Doesn’t look very awe inspiring does it? Yet this was to be the scene of some of Pink Floyd’s greatest triumphs. Seen in the background is the rear of the legendary Earls Court as it was in 1980. The Floyd performed The Wall there with 6 dates in 1980 (Aug 4-9 inc) and a further 5 dates in 1981 (June 13-17 inc). Today we can recapture some of the spirit of the concerts, with a collection of photographs from two of the 1980 shows. (Aug 7th & 8th). These photographs are brought to you by long time fan Paul Wightman whom we sincerely thank. So, sit back & relax and let’s go back to 1980.
The following account is based on a good memory and is fairly accurate of the emotions I felt on the times I witnessed Floyd’s Opus Magmas live. I happened to be fortunate enough to attend 2 of the six 1980 shows the band performed at Earl’s Court, England on 7 & 8 August. I also managed to catch them again the following year at the same venue.
‘All in all’ the third time in 1981 was musically the best of the performances I witnessed, mainly because I knew what to expect. I was also able to absorb more of the special effects rather than being completely awe struck and inspired by what was actually happening on and off stage. I am now going to recollect with the aid of photo’s and notes I made of the concert at the time. Here’s how I remember the 7 August 1980.
The journey down to London was pretty uneventful and having arrived early afternoon we found a parking space at the rear of Earls Court and quickly ventured into a nearby pub. A few hours (and several cold ones) later we made our way to Earls Court and proceeded to queue with a few thousand others until the doors opened early evening.
Once inside it is difficult to appreciate the shear size of Earls Court. Hung from the ceiling, seemingly half a mile away and setting the scene were huge flags emblazoned with the crossed hammer motif. The stage stretched across the full width of the auditorium between the tied seats on either side. The part construction of a wall had already taken place on the stage. After finding our seats about 25 -30 metres from the stage I could make out the various pieces of kit and equipment at the front of the stage framed behind a large black back backdrop and a 10 metre circular film screen surrounded by stage lights.
At 8.00pm with the Auditorium seething with 18,000 people, a compare entered the stage and proceeded to welcome the audience as well as pointing out to us all that ‘No flash pictures were to be taken and anyone found doing so would have their equipment confiscated.’ – oh yeah!
We were also told. ‘Please no fireworks, believe me, there will be in enough explosions in your mind. Well I think the band is about ready to go now – pause – No not quite yet’. He spent 5 minutes whipping the crowd up with eager enthusiasm as well as delayed frustration until the gradual sound of a keyboard built in intensity before it was accompanied with a series of blinding flashes and the introduction of drums, bass and guitar.
IN THE FLESH – I took a quick photo. The surrogate band was in full view on the stage banging out a pretty good rendition of the opening track. Suddenly a large model skimmed above our heads and exploded stage right from the audience viewpoint. It turned out to be a model plane, which had flown the full 150-metre length of Earls Court. As the crowd applause died down, the sound of a gentle piano rippled from the banks of speakers overhead and from the other satellite speakers placed around the sides and to the back of the hall. This was quadraphonic sound at its best.
THE THIN ICE – by now the real band had taken to the stage and was dimly lit by a vast array of lights from either side of the stage. Dave Gilmour’s voice reaches out from the stage; the sound balance almost too perfect, followed by Roger Water’s vocal before we’re holding onto our seats with the shear volume of drum’s, bass and guitar booming out from all speakers. It takes a little time to adjust your ears to the volume but it sure adds to the atmosphere in the place. The keyboards roll out the end of thin ice and a synth merges us into:
ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL PART 1 – a beautiful choppy guitar laden with delay and reverb creeps out from the speaker system, slowly gaining in volume. It’s crisp somewhat slutchy sound echoing from all corners and sides of the vast auditorium. ‘Daddy’s flown across the ocean’ sings Roger rather menacingly adding to the sombre chords. The song ebbs and flows into Dave’s guitar solo complete with echo effects. As the track nears the end, soft mellow piano notes running up and down the keyboard drift over the audience, amongst the tapes of distant children playing in a playground. The track slowly, but distinctively fades away and the ever increasing sounds of a helicopter’s engine fills the air. Suddenly two lighting rigs ascend from out of the stage on either side of the band and a large spotlight catches a huge slumped up puppet of a teacher which is slowly raised aloft.
The start of The Happiest Days Of Our Lives
THE HAPPIEST DAYS OF OUR LIVES – the track is finely produced on stage with some nice backing vocals and drum rolls and drops wonderfully into:
Snapped as they were performing Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 as the kids do their verse.
ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL PART 2 – The crowd becomes more involved at this point as slides are projected onto the giant circular screen at the back of the band. The huge puppet is somehow manoeuvred about the stage, as roadies are commencing erecting the wall in front of the band. The verse with the kids singing is unfortunately on backing tapes. It’s a great pity at this point that they did not employ 20 or 30 kids on each side of the stage on raised platforms to sing along – I guess the cost of the production was already way over budget. Dave’s guitar solo faithfully emulates the studio album. The whole track is extended by a second guitar solo and a sharp organ solo towards the end of the track gives way to the rhythmic chant of ‘If don’t eat your meat etc.’ Roger picks up an acoustic guitar and strums the first chords of –
David playing his solo during Another Brick In The Wall Part 2
MOTHER – This is not one of my favourite songs on the wall, however the song lifts itself in the middle when Dave’s guitar enters and the whole thing enters a nicely worked out chord sequence which doesn’t show on the studio album. In the middle of this track a huge inflatable (of a Mother) appears to the right of the stage peering out over the top of the wall. The song drifts into the last few bars and the tapes of birds together with the sound of an old warplane rumble out from the speakers. A girl’s voice blossoms ‘Look mummy, there’s an aeroplane up in the sky,’ and we are treated to the delightful acoustic sound of Dave’s guitar picking out the notes to:
GOODBYE BLUE SKY – The sound of Dave’s acoustic guitar is wonderfully clear and rich. The vocals are well balanced over a rather daunting but extremely effective synth making the track appear very pleasant, yet menacing at the same time. A film starts to roll on the screen behind depicting images of war, which makes for a very powerful effect. At this point the balance of the sound including the volume level is incredibly impressive given the size of the venue the band are performing in. The track fades into a great little keyboard infill by Rick Wright at this point, which in turn fades into the next song:
WHAT SHALL WE DO NOW – A piercing keyboard thuds out from the speakers and gathers in volume. On the screen a film is running which shows a flower growing and rising upward before splitting into two. One flower looks like a waiting vagina and the second erects and takes on the form of a penis. With precise timing to the film the chords change as one flower enters the other and legs half appear as the flowers entwine and the female appears to eat / consume the male. At the end of this track the sound of heavy drums coupled with a fierceful guitar, boom from the speakers and we are treated to a wonderful short rocky number, which didn’t appear on the studio release for some strange reason. It really was a very dynamic and exciting track to hear. At the end of this track Roger asks if the audience is enjoying the show. “Good,” he replies, as the crowd roar back their approval. “This is called Young Lust” as Dave’s guitar rips into the opening chords of:
YOUNG LUST – The song is a wonderful aptly performed version from the album but with more significance due to the shear volume. The song is slightly longer than the studio version because a keyboard solo is added towards the end. Rogers base playing on this particular track was pretty impressive as well. The song finishes and the tapes of a woman walking into an apartment and proceeding to undress for the tub washes around the hall in wonderful quadraphonic.
ONE OF MY TURNS – The wall being built across the stage now is taking dramatic shape where pockets and bricks have been left out at the base so that Roger can stand in front of the wall as he is singing. The lights from the manoeuvrable rigs behind casting their lights at the back of him and outwards and upwards into the hall adding a great effect. The song is very much like the album before it runs into
DON’T LEAVE ME NOW – The tape of some heavy breathing pierces through the blackness as Roger bleats out the vocal with good presence. A large inflatable appears stage left over the top of the wall. A caricature of an ex wife or lover to which the song was written. As the songs nears the end at the “Running away” vocal. The mixing desk adds the echo and pans it around the hall, left, rear and then right which is amazingly effective. As the drums come in together with the rest of the instruments, Dave pulls off a quite stunning little solo along with Nick’s drumming. At the same time, an arc of white lights located on the top of the circular screen behind illuminate over the top of the wall. I found the whole effect quite breathtaking. The music dies away and the sound of a t.v. being smashed comes out of the speakers to the left, then one at the rear, then at the right. A loud scream shudders through the speaker cabinets and we’re into.
ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL PART 3.- The whole depth and sound emitting from the speakers is great. The whole thing is sounding twice as good as the record. At the end of this song the wall is virtually complete apart from a dozen or so blocks across the top and the infill blocks required at the base. Roger disappears behind the wall to join the rest of the band. The band engage at this point in a number that didn’t appear on the album as the roadies add the finishes blocks to the wall. Actually the music here is a pieced together version of 3 or 4 of the numbers already played ie; The Happiest Days of Our Lives, Young Lust for a few bars and then What Shall We Do. The whole thing sounded fantastic. With just one brick to go to complete the wall a base introduces:
GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD.- Roger appears through the hole in the wall as he sings the lyric complete with a bright white light behind him. The final word Goodbye and the last brick slips into place and silence for a second or two.The audience goes wild and the house lights dimly appear. It’s interval time. There is approximately a 10 / 15 minute break at this point.
Not much to do other than gaze at the immense wall which has been erected across the front of the stage. It must be about 200 or even 300 feet long and about 30 feet high. I didn’t like the idea of counting how many bricks were used to construct it. Suddenly the house lights dimmed and the opening guitar chords of Hey You rolled out from the speaker system. We are into Part 2.
HEY YOU.- The band is nowhere in sight, hidden by the wall. It was very strange to hear the music yet not see the band or any light effects for the whole of this song. It sounded very much like the album but Dave’s guitar solo in the middle was quite special. As the song ended to the echo “Divided we fall”. A loud synth emanates around the hall together with the tapes of seagulls calling in the background. A voice booms out “Is there anybody out there”
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE – During this song before the acoustic guitar section comes in. Two bricks are removed on the right hand side of the wall about midway up. Through the opening Dave can be seen sat on a stool illuminated by some lights at the back of him which cast their beams out through the wall and into the hall. His acoustic picking at this point is excellent. As Dave is playing a section of the wall on the left hand of the stage is starting to hinge down. Attached to it, is a set of a small hotel room showing a lamp, armchair and a tv in the corner, which is actually working. The track finishes and tape effects as per the album introduce us to:
NOBODY HOME – Rick’s piano is playing the opening bars as Roger climbs through the whole in the wall to sit on the armchair in front of the flickering tv screen. The whole effect is brilliant. The song is just as the studio version complete with brass. At the end the tape effects as per the album lead us into
VERA.- Roger sings the lyric and huge slide images depicting photographs of Vera Lynn and other images of the Second World War are projected across the Wall in front of the stage. The whole thing is quite absorbing. The sound of a drum roll brings us into Bring The Boys Back Home and at this point other slides are shown on the wall across the stage. At the end as the drums fade, the little room attached to its hinged panel folds back up into the orifice in the wall sealing the whole thing up once again. Hello the tapes are running from the speakers. Suddenly Roger is caught in a spotlight stood on the right hand side of the stage in front of the wall, with the rest of the band behind and we are treated to probably one of the best songs on the album.
COMFORTABLY NUMB – As Roger comes to the end of the opening verse the spotlight on him dies and a bank of lights to the left hand side illuminate over the top of the of the wall. Dave starts to sing the chorus; he is stood on a platform level with the top of the wall 30 feet up in the air, with this bank of lights behind him shining out into the audience. The seen is actually electrifying and the crowd unleash their appraise. Dave performs his nice little solo at the end of the chorus and the lights die behind him. A spotlight picks out Roger at the foot of the wall as he is singing the second verse and as the chorus is sung once more. Dave once again is caught in the banks of light astride the top of the wall. The whole song and treatment is absolutely mesmerising. Dave then treats us to a wonderfully extended solo at the end of this song before it finishes and again the lights are dimmed. A delicate keyboard is playing the opening melody line of:
THE SHOW MUST GO ON – We cannot see the band as they are performing behind this great white edifice laid out across the stage. The song has an extra verse to it than what appears on the studio cut and the backing vocalists were incredibly accurate at their delivery of the harmonies. The song finishes and the crowd eagerly applaud.
The M.C. then walks onto the stage in front of the wall. For the next 10 minutes or so he is talking in a deep voice and reciting the exact words as when he first introduced the show. It sounds like playing a record at a slower speed. “Well I think the band is ready to go now” – pause – “No, No Not quite yet”. In the meantime roadies can be seen erecting equipment in front of the wall. Apparently the band are performing on platforms which disappear below stage and are then pushed forward under the line of the wall above stage, to be then raised into position above stage in full view of the audience. As it takes some time to achieve this, the compare is deliberately stalling proceedings regarding introducing the band back onto stage again. “Please during the course of the show no flash pictures”. “Well I think the band is about ready to go now – pause again – No No Not yet” You can imagine the noise from the crowd at this tactic. “No unauthorised recording equipment is to be used and anyone found doing so will have their equipment confiscated and will be removed from the auditorium. Well I think the band is just about ready to go now” Huge long lighting rigs are descending from the ceiling above and then there is a loud explosion as the band rip into
IN THE FLESH PART 2 – The band is now in front of the wall. The surrogate band joins the Floyd now and both drummers are playing in perfect unison. At the end of the verses and as the guitars are playing the main guitar riff again there is the sight of a huge black inflatable pig complete with spotlights for eyes. It appears over the top of the wall on the left-hand side knocking a couple of bricks off in the process. It travels out from the stage on hidden wires over the audience and passes right over our heads. At this point I noticed one of the lighting rigs above us was hanging perilously in the air with a lighting engineer inside it holding on, while training his spotlight onto the pig which was floating around the hall on hidden wires.
During the end of this song large slide images are projected onto the wall at the back of the band. The song is brought to a thunderous end and Roger asks “Do you like our pig” – It’s not a very nice pig but it’s a big pig. – Home piggy, home.” The pig makes it way back to the stage and behind the wall and Roger says, “This is a song for all the paranoids in the audience.” Dave is playing the choppy rhythm to Run Like Hell in the background. “This is called Run like F***” announces Roger and Dave’s guitar complete with loads of reverb and echo is now in full swing booming out from the speakers at all corners.
RUN LIKE HELL – As the rest of the band joins in, the stage is awash with colour from the lighting rigs. The track is stupendous live especially Rick’s keyboard solo in the middle. As the song dies down the tape effects start to run and we can hear footsteps running round and round the arena. The guitar gains momentum and the band join in on their instruments again to a brilliant stomping finale to the piece.
WAITING FOR THE WORMS – A film is projected onto the wall at the rear of the band as they are performing. It depicts a Union Jack Flag at some points together with hammers. The track is brilliant live in contrast to the studio version and Dave’s guitar riff at the end builds up incredibly loud. The depth and tone of the drums really add to the atmosphere as the hammers start to march across the wall in rows rather like soldiers on parade day. The song suddenly terminates into
STOP – Which is the same as the studio version. As the keyboard comes to an end and the band members have disappeared under the stage. A film is rolling on the wall again as Roger sits on the stage in front of the wall and starts to sing the lyric to
THE TRIAL. – The images on the wall are very powerful at this point and the whole thing is just amazing. Suddenly the bass and guitar join in with the orchestra towards the end of the track as Roger screams to tear down the wall. The sound of walls being demolished builds and builds through the speakers to a painful level and the vibrations rattle through the very seat you are sat on. The top of the wall starts to fall and then is suddenly displaced and tore down amid the sound of demolition works. As the tape dies away the crowd erupts into deafening applause and the sound of a clarinet (I think) is heard above the din. Then from the left of the stage Roger enters playing a clarinet followed by the rest of the band (Dave on an almost banjo type instrument) together with the backing singers and they sing the last track
OUTSIDE THE WALL. – As the lyric finishes, Roger plays the clarinet again and leads the rest of the band off the stage in pied piper fashion to the thunderous sounds of the audience. The whole show had passed in what seemed like 10minutes. I couldn’t wait to witness the whole event again the following evening.
Shine on – Paul Wightman