Saturday, 4 December 2021

Smoke On The Water - Montreux 50 years on

The Montreux Casino goes down in flames, Dec 4 1971
50 years ago this evening, “some stupid with a flare-gun” caused the Montreux casino fire that was the inspiration for Deep Purple’s best-known song Smoke On The Water.

In December 1971, Deep Purple were in Switzerland to record what would become their classic album Machine Head. On December 4th they attended a show at the Montreux Casino, on the shore of Lake Geneva. During the show, by Frank Zappa’s band The Mothers Of Invention, a member of the audience fired a flare into the wooden rafters of the casino roof.

There is an audio recording of the concert where Zappa can be heard calmly telling the audience to head for the exits. The evacuation was completed safely and there was no loss of life. The casino building was totally ruined by the fire.

The Montreux Casino as it was

As the smoke drifted across the lake, Purple's bass guitarist Roger Glover thought of the title, Smoke On The Water.

We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn't have much time
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground

Smoke on the water
Fire in the sky

Zappa’s band lost most of their gear in the fire. Deep Purple, who were scheduled to begin recording at the casino the next day, managed to avoid losing their equipment, but had lost their recording location.

With nowhere to make their album, Montreux’s music festival promoter Claude Nobs came to the band's rescue. Glover said, “He put all his problems aside. We had no place to record, so he arranged to have us move into a small theatre near the smouldering remains of the casino.”

The ruins of the Casino
They burned down the gambling house
It died with an awful sound
And Funky Claude was running in and out
Pulling kids out the ground

Whilst at the theatre, they started messing around with a new riff. "We were doing the first take of this new song – well, it wasn’t a song yet, it was just a jam with a kind of rough arrangement to it," said Glover.

What they didn’t know was that the police were outside banging on the door trying to get in and stop them playing. Apparently they were keeping the whole town awake. "Montreux was then a very sleepy town, populated mostly by old ladies,” quipped Glover.

It became clear the band were not welcome in the lakeside town, especially after the events of the fire. Rock bands meant trouble to the Swiss, but Nobs helped Purple find “a place to sweat”.

When it all was over
We had to find another place
But Swiss time was running out
It seemed that we would lose the race

Deep Purple recorded their classic album in a hotel corridor
Thanks to Funky Claude, they were able to secure a place where they could make some noise - The Grand Hotel. Glover recalled, “It was closed for the winter. A cold sort of place, I mean it was freezing cold. We had a carpenter put a couple of walls up. We threw some mattresses against the windows, brought in a couple of industrial heaters. And we recorded there.”

The Rolling Stones’ mobile recording truck was parked at the rear of the hotel. Engineer Martin Birch set up an intercom so he could communicate with the band in the hotel corridor.

"We did Highway Star, Lazy and Pictures Of Home and the other tracks from those sessions. We were still short of a song, so it was suggested that we work up the song we had jammed at the theatre. It became a song about the adventure of coming to try and record, and the place burning down and ending up doing it in a hotel corridor."

 The Stones' mobile truck at the hotel
Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore came up with the classic riff and in its simplicity, Blackmore has likened it to famous introduction to Beethoven’s fifth symphony.

"What Beethoven does with just very few notes, that riff does it with very few notes, too. But it’s got a hint of Eastern mysticism in it, just by the semitone lift. Instantly recognisable and yet like nothing else," said Glover.

Blackmore also pointed out that everyone plays the famous riff wrong. Blackmore plays it in fourths, plucking two strings at a time, rather than block chording it, like everyone else.

Glover and singer Ian Gillan wrote the lyrics. "We never thought for a minute it was going to have the kind of future it has had,” said Glover. “We didn’t think that much of it. We put all our efforts into another song on the album called Never Before."

The Grand Hotel, Montreux, November 2021

Purple"s run of hit singles in 1970 and '71 - Black Night, Fireball and Strange Kinda Woman - came to a halt with Never Before, one of the new tracks recorded in Montreux.

Nonetheless, the album sold well and Purple picked up further sales momentum when the live version of Smoke On The Water, from the album Made In Japan, was released in the US in 1973. 

Given the limitations of space and comfort at the Grand Hotel, it is remarkable that Deep Purple were able to make such a great record as Machine Head. It showcases not only a consistently high quality of songwriting, but also a band that rocks (Highway Star, Space Truckin) and swings too (Lazy, Maybe I'm A Leo). 

And then there is Smoke On The Water - a riff they must be sick of playing after all these years. But for better or worse, it's what most people know them for. And it's got a great story behind it.

The rebuilt Montreux Casino, November 2021
We ended up at the Grand Hotel
It was empty, cold, and bare
But with the Rolling truck Stones thing just outside
Making our music there
With a few red lights, a few old beds
We make a place to sweat
No matter what we get out of this
I know, I know we'll never forget Smoke on the water
Fire in the sky

Last month, my wife and I visited some friends in Vevey, the next big town along the lake from Montreux. We walked along the promenade, sampling the delights of the Christmas market in Montreux. We visited the rebuilt Casino, which houses the recording studio that was owned by Queen for many years. 

And there, on the water, was the same view of the Lake Geneva shoreline, minus the smoke.

See also on this blog:
1970 - Deep Purple Get Heavy with 'In Rock'

There's a lot to like in the ZAPPA movie

Sunday, 31 October 2021

The Velvet Underground movie shows why 'The VU & Nico' is such a classic

I love a good music documentary and the latest film by Todd Haynes on the Velvet Underground definitely hits the spot. 

On the basis that a band's early evolution is usually more interesting than their later career, Haynes focuses at least half the movie on the formation of the band in the mid 1960s and the making of their classic first album - The Velvet Underground and Nico, produced by Andy Warhol.

The interviews with John Cale are the most revealing, on all manner of things to do with how the band evolved and the contribution of each member. 

Cale, the musical prodigy from the Welsh valleys, pushed Lou Reed to throw off his straight R&B chops and embrace the avant garde. The unconventional drumming of Maureen Tucker and the addition of Nico as chanteuse resulted in a unique and groundbreaking sound; at once jarring and beautiful. 

Original footage of the band's first shows and early versions of songs like Heroin and Venus In Furs give real insight into how the band evolved from those rudimentary demos to produce such a startling debut.

Lou admits that although Andy Warhol wasn't a hands-on producer, the band wouldn't have got the freedom to make the music they wanted if he hadn't got behind them.

An original UK pressing of The VU and Nico.
The banana cover came later

What's also remarkable is that two of the most artistically out-there bands of the mid-sixties, The Velvets and The Mothers of Invention, were on the same MGM/Verve label. However there was no love lost between the two; east coast clashed with west. 

Lou complained that when they went to Los Angeles, the record company added The Mothers to the Velvet's bill, which he saw as an attempt to undermine them. "We hated the Mothers." said dancer Mary Woronov: "They were hippies" 

This was the only bit where I felt the movie was off-key. The Mothers were not hippies and it's lazy to portray them as such. I know comments can be used out of context, but there was no ambiguity about this. Watch the 'Zappa' movie if you want to understand more about what made The Mothers as outrageous and anti-hippie as The Velvets.

After the first album was released and was largely ignored by the wider public (Lou claimed to have made more money out of his earlier bands than he ever did out of the Velvets), the band continued to tour and evolve their sound. By the second album, White Light/White Heat, the pressure of touring and Lou's surly behaviour had already soured the relationship with Cale, who said there was nothing he could do; "If you tried to please him, he hated you more." 

Their influence over bands in later years is undeniable, but at the time they met with a lot of hostility. The engineer on White Light/White Heat would set up the mixing desk and leave the room while they were recording, saying "I don't have to listen to this shit". 

Sterling Morrison, Lou Reed, Nico, Moe Tucker and John Cale
Of Nico, Cale said she was always writing her own songs and was apt to move from one idea to the next, so she was never going to be around with the VU for very long. 

Cale himself was forced out by Lou after the second album and the band moved more towards mainstream rock on their subsequent albums.  

The movie reminds you just what a great album that first one was. A collection of songs so strong and engaging it's surprising they didn't reach a wider audience at the time. With The Velvet Underground and Nico they created a unique sound: a burst of creativity that sounds as vital today as it did back in the 60s.




Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Miles Davis and the track name mix-up on Kind Of Blue

Kind Of Blue - the best selling jazz record of all time - had one major flaw. The names of the tracks on side two of the vinyl record were wrongly named. 

This mix-up, on an album whose influence extends well beyond mainstream jazz to modern music of all kinds, has never been fully resolved and the artists themselves have long since passed.

Even today, despite plenty of evidence to resolve the mystery, recent commentary on the album track names continues to muddy the waters. 

Side two of Kind Of Blue had two tracks - All Blues and Flamenco Sketches. Bill Evans, who played piano on the sessions - and was composer and arranger on some tracks - wrote the original sleeve notes to the album. In summary he gave a short description of each track by turn, referring to Flamenco Sketches ahead of All Blues. Original versions of the album had the names of the tracks thus, with Flamenco Sketches as the first track on side two.

Early version, the tracks in the wrong order
Evans' original handwritten sleeve notes describe Flamenco Sketches as "a six-eight, twelve measure blues"  and All Blues as "a series of five scales, each played as long as the soloist wishes."

Somewhere along the line, soon after the album came out in the US in 1959, the track names were transposed, but the tracks on the actual record stayed the same. It's not clear why the change was made or by whom, but the most likely explanation is that it became clear to those closest to the sessions (including Miles and Bill Evans) that the sleeve notes were wrong.

Evans said in an interview that "Flamenco Sketches was something that Miles and I did together that morning before the date. I went by his apartment and he had liked Peace Piece that I did, and he said he’d like to do that." 

So we know that Flamenco Sketches is the last track on the record, because it's the one that starts like Peace Piece. What is less clear is why Evans described Flamenco Sketches as a blues in 6/8, which it isn't. All Blues, however, is in 6/8 time.

Successive generations have misidentified the two songs. This is surprising, because even if they were not trained musicians, it should be apparent that the tracks, as described by Bill Evans in the record's liner notes, are not as they appear on the record. 

Coltrane, Adderley, Miles and Bill Evans
The magazine Jazzwise published an interesting appraisal of the Kind of Blue sessions earlier this year, but their comment that "the blues in 6/8, called either ‘All Blues’ or ‘Flamenco Sketches,’ depending on who you believe" tells you a lot about the ongoing confusion, 60 years after the fact. The magazine's piece doesn't provide a clear answer either way.

You would think it's actually not that hard to fathom. Since Evans wrote some of the music, he should know what each track was called. But it's also possible he was mistaken, something others seem reluctant to consider. 

So here's my take - Bill Evans made a mistake in his naming of the tracks on Kind of Blue, which is why Miles (or someone close to him) had the cover listing changed and why more recent releases have corrected Evans' original notes. In his acclaimed biography on the making of Kind of Blue, Ashley Khan quotes the revised notes as coming from Evans' original sleeve, which is wrong, but at least Khan stuck with the corrected track names - All Blues first, Flamenco Sketches second.

I hope that clarifies things.  

I have recently bought an anniversary edition of the vinyl record, which comes as a double album with an alternate take of 'Flamenco Sketches' and a great version of On Green Dolphin Street, recorded prior to the Kind of Blue sessions (and previously available on the CD of Some Day My Prince Will Come) with the legendary line-up of Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb. They sound amazing.

Original video of So What, from the Kind Of Blue sessions:

See also on this blog:

Miles Davis at the Isle of Wight festival, 1970

A tribute to jazz giant Chick Corea

Thursday, 29 July 2021

1974 - Sparks release Kimono My House

For many a teenage record buyer in 1974, turning on the radio to hear Ron Mael's electric piano ushering in the falsetto tones of brother Russell singing "Zoo time is she and you time, the lions are your favourite kind and you want her tonight....."  was a moment of pure delight.

With 'This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us', Sparks provided one of those wonderful eureka moments, when a record gets you off your feet and down to the record shop, because you have to own that record right now. It was exotic and dramatic and not only that, it rocked.

Although they were new on the UK scene, Sparks had already made two albums in the US for Bearsville Records, the first produced by Todd Rundgren. In the new documentary, called The Sparks Brothers, and also in the live Q&A that followed showings of the film across the UK this Thursday evening, the Mael brothers made it very clear that without Rundgren they may not have had a career at all. 

Not that they achieved any success with those first albums, but Rundgren was the only one who saw the raw potential in them at the time. Ultimately, it took a move to London for their third album 'Kimono My House' and a new band, for the whole thing to reach its full potential.

Moving from their native LA, they came to the UK and signed to Island Records. Their British invasion influences and quirkiness were probably better suited to the UK pop charts anyway. Several of the talking heads in the film say they thought Sparks were an English band at first. 

The first single from Kimono My House made an immediate impact and that first appearance on Top Of The Pops showed they had a visual quirkiness to match the oddball lyrics and quasi-operatic delivery. Ron Mael with his Hitler moustache and mild smirk; curly-haired flamboyant Russell taunting his brother for a reaction. This was their moment and they played it for all it was worth.

Kimono My House kickstarted a career that has seen them rediscovered every 10 years by a new generation of pop fans. They have enjoyed three or four distinct periods of success, right up to the present time, surprising everyone with the enduring quality of their music. The Mael's unique take on pop music has remained consistent over their entire career. Above all, there's a distinctively dark humour at the heart of their songs. 

Sparks have a knack for composing songs it would be hard to imagine other bands coming up with. On Kimono My House, it was evident on tracks such as 'Here in Heaven', about a suicide pact where only one person did the deed. And 'Amateur Hour' which delves into the subject of how to please a woman sexually - "when you turn pro you'll know, she tell you so". One of the showpiece songs on the album is 'Thank God It's Not Christmas' - performed here by the original band on French TV in 1974.

The film has several key moments that convey why Sparks are so revered by fans and musicians alike. Mike Myers says his favourite line comes from the early song Girl From Germany, about a guy who takes his German girlfriend home to meet his parents, who "can't forget that war".

"My word, she's from Germany

Well, it's the same old country
But the people have changed

The author Neil Gaiman and Portlandia's Fred Armisen were both inspired by Sparks' skewed view of life. Jonathan Ross is another who zoned in on their oddball humour. Even Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones got something out of their music. He is just one of the very funny contributors to the film.

Earl Mankey and other members of the original band Halfnelson show no bitterness at missing out on the big time. Bass player Ian Hampton (who was drafted in after Kimono bassist Martin Gordon was rather cruelly fired) is only slightly disgruntled at how his moment of stardom was cut short. Drummer Dinky Diamond and guitarist Adrian Fisher have both passed away, which just leaves Ron and Russell to relate how Kimono My House changed the band’s fortunes. It boils down to those essential ingredients - great compositions and that uniquely Sparks humour.

Back in May 1974, the NME's Ian MacDonald was full of praise for this new pop phenomenon in his review of Kimono My House. "Ron Mael has set the whole lop-sided wobbly man of technique and 'tradition' spinning again. Melody lines spiral up and down (care of the extraordinary voice of brother Russell) through intervals and over chords that seem to echo from somewhere in the classics....there's more energy on Kimono My House than anything I've heard know when."

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

What is Led Zeppelin's best acoustic song?

In 1969, after Led Zeppelin had released two albums heavy on the blues rock, it would have been impossible to imagine they would later be known and revered also for their folky acoustic tunes. 

Then came Led Zeppelin III.

In December '69, Jimmy Page caused concern amongst the group's fans by suggesting in an interview (click on the photo to read it) that the band would be expanding their musical horizons on future albums. Page assured Melody Maker's Chris Welch that although Zeppelin were exploring more acoustic songs, "we're still a heavy group" saying it would be wrong for them to change their sound completely.

Click on the image to enlarge it

The resulting album of acoustic and more reflective material on Led Zeppelin III has stood the test of time very well. Tracks like Friends and Gallows Pole even formed the core of the Page and Plant Unplugged shows in the 1990s. 

Those same tracks are still featured, along with That's The Way and Babe I'm Gonna Leave You in Robert Plant’s recent solo concerts.

Led Zeppelin III was the jumping off point for the various musical explorations that peaked with Physical Graffiti in 1975. The third album is now seen as a natural part of the band's acoustic/electric evolution that culminated in the fourth album's standout track, Stairway To Heaven.

But it was a disappointment to some fans, who wanted another Led Zeppelin II. 

By 1971 and the imminent release of Led Zeppelin IV, it was clear that the new folky direction had really not gone down well with some fans.

The new material to be released on Led Zeppelin IV, and being aired on BBC sessions in April 1971, suggested there would definitely be no return to the lemon-squeezing days of yore. A letter to the Melody Maker in May 1971, under the headline ‘Don’t go soft Zeppelin!’ sums up the mood:

“Zep sound great on Whole Lotta Love and their many earlier songs, but please leave the gentle songs to people like The Strawbs, who have grown up with their music and can do it justice.

"It’s obvious from Zeppelin’s performance on the radio last week, that they just don’t make it without the volume.”

The BBC session to which J. Miller from Chester was referring contains this lovely coupling of Going To Cailfornia and That's The Way.

50 years later, the criticism all seems rather narrow-minded and foolish. While the early rock stuff was tremendous and still sounds great, clearly there was more to Led Zeppelin than that. In his latter day solo work, Robert Plant in particular, has shown his appreciation of folk and country music, in addition to his love of blues and rock.

So here are my Top 10 Led Zeppelin acoustic songs.

1. The Battle of Evermore
Robert Plant's vocal duet with Sandy Denny raises this song to the level of a modern folk classic, adding drama to the Tolkien-esque lyrics. The use of mandolin also adds depth to the arrangement and the whole song carries a magical atmosphere that builds to a wonderful crescendo.

2. That's The Way
Jimmy Page's use of alternate tunings on acoustic guitar, in this case a drop D (DGDGBD) tuning, give the songs on Led Zeppelin III a distinctive folky feel, influenced heavily by the acoustic guitar giants of the era such as Davey Graham, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. Page makes full use of the jaunty nature of the tune in the coda section.

3. Bron-Yr-Aur
Another one from the LZ III sessions, this one was reworked in 1975 for Physical Graffiti. It's fun to play, once you have tuned your guitar down to CACGCE and is also good for anyone learning to finger pick as it requires a constant tempo on the right hand to drive the tune.

4. Friends
An early pointer on LZ III to the exotic - faintly middle eastern - rhythms and melodies that Page and Plant embraced on Physical Grafitti. The two of them revisited this to great effect on their Unplugged album in the 1990s.

5. Going To California
Apparently written by Plant in flight as they were approaching Los Angeles, this tune shows how he had matured as a songwriter by 1971 and the recording of Led Zeppelin IV. Again, the use of mandolin adds to the folky and hippyish atmosphere.

6. Tangerine
In their live shows in 1975, all four members of the band sang on this. Robert Plant said it was the first time they had tried four part harmony. It's in standard tuning. The album version also contains a lovely lilting electric guitar solo.

7. Black Mountain Side
Jimmy Page adapted Bert Jansch's version of this Irish folk tune for his showcase acoustic number of the first Led Zeppelin album in 1969. It's the earliest example of Page exploring exotic sounds, complete with tabla accompaniment.

8. Gallows Pole
Side two, the acoustic side of Led Zeppelin III, which shocked and disappointed some fans back in the day, begins with this traditional folk tune about a man calling his friends and family to save him from the gallows.

9. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp
Probably the result of a jam during the LZ III sessions, the addition of John Bonham's bass drum gives the song its bouncy feel and shows how the band had quite naturally moved in a folky direction, having immersed themselves in the scene during the 60s.

10. Babe I'm Gonna leave You
Robert Plant had been inspired by the Joan Baez live version of this song recorded in the early 1960s. Page added the riff for the electric section of the tune by adapting the riff from Chicago's 25 Or 6 To 4.

OK, so Stairway To Heaven is at least partly acoustic, but you all know about that.


Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Pink Floyd - On tour in 1974 and 1977

  The program on the left is from Pink Floyd's UK winter tour in 1974.
On the right is the program from the 'Animals' tour in 1977. 

Somewhere along the line in the 1970s, concert programs became expensive and rather boring. We can probably trace it to the 1975 concerts by Led Zeppelin at Earls Court. I bought the program, the T-shirt and the poster. I can't remember how much I paid but I probably didn't get much change from a £10 note. 

Now, of course, you'd expect to pay £10 for the program alone, plus another £30 for the t-shirt. Merchandising is big money for bands, along with the concert tickets themselves, now that physical music is so cheaply and easily consumed, without the need to buy a whole album.

Certainly between these two Pink Floyd programs, from 1974 and 1977, the Floyd became a corporate monster and their programs became all style and no content.

The 1974 tour program was a treat though, being made to resemble a comic, with each member of the band given their own comic strip: Rog Of The Rovers, Captain Mason, R.N. - you get the idea.

Little quiz pages were interspersed and, most notably the program included the lyrics to the new songs the band played in the first half of the show.

Lyrics to the new songs
Going back to the start of the decade, the Floyd's way of working up new material was to take it out on tour and gauge audience reaction, before committing it to record. Hence, the prototype for Dark Side Of The Moon was premiered as Eclipse at live shows in 1972.

During the winter tour of 1974, the songs being trialled were Shine On You Crazy Diamond, You Gotta Be Crazy and Raving and Drooling. Of the three, Shine On... was the most impressive and the one clearly more complete than the other two. It was ready to appear on their next album, Wish You Were Here. Despite its unfamiliarity, Shine On You Crazy Diamond got a great reception from the audience at Wembley's Empire Pool.

You Gotta be Crazy and Raving and Drooling, with alterations to their lyrics and arrangements, would become Dogs and Sheep on the album Animals. So fully three years before they would appear on an album, these songs were being road-tested.

First half: New Songs
Shine On You Crazy Diamond
Raving and Drooling (Sheep)
You Gotta be Crazy (Dogs)

Pink Floyd playing DSOTM at Wembley, 1974
Second half: The Dark Side of the Moon
Speak to Me
On the Run
The Great Gig in the Sky
Us and Them
Any Colour You Like
Brain Damage


The show was spellbinding and the audience loved it - the recordings show that clearly. But not everyone was impressed. That sniffy hipster at the NME, Nick Kent, a man who almost certainly never played a three-hour show in his life, thought the Floyd were too detached from the audience.

My bootleg CDs of the '74 show
Kent missed the point, then. With Pink Floyd, it was never about the band members as rock stars. They were not throwing shapes and projecting themselves in the manner of other groups. Above all, it was about the music and the visuals. Right back to their earliest shows at London's UFO club in 1967, the light show was the focal point.

And by the time of the Dark Side Of The Moon tours, the show was all about the images projected on the circular screen that dominated the stage. 

My ticket
Melody Maker's Chris Charlesworth, reviewing an earlier show in Edinburgh, said of Dark Side of the Moon: "On this tour it takes on magnificent proportions with that truly brilliant movie screen designed, I think, to take the observer on a space flight to the other side of the galaxy."

In the Classic Albums show about Dark Side, they show many of the visuals projected on the circular screen. This was innovative staging at the time.

Nowadays, stage lighting and visuals are way more advanced at arena shows, but the Floyd were at the forefront of concepts to transform live shows into a much more visual and engaging spectacle - a process that developed into flying pigs with the Animals tour and, ultimately, The Wall.

"Visions flash past all too quickly," said Charlesworth. "But stand-out bits include various tumbling buildings, a pilot’s view of a take-off, coins and clocks in profusion, plenty of sea and surf, and the closing sequence depicting prominent politicians apparently well satisfied with the Floyd’s performance."

The Wembley '74 show climaxed with the giant screen showing sun being eclipsed by the moon. On the bootleg recording of the Empire Pool show, you can hear the audience response as the Eclipse reaches its crescendo. It was very well done, the whole thing, topped off, let's not forget, by this timeless classic of an album.

Here's an audio recording from Wembley 1974

By 1977 and the Animals tour, the Floyd had taken the live experience to another level. "Roger had an idea for the next Pink Floyd album," according to the withdrawn liner notes for the new 5.1 mix of Animals: "He borrowed from George Orwell’s allegorical story, Animal Farm, in which pigs and other farmyard animals were reimagined anthropomorphically. Waters portrays the human race as three sub-species trapped in a violent, vicious cycle, with sheep serving despotic pigs and authoritarian dogs. You Gotta be Crazy and Raving And Drooling perfectly fitted his new concept."

The show was again split into two halves.

First half: Animals
Pigs on the Wing (Part I)
Pigs on the Wing (Part II)
Pigs (Three Different Ones)"

Second half: Wish You Were Here

Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I–V)
Welcome to the Machine
Have a Cigar
Wish You Were Here
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI–IX)"

Us and Them

Part of the show at the V&A

If you saw the Pink Floyd exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum a few years ago, you will have seen the flying pig, the war plane and the various other stage props that made up the Animals show. 

The album cover photo shoot of the pig flying over Battersea Power Station has passed into legend. Apparently they hired a marksman to shoot down the flying pig if it broke free of its moorings. 

Unfortunately, on the first day of the photo shoot, the weather was not conducive and so the session was postponed. 

But the marksman had only been hired for the one day, so when the pig broke free and entered London airspace untethered, there was no one to shoot it down.

Contact sheet from the Battersea photo shoot
The 1977 live shows were suitably over the top, to match the music. The pyrotechnic stage lighting was choreographed from two articulated towers. At the climax of Sheep, fireworks burst out from the towers.

At various points during the first set, an inflatable family, larger than life household items like a fridge or a car and various animals would appear. 

I believe these concerts utilised quadrophonic sound and the band made good use of the available technology. The sound of dogs barking and pigs squealing was particularly freaky.

The four-piece band was augmented by second guitarist/bass player Snowy White. The overall sound was much more punchy and aggressive than the 1974 show had been. 

My ticket
I suppose that's a lot to do with the songs. The lyrics by Roger Waters became darker and more political on Animals. The unused liner notes to the 5.1 mixes of Animals said: "Despite being recorded in London during the long summer heatwave of 1976, Pink Floyd’s Animals remains a dark album. Its critique of capitalism and greed caught the prevailing mood in Britain: a time of industrial strife, economic turmoil, The Troubles in Northern Ireland and the race riots of Notting Hill."

The alienation and distance from the audience, that Nick Kent sensed in 1974, also became quite real, particularly on the last date of the North American tour in Montreal. By all accounts, including his own, Waters became increasingly angry with the rowdy American audiences. It culminated with him spitting in the face of a fan at the front of the stage. The experience fed into the writing of the next Pink Floyd album, The Wall.

1977 Animals tour program

Despite the improved audio facilities, there were no official recordings made of the Animals tour and no decent unofficial audio exists from the Wembley shows. Here's a recording from the US tour

The Animals tour program was black and glossy. It contained no words, apart from Pink Floyd - Animals on the cover; just a bunch of so-so photos. A waste of money frankly, but a memento nonetheless all these years later.

I gave up buying concert programs after that.

Also on this blog:

Reviewing Pink Floyd at the V&A: Their Mortal Remains

March 1973 - 'Dark Side of the Moon' enters the charts

Vegetable Man - Syd Barrett's last Floyd recordings