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.
But it took YouTube user Garren Lazar/Super G to see the possibilities in the rest of the animated Peanuts oeuvre. He has made a whopping 34 videos (!) using Peanuts characters to animate videos for songs by a variety of classic hard rock acts, as seen below. These videos are remarkably good—I especially like the use of Schroeder’s impressionistic “Pathétique” sequence, which was just waiting to be used for something like this. The Peanuts version of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes”—24 minutes long, mind you—is especially mind-blowing.
During Danny Boyle’s short film “Isles of Wonder,” shown as part of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the camera flies from a small stream in the country down the Thames and into the Olympic venue. When the camera gets to the Battersea Power Station, a floating pig flies by, a fun wink, of course, to that most iconic of album covers, the 1977 Hipgnosis-designed sleeve for Pink Floyd’s Animals album.
Animals, a bitter Orwell-inspired anti-capitalism screed needed an image that was appropriate for the dark vision of humanity heard within its grooves. Before they settled on the porcine zeppelin—Roger Water’s concept—Hipgnosis had pitched the group on the notion of a child discovering his parents fucking like… animals. Which could have been interesting, but instead they hired noted Australian artist Jeffrey Shaw to design the inflatable pig, which was then manufactured by the German company Ballon Fabrik, who constructed the Zeppelin airships of the early part of the 20th century.
The 30 feet (9.1 m) long pig balloon—dubbed “Algie”—was inflated with helium and positioned in place on December 2, but bad weather delayed the shoot and the following day the balloon broke free of its tethers and floated off, ultimately ending up in a farm near Kent where it apparently terrified a herd of cows.
My first memory of a record album being a media event was Pink Floyd’s The Wall in 1980, when I was 10 years old. I had some KISS albums by that time and the soundtrack to Grease and a couple other things, but The Wall was the first current album that penetrated my consciousness as a Big Fucking Deal. The album was released in late 1979 but I didn’t register that information, for me the phenomenon happened purely in 1980. For you 1980 might be the year of London Calling or Los Angeles; I wouldn’t hear about those albums until a few years later. For me it was the year of The Wall.
It must have been a big deal in Germany as well, judging from this excellent footage of a duo going by the name “Vierzehn” (which means “fourteen”) performing a German version of “Another Brick in the Wall (Part I)” on two different talk shows. Their rendition is dramatically shorter than the original, consisting of a single verse and chorus performed by the duo and then repeated by a chorus of German schoolchildren who march out at the appropriate moment. Then comes the righteous solo.
There’s very little information about Vierzehn out there, but one of the guys was named Joachim Heider, who sometimes went by “Alfie Khan” and who led a band called the Alfie Khan Sound Orchestra.
The German title is “Stein Um Stein,” which means “brick by brick.” Stein actually means stone; the proper word for “brick is Ziegel or Ziegelstein, but it obviously works well enough.
Here are the German lyrics followed by a translation—you’ll see it doesn’t really match up with the lyrics of Roger Waters (no reference to “dunklen Sarkasmus im Klassenzimmer”):
Wir sind nicht für euch geboren.
Wie Computer programmiert
In uns’re Köpfe schaut uns keiner
Nein, wir schwimmen nicht mit dem Strom
Hey, Lehrer, laßt uns doch in Ruh’!
Stein um Stein mauert ihr uns langsam ein.
Stein um Stein mauert ihr uns langsam ein.
Wir sind nicht für euch geboren. . . .
We are not born for you
Programmed like computers
In our heads nobody is looking
No, we do not swim with the stream
Hey, teacher, leave us alone!
Brick by brick you are walling us slowly in.
Although apparently seen by some members of the group as one of their most embarrassing moments, 1968’s “Point Me at the Sky,” the fifth single from Pink Floyd is hardly cringeworthy. The song was recorded on November 4, after Syd Barrett’s departure from the group that Spring. It was written by David Gilmour and Roger Waters under duress from the record label to continue producing the sort of catchy psychedelic whimsy their original leader was famous for.
The lyrics describe a fellow named Henry McClean calling up his friend Eugene with an offer of flight…
This is Henry McClean
And I’ve finished my beautiful flying machine
And I’m ringing to say
That I’m leaving and maybe
You’d like to fly with me
And hide with me, baby
Isn’t it strange
How little we change
Isn’t it sad we’re insane
Playing the games that we know and in tears
The games we’ve been playing for thousands and thousands and ....
Pointing to the cosmic glider
“Pull this plastic glider higher
Light the fuse and stand right back”
He cried “This is my last good-bye.”
Point me at the sky and tell it fly
Point me at the sky and tell it fly
Point me at the sky and tell it fly
And if you survive till two thousand and five
I hope you’re exceedingly thin
For if you are stout you will have to breathe out
While the people around you breathe in
People pressing on might say
It’s something that I hate to say
I’m slipping down to eat the ground
A little refuge on my brain
Point me at the sky and tell it fly
Point me at the sky and tell it fly
Point me at the sky and tell it fly
And all we’ve got to say to you is good-bye
It’s time to go, better run and get your bags, it’s good-bye
Nobody cry, it’s good-bye
Crash, crash, crash, crash, good-bye…
The song was a flop, its B-side, “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” (I wonder if it’s the same Eugene as the A-side?) becoming the better known number. “Point Me at the Sky” is perhaps the most obscure of all the band’s singles, having never appeared on a Pink Floyd album until the 1992 Shine On box’s The Early Singles disc. At that, The Early Singles was still only available to fans who purchased that expensive box set. (In the US, it was never released as a single at all, and available only as a cut on a 1978 Harvest Records sampler that was only sold via mail order.)
The group made a short promotional film for the song, taking flight in a 1920s vintage Tiger Moth aeroplane. The plane flies around the Biggin Hill aerodrome in Southeast London—where the photo of all the group’s equipment was shot for Ummagumma‘s back cover—and there are shots of the trains pulling in and out of Paddington Station.
I can’t imagine why they thought “Point Me to the Sky” was so bad—Roger Waters called it a “notable failure”—I’m in love with this song. They’ve recorded way worse.
This incredible comic book program, designed by Hipgnosis for Pink Floyd’s 1975 tour supporting The Dark Side of the Moon, is full of wonders. It has an appealing lack of polish that puts it somewhere halfway between “professional promotional item” and “schoolboy’s notebook scribbling.” The bubble letters on page 2, where the credits are, are particularly striking. The “programme” is credited to Hipgnosis, Nick Mason, Gerald Scarfe, Paul Stubbs, Joe Petagno, Colin Elgie, Richard Evans, and Dave Gale. Scarfe, of course, would create the imagery for Floyd’s 1980 album The Wall.
The comic book features a short comic about “Rog Waters,” who is identified as the “ace scorer” of the football squad called the “Grantchester Rovers,” contending with a nefarious waiter who has “doped” him, but he fights back and leads his team to (apparently) ... a rousing tie. There’s also a comic about “Captain Mason,” of the Royal Navy in World War II. There’s plenty more, but I’ll leave you to find out the rest on your own.
The great and inventive band Ween broke up in 2012, but both parts of the group have remained musically active. Aaron Freeman (Gene Ween) put out Marvelous Clouds, an impressively catchy album of Rod McKuen covers as well as an album called FREEMAN. For his part, Mickey Melchiondo (Dean Ween) has been touring to support his side project Moistboyz’ fifth album, appropriately titled 5. (In that band, which also features Nick Oliveri of Queens of the Stone Age, Melchiondo goes by the name Mickey Moist.)
On February 21 of this year, Melchiondo “fulfilled a long-held wish,” according to Ultimate Classic Rock, when he took the stage at John and Peter’s in New Hope, Pennsylvania (long Ween’s base of operations) and cranked out a monster 37-minute version of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes,” which occupies side 2 of their 1971 album Meddle. That version lasted a paltry 23 minutes, so judging from that metric alone, Melchiondo’s version is obviously 61% better. On Live at Pompeii, the song is broken up into “Echoes, Part 1” and “Echoes, Part 2,” and the two tracks together clock in at about 25 minutes.
Joining Melchiondo for the performance are Guy Heller (vocals), Bill Fowler (guitar and vocals), Ray Kubian (drums), Sean Faust (keyboards), and Chris Williams (bass). If you have any doubts about Melchiondo’s ability to write and execute a lengthy hard-rock guitar piece, I urge you to listen to “Woman and Man,” an epic 11-minute slab of ass-kicking rock that constitutes the penultimate track of Ween’s 2007 album La Cucaracha.
As Melchiondo explained, “We grew up watching Live at Pompeii all the time and finally got to execute this song properly.” I’m no Pink Floyd authority, but I listened to the Pompeii version and the Deaner version back to back, and I think the 2014 version holds up pretty well.
Here’s a real treat: On the 10th of May, 2007 at London’s Barbican Centre, a diverse group of great musicians got together to honor the memory of the late Roger “Syd” Barrett, the founding member of Pink Floyd. The co-musical director for the show was one of my best friends, Adam Peters (you’ve heard his cello in Echo & The Bunnymen’s “Killing Moon,” “Life in a Northern Town” by The Dream Academy and on many albums. Adam also did the soundtrack to my Disinformation TV series and now he works on Hollywood films).
Also appearing with Roger Waters, was my former next door neighbor in NYC, Jon Carin. Jon actually has played with both Pink Floyd AND Roger Waters. I think he’s the only person to have had a foot in both camps, which was interesting position to be in, I think you’ll agree. Surely there’s a book in that!
When Adam got back from the concert, full of great stories about the experience, I was eager to hear a CD of the show, but he told me that it had deliberately not been recorded because the idea was that this was a very special event and if you were there, you saw and heard something amazing, but that it would… evaporate. Of course Pink Floyd fans being what they are, at least one enterprising fellow made a pretty good audience recording. Here ‘tis as generously shared by the quite wonderful Brain Damage podcast. The show starts about 7 minutes in. It’s pretty amazing.
This incredible event was a tribute to the late Roger “Syd” Barrett, produced by Nick Laird-Clowes (of Dream Academy) with associate producer Joe Boyd (early Pink Floyd’s producer and founder of legendary UFO club in London). Surprise performances from Roger Waters himself with Jon Carin then the entire current Pink Floyd line-up (David Gilmour, Richard Wright, Nick Mason) were absolutely unbelievable!
The numerous other artists performing Syd Barrett’s music included Damon Albarn (Blur/Gorillaz), Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), The Bees, Vashti Bunyan, Captain Sensible, Robyn Hitchcock. The house band included Andy Bell (bass, Oasis), Simon Finley (drums, Echo & The Bunnymen) and Ted Barnes (guitar, Beth Orton). A remarkably fitting tribute to Roger “Syd” Barrett. Doctored for supersound!
1. Show intro
2. Bike - Sense of Sound Choir
3. Flaming - Captain Sensible & Monty Oxymoron
4. Here I Go - Kevin Ayers
5. Oh, What A Dream - Kevin Ayers
6. Baby Lemonade - Nick Laird-Clowes & Damon Albarn
7. Octopus - The Bees
8. The Gnome - Nick Laird-Clowes & Neulander (Adam Peters/Korinna Knoll)
9. Matilda Mother - Mike Heron
10. Golden Hair - Martha Wainwright, Kate McGarrigle & Lily Lanken
11. See Emily Play - Martha Wainwright, Kate McGarrigle & Lily Lanken
12. Flickering Flame - Roger Waters & Jon Carin
13. Video presentation
14. Chapter 24 - Gordon Anderson & Sense of Sound Choir
15. The Scarecrow - Vashti Bunyan, Gareth Dickson & Nick Laird-Clowes
16. Love Song - Vashti Bunyan, Gareth Dickson & Nick Laird-Clowes
17. Ian Barrett - Talking about his uncle Roger “Syd” Barrett
18. The Word Song - Damon Albarn, Kate St. John & David Coulter
19. Astronomy Domine - Captain Sensible & Jon Carin
20. Terrapin - Robyn Hitchcock
21. Gigolo Aunt - Robyn Hitchcock, John Paul Jones & Ruby Wright
22. Dark Globe - Chrissie Hynde & Adam Seymour
23. Late Night - Chrissie Hynde & Adam Seymour
24. Joe Boyd - Talking about Roger “Syd” Barrett and organising the show
25. Arnold Layne - David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright
26. Jugband Blues from video presentation
27. Bike - Jam Session with all musicians (except for Roger Waters)
Below, what would be the final performance by Pink Floyd. David Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason play “Arnold Layne” with Jon Carin (keyboards, vocals) and Andy Bell from Oasis (bass guitar).
Roger Waters and Captain Sensible videos after the jump…
It’s an impossible question to answer, but sidestepping it somewhat, if I had to pick the best overall “time capsule” of the rock era to preserve for future generations, it would probably be Peter Clifton’s Superstars In Concert. Also known as Rock City in a different edit, the film was directed and produced by Clifton (The Song Remains the Same, Popcorn, The London Rock and Roll Show) and is a hodge-podge compiling (mostly) his promotional short films and snippets of concert performances shot between 1964 and 1973 by the likes of Peter Whitehead (Wholly Communion, Charlie Is My Darling, Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London), Michael Cooper (who shot Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising), Ernest Vincze (the cinematographer responsible for the 2005 Doctor Who reboot) and Ivan Strasburg (Treme).
Featured in the film are The Rolling Stones (several times), Eric Burdon and The Animals, a typically demure appearance of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Otis Redding bringing the house down, Cream, Steve Winwood, Blind Faith, Cat Stevens (a stark Kubrickian promo film for his “Father and Son” single) , The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Donovan, Joe Cocker, a segment with The Ike and Tina Turner Revue that will bring a smile to your face, Pink Floyd and Rod Stewart and the Faces. Pete Townshend is seen getting in his digs at the Stones for promoting pot use, managing to make himself look like a blue-nosed twat in the process, while Mick and the boys are seen doing “Jumpin Jack Flash” in the (decidedly more evil) warpaint version of that promo film (there were two, this is the one that was NOT shown on The Ed Sullivan Show for obvious reasons) and in their promo film for “We Love You” which features Keef in a judge’s wig, Marianne Faithfull as a barrister and Mick nude wrapped up in a fur rug (a sly joke that if you don’t get, then google “Rolling Stones,” “Redlands,” drug bust, her name and “Hershey Bar.”)
Superstars In Concert came out in Japan on the laserdisc format and that’s how I first saw it, in the late 80s. Since then, other than the various clips showing up cut from the film on YouTube, it’s remained an obscurity. Apparently there was a Malaysian bootleg and then in 2003 a Brazilian magazine called DVD Total gave away the film for free with one of their issues. So far fewer than 200 people have viewed the video.
DO NOT miss what’s perhaps the most intense version of Pink Floyd’s “Careful with That Axe Eugene” ever captured on film. This entire film is absolutely amazing from start to finish, but it jumps off the scale during that part (Otis Redding is no slouch, either!) I highly recommend letting it load first before you hit play, otherwise it’s kind of flickery. If you wait a while, it doesn’t hang up and looks and sounds great.
I type this as someone who has (perhaps obsessively) gone out of his way—for decades now—acquiring Pink Floyd bootlegs. I couldn’t get enough of them, always trading up in quality if possible. There was always an endless supply of them, with “new” ones popping up constantly. It was a disease like stamp collecting. I even paid a hundred bucks for one that I just had to have…
Since YouTube launched in 2005, of course, there’s been so much additional Pink Floyd goodness making its way to the public—an avalanche really—which is the only way to explain how THIS ONE got past me in the Floydian deluge… I’d read a few years ago that the British Film Institute had located tapes of two of Pink Floyd’s three Top of the Pops appearances in the summer of 1967 and that the quality was a little ropey. I promptly forget about it, but that footage turned up on YouTube about a year ago, even if I just saw it myself this morning.
True the quality isn’t great—only one of the tapes was watchable apparently—but who’s going to complain about catching a rare glimpse of a still functional Syd Barrett fronting Pink Floyd on TOTP in 1967??? Before this video was located, practically the only documentation of the group’s trio of appearances on the program was the color shot used on the Syd Barrett bootleg “Unforgotten Hero” as seen above.
Although I would imagine that memories of this tend to be hazy... for many—most—Americans aged 50 and older, it’s fairly likely that the first time they heard Pink Floyd (unless they were serious musos with subscriptions to Crawdaddy, Rolling Stone and Creem) was via the 1972 single “Free Four” (as in “One, Two, FREE FOUR!”) their first song to garner significant FM radio airplay, making it into the top 50.
“Free Four” comes from the group’s Obscured by Clouds soundtrack produced for Barbet Schroeder’s La Vallée (“The Valley”) film. It’s the second song the Floyd would record (after A Saucerful of Secrets’ “Corporal Clegg” in 1968) about Roger Waters’ father, who died in WWII. Now largely forgotten,“Free Four” is a jaunty little number, apparently, until you pay attention to the lyrics, which are as biting and as bitter as anything Waters has ever written:
The memories of a man in his old age
Are the deeds of a man in his prime.
You shuffle in gloom in the sickroom
And talk to yourself till you die.
Life is a short, warm moment
And death is a long cold rest.
You get your chance to try
In the twinkling of an eye:
Eighty years, with luck, or even less.
So all aboard for the American tour,
And maybe you’ll make it to the top.
And mind how you go.
I can tell you, because I know.
You may find it hard to get off.
You are the angel of death
And I am the dead man’s son.
And he died like a mole in a fox hole.
And everyone is still in the run.
And who is the master of foxhounds?
And who says the hunt has begun?
And who calls the tune in the courtroom?
And who beats the funeral drum?
And who would have thought that about a year later, the purveyors of this depressing ditty would unleash one of the top selling albums of all time? You’ll note that “Free Four” sounds like Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” played by The Kinks with Marc Bolan on second guitar and sung by Paul McCartney.
“Free Four” picture sleeves are among the most collectible of all Pink Floyd records.