Uncut Magazine June 2003
(Transcript thanks to Natalie Lyons)
PINK FLOYD – LONDON: AUGUST 1980
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before: Rock’n’Roll War Stories From The Editor’s Diary
I’m at home working my way through a pile of sulphate big enough to keep Motorhead on their feet for a week when I get a call telling me that Pink Floyd have just dedicated a song to me from the stage of London’s Earls Court.
At the time of which I’m writing, I’m not actually answering the phone much, if at all. This is mainly because the heaving bulk of calls I’ve most recently been betting are from someone I’m usually trying to avoid – namely, safari-suited Melody Maker assistant editor Michael Watts, no stranger recently to this page. As regular readers will already know, Mick has long since been driven to distraction by what he has loftily – if not incorrectly – decided is my helpless irresponsibility; a tendency to stumble into trouble even when I’m not looking for it.
In the light of slightly more sober reflection, I guess at the time he has a point. Looking back, I can see that telling him, for instance, I am going to be out of the office for the afternoon interviewing Nick Lowe over a few drinks might have given him the impression that I would soon be back at my desk, typing out entries for that week’s MM Gig Guide. I can also see more clearly in retrospect the extent to which I may have rendered Mick utterly speechless by calling him up several days later and phoning in my copy from a Travel Lodge just outside Dumfries, having decided on a whim to accept Nick’s pissed-up invitation to go on the road with Rockpile for no other reason than the headlong pursuit of a fucking good time.
When I start refusing to answer the phone in an attempt to avoid him, Mick starts sending me telegrams, the most recent of which reads: “IF YOU VALUE YOUR JOB, BE IN WITHIN THE HOUR”. I still have this somewhere, a guffaw guaranteed whenever I come across it.
Not for the first time, however, I digress. Back to the phone, which is still ringing. I reluctantly answer it, and I’m glad I do. It’s my good friend Jonathan Glinos, who works for Dr. Feelgood. He’s just been to see Pink Floyd at Earls Court, where they are presenting the live version of The Wall in all its grossly overblown pomp. I’ve just reviewed the show unflatteringly for Melody Maker, paying a tout for tickets in what turns out to be a successful attempt to breach the band’s opening night press ban.
Apparently the group have seen my write-up and reacted with the bilious rancour of the easily-ruffled rock star whose millions are not enough apparently to soften the blow of disgruntled critics. According to Jonathan, the highlight of the concert he’s just seen comes when Dave Gilmour dedicates a song to me!
“This is for Allan Jones of Melody Maker,” Gilmour reportedly announces. “It’s called ‘Run To Hell’[SIC], and we suggest he does!”
It hasn’t always been like this between me and the Floyd. The first time I see them is in September 1967, at the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, supporting Jimi Hendrix on a bill that also includes The Nice, The Move, Welsh soul band Amen Corner and Eire Apparent. The Nice, on early, are mind-blowing, the flashing strobe climax bringing gasps of teenage astonishment from the audience, all of us new to this kind of psychedelic freak-out! The Floyd appear after a thuggish turn from The Move, a bunch of Brummie hard-men in kaftans. Syd Barrett’s still with the Floyd at this point – and on stage he looks slender, beautiful and totally spaced-out. They play “Astonomy Domine” and “Interstellar Overdrive” and it’s like nothing anyone here has ever heard before.
I see Pink Floyd a lot after this, several times at The Key Club in a small Welsh ton called Bridgend. The Key Club is about as big as your front room and I have an abiding memory of standing about two feet in front of Roger Waters and being startled virtually senseless when he starts screaming his head off during “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”. Dave Gilmour has replaced Syd by now, of course, and by the summer of ’69 their experimental tendencies are starting to grate. I remember seeing them at Bristol’s Colston Hall, the first half of the show featuring the band sitting around on stage, sawing logs and frying eggs – the basis, eventually, for “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” on Atom Heat Mother. When it comes out four years after this, Dark Side Of The Moon doesn’t mean much to me. Listen subsequently to Wish You Were Here, as I scribble in Melody Maker, it seems time for a revolution, an end to all this bloated nonsense.
And so to The Wall, a double album, two years or more in the making, and an impossibly miserable psychodrama, four sides of groaning self-pity, morbid pessimism and relentless musical hogwash which they have moved into Earls Court for a summer season to perform live, with all manner of special effects. I have no intention of going at first. It’s only when I discover they’re actually trying to keep people out that I even begin to think about getting in, beating, as I say, their typically heavy-handed press embargo.
Is it worth the effort it takes to haggle with a tout for a couple of tickets? Not really, as I go onto say at some length in the review I turn around for the next morning’s hot-off-the-presses edition of Melody Maker that so upsets Dave Gilmour he feels compelled to make an issue out of it. Live, The Wall seems to me even more grossly self-indulgent, pompous and up its own ass than it does on record, the much-vaunted special effects more properly belong in some end-of-the-pier entertainment, and the whole thing is about as much fun as having a hole bored into your head, a cosmic trepanning you wouldn’t want to have to endure a second time.
I sit in some horror as the show proceeds, funereal and grim, a turgid opera of woe and witless posturing. As the band chug mournfully along, a massive wall is in the process of being built in front of them. As far as I’m concerned, the fucking thing can’t go up fast enough, so I’m relieved that by the end of the first half it is almost complete, except for one final space, through which Roger Waters now croons “Goodbye Cruel World”. As the music fades and his voice drifts off, he places the final brick in the wall. The rest is silence, ominous and cold.
Everyone around me seems suitably awe-struck. Me? I’m just glad it’s over. If it ha gone on a moment fucking longer, I would have been down the front with a trowel and a bucket of cement, helping the bugger brick himself up for all fucking eternity.
Run to hell, my arse.
– Allan Jones