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