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Pink Floyd
Whether you’re reliving your first days as a fan, or finding your way around their music for the first time, you can look forward to a release that captures one of the greatest bands of our time in their finest hour.

Everyone remembers the first time they heard the Pink Floyd sound ~ at a house party, on tiny headphones in the college canteen, while watching the band’s historic 2005 Live 8 reunion (some people are late converts, no big deal). It doesn’t matter when you get into ‘Floyd’ ~ when they get you, they get you good.

Is it the sonic wizardry, the compelling artwork and the stunning live shows that turn people into die-hard Floydians (for lack of an official name)? Given some thought, you have to come to the conclusion that it must be something more than that. After all, the first signs that this was a band that moved people came from their conquest of the underground music scene in England in the mid-Sixties. These early shows were primitive in terms of technology and special effects and the music that the band played consisted primarily of R&B covers. However the band generated enough buzz to earn themselves a cult fan following and landed a spot as one of 30 bands playing a benefit gig held at the Alexandra Palace, London in April 1967. Playing alongside acts like The Who to an audience that included musician John Lennon with Yoko Ono, actor Michael Caine, and musician Mick Jagger, this was a great opportunity for the band even though no footage of them was released from this show. By this time they had already begun playing with elements that would go on to become part of their pioneering live sets. They experimented with visual effects and tried out multi-speaker systems that allowed them to control the positioning of sound across the room, a pre-cursor to their use of quadraphonic sound effects. Recalls Nick Mason, of the band’s philosophy, “The thing about paying a lot of money for live shows is that there should be something unique about every experience.”

It’s no surprise then that Pink Floyd’s live shows were elaborate, extravagant affairs that broke all the rules of tours at the time. Where other musicians staidly performed on stage while the audience listened on the other side, Floyd and their crew pulled out all the stops ~ they worked with light artists and special effects crews to create a dynamic light show that accompanied all their performances. Highlights included use of state-of-the-art lasers and intelligent lighting fixtures. Dazzling fireworks were regularly used and were often accompanied by larger-than-life props including model planes, string-puppets, helium balloons and dirigibles. Making its first appearance behind the band during performances of their seminal 1973 album, The Dark Side Of The Moon, was a large circular projection panel that went on to become a regular fixture and was dubbed “Mr. Screen”. Specially commissioned films and animations were projected onto the screen to go with songs that the band was playing on stage.

The spectacle that was a Pink Floyd live show has been documented in several forms, with various iterations of the band. One of the most popular early videos is Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii, featuring a 1971 performance by the band at an amphitheatre in Pompeii, Italy with no audience present except the film crew and stage staff. The video also features interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of the band during recording sessions for The Dark Side Of The Moon at Abbey Road Studios.

1973 saw the release of The Dark Side Of The Moon, an album whose success was impossible to imagine at the time. It is said that even today, 33 years after the release of the original, the album still sells roughly 50,000 copies each year. The band debuted the live performance of the album before its release by playing not just one song but the whole album! They did this again only a few times more that year but none of these performances can be found on film. The only documented performance of the band playing the entire Dark Side Of The Moon came 20 years later in 1994, when, as part of their Division Bell Tour, David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright performed the entire album at Earl’s Court, London to a surprised audience that had no clue beforehand of the scheduled performance. As David Gilmour puts it, “We started doing rehearsals of the various songs from Dark Side at sound checks in the afternoon at other shows [on the Division Bell Tour] and it started feeling like it was getting good at some point in America, I can’t remember which city we were in, we had finally gathered together bits of film, tapes and got it all rehearsed. And so there was a night when we said, ‘Shall we just launch into it?’ It is of course the only ever live video recording of a performance of Dark Side Of The Moon which is pretty much exactly the way we would have done it all those years ago.” Smiles Richard Wright, “It just came back! I can’t believe it, my hands were doing things I hadn’t done for 30 years, whatever it was. It was a big surprise to the audience. It wasn’t announced, they didn’t think they were coming to hear it like that and it went down extremely well. I think it’s a great sounding album and I think some of the songs are actually better live than they are in the studio.” This performance was released then on a video titled Pulse. It goes without saying that it was a massive success.

12 years later, the band is re-issuing that performance, in more advanced technology with added special features. Looking back at the concert, Gilmour reflects, “Pulse captures that moment in 1994 when we had recovered from that moment of Roger [Waters] disappearing off into his own vapour and yes, it was a time of great joy, of great togetherness. It is a lasting record of us in our, sort of, prime. I marvel at how good it all was, how tight it was, how well I was singing, and playing. It’s a really good exciting concert.” Adds Mason, “Pre-Live 8 I think it was the last thing we did and in many ways the best thing we did. As I’ve said before I think we did finally get it right in terms of rehearsing for long enough and setting it up properly.” The band had an impressive 14 show-residency at Earl’s Court, a venue that moved the members more than they anticipated. Says Gilmour, “It really did have a magical feeling to it, for us too which I was quite surprised at! Having played mostly vast outdoor places on this tour all over the world, where fifty, sixty, seventy thousand people are gathered in some enormous stadium or a field or something… Earl’s Court, after that seems like a cosy little club and you have much more control over the sound and over all the images and the whole environment.” Explains Mason, “It’s an ideal situation in so much as it is enclosed which is really important in terms of getting everyone’s attention, everyone has a proper seat. But it is big enough so that it has that big sense of excitement that you get with a big arena show. There is just something about the roar of 70,000 people getting excited!”

You can read the rest of our feature on Pink Floyd in the September 2006 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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