By Col Turner
Sometimes you can be in the right place at the right time. I guess that’s what happened to me back in 1966/67 . The events that unfold in the following series of articles has had an enormous impact and influence on my life.
It was in London the year most probably being late 1966 . I was just an ordinary guy going thru the growing-up phase, I would have been 20 at the time. The fad back then was to be either a “Mod” or “Rocker.” I had chosen the former and hung with a crowd who were well dressed, short haired, and into bands like Herman’s Hermits, Gerry & the Pacemakers and of course The Beatles.
Then one night something happened that was to change my life, and the lives of many others.
Someone in our crowd had heard that a unique thing was happening at a club in Tottenham Court Road (London). The club was called “The Blarney Club” and as we were to discover later they leased the club out (usually on a Friday) to a group of people who were going to try some experimental “happenings.” The club was called UFO. So off we went, not quite knowing what to expect.
As we approached the club we saw a long haired guy dressed in only his underpants, and strings of tiny bells, as if this wasn’t strange by itself, he was spinning around and around in the middle of the road. We were later to discover that he (and many others) had taken a cocktail of LSD (legal then) and speed.
I remember thinking at the time, should we go in? The people milling around were totally different to the people I usually associated with, but certainly they were very friendly. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So down a steep flight of steps we went and paid our admittance fee of 10 shillings. Into the double doors on the left and into……………..
………….A NEW WORLD
It’s hard to describe the scene but I will try to paint the picture. The noise from the crowd was deafening, the smell of incense overpowering, and the HEAT. It was a cold night but the heat being generated by sweaty bodies was awesome. Just about everyone was wearing tiny bells and either sitting staring into space (stoned) or prancing around (also stoned) or just Plain stoned!
There was a band playing (I can’t remember who) and although we certainly didn’t fit in with these people we decided to stay. Now sorry to be so long winded with this intro, but I think if you can get just a glimmer of this experience, you may be able to get a glimpse into the real birth place of the greatest band who ever was or ever will be….. PINK FLOYD
On a personal note I was to become one of the “Beautiful People” and saw many, many bands that came out of England in the Sixties. I saw Floyd at almost the start and have followed them and let them shape my life since.
In this series I write about some of the between 32 to 36 gigs I have seen Floyd perform, up to and including the 1988 world tour. (That’s another story.) ANYWAY back to that night, so there we were a group of out-of-place people, sharing a unique experience. Several bands came and went and again I don’t remember who they were, but suffice it to say that they all probably went on to bigger and better things, as UFO was the birth place of many other great bands.
It was the early hours, and in walked another group of long haired musicians, basically all carrying their own equipment. Across the floor they walked, stepping up onto the stage. (No curtains or wings, just a plain old stage about 3 feet high).Twang, they started to tune up, playing some very weird chords. “This could be good,” someone said. “Hello, we’re The Pink Floyd” (note the “The”) one of them said. (Syd?) and away they went.
Now I wish I could tell you that they blew me away, but I can’t say that, because although they were different, the music (all original from memory) had a very “jazzy” feel to it and I have never been a great lover of Jazz. I remember thinking that it was a strange combination of rock & jazz they were attempting. However as they went along I realised that this band had “something.”
I can’t remember what songs they played that night with one exception. They launched into a piece that must have lasted at least 40 minutes and I’m betting it was an early version of “Interstellar Overdrive.” I think everyone around had the same thought: brilliant in parts, but mainly boring.
They were using a very rudimentary ‘light show’ which consisted of a slide projector, with printer’s ink placed between 2 slides. As the ink heated up it ‘popped’ between the slides, projecting bubbles of colour on the band and the back of the stage. (I was lucky enough to help a friend to do this one night. Sadly, it was run by the club and not Floyd, so I can’t brag about being part of Pink Floyd, however small!!!!)
The crowd (probably a few hundred in the early days, later to become many hundreds as the fame of UFO & Floyd spread) were appreciative at the end of each number and many danced a strange dance or ‘twirled’ their heads as the music was playing.
Now I could be wrong but I think Floyd were the last band to play that night. They were given the honour of being the UFO ‘house band’ and usually were ‘Top of the Bill’ and last to play. At other places such as Middle Earth they did not always get top billing and therefore appeared early. All the “in” clubs in the sixties put on at least three bands and sometimes as many as seven.
I reckon that Floyd’s session that night lasted for about 2 hours, which was very long by other bands standards. 1 hour in those days was considered good, 2 hours was unheard of!!
They left the stage with little fuss, once again carrying their own gear, I think they may have had just one roadie, but I do remember them packing up their own stuff. So that was it, I had seen my first Pink Floyd gig, what did I think of it overall? Unique, jazzy, boring and brilliant!!!! I had to see them again. As I told you before I saw them many times after this night, it wasn’t love at first sight but they had certainly teased me into coming back for more.
If you have read this far you are a hard core Floyd fan, in other parts of this series I will tell you of the time I reckon I saw Floyd as a five-piece featuring BOTH SYD & DAVID on the same stage!!!!
I will also recount memories of the legendary “14 Hour Technicolour Dream” the “Hyde Park concerts” and further memories of UFO & Middle Earth, and the Melbourne 1972 “unknown” concert.
I am unable to be exact as to the date of the first time I saw Floyd, research says that they only played once at UFO in 1966 and that was the IT concert (International Times). I had thought for years that I missed that gig, but maybe I was there and maybe that’s the gig I just described. Anyway I hope you have enjoyed this story. Follow the links below for more chapters in this six part series.
PS: If you were in that scene in London in 1966/67 Col would be more than interested to hear from you.
Originally written 19/2/97
I want to tell you a story—as the song goes.
Floyd who had started out as an ‘underground’ band were now getting some attention. They still played UFO and Middle Earth plus a few other London underground clubs (about 14 UFO’s & 9 Middle Earth’s according to the official records) between December 1966 to about mid 1969. I had the good fortune to be at most if not all of these gigs, plus others in Hyde Park and Alexander Palace (those will be covered separately). But now the dreaded fame was starting to overtake them.
Before “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play” were released we had been able to see and hear Floyd in a somewhat ‘elitist’ environment, although the clubs where they played were not restricted, if you didn’t fit in, you really didn’t want to come back. (I soon learned that my then short hair was “not acceptable” and let it grow as quickly as it could.)
The early concerts were a sight to behold with Floyd playing a new number or two at just about every gig. They were exciting times, as Floyd were experimenting like crazy. I guess I probably heard at least a dozen different versions of “Interstella Overdrive,” each night a little different and always lasting between 30-40 minutes.
Syd would often go off in his own direction leaving the rest of the guys wondering when he would come back and play something they could identify, so they could join back in!!! They often lounged around at the back of the stage (which was very small with nowhere to hide) waiting for Syd. It was pretty obvious even then that they were Syd’s band. They were also not consistent in that in most songs on most nights they played like nothing you had ever heard (Surreal?) and yet other times they would produce (sorry about this) crap.
Of course everyone was behind them because they were ‘our band’ or “The Underground Band.” So when Arnold and Emily came along everyone in the underground was pissed. Floyd were getting attention from people outside of our group. That wasn’t on we had a contract with Floyd & they with us, they were “our band.” Of course that wasn’t written down anywhere, just accepted.
Although I have never spoken to any of the guys*, it was common knowledge that Floyd were apprehensive about their oncoming fame. In my opinion that’s very evident in a lot of their later songs. (Consider “Welcome to the Machine” and many others).
Now all the above comments regarding our relationship with Floyd were exactly how we all felt in those days. Very easy to look back now and see how silly we were being. But that’s how it was.
Getting back to poor old Arnold & Emily, (funny thing I must have seen them do those songs countless times but just don’t remember how they played them.) a lot of new people were starting to invade the clubs. The boys had hit the big time and the audience was rapidly changing. It got to the stage where the threat of violence to us poor hippys was becoming very real. Someone had the bright idea to get the Hell’s Angels in to protect the hippys. Bizarre as it sounds it worked!!
So now the audiences consisted of Hippys, Hells Angels and an assortment of what we would now call teeny boopers and the odd thug. Many of these newcomers took up the hippy lifestyle and so it’s very true to say that Pink Floyd were true founders of the hippy movement.
Floyd were changing too. The gear was getting upgraded and roadies were now on the job. But the music, what can I say? They were getting it together. (ok, I know Syd was on the skids by now, but the music was still some of the best they ever played, in my humble opinion.)
It had now got to the stage that UFO had outgrown the cellar at The Blarney Club and had to be moved to the Roundhouse just to fit in the crowds for Floyd. I’m very confused as to what club went where and when, but Middle Earth also relocated from the cellar in Covent Garden also to the Roundhouse.
A new dawn was breaking as Dave replaced Syd (I won’t dwell on that, it’s been well documented in many books about the change.) The music became a lot ‘slicker’ with Dave in the band. The experimentation on stage was becoming less and the songs more polished. With all due respect to Roger, it was not apparent to me that he was now the leader. Ok he used to do the count-ins (one, two etc) and most of the song introductions, but if I was asked who led Pink Floyd when Syd went I would have said nobody, they performed as a unit. (Roger was to become dominant later than this period I am talking about here)
It is very difficult for me to remember much more detail about those days, it is after all about 30 years ago.
I certainly do remember a very special “Happening” one night. I was sitting on the steps that led down to UFO (Blarney Club) one night staring at my thumbs (If you don’t know what that means I’m not about to tell you!) I think it was Floyd who were pounding away in the club, when out of the doors came this whacking great balloon.Now if you can imagine a condom about 4 feet in circumference and about half a mile long you may have some idea of the size of this mother. It was inflated from within the club and a crowd of people pulled it out and along Tottenham Court Road. Don’t ask me why, it just was!! I’ve often wondered if thats where the original idea of the inflatable pig came from all those years later. Did that “happening” stick in Rogers mind???
Well I really must sign off, there are many other stories to tell and you can read about them in this series. I hope and trust this gives you a bit of an idea into the birth of Pink Floyd.
Originally written 24/2/97
The debate as to when the “Summer of Love” actually occurred in the UK has raged for years. Some say 1967 while others claim 1968. I know because I was there.
The answer is 1967, however it could be claimed that there were in fact two “Summers of Love” being 67 & 68, although they melded and seemed as one. For those who may not be aware of that period, this is when ‘Flower Power’ and ‘Hippies’ were at their peak. At the centre of this movement (in the UK) and a driving force in it, were two bands.
One of course was “The Beatles,” and the other “Pink Floyd”. The Beatles had already been on the world’s stage for some time but Floyd had not really yet broken through outside of Europe. The ‘summers’ were an amazing time to be alive, it was as if the whole world was bathed in sunlight. Even the winter between 1967-68 felt warm! The atmosphere was electric. People respected people. The London clubs were packed as countless bands, many now world famous, played for what seemed like 24 hours a day.
In those times it was the custom to “give em’ a flower” as we passed out flowers to any passing stranger.
Free love, you bet! Although I won’t go into detail!! My hair by now had grown long and I was associating with the ‘inner core’ of the underground movement. I was living in several hippie pads around London, mainly at Shepherds Bush. I have a feeling that it was while I was staying there that I sometimes spotted the Floyd’s not-too-flashy van parked in the street. The Floyd were living ‘down the road’ in Notting Hill Gate I think, so it may have been a roadies house or perhaps one of the boys had a lady friend? who knows.
I had helped out on a few light shows at Middle Earth and was one of the unofficial unpaid DJ’s. However one night a paid DJ turned up and we had a bit of a debate as to what records should be played. I lost, he won. His name: John Peel, who later went on to record the BBC shows with Floyd. I got to know him casually but to be honest, John and I never really hit it off.
It seems as just about everybody was dropping LSD (acid) and I suppose I look back on those times with rose coloured glasses. At many of the earlier ‘happenings’ Lennon, McCartney, Jagger and other celebs could be seen hanging around like any other person. You wouldn’t dream of asking for an autograph as that was very uncool. I did have the pleasure of meeting Brian Jones (then with the Stones) one night and got into an amazing rave with him about nothing in particular.
But all this was changing. London was now the focal point for all the world—or so it seemed to me. Carnaby Street was now the hub of this universe and the ‘British Invasion’ was in full swing. Then came the day that the whole movement crystalised into one amazing and beautiful happening. The date 29 June 1968.
Blackhill Enterprises (who I believe consisted of the individual members of Floyd plus Pete Jenner & Andrew King) decided to put on the first FREE concert in London’s Hyde Park. A free Floyd gig!!!
I wasn’t going to miss this, even if I was struck by lightning!! So off we go. From memory, the concert was due to begin after lunch, and I think it may have been a Sunday (Sat?)
The records show the supports as being Roy Harper and Jethro Tull. To be honest I don’t remember much about the supports, although I did get to see Tull a few times and they were always brilliant, so I guess that day was no different.
As we arrived (early for once) I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were people everywhere. I had been used to seeing Floyd from about 6 foot away from the stage. Now I was relegated to about 60 feet back!!! People were seated on the grass, some having the good sense to bring something to sit on.
The smell of hash and incense wafted on the summer breeze. The clothes people were wearing were just ‘lovely’ with every shade of psychedelic colour. Many wore tiny bells that tinkled as they moved.
Flower Children could be seen everywhere, blowing bubbles with tiny bubble makers. The Beatles “All You Need Is Love” blasted over the PA just as we arrived, and seemed to be repeated about every 20 minutes.
Then the moment arrived. Pink Floyd took the stage and it was still daylight!!! (I think this was the first time I had seen them during the daylight hours.) The crowd had now grown to many thousands and I was glad we had arrived early, cause those at the back would have had a very restricted view.
However they would have still heard what was probably—only probably—Pink Floyd’s finest concert. This is only my opinion, having seen many Floyd concerts it is hard to pick the favorite, but this day was extra memorable, if not for the atmosphere alone. I can’t remember the exact sequence of what they played that day, and I think that Arnold & Emily had been dropped by now. I do recall that most of Piper featured for the first set.
I think this was David Gilmour’s first big London gig since joining Floyd about four or five months before and I have the impression he had something to prove that day. (I’m as good as Syd?)
By now the sun was setting as Floyd came back for the second set in the twilight. Unfortunately the light show was a bit ‘weak’ at first because a few rays of sun were still poking through. This gave the band a strange ‘glow’ that only added to the atmosphere. I have a feeling that the second set consisted of Saucerful but can’t be 100% sure of exactly what was played and in what order. It wouldn’t surprise me if “Interstellar Overdrive” (from Piper) was the final number, if previous gigs I had seen were anything to go by.
It is my opinion that this day was the day the ‘underground’ reached it’s pinnacle. Floyd had proved to all present that they were going to be around for a long time to come.
Just over two years later on 18 July 1970 Floyd were once again back in the park to do it all again and all for free. This time we were better prepared, and just as well.
The first Hyde Park gig in 1968 had attracted perhaps 5000 maybe 8000 (I’m not good at estimating crowds). The second concert attracted a reported 200,000. It was chaos!
We had noticed when arriving that Floyd’s equipment has grown remarkably. They now had speakers set up the rear of the crowd as well as on the stage to give a “Surround Sound.” Once again, exactly what was played that day is not all that clear to me save for one song.
I believe it was as the second set was opening that it happened… “WHA WHA WHA!” The sound of a baby crying. The crowd turned around almost in unison as the crying seemed to be coming from behind us. “WHA WHA WHA!” It was now at the front. People were looking at each other wondering where this baby was!!!! Then they begun: “All is love, is all I ammmm, a ball is allll I am.” The first and only time I heard “Embryo” live. It was a sensation. People had tears in their eyes including me. I don’t think I have ever heard anything so beautiful as that song on that day. (Wonder why they never used it as the keystone for a concept, you know: birth, growing, death).
Of course from there Floyd went on to capture the world. It’s amazing to think that they have been around for over 30 years!
Originally written 22/3/97
As I sit and write these memories it comes as a bit of a shock, to realise that it is 30 years (almost to the day) that I was lucky enough to be at the most acclaimed event to come out of the London hippy scene in the sixties.
The legendary 14 Hour Technicolour Dream was held at the Alexandra Palace (Ally Pally to the locals) on 29 April 1967. The organisers of UFO had apparently decided that they would open UFO up to all and sundry in one big and massive happening. They had hired out a huge London venue and surprises were promised. The word was out that this was an event not to be missed.
Rumours were flying thick and fast about who was to perform. Names such as The Beatles, The Who and Pink Floyd were being bandied about, but no one really knew who would be there except the organisers. The event was due to commence at 8pm and go thru to 10am the next day.
I remember arriving quite late probably around 11pm. The reports say that 10,000 people attended this happening but if they did, many must have gone home by the time we arrived. The impression I got and still have is that there were not THAT many people. There were certainly more people than at a normal UFO and the place was enormous in comparison to the cramped cellar in Tottenham Court Road but 10,000 I somehow think not.
The main stage area was set along the far wall from where we came in and about halfway into the hall a second stage was set up. This was to the left although to get to the main stage you had to skirt around the middle stage.
It was a bit chaotic in that nobody seemed to know what band was to perform and on which stage they would be. This meant that we were moving from stage to stage to try to sus out who was the best to watch. I think the accoustic type acts (including a very strange assortment of poets) were given the middle stage, with the louder rock acts on the main stage. The problem was a lot of these bands were on at the same time and were drowning each other out!!
Now I will let you into a secret about that happening. I believe LSD was now illegal (or it was soon after, as people were starting to get a bit paranoid about getting busted). As far as I know the first designer drug ever to hit the market surfaced that day. From memory it was called STP and was an offshoot of LSD. It was supposed to give you a 3 day trip. What has never been reported before, is that it was distributed free to all who attended and wanted it. Don’t ask me the details because I can’t remember where it came from, but you can be assured that most of those who were there were stoned off their heads on this new ‘acid’.
Also given out freely were banana skin joints which was the fad at the time thanks to Donovan’s song “Mellow Yellow.” (Don’t try it, it doesn’t work!)
Now if you have ever studied this period of time you will know that this was the event where John Lennon first saw Yoko Ono, I didn’t see Lennon but vaguely remember seeing Yoko, although I didn’t pay that much attention as she was just one of the many strange and wonderful people there that night.
I have cheated a bit and studied up who actually appeared and the following acts were supposed to have performed:* Yoko Ono, Binder Edwards and Vaughn, Ron Geesin, Barry Fantoni, Alexander Trocchi, Christopher Logue, Michael Horovitz and the 26 Kingly Street group, The Utterly Incredible Too Long Ago To Remember Sometimes Shouting at People, Alexis Korner, Champion Jack Dupree, Graham Bond, Ginger Johnson, Savoy Brown, 117, The Pretty Things, The Flies, The Purple Gang, Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, The Soft Machine and of course Pink Floyd. (*Source: Miles, Pink Floyd: A Visual Documentary)
(I have also been advised that The Creation and John’s Children also performed)
In all there were supposed to have been 41 groups who played, sang danced or recited poetry. Now I bet your thinking you haven’t heard of a lot of those people, well the truth is neither had I until I started research for this article. There are some I certainly remember but others, sorry the mind is blank. However if I don’t say something here while I have the opportunity about “The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown” I will never forgive myself.
Arthur Brown was another UFO regular, he was as popular as Pink Floyd at that time and deservedly so in my opinion. Every time that Arthur played he would make the most amazing stage entrances. He would appear thru trapdoors, swing in on ropes, or suddenly appear in a cloud of smoke from out of nowhere. This night he decided to appear as one of his alter egos the “God Of Hell Fire” and promptly appeared to set light to his hair!!! This man was utterly fantastic, he never let his audiences down and had one of the greatest voices ever.
However after Arthur’s set things began to slow down and I have to admit I was getting a bit fidgity, I mean you can only take so much poetry. I was now hanging out to see Floyd who were star billing and not due to come on to the main stage until the early hours. We filled in the time as best we could, a lot more people were drifting off and there were a lot of empty spaces. I was hoping this was going to be worth the wait. Many of us were starting to get tired as dawn came around, bodies were lying in huddles as people crashed out.
Then the dawn arrived in a triumphant pink hue, the light came cascading in from the huge windows and amidst this awesome display of nature Pink Floyd took the stage.
They were wearing outfits with flared trousers and satin shirts that I had not seen them wear before.People began to awake and hold hands as the first notes of I think, “Astronomy Domine” reverberated thru the massive hall. Sadly I can’t remember what else they played, but my best guess would be “Arnold Layne,” “Nick’s Boogie,” “Interstellar Overdrive” (for certain the final number) and probably some other stuff from Piper (which was still to be released at that time) although no doubt not in that order.
I do remember the atmosphere was electric. Floyd played as gods probably sensing that this was avery special time. There was an extraordinary connection between the band and the audience, it wasas if the guys had suddenly realised that they had become great musicians but wanted to hang on to the lives they were used to, but knew at this point that there was no turning back.
Then the magic happened. Syd’s mirror-disc telecaster caught the dawns pink light. Syd noticed this and with drug-filled eyes blazing, he made his guitar talk louder and louder, higher and higher as he reflected the light into the eyes of his audience and Christened those of us lucky enough to be there, followers of Pink Floyd for life.
Originally written 27/4/97
To those of you that read this series when it first appeared on the excellent Timeline (now Breathe) site thank you for all the responses. Many of you reading this will know, some of these writings have been incorporated into a book. Called ‘Beyond The Woods’ by Julian Palacios. I’m very humbled by your letters, I guess I’m a very lucky guy to have seen the birth of Floyd. This is the penultimate piece in this series. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoyed my trip down Memory Lane once more. .
In the early days of Floyd I must confess to not even knowing the individual members names. That came some time after I started to follow them. I just remember four guys who each had a personality but not a name, (to me anyway).
As I have stated in an earlier piece both UFO and Middle Earth had by now located to the Roundhouse at Chalk Farm. I can’t quite recall the arrangement but suspect that UFO was on the Friday with Middle Earth being on Saturday. This meant that many, many bands were passing through these clubs. Trying to keep track of who was in which band and when, became an almost impossible task.
What I am going to tell you next is not in any history book about Pink Floyd, but all the same I am going to record this as I remember it.
It would have been early 1968 and most probably around January. I think it would have been at Middle Earth but I don’t have the official records handy so I am not 100% sure.
This particular night I remember Floyd coming on in the early hours, as was the custom by now. After they had been playing for a while someone remarked, “hey Floyd are a five piece tonight” or something along those lines. I checked the stage and sure enough there were five guys playing. I can’t remember what instruments they were playing but think it’s a safe bet to say that Nick was the drummer, Rick the organist, Roger on bass… but who was playing lead? and what was the fifth member playing?. I have a very vague idea that it was another lead guitar but wouldn’t swear to it. So just who was member four and five???
Now it was around this time that Syd was being prepared for his departure and Dave was in the wings waiting to join officially. I think the records show that in January 1968 Pink Floyd played five gigs as a five piece with Syd and Dave sharing the same stage. Now all of the gigs recorded in the history books were “out of town” but I suspect on this particular night the Floyd returned to London and decided to introduce their new member (Dave) and farewell an old one (Syd). This makes sense to me, as I am sure Floyd were comfortable with the Middle Earth and UFO crowds and I suggest it would have been their way of saying thank you and farewell to Syd and “please give a big welcome” to Dave.
As I said at the start, this event has not been recorded before and I’m not prepared to swear on a stack of Bibles that it was Syd and Dave but that’s how I remember it. It’s a story I have told my friends for years, it’s a vague memory because at the time it was insignificant, but I’m convinced it’s true.
I left England in October 1970 to make my new home in Melbourne, Australia. Less than 10 months later I was to see them again!
Floyd played at Festival Hall, Melbourne on 13 August 1971. They were booked to play one gig.
I was looking forward to seeing Floyd in my new country with eager anticipation but near disaster struck!. The day of the concert I went down with a severe sore throat! I felt like death all day but that night mustered up the strength to get out of bed and take my girlfriend (now my wife) to see her first Pink Floyd show.
We arrived at Festival Hall about 45 minutes before the advertised start. There were not many booking agencies in those days, so you got to the venue early and took your chance on buying a ticket at the door. Floyd had not yet “cracked it” in Australia and I was hoping to get a reasonable seat.
“2 tickets please,” I croaked to the girl behind the counter.
We then entered the hall to be shown our seats… wait for it… 7th row centre!!!
I estimate the crowd as about 500 and Floyd probably lost money that night but what a show!!!!!
Not many people in Australia were aware of this show, even today people do not believe that Floyd toured that early. That is why I refer to this as “the 1971 forgotten show.”
A while ago I was lucky enough to receive a RoIO of this show (audience recording) and this has helped me remember what a brilliant show it was!
The set consisted of Atom Heart Mother (without orchestra) Green Is The Colour, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Echoes (planetary version) Cymbaline, A Saucer Full Of Secrets. Not a bad selection, I think you will agree.
They casually walked onto the stage, picked up their instruments, tuned up a bit and then launched into the sweetest version of ‘Atom Heart Mother’. Beautifully done, with Roger using his scream & some backing tapes I suspect, to fill in for the orchestra. Nick was on his mettle that night, really giving the skins a thrashing on this number.
For a change of pace, they played ‘Green Is The Colour’, which Dave found a tad difficult in places! He missed a few of the higher notes but hey! whose perfect?
Then the tension started to build, as they crept into a very haunting ‘Careful With That Axe Eugene’. Roger’s scream was at it’s best and the hairs on my arm tingled as the music cascaded around the almost empty hall! It was like a private Pink Floyd concert for the select 500 or so. A bit like the old UFO days!
Roger then announced that they were going to play ‘Echoes’ but because of equipment failure, they would do ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’ next instead.
After a lot of messing with the equipment, Nick’s symbols reverberated as the intro begun. Rick’s playing was also at it’s peak that night as his fingers danced across the keyboards. Nick was now going beserk on the drums, thrashing & crashing away and Dave & Roger were totally involved as they contributed to a song I had heard them perform many times before but never as good as then.
Roger then announced that one of the ‘Leslies’ (speakers) had burnt out but they were going to do ‘Echoes’.
I think this was the only time I saw them do this number live.
A bit of ‘Rick’s Turkish Delight’ before Ping…Ping…Ping… A slow begining, beautiful soaring guitar from Dave, then the vocals. Now I suppose I could look it up & trancribe the words here but that is not what this is all about. Suffice it to say they sang the ‘Planetary’ version. That is, the song this night, was not about ‘Albatrosses’ but instead about ‘Planets’. An absolutely glorious version, with delightful vocals and guitar work. Rick seemed to me to be slightly out in the first part & his organ seemed a bit heavy handed but when it came to the ‘Seagulls’ bit, man were they together! Sensational, wish I could put into words how good it was!
Next came an old favorite in Cymbaline, which Dave sang to perfection. He hit every note in a very difficult song. Very nicely done by everybody. An extended version, with delicate keyboards by Rick & Nick doing some nifty work on the cymbals again. They then played the ‘Footsteps’ tape (from Man & The Journey?) which I found pretty boring & the rest of the audience were getting restless as well. Fortunately it only lasted a couple of minutes and they found their way back into the end ‘Cymbaline’.
I was hoping they might do ‘Embryo’ but instead got to hear ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’ which I was pretty pleased about. Roger’s guitar and Nick’s drums could be heard as they eased into a cacophony of sounds, all going off doing their own thing, just like the old days! I could see a few people with their fingers in their ears, as the sound got louder, the guys were all having a ball. Boy did Nick let fly again, pulsating drums, Rick’s organ screaming and Roger & Dave let loose. Then it was all over.
Even though it was a very small crowd, Floyd had given it their all. My memories have been assisted by the tape I have of the show but I can still remember the sounds they made that night, even after all this time.
They had changed from the “experimental” band I had seen some four-and-a-half years previously into a polished and professional outfit, still prepared to “try something different” but now in control of their musical wanderings.
(As a silly aside, there is one part of the tape, where I can actually hear myself whistling! All these years later & still a Floyd nut!)
So I have been very lucky with what I have witnessed with the birth of Floyd. I sadly would not get to see them again until 17 years later in 1988.
Originally written 26 August 1997/Melbourne 1971 content Re-Written November 1998
It was 1988 or late 1987 when I heard the news I had been waiting around 16 years for. Pink Floyd to tour Australia. I hadn’t seen them since 1971 and I was going to make the most of this tour.
The day the tickets went on sale I arrived at what I thought was a very early hour. It was about 5.30am and I thought I was going to be one of the first in line. No way, when I arrived several hundred people were in the queue in front of me!
As one does when waiting in a queue for a long time, I turned around and started talking to the people who were just behind me. They asked if I had ever seen Floyd before and the second I mentioned I had seen them with both Roger & Syd up front, I had a crowd of around 30 people all wanting to hear about the early days! I think this was the first time I realised that I had witnessed something special in the early years of Floyd and that people wanted to know about it.
The tickets went on sale at 9am and the crowd in front of me were getting ever closer to the ticket booth. I was the next person in line to get my tickets when the attendant shouted out “Sorry, sold out”. I nearly died on the spot but figured that Floyd were going to do at least one other show. So I waited around and come to think of it so did everybody else!
About 45 minutes later the attendant shouted out the news “Pink Floyd have agreed to do another show” the cheer went up from everybody. I was now first in the queue for tickets to the second show and was expecting to get front row seats but the system was set up so that people phoning in got first pick. However I did manage to get some very good seats just on the right of the stage and about 30 rows back. The first show was set for 13 February and the show I got tickets for was for 14 February (Valentines Day).
Later that week it was announced that Floyd were going to do a lot more shows in Melbourne (8 in all) and I managed to get tickets to the last show (20 Feb 1988) without too much of a problem, however they were back row seats!
I waited in eager anticipation for what seemed like months. The day was getting closer and closer and I couldn’t think of anything else. Floyd was getting flogged to death in my house and the neighbours were threatening to move out!
The day before the show I was working in my garden, dreaming about Floyd doing their first gig that night and I was going to miss it! However I consoled myself knowing that I would be seeing them real soon.
Boy was I in for a surprise, at around 6.30pm a friend of my wife was on the phone and asked to speak to me. Funny I thought to myself, I wonder what she wants. I then I heard the sweetest words “Hi Col, a friend of mine can’t come to the Floyd concert with me tonight, how would you like to go for free” I couldn’t believe my luck!!!! So I quickly jumped into the shower and raced around as fast as I could. The show was due to start at 8pm and I was over an hours drive from the venue. I sped to Sharon’s house (my wife’s friend) picked her up and put the foot down on the way in to town.
(Note: At this point I should explain that I saw three of the 1988 shows, namely 13, 14, 20 February. However as the three shows were all very similar I have chosen just to describe the first one).
As we got closer to the venue the traffic really started to build up. We managed to get a park some way from where we had to go and sprinted the last mile or so. We got into the venue (Melbourne Tennis Centre) at exactly 8pm and as we were trying to locate what door to enter I heard the first strains of ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’.
I must admit that I had tears in my eyes as we found our way to our seats. We were seated to the left of the stage about 25 rows away and almost directly opposite where I would be sitting the next night. The intro seemed to go on forever, the stage was still in darkness but the auditorium was lit by a fantastic array of lights.
Then as if by magic Rick appeared in a cloud of smoke and ultra violet light. I was on my feet clapping and shouting but so were a lot of other people! The pulsating tones of the organ were being taken to new heights and then Dave’s guitar reverberated at an astonishing volume that shook my very soul. The crowd were on their feet as the intro sadly finished all too quickly.
This was ultra Floyd, I had not heard anything so beautiful since Floyd performed The Embryo at Hyde Park in 1970.
Floyd then deftly switched the pace by gliding into ‘Signs Of Life’ and I got my first real look at how far the band had come in the 21 or 22 years since I had first seen them.
A huge screen was now evident, where Floyd were showing this guy rowing a canoe as they performed a faultless version of the song live. I remember the original light show (66) as being printers ink between two slides in a projector!
I won’t dwell on each song, if you watch the video ‘The Delicate Sound Of Thunder’ you will get a really good appreciation as to what this concert was like.
I must admit to being impressed by the pig that hung overhead with it’s eyes glowing during ‘One Of These Days’. Likewise the bed that crashed into the stage and exploded was also worthy of mention!
As for the light show, well all I can say is, it was the best I have ever seen and believe me I have been to a lot of concerts over the years.
But when I really start to think about it, in my opinion the heart of this Floyd extravaganza (or any Floyd show for that matter) was the incredible sweet music.
They performed superlatively all night, with one heart stopping moment when they appeared to have gone off the rails.
It was coming towards the end of ‘Money’ (Which isn’t on the PAL video version BTW) when suddenly it appeared to me, for one brief second, that they had lost their way.
What had happened is that they had started a ‘jam’ and it took me by surprise. Up until then they had followed what they had recorded down to the last note (well almost) Now here was something a bit different. (the jam differed slightly each of the 3 nights I saw them). I can’t say it was a highlight because some of it sounded a bit off key. But it took me back a few years to when Syd would go off and do his own thing. I felt that this little segment (the jam) was included by Dave, Rick & Nick as a sort of ‘throwback’ to when they were an experimental band. (1)
I thought Scott Page fitted in really well playing his sax and Guy Pratt seemed to have slipped into Roger’s role without any detrimental effect on the overall sound. Tim Renwick also played a valuable part as did Gary Wallis and I must not forget the 3 female singers who I think were Margaret Taylor, Durga McBroom and Rachel Fury. (I could be wrong on that score and don’t have the programme handy to check).
Anyway these ladies blew me away with their rendition of ‘Great Gig In The Sky’ which was as good as the original in my opinion.
My ears were ringing as we left the tennis centre. What a night! What a concert! and to think I get to do it all again tomorrow night!
So there you have it, my Floyd tales are now up to date. I wish to give particular thanks to Dave Ward for his encouragement with this project. Without Dave and his excellent Breathe site (formerly Timeline) this would not have been possible. I would also like to thank the many, many people I have met on the net (and two personally) through these articles. I enjoy getting your letters, keep them coming.
Finally then, this is the last of the six part series of ‘Early Floyd’. I have just about run out of memories for the time being…………..
10 February 1998 (Almost 10 years after!).
(1) It could be argued that when Dave joined Floyd and Syd left, that the band were no longer considered ‘experimental’. My memory tells me that while Floyd did tame down a bit when Dave joined they continued with their ‘experimentation’. I might also say that I still look on Floyd as an ‘experimental’ band, even today.
You can also find another subset of 3 stories, named ‘Another Hippy Remembers’, written by fellow Hippy Ian Macintosh. They delve back to the days of Syd, with special reference to The Gong Family. ENTER