Few bands did as much to push forward the visual experience spectators could enjoy at arena shows as Pink Floyd—the very phrase “a Pink Floyd concert” conjures a very specific idea of an arena show as a kind of hallucinogenic mass orgasm, an event not to be experienced without some form of pharmaceutical enhancement.
In the 1970s the Floyd periodically worked with a filmmaker named Ian Emes. For the 1974/1975 Dark Side of the Moon tour they hired Emes to make some suitably mind-blowing short movies to be projected on the back of the stage while the band went through the comparably mind-blowing songs “Time,” “Money,” “Speak to Me/Breathe,” and so on.
Dark Side of the Moon is one of the few albums where the band toured the material extensively before fans could buy the album in March 1973. That long tour began in January 1972—more than a year before the album was released—and lasted through the early summer of 1973, technically coming to an end in London on November 4, 1973. Emes’ films were unveiled for Floyd’s 1974 tours of France and England and the 1975 Wish You Were Here tour of North America.
The French/England tours of 1974 saw Floyd’s use of a circular screen onstage for the first time, a facet for which the band would become renowned. The only non-American date on the 1975 tour was the closer, at the Knebworth Festival on July 5, which was the last time that Floyd would perform “Echoes” and the entire Dark Side of the Moon album with Roger Waters.
The sights and sounds of the Pink Floyd, after the jump…
I love soccer. That’s all I ever watch. I’ll watch it all day if I can. But I’m too bloody old to play now.
—Lifelong soccer devotee, Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath.
I’m posting theses images today because I, and perhaps many of your reading this require a bit of a “mind cleanse” every now and then to blow all the bad shit out of your brain. And what better way to clear your mind of all the gloom and doom currently running amok in the global brain than to lose ourselves for a while looking at pictures of pretty people playing around with soccer balls. Ah, I feel better already.
There’s Robert Plant cavorting around in tiny sports briefs on a soccer field looking not-so-pleased that he was being photographed while doing so. There’s also a shirtless Roger Daltrey, a spandex-clad Rod Stewart, and a straight-up amazing shot of Bob Marley backstage at a show in San Diego in 1979 kicking a soccer ball around. Many other bands like Iron Maiden and Def Leppard actually actively played in amateur football leagues of their own during their time away from their headbanging duties, so I’ve included a few choice images of both bands suited up for gameplay as well.
EMI TG12345 MK IV. The console that Pink Floyd used to record ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ in 1972 at Abbey Road Studios. Photo credit Mike Ross.
Only two of these custom EMI TG12345 MK IV consoles were ever made and according to former Abbey Road engineer Brian Gibson—long considered to be one of the foremost authorities in the world on such things—this particular console is the “greatest to ever be constructed.”
This particular EMI TG12345 MK IV was in use for over a decade in Studio 2 at the world-renowned Abbey Road Studio. The mythical studio that has stood on 3 Abbey Road, St John’s Wood, City of Westminster, London, England since 1931 has recorded notable bands from The Beatles to The Buzzcocks during its long history. When it comes to the history of this console, it is as rich as the studio it occupied during its heyday. Though it was used by other prestigious artists such as Paul McCartney and Wings, George Harrison, Kate Bush and later on by The Cure—as the title of this post indicates—the most noteworthy piece of musical history created with the help of this console was Pink Floyd’s 1973 mind-bender The Dark Side of the Moon. Whoah.
This post was originally published in 2012, but at that time, the actual footage of Frank Zappa jamming with Pink Floyd had yet to materialize. That changed late last year with the release of the mammoth Pink Floyd box set, The Early Years (released as individual volumes at the end of the month.)
“The Actuel Rock Festival,” sponsored by the fashionable Parisian youth culture magazine Actuel (along with the BYG record label) was to be the first ever major rock festival in France, and was heralded as Europe’s answer to Woodstock. French authorities, still smarting from the riots of May 1968, forbade it and the festival, which was originally going to take place in or near Paris, was held just a few miles beyond the French border, in Amougies, Belgium.
The festival took place over the course of five freezing cold days in late October (24-27) of 1969. The audience numbered between 15-20,000 people who were treated with performances by Pink Floyd, Ten Years After, Colosseum, Aynsley Dunbar (this is allegedly where Zappa met his future drummer), former Yardbird Keith Relf’s new group Renaissance, blues legend Alexis Korner, Don Cherry, The Nice, Caravan, Blossom Toes, Archie Shepp, Yes, The Pretty Things, Pharoah Sanders, The Soft Machine, Captain Beefheart and many more.
From the notes of the 1969 The Amougies Tapes Zappa bootleg:
Frank Zappa was present at the festival in a twofold capacity. First, as Captain Beefheart’s road manager; secondly, as M.C., assisting Pierre Lattes, a famous radio/TV presenter at the time (and the pop music editor for Actuel magazine). The latter task proved problematic given Zappa’s limited French, the prevailing language among the audience, who themselves didn’t seem to understand much English. Instead, Zappa relinquished his M.C. job for one of occasional guest guitarist. He plays with almost everybody, especially with Pink Floyd, Blossom Toes, Archie Shepp and Aynsley Dunbar, a fabulous drummer he will hire shortly thereafter. He introduces his friend Captain Beefheart and provides a powerful stimulant to all the other musicians. Most legendary, of course, is Frank Zappa’s jam with Pink Floyd on a very extended “Interstellar Overdrive”. The festival was filmed by Jerome Laperrousaz, and the film was to be called MUSIC POWER. Due to objections from various bands (most notably Pink Floyd) whose permission hadn’t been properly secured, the film was never officially released.”
Simpsons creator Matt Groening asked Zappa about the festival in a 1992 interview, but oddly he doesn’t even mention sitting in with Pink Floyd:
Frank Zappa: I was supposed to be MC for the first big rock festival in France, at a time when the French government was very right-wing, and they didn’t want to have large-scale rock and roll in the country. and so at the last minute, this festival was moved from France to Belgium, right across the border, into a turnip field. They constructed a tent, which was held up by these enormous girders. They had 15,000 people in a big circus tent. This was in November, I think. The weather was really not very nice. It’s cold, and it’s damp, and it was in the middle of a turnip field. I mean mondo turnips. And all the acts, and all the people who wished to see these acts, were urged to find this location in the turnip field, and show up for this festival. And they’d hired me to be the MC and also to bring over Captain Beefheart. It was his first appearance over there. and it was a nightmare, because nobody could speak English, and I couldn’t speak French, or anything else for that matter, so my function was really rather limited. I felt a little bit like Linda McCartney. I’d stand there and go wave, wave, wave. I sat in with a few of the groups during the three days of the festival, but it was so miserable because all these European hippies had brought their sleeping bags, and they had the bags laid out on the ground in this tent, and they basically froze and slept through the entire festival, which went on 24 hours a day, around the clock. One of the highlights of the event was the Art Ensemble of Chicago, which went on at 5:00 a.m. to an audience of slumbering euro-hippies.
New Years Eve, Paris, 1968. Amidst a volatile political climate of civil unrest that nearly brought the entire country to a virtual halt, rock ‘n’ roll music was still prevailed as “teenage entertainment” before being overthrown by the hippie culture of Woodstock the following year. The 3 1/2 hour New Years Eve Surprise Partie broadcast from the ORTF Studios (the only French TV channel at the time) is a beautiful, ultra-mod, time capsule that features rare performances by Jacques Dutronc, The Troggs, Françoise Hardy, Aphrodite’s Child, Johnny Hallyday, Fleetwood Mac, The Who, The Small Faces, P.P. Arnold, Booker T & The MGs, The Pink Floyd, Marie Laforet, The Equals, and many others. The invitation-only guest list included hundreds of fashionably dressed Parisian partygoers wearing the latest styles, and casually lounging about every inch of a cool, modern, space-age set.
Many of the artists here are documented during a very specific transition period in their careers. The Who lip-sync to “I Can See for Miles,” “Magic Bus,” and the rare Jigsaw Puzzle version of “I’m a Boy” with high energy despite the fact they had just suffered a year long dry spell devoid of commercial hits. Just a few months later they would switch gears with the musical Tommy and go on to become one of greatest stadium rock bands of the ‘70s. Later, during the Small Faces performance Keith Moon and Pete Townshend can be seen sitting behind Kenney Jones’ drum riser grooving to the music and having a good time without drawing attention to themselves. The Small Faces didn’t even bother to plug their gear in—they were only weeks away from breaking up—and performed tracks from their final album Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake.
The Pink Floyd can be seen still finding their way after the loss of vocalist and songwriter Syd Barrett just one year prior. In 1969 they would get back on track becoming the premiere live space rock band, incorporating their success into their fourth album Ummagumma, recorded five months later. The Equals (notable for being one of England’s first racially integrated bands) perform their million-selling chart-topper, “Baby, Come Back,” with guitarist Eddy Grant looking as if he had just time traveled from the 1981 punk scene, sporting bleached blonde hair and an orange vinyl suit. Eddy Grant‘s futuristic vision would serve him years later with a very successful solo career that included the platinum single “Electric Avenue.” Fleetwood Mac is also in wonderful form here with Jeremy Spencer taking the lead on two of the three songs, he would abruptly leave the band just two years later to join a religious group called the Children of God.
In an impressive television debut, English singing, French-based rock band Les Variations belt out some classic ‘60s garage tunes in front of a wildly enthusiastic home crowd. In his memoirs, guitarist Marc Tobaly remembers everyone getting a little bit drunk at the canteen down the street from ORTF Studios, insisting that the viewers at home were indeed watching a “real” party on television. American soul singer P.P. Arnold sang her interpretation of the Bee Gees song, “To Love Somebody.” Sadly, her performance here suffers from a poor sound mix, and she is not joined by The Small Faces for “If You Think You’re Groovy” despite the fact that they played on the recording and were present at the TV studio during the taping. While YouTube videos of Surprise Partie are constantly being removed because of content-ID matching, the fine folks over at Modcinema are selling a fantastic looking transfer on DVD as a 2-disc set. Dig it!
One of the posters that came with copies of ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ LP
The landing of Apollo 11 on the moon easily qualifies as one of the truly epochal moments of the twentieth century. The three American astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, spent about 21 hours on the moon, during which time countless thousands of people surely looked up and thought, “Wow, there are human beings up there.” In fact, we know for sure that David Gilmour of Pink Floyd was one of those people, as we shall see.
With some assistance from its colleagues in the Netherlands and Germany, the BBC mounted programming to celebrate the great event. One of the shows featured a live jam by Pink Floyd. The program was a one-hour BBC1 TV Omnibus special with the whimsical title of So What If It’s Just Green Cheese?. It was broadcast on July 20, 1969, at 10 p.m. Interestingly, the program featured two actors who would become much more famous about three decades later—Ian McKellan and Judi Dench. Dudley Moore and the Dudley Moore Trio were also on hand.
The Floyd jam session eventually came to be called “Moonhead.” It’s included in Pink Floyd’s massive new box set The Early Years 1965-1972, which was released just last week (its 2,840 minutes makes its $571 price tag seem almost affordable. Almost.).
David Gilmour reminisced about the appearance in an article he wrote for the Guardian in 2009:
We were in a BBC TV studio jamming to the landing. It was a live broadcast, and there was a panel of scientists on one side of the studio, with us on the other. I was 23.
The programming was a little looser in those days, and if a producer of a late-night programme felt like it, they would do something a bit off the wall. ... They were broadcasting the moon landing and they thought that to provide a bit of a break they would show us jamming. It was only about five minutes long. The song was called “Moonhead”—it’s a nice, atmospheric, spacey, 12-bar blues.
I also remember at the time being in my flat in London, gazing up at the moon, and thinking, “There are actually people standing up there right now.” It brought it home to me powerfully, that you could be looking up at the moon and there would be people standing on it.
I’m guessing that many, if not most, of our UK-based readers caught this weekend’s big Pink Floyd TV special on the BBC. Obviously this program—a satisfying buffet of solid gold early Pink Floyd performances, in and of itself—is but a brief taster to whet the public’s appetite for that much-heralded (but way overpriced) 27 disc box set that’s coming out in November.
Starting with the Syd Barrett-era rarity of a “Jugband Blues” performance and ending prior to the release of The Dark Side of the Moon, the BBC compilation of HD Floyd footage Pink Floyd Beginnings 1967-1972 is a true stunner. Even if you already have most of this footage on high quality bootlegs—I’ve probably got about 80% of it myself—you’ve never seen or heard it quite like this. The only thing I can really compare the quality to would be last year’s Beatles Blu-ray collection, which was absolutely superb in every way. Even the things that would have have a videotape origin have been nicely rezzed up to high definition. Visually it’s simply dazzling.
Which sucks because now I can easily justify spending the big bucks on this goddamned overpriced box set, despite having the vast majority of it already. Trust me, I’d have been happy to pay $250, but even at over twice that (It’s listed for $571 on Amazon—ouch!) I’m simply salivating to own it after watching this hour-long BBC teaser and know myself well enough not to trust my itchy trigger finger anywhere near that Amazon 1-click button. My wife is just going to kill me.
I thought I’d be able to find Pink Floyd Beginnings 1967-1972 on YouTube—it’s currently not posted there—but but fret not Pink peeps, a kind person posted it on an Arabic language website. Having said that, who knows how long it will last? Use it or lose it, in other words.
A behind-the-scenes images of Bob Geldof as ‘Pink’ and actual skinheads from the 1982 film ‘Pink Floyd - The Wall.’
I don’t know how many nights I spent in my youth tripping balls on acid in a dark movie theater with 100 or so of my stoned out peers watching 1982’s WTF film Pink Floyd - The Wall for the 20th time (I guess I answered my own question there: 20). It was truly a rite of passage where I grew up back in Boston and I know that wasn’t the only place where young minds were getting blown apart by visions of marching hammers or a bloody, soon to be eyebrowless Bob Geldof screaming “TAKE THAT FUCKERS!” as he tosses a television out of a window.
Before I continue, I’ll give you a minute to recover from that mini-flashback you just had.
Bob Geldof being transformed into your worst drug-induced nightmare.
If you are following the news at all these days (and I wouldn’t blame you if you and the “news” are on “a break” right now as most of it makes me want to hide under my bed) you’ve likely seen some of the comparisons from last week’s GOP Convention to scenes from director Alan Parker’s brilliant adaptation of Pink Floyd’s 1979 conceptual masterpiece, The Wall. As I am about as nostalgic as they come I decided to watch the film once again (sans acid this go ‘round) and it should be of no surprise that despite a lack of chemicals cavorting around in my head the film is still quite impossible to look away from. It is also quite possibly even more terrifying to watch now when you allow yourself to consider the parallels some scenes seem to run with the ugly rhetoric spewing from the mouths of elected officials and a man who is currently vying to occupy the highest political office in the United States.
But as I often do, I’ve once again digressed away from the point of this post which is to share with you some remarkable behind-the-scenes photos from The Wall that I had never seen before as well as an interesting tidbit about the film’s star Bob Geldof. Apparently Geldof (who’s allegedly the leader of a new liberal political “party” in England called the “Sneerers” in case you were wondering what he’s currently up to) couldn’t swim and was also massively phobic when it came to blood. So when it came time to film the scene where Pink is bleeding out in a swimming pool, the reluctant Geldof was placed on top of a see-through plastic body mold so he could appear to be floating in the pool among a cloud of his blood for the sequence. Yikes. Many of the images in this post can be found in a must-own book for any Floyd fan by David Appleby, Pink Floyd - Behind The Wall.
Director Alan Parker on the set of ‘The Wall’ with ‘Little Pink’ played by actor David Bingham.
This remarkable footage of Pink Floyd live at “The Amsterdam Rock Circus” was shot on May 22, 1972. The festival was held at Olympic Stadium and the other acts included Donovan, Gene Clark, Dr. John, The New Riders Of The Purple Sage and Buddy Miles. Pink Floyd were the headliners.
This admittedly ragged, yet still quite compelling document is notable for so many reasons: First of all, there is so very little footage of Pink Floyd just before (and after) The Dark Side of the Moon came out in 1973. They were obviously a pretty well-documented band from the very start of their career, but there’s only a small amount of live visual Floyd material from this particular era.
Second, the band is on fucking fire here. Please don’t take my word for it. It starts with an orchestra-less “Atom Heart Mother” (which includes a berserk David Gilmour guitar solo) and then goes into an extra dramatic and extra heavy “Careful with that Axe, Eugene” complete with a massive “festival-sized” pyrotechnics display during “the scream” bit. From the looks of the pyre they had going on there, this cool-as-shit conflagration probably singed some fringe off at least a few of the hippies in attendance that night. There was more fire during Nick Mason’s drum solo as he pounds on a giant flame-encircled gong. They also do “Saucerful of Secrets.”
Lastly, it was the final ever live performance of “Atom Heart Mother.”
The Body is an innovative scientific documentary film that was directed and produced by Roy Battersby (actress Kate Beckinsale’s Trotskyite stepfather) in 1970. The film’s soundtrack, composed by quirky Scotsman Ron Geesin and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, was released as Music from the Body. Some of Geesin and Waters’ songs made use of the human body as a sort of musical instrument. Pink Floyd were always big on using the heartbeat, but Music from the Body even used farts. One of the songs is called “More Than Seven Dwarfs In Penis Land.”
In Battersby’s film, internal cameras are used to show different parts of the human anatomy in action. The film was narrated by actor Frank Finlay and Battersby’s fellow Trotsky admirer Vanessa Redgrave.
“Sea Shell and Stone/Breathe in the Air” plays under the opening credits. If you can’t take the sight of a mother’s breast in a science doc, don’t click play, you’ve been warned, weirdo:
By 1967 Pink Floyd was a significant presence on the UK rock scene. In the autumn of that year the group made its first trip to the United States, where they participated in a rather ill-fated tour that had to be rescheduled due to the late arrival of permits, leading to a great many cancellations. But the tour began in earnest on November 4, 1967, with a show at the Winterland Auditorium in San Francisco. Another factor making the tour difficult was that Syd Barrett was starting to fray in a way that couldn’t be ignored.
That first week in the United States, Pink Floyd taped a TV appearance for a show called Groovy on KHJ Channel 9 at the Cheetah Club in Santa Monica, then appeared on The Pat Boone Show, and a day later, American Bandstand and then another KHJ show called Boss City. These appearances would appear in people’s living rooms in a different order days or weeks later, but it appears that the American Bandstand gig was the third to be taped and the third to appear on TV. The Pat Boone Show appearance was apparently not saved for posterity, but at least a section of the American Bandstand appearance has survived, as you can see.
After playing the band’s fourth single “Apples and Oranges” (which failed to chart), Dick Clark engages in a bit of goofy Q&A banter, inanely asking Roger Waters about American cuisine. Waters says he’s only had “two cheeseburgers,” which “sat quite well.”
At a show at The Fillmore in San Francisco a few days after the American Bandstand appearance, Barrett slowly detuned his guitar during a performance of “Interstellar Overdrive.” By the following spring, Barrett would no longer be in the group.
If you’re British and of a certain age then Doctor Who was most likely your first introduction to the sounds of electronic music. Apart from its famous theme tune, Doctor Who used an electronic soundtrack composed by Tristram Cary to underscore the arrival of the Daleks onto TV screens in 1963. At the time, most people considered electronic music as weird, alienating noise. Using it in a primetime TV series like Doctor Who was—as one commentator explains in the fascinating documentary What the Future Sounded Like—a rather subversive act.
Tristram Cary struck upon the potential of tape and electronic music while serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. The son of the Irish novelist Joyce Cary (The Horse’s Mouth), Tristram was one of the earliest pioneers of electronic music during the 1950s. A classically-trained composer, he had scored such movies as The Ladykillers and Town on Trial but found traditional music inhibiting. Reasoning that music was just the organization of sound, Cary began to experiment with electronic sounds, tape recordings and musique concrète, in a bid to create “music without frontiers.”
At the same, two other electronic music pioneers, the aristocratic Peter Zinovieff and engineer David Cockerell were separately testing out their own ideas. The three eventually came together to form the Electronic Music Studios in 1969. Their intention was to produce a versatile monophonic synthesiser, which could be cheaply produced for public use. While this proved tricky, Cockerell did manage to design one of the first British portable commercially available synthesizer—or Voltage Controlled Studio—the EMS VCS3. This once futuristic-looking “suitcase synth” is what Brian Eno was seen using during his tenure in Roxy Music.
Fifty years after they were originally recorded, several heretofore unreleased Pink Floyd demos dating from late 1964 and early 1965 were released as a limited edition set of two seven-inch singles on this past November’s Record Store Day as 1965: Their First Recordings. The label, Parlophone, pressed up just 1050 copies of the EP (50 were promo copies) and it was only for sale in the UK.
This unnecessary scarcity may seem odd for a group as huge as Pink Floyd, but more than likely the point was not necessarily to gift this music to the grateful public for Christmas, but rather to extend the copyright which would have expired in 2015 under British intellectual property law and put the recordings into the public domain.
Two of the tracks, “Lucy Leave,” an early Syd Barrett original, and a Slim Harpo cover of his “I’m a King Bee” have been bootlegged countless times since escaping via the famous Magnesium Proverbs bootleg in the early 90s. The songs were recorded when the band would have probably still have been called “The Tea Set” or “The Pink Floyd Sound” (“Pink Floyd” came from two bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Previous names the band performed under included “Sigma 6” “The Meggadeaths” “The Abdabs” and “The Screaming Abdabs”).
As the oft-bootlegged version of “Lucy Leave”—which was culled from an acetate—had a prominent thudding skip in the opening bars, it’s great to hear this song in higher quality. The absolutely amazing guitar player here is not, as you might expect Syd, but a fellow named Rado Klose who left the group a four piece to continue his architectural studies. I’m nuts about this song. To me this is the equal of ANY later Pink Floyd song. It’s amazing to me that they seem almost embarrassed by it. It doesn’t merely smoke, it burns.
Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point has always been controversial, dividing even his staunchest defenders. Some feel the 1970 film—Antonioni’s only American movie—completely missed its mark and failed to capture the zeitgeist of the hippie New Left counterculture of the era. Some blame the inexperienced lead actors, Mark Frechette and Daria Halprin (who were linked romantically). When Zabriskie Point was released audiences and critics alike hated it, just hated it, and although that is… perfectly understandable, I find it gorgeous to look at (the man who shot Red Desert certainly knew how to shoot the landscape of Death Valley) and I like the odd “outsider” alienation the Italian employs to examine American culture and consumerism. It’s just not a film to watch when you’re… sleepy if you take my point.
And speaking of Zabriskie Point, I’ve been obsessed with a Pink Floyd bootleg for years now and wanted to call it to your attention, dear readers, chances are that some of you might enjoy it, too.
Apparently the Floyd were at one point to have been the sole composer/musicians for the Zabriskie Point soundtrack. They completed eight numbers for the film, but only three were used. Antonioni added material by The Youngbloods, Roy Orbison, Jerry Garcia, The Kaleidoscope, Patti Page and the Rolling Stones to round out the film’s score. (Oddly, Antonioni visited the Doors in the studio when they were recording the extraordinary “L’America” for L.A. Woman, but the director inexplicably turned down the track, which could have worked spectacularly well in his film.)
Under the titles like “370 Roman Yards” or “A Total Zabriskie Point of View,” you can hear all of the soundtrack music recorded by Pink Floyd for Antonioni that never made it into the film. Whichever name you find it under, these boots purport to be the “lost” Pink Floyd soundtrack to Zabriskie Point with all eight of the tracks recorded for the film appearing in the order of the intended album’s run list. Some of the boots contain all the known outtakes.
It’s an extremely satisfying listen: Some of it sounds like Atom Heart Mother, some of it like Meddle and some of it is reminiscent of “Grantchester Meadows,” Roger Waters’ dreamy, pastoral composition from Ummagumma. “Heart Beat, Pig Meat” was Pink Floyd’s first time using a human heartbeat as a musical instrument (but it would not be the last). It’s one of their most monstrous numbers, truly a mind-blower. Rick Wright contributed a piano number called “The Violent Sequence” which was also unused, but later retooled as “Us and Them” on Dark Side of the Moon. Parts of the score remind me of Erik Satie and it has some of the few Floyd numbers that could be described as “blues rock.” Taken as a whole, it does absolutely sound like a “lost” Pink Floyd album recorded at the end of 1969, because that’s exactly what it is…
This comes from one of the torrents floating around on the Internet…
In the summer of 1969 Michelangelo Antonioni completed the filming of his visionary and prophetic view of America and our society. All that was left was to complete the movie with a good soundtrack. Antonioni was interested in everything that was new and trendy among young people. Don Hall was on the air during his nocturnal DJ program on KPPC FM Pasadena when he was contacted personally by Antonioni at the end of the summer of 1969. Antonioni really liked Don and invited him to have some screenings of the movie. After that Don provided a list of songs he felt would work, most coming from his program. Antonioni asked MGM to hire Don as Music Advisor for the soundtrack and came back to Roma (Don still has a letter from Antonioni, sent from Rome with the list of the songs he’d like to be in the movie, all songs for the radio-desert sequences).
Still they had to find how to score all the main sequences: Beginning, Violent, Take Off, Love and Explosions sequences (and eventually more). Antonioni wanted original music for those sequences. Many artists and bands were contacted to write original music for the movie, but none of them was asked to write the whole soundtrack of the movie.
In October ‘69 Don was in Rome with Antonioni trying to find a way to score the whole movie in time for Christmas. Near the end of the month it happened that Clare Peploe (co-writer of the movie and Antonioni’s girlfriend at the time) brought to Rome a brand new copy of the new Pink Floyd album, Ummagumma, from London. Antonioni, Don Hall and Clare listened to the new album with a small stereo at Antonioni’s house in Rome. Antonioni REALLY liked Ummagumma and listened several times to the whole album. He liked “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” very much and told Don that he’d like a new version for the final sequence of Zabriskie Point. They decided to try and hire Pink Floyd to record all the original music they needed for the movie. MGM contacted Pink Floyd. After that Steve O’Rourke came to Rome alone during the first days of November ‘69 to check and organize it all. All was done in few days, and Pink Floyd came on the 15th of November with Pete Watts and Alan Stiles, cancelling some shows planned for their present tour. Antonioni and Don showed the movie to them several times with some scenes already scored, highlighting those without. At that point Steve and Roger Waters had a talk and asked Antonioni to try to score the whole movie. He, being enthusiastic about Ummagumma, agreed.
Pink Floyd produced a large quantity of music, especially for the Love Scene but Antonioni was not satisfied and the sessions ran longer than planned. In the end Pink Floyd went back to London with some songs to finish. Out of all the entire production of songs, including themes and variations, Antonioni ended up using only three songs. He kept on searching for “something better” till the last days before the premiere of the movie. In London Pink Floyd completed their final versions of eight songs with the intent of them being their eventual album for the Zabriskie Point soundtrack.
You should not have that much of a problem, armed only with Google, of tracking down your own copy of this amazing “lost” Pink Floyd soundtrack album. Here are some highlights:
“Heart Beat, Pig Meat” sees the Floyd do musique concrète (and very well, I might add) over the opening credits:
“The Violent Sequence” which later became Dark Side of the Moon‘s “Us and Them”:
Forty years ago this month, Pink Floyd released their Wish You Were Here album.
Wish You Were Here was released on September 12th 1975, and is considered by band members Richard Wright and David Gilmour,to be their favorite Pink Floyd album. The recording of the album seemed to be somewhat of a tortured affair for the band—Roger Waters has said several times that he felt like the group was exhausted, creatively drained and perhaps should have just broken up—but slowly a powerful album came together, inspired by the band’s debt to its tragic founder, Syd Barrett and the album’s lead-off cut, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” The story of an unrecognizable Barrett showing up for an impromptu visit at the recording studio as the song was being mixed is a harrowing anecdote indeed. Several present broke down in tears at the sight of their old friend.
Featured in The Story of ‘Wish You Were Here’ are sleeve artist Storm Thorgerson of the legendary Hipgnosis design firm, folk singer Roy Harper who did the sarcastic vocal for “Have A Cigar” (many people assume this is Roger Waters, it’s not), Hollywood stuntman Ronnie Rondell (the “burning man” of the album jacket), backing vocalist Venetta Fields (The Blackberries) and others, including photographer Jill Furmanovsky who documented some of the sessions. Wish You Were Here recording engineer Brian Humphries also reveals some of the secrets of the master tapes at Abbey Road Studios, illustrating how certain sonic elements were constructed [for instance the shimmering “singing” wine glasses sound that opens the record, was reused from the aborted “Household Objects” recording sessions.
In the final cut: If you’re a big Pink Floyd fan, 2011’s The Story of ‘Wish You Were Here’ is worth a watch. I loved it, but then again, I’m one of those Pink Floyd fans who can hear the same damned stories repeated over and over again without ever getting bored of them. In truth, there is not all that much ground covered here that’s not been covered in past Pink Floyd documentaries, but it’s so well done that this is in no way an impediment to enjoying the film. It certainly wasn’t for me.