one of the hallmarks of quality in Pink Floyd archival releases – Guthrie is working in the analog realm with a signal chain encompassing vintage equipment in order to place the work in as authentic an environment as can be in order to revisit and reconsider it as a whole. Working directly with the multitracks is a must for any remix, but especially one for the Surround experience. It is a labor-intensive choice which takes much time both in pre-production and the mixing itself, but having experienced the end result as with previous hi-res releases (The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Amused To Death) the result is entirely justified and as always an exquisitely-crafted effort accomplished with the absolute care and respect which this music deserves.
I believe Animals is a very unique occurrence in the archival realm because the stereo and 5.1 mixes are discrete experiences – they were created concurrently but separate from each other and thus offer two complimentary viewpoints on a work which deserves a reassessment not only sonically, but for how the narrative can resonate within us regarding human experiences.
In both the stereo and 5.1 mixes, both parts of “Pigs On The Wing” are mixed in 2-channel, to provide an intimate setting for Roger’s meditation on the importance of interpersonal relationships as a bulwark against the outside world, knowing there will be pain and injustice, but emotional connection provides a respite from the trauma which an uncaring world seeks to inflict. The vocal is a touch drier, and mixed to take up residence inside the listener. A moment of seeming calm as it gently concludes, seamlessly crossfading into “Dogs.” In the 5.1 mix it is akin to the curtain opening upon an IMAX screen as the breadth and depth of this music is slowly uncovered by layers, filling the room and revealing the landscape.
The airy shimmery guitar punctuated by brief touches of synth which moves ever closer to the listener is gorgeous and yet expectant, a certain tension inherent. “Dogs” is perhaps the most underrated of the Floydian epics, and the new mix serves to uncover all its moments of menace and heartbreak as well as the lyricism expressed in the longer instrumental passages. We finally truly apprehend the drums, such as the rhythmic toms bounding like a pack of canines on the loose coupled with Roger’s maniacal shouts, and also the echo spins on David’s breezy patrician vocal as he first blithely outlines the strategy for running with the Big Dogs and then the darkness creeps in when the price of such amoral striving is revealed.
The intricacy of the instrumental passages is especially satisfying in 5.1 as everything is in perfect balance with an expansive feel as sounds smoothly pop up in the rears, with a few new (to us) elements which some fans may have already discovered since the release of the stereo version to streaming platforms on July 22nd. This track contains what has been acknowledged as some of David Gilmour’s most beautifully inspired playing, and the way the remix appears to emphasize more of a dialog between guitar and keyboards adds yet another dimension to appreciate. Those atmospheric elements which are recognizable parts of the Floydian aesthetic are also given the space of full realization, such as the stone stone stone echo spin which moves through space and becomes a sort of klaxon, almost on the edge of recognition, as well the barking and howling of the dogs (and that whistling you hear is engineer Brian Humphries). When Roger takes up the final part of the song as the Dog who has woken up to his situation, the sorrow of the realization is intensely immediate in his litany of generational and societal abuse which shapes those hungry souls willing to do their master’s bidding. One particular detail I appreciated in the latter part of the song is the organ flourishes at the end of a few movements, which illustrate Rick Wright’s deft touch on the Hammond. We hear the natural decay of the ending clearly now, and I feel from an emotional perspective it is fitting as the metaphorical rug is pulled out from under both the narrator and the listener.
“Pigs (Three Different Ones)” is an interesting song I view as similarly satirical in spirit as “Have A Cigar” but with a more sinister cast as Roger takes aim at various porcines who seek to control and profit from those they observe below. The music invokes a greasy, somewhat sleazy, funk (complete with plonking cowbell) to accompany each villain portrayed, and Rick’s piano parts fit the mood perfectly, with an almost Barrelhouse blues feel. The vocal is particularly nuanced as Roger uses enunciation, sibilance, and texturing to deliver both black-hearted humor and sharp jabs. The low end of this song with its expressive bass and weighty drums is a revelation in terms of the details we can now fully hear during the middle passage featuring David’s evil-sounding Talk Box sequence as well as the end rideout, which then crossfades directly into “Sheep.”
In my estimation “Sheep” represents the composition which is best meant for the high-resolution experience considering its use of so many textures in both emotional and sonic import. As the crystalline burble of the Rhodes appears within the pastoral scene we are presented via the accompanying ambience – the innocent sheep wandering their bucolic pasture – it is a seeming moment of peace and yet the insistent pulse of the bass growing in volume says otherwise. The juxtaposition between washes of chilly synth and guitar textures sharp as a garrote further emphasize the sense of paranoia which the song induces. There are many elements of the future Floydian aesthetic on display: the way Roger’s voice fades in and out of the VCS texturing, waves of robust organ, ambient passages underscored by a spare rhythmic bassline, and of course Nick’s famous recitation of a depraved version of Psalm 23 with the aid of a vocoder. In the original mix, the robotic aura of the vocal is chilling enough, but now it is wholly intelligible (once again in balance with everything else) making the parody especially wicked. The apparent triumph of the Sheep is acknowledged with the celebratory end passage – a victory march of sorts even if, given the last line, we understand that the new boss is perhaps not too different from the old boss. Fade out to normalcy (?) returning to the flock and fade into Roger’s closing sentiment, which offers hope to whomever might need it. The circuit is completed and we are left with much to ponder.
The packaging also reflects a reexamination of Roger’s cover inspiration as realized by Storm Thorgerson – if not the almost painterly aura of the original cover, I can appreciate the new images provided for the covers of each of the formats I received, a sharpened contemporary view of the monolithic Battersea Power Station, even as they are not quite rendered in the Hipgnosis tradition of doing it for real. But I will say it’s weird to consider that the packaging of the CD is far better quality than that of the Blu-ray. I appreciate that digipacks are a more eco-friendly format but the Blu-ray disc is too delicate to be housed between pieces of thin cardboard (even for those who are likely to rip the audio and then set it on a shelf or in a pile somewhere).
When I compare this with the other hi-res Floyd releases I own it is nearly the flimsiest of the lot (except that dubious honor still goes to the standalone release of The Division Bell 5.1 on DVD)! The CD is within a somewhat sturdier cardboard gatefold, with a 28-page booklet included (the booklet with the Blu-ray is 16 pages), comprising what I assume are the majority of the photos also included in the 32-page booklet which accompanies the deluxe box set, along with lyrics and credits. The CD booklet is full of interesting archival photos from the period, encompassing not only the infamous album cover shoot, but images from band rehearsals, tour production, and promotion for the album. Even as the packaging for the Blu-ray is unfortunate, the contents are not – with three listening choices included as well as an amazing menu sound loop created by Guthrie which is a Surround experience all on its own (and if you remember the one for the Amused To Death Blu-ray, equally lengthy) as well as menu buttons which are modeled after the inflatables used on the In The Flesh tour, and a helpful section which enables you to calibrate your system as well as information regarding the differences between the hi-res formats included. And if you leave the screen activated on your television/monitor the image of the new cover changes subtly as the songs progress. Some might find it interesting to watch with the aid of certain *ahem* substances.
In all, this is a revisiting which has been long overdue, and one which has been crafted in the hallowed tradition of high-quality Floydian releases. It seemed we might have to actually wait for pigs to literally fly before we were allowed to experience it, but thankfully for fans the bad dream of the wait is finally over.
Animals is an essential part of the Floydian canon, an album which provides a unique musical fulfillment and can teach us something about human behavior: then, now, and forever
Our sincere thanks go to our long serving correspondent Julie Skaggs for this wonderful contribution
Pink Floyd - A Fleeting GlimpsePosted on by Liam C
Director Anton Corbijn, a famous figure in the album-art in his own right, celebrates his forebears in a doc full of great stories about how music’s greatest design form arrived at all that unforgettably strange imagery.
When it comes to coffee-table books that survey the great album covers of the classic rock era, there are generally two kinds: those that include a lot of the work of the 1970s design team called Hipgnosis, and those that consist entirely of Hipgnosis’ work. Virtually any rock superstar who had the cachet to ask his record company to blow hundreds of thousands of dollars on a Hipgnosis cover went for the splurge of commissioning an original piece of art that might join classic LP jackets from Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin in a renaissance of 12’x12′ photographic surrealism. Only Hipgnosis could shoot a photo of a cow against a blue sky, put it on a Floyd cover (“Atom Heart Mother”), and make it look like an act of mysterious profundity on a level with the greatest works of Magritte.
Although Hipgnosis in its prime did some non-photographically based covers too (see “Dark Side of the Moon”), the ones that required elaborate photo shoots often have some pretty good stories behind them. Raise your hand if you’ve already heard the one about the giant inflatable pig that flew off into the flight zone for Heathrow during the shoot for Pink Floyd’s “Animals”; now raise both hands if you want to hear it again. You get that, and some less-told tales, in “Squaring the Circle: The Story of Hipgnosis,” a Telluride-premiering documentary directed by Anton Corbijn, a photographer and creative director who’s just about the only guy in the world as famous for his band design work in his day as the principals of Hipgnosis were back in theirs. As renowned as Corbijn is, you get the feeling making this movie for him might have presented not just an homage but an attempt to reconcile with his jealousy of his forebears — because by and large, nobody did it better.
The two main creatives of Hipgnosis were the late Storm Thorgerson, the eternally prickly visionary of the two, and — still around, and the key interview of the film — Aubrey “Po” Powell, the long-suffering partner who accomplished or oversaw the actual execution of Thorgerson’s insane ideas, often on location. They came up in the Cambridge art scene alongside the young members of Pink Floyd and did their first design for the band’s second album, “Saucerful of Secrets,” an uncharacteristically psychedelic cover that soon gave way to much more interesting pieces. If you’re a Floyd fan, you may have spent much more time contemplating the aforementioned “Atom Heart” cover and its deep meaning than the band ever did, or Powell, who was literally out standing in his field after he spotted a cow by the side of the road that seemed to have an attitude. There may not have been much more to it than “Set the controls for the heart of Bessie,” but a template of marrying blue skies with natural objects or beings that took on nearly mystical value was born.
The three surviving members of Floyd all give fresh interviews, which is about as close as Roger Waters and David Gilmour will ever be to one another again. Throughout the film, there is more personal affection for Thorgerson’s brilliant imagination than for his apparent lifelong rudeness and brusqueness. So it’s funny and telling that the biggest defender of Thorgerson’s character and personality is Waters, a guy whose irascibility has rubbed a few people the wrong way over the years, too. But Thorgerson did the one thing Waters couldn’t forgive, which was take credit for the concept of the pig flying high over an industrial zone, something the Floyd singer-songwriter emphatically claims was his, and thus ended a beautifully cranky friendship.
The film is nothing if not a testament to absurdly high record company budgets in the ’70s, which couldn’t all be spent on analog tape and blow. “Squaring the Circle” is kind of most fun when it gets into the album jackets you may recognize but never spent more than three seconds thinking about before. Like the cover for “Wings Greatest”: Did you know Paul McCartney had them helicopter a statue he’d purchased to a literal mountaintop for the shoot? The result: something that would look to the modern eye like it was accomplished in PhotoShop in 10 minutes. Then there’s the shoot for a 10cc cover that involved finding a sheep and a psychiatrist’s couch and putting one atop the other … in the shallows of a lake. Powell remains aghast that he went to all that work and then the image was perversely reduced by Thorgerson nearly to postage stamp size on the finished mockup. Of course, the burning man effect on the cover of “Wish You Were Here” was accomplished by an actual burning man; even now, when hiring a stuntman would never happen, the idea of having all the effects captured in-camera lends an ongoing intrigue that no computer-generated cover ever will.
What’s a little bit ironic is how little debt Corbijn’s design work owes to Hipgnosis. Looking at the fresh interview footage in “Squaring the Circle,” you feel like you’re looking at a live-action version of one of his iconic band images, in beautifully austere black-and-white that’s practically the polar opposite of Hipgnosis’ colorful playfulness, which usually avoided band images at all (or, in the case of Peter Gabriel’s debut, found interesting ways to make them unrecognizable). More irony, still: When the era of Hipgnosis is portrayed as coming to an end, the primary murder suspect is MTV and its frothy synth-pop acts of the early ’80s — illustrated on screen by Depeche Mode, which many pop aficionados will recognize as the band Corbijn has been most associated with over the decades.
But his creation of this delightful doc as an acolyte, if hardly copycat, will be a boon for an audience that grew up pondering the mysteries of the twisted monolith on Zeppelin’s “Presence” cover; LP porn, if we can call it that, could come to no finer culmination. Corbijn doesn’t tarry or wonder aloud about what transpired after the point at when this film abruptly ends, amid financial ruin and changing tastes in 1982. There’s also no discussion of how music mogul Merck Mercuriadis, who appears in and exec-produced the film, ended up with Hipgnosis as the name of his massive song publishing rights company. But it’s clear he’s a believer, just like all of us who grew up in a golden age of album art and lament that it was the pictures that got smaller.
Pink Floyd - A Fleeting GlimpsePosted on by Liam C
Roger Waters has just announced that he is taking his critically acclaimed This Is Not a Drill tour on the road again in 2023. Dates have just been announced in Spain, Italy, Poland, and the Czech Republic. We expect more European dates to be announced in the upcoming weeks.