Mercury Falling

The Sad Days and the Bad Days

One of his bad days

It's not enough, It's not enough

Editor's Note

About Spare Bricks


Read Guestbook

Sign Guestbook

Front Cover

A Collection of Bad Record Sleeves

When you pick up a Pink Floyd record sleeve, you know what to expect: a sumptuous banquet of meaningful/meaningless imagery compiled by Storm Thorgerson, mostly consisting of images of domestic objects in bizarre and unlikely situations, tied to some extremely loose lyrical theme. The Division Bell--easy, two stone heads facing away from each other. A Momentary Lapse Of Reason--easy, beds from a mental institution on a river bed. It doesn't have to make sense (and in fact, it often doesn't make sense to anyone), it just has to be Floydian.

But the Floyd have often had very little control over what their records looks like, especially once the records aren't being made in England. And often someone in some far-off land takes their jeans out of the fridge and thinks that yes, they too, can build a better Floyd sleeve than Floyd.

And they're often very, very wrong.

"Money" (Denmark, 1973)

Let's start with the "Money" single picture sleeve from Denmark, the nadir of the Floyd's career. Or, if you prefer, the pinnacle of truly tasteless sleeves. Not only did Denmark's Harvest label lift another, ahem, unauthorised 45 from the albatross that was The Dark Side of the Moon, but they did so by wrapping it up in the most dreadful, amateurish sleeve I have ever seen. Imagine, if you can, a child let loose with a black crayon and ordered at gunpoint to draw a picture of the band. Make the picture crowded at the top, so you can barely tell which member is which, and so that their likenesses are, at best, flexible in their interpretation of where basic things like eyes and noses sit. Then, onto this scrawled mess of black and white, put very large, barely legible black letters announcing the song titles. Letters that disappear into the childish scrawl of the infantile illustration. And voila! Worst Floyd sleeve ever. Execrable. Still, when whoever designed this grew up, maybe they also bought a football team. What a gas.

"Have a Cigar" (Germany, 1975)

Next is another sleeve close to the bottom of the barrel, nearly the worst of the lot: the German edition of "Have a Cigar". The Floyd, never exactly renowned for being patriotic, or particularly enamoured with the music business, here find their most biting song billed as a 'top hit' in Germany. The sleeve is particularly grotesque, with two Union Jack flags framing an anonymous low-res face, on a sky blue background mounted on a crest. To cap it all, the sleeve proudly proclaims this song to be a "Top Hit In England", despite the Floyd having not released any singles in the UK for the decade surrounding this song, and the fact that nobody from the Floyd sings on it either. Madness. Anyone who bought this on the strength of the cover probably needs to be put down as artistically it is worthless. The music inside, on the other hand...

Meddle (yes, Meddle) (Madagascar, 1971)

Meddle has also seen numerous bastardisations of the cover. The Madagascan issue is probably the worst example, castrating the sleeve, not only to a bad black-and-white reproduction of the cover printed on cheap card, but also switching covers with Piper at the Gates of Dawn. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, in Madagascar only, Syd was still a member of the Floyd in 1971. So not only does Meddle boast a 1967 picture of the band that the band didn't approve, it's also in black and white. Urgh. I wish I was making this up. But I'm not.

Israeli (left) and Taiwanese editions of Meddle

Dishonorable mentions also go to the Israeli edition of Meddle which is now called Meddle With Echoes (complete with retro 70s typefaces straight out of cheap porno movies), as well as to the Taiwanese edition which manages to incorporate a bad black-and-white photo of the band from the same session that produced the original Meddle gatefold sleeve, crudely superimposed over the original, well known, ear photo that graced the 'proper' Meddle sleeves.

"Not Now John" singles from Italy (left) and Japan.

At right are two more fairly tasteless covers for the "Not Now John" single. The Italian edition has the lyrics (presumably including the expletive-laden chorus) printed on the cover in fake newspaper-style script, in white on shocking pink, so that the sleeve looks like nothing more and nothing less than a newspaper designed by a colourblind impressionist. Even worse, the Japanese issue places a scratchy piece of barely legible handwriting (in obvious homage to Mr. Scarfe's style) alongside a bloodstained splotch that looks oddly like the Japanese flag. Considering at least a couple of songs on the track's parent album have somewhat questionable lyrics about "Nips" and "the wily Japanese", this can hardly be seen to be the most, erm, tasteful of Floyd sleeves. Not Now John, please.

Piper at the Gates of Dawn (Italy, 1971)

Early Floyd sleeves seem to be particularly problematic. The band were nowhere near as well established in their early years as they are now, and record companies often took shocking liberties with the band's material--omitting songs seemingly at will, changing running orders at random, remixing songs, and generally abusing the Floyd canon. And what better example than this? Italy decided that, for its particular release of Piper at the Gates of Dawn, not only was the established sleeve (a hasty in-house EMI job we are all familiar with) not good enough, but that Dave Gilmour plays on the album. Hence, the resplendent sleeve of the band looking confused, cold, and generally fed up outside a big greenhouse. Dave has a beard to match a grizzly bear, and Nick's wearing a fetching Pink scarf. And Rick's on undertaker duty. Shocking. But not quite as shocking is the fact they didn't fix this dreadful error when it was reissued.

Masters of Rock

Masters of Rock is a dreadful Floyd record... almost as dreadful as the fact I paid a fortune for a vinyl copy that was, in fact, older than I am. Frightening! Nonetheless, everything about Masters of Rock screams out 'shoddy-compilation'. Could it be the traditional, gold cover that has a generic, pimpesque font screaming of "Pink Floyd", or the fact that below this, the nice text says Masters of Rock, Volume One? Or the fact that this text is filled in with a representation of the Union Jack?

Or could it be the fact that in at least one version of the album cover, again, highly unauthorised by the Floyd, features the traditional Meddle lineup shot of the usual suspects--except that David Gilmour has had Syd's face crudely grafted onto his lovely long locks?

Hmm. I'm not sure. What I am sure of is that if you absolutely must buy this record, please, please hide the cover before listening to it.

Best of Pink Floyd (Hungary, 1983)

Almost as useless as Masters of Rock is the Hungarian release entitled Best of Pink Floyd. Dreadful. A Collection of Great Dance Songs is, to be honest, a fairly execrable record in terms of concept (and nobody seems to like the original Storm Thorgerson cover, for a start), featuring a David Gilmour solo re-recording of "Money" masquerading as a 'brand new' Floyd song. But even worse is that in Hungary it came out under the uninspired Best of Pink Floyd title, imprisoned inside a sleeve that is some, ahem, artistic, painterly reinterpretation of the cover of Ummagumma, namely a painting of David's legs sitting on a chair, crossed with a bizarre picture of what appears to be an enormous lake painted in red and white.

What's it all about? I have no idea. And I suspect nobody else does. Just in case you hadn't worked out that it is a Pink Floyd LP, the artist has cunningly ripped off Gerald Scarfe's spidery scrawl and turned it into a gentle, flowing script, as well as pasting the song titles in enormous capitals on the LP cover. Thank God for communism, eh? The monkey looks confused and goes out to the kitchen to do the dishes.

"Money" 'Dance For Ever' and 'Golden Oldies' reissues

Okay, the next one is perhaps not that bad, but sure as hell isn't good either. The first issue of "Money" here from France is a "Dance For Ever" reissue from 1983. Since "Money" was in it's awkward 7/8 time, it's actually scientifically proven to be impossible to dance to. (I've conducted experiments on the issue as well, just to be sure.) Quite what the point of issuing it with the instruction to "Dance For Ever" on the cover is, I don't know... though live versions of "Money" do occasionally feel like they are going on forever. Especially on the Delicate Sound of Thunder album.

So it's not a good sleeve: It just takes the standard Dark Side cover, twists it at a 20 degree angle, and plasters a bit of cheap text done by the office secretary between fag breaks on either corner. Just so you know it's by Pink Floyd, it's called "Money", and you can "Dance For Ever" to it.

And I haven't even mentioned the 'Golden Oldies' version. It's even worse than the cover with a tourist postcard picture of a pyramid on it.

"Have A Cigar" (Portugal, 1975)

Next is a particularly odd one: the Portuguese "Have a Cigar" single release. Look! It's colour photographs of Pink Floyd. Except none of them sing on this song. Nick's smoking a fag and wearing sunglasses. Rick doesn't know where the camera is, Dave looks half-drunk, and Rog? He's sneering at the camera. I think I could've done a better, more Floydesque cover with 30 seconds and some sellotape. 0% for effort. Absolutely appalling. Whoever designed this should be prosecuted for crimes against music. Or grievous assault upon my eyes. Or anything else they can think of.

Malaysian editions of Wish You Were Here

The Malaysian versions of Wish You Were Here are so bad, it is a toss up between these and something which isn't even a Floyd record. But these win, slightly: Take your copy of Wish You Were Here and add four black-and-white photographs to the cover. Each shows a member of the band playing live, not in any aesthetically pleasing arrangement, just two on the left and two on the right. Or, just to get the point completely across, surround all four sides of the cover with blue decoration that your Grandma has on her hankerchiefs, and, for extra effect, add the words "Pink Floyd" in very, very, very big letters at the top. By the way, has anyone told you it's a Pink Floyd record? Oh, please.

"Time" (top), "Money" (2nd from the top), and other Thai EPs

And finally, the lowest of the low. Oh, look. A topless hippy flashing the peace sign. And a painting of a painting of a naked woman that looks as if it was done in crayon. Why, it's got to be "Time" and "Money" by Pink Floyd! ...because we all know that cheap, tacky, nudie pictures of women are so very, very Floydian. Planks. Idiots. Fools. Pigs. Dogs... hmm. I see a theme.

Aside from these cheap Thailand knock offs that actually had Pink Floyd music on them, witness also the glory of records with Pink Floyd on the cover... but no Pink Floyd music!. I mean, DUH!

Somewhere in deepest Thailand, sometime in the 70s, Thailand's highly dodgy record companies issued these, the worst Pink Floyd records ever--so bad because they contained absolutely no Pink Floyd music whatsoever. Instead, a series of 7" 4-track EPs containing hit singles from other bands, seemingly chosen at random, were released. All of which had nice pictures of the Floyd live in concert on the front. Except they weren't nice. They were bad, cheap colour photographs that looked as if they were taken from the balcony of a concert sometime in the early 70s. Welcome to Thailand. Me love you long dollar. Bet the records are worth well more than five dollar now.

Mark Reed is a new addition to the Spare Bricks staff.


Mercury Falling

Liquid metal finds a new low

It was the early 80s when I went through that glorious passage of "discovering" Pink Floyd. It's a personal passage we've all been through. For me, it started with The Wall. Great album--not one bad song in the bunch. Then it was on to Dark Side, Wish You Were Here and Animals. Again, all great stuff, not even a hint of a bad song in sight. Next came Atom Heart Mother, Meddle, Relics and Obscured by Clouds. Now I was hooked. Pink Floyd was the best. Eight albums, every song a blast. No other band could dare to hope to achieve that level of consistency.

In a scene from More, Stephan (Klaus Grunberg) and Estelle (Mimsy Farmer) play with liquid mercury (a.k.a. 'quicksilver') while under the influence of heroin.

It was only then, as I began buying anything with the Pink Floyd name on it, that it happened. The album was More. The song was "Quicksilver". What a dreadful piece that was. I hoped that with some repeated listenings that it would grow on me, but it didn't. After giving the song more than a fair chance to prove itself, I had to resign to the fact that I hated it. I truly loathed it. I couldn't bear to listen to it any more. The untarnishable Pink Floyd had a mote of rust hidden away in the back of their closet. Bummer.

I'll spare you a detailed description of the song itself. Suffice it to say that the piece contains mindless meanderings that could almost put you to sleep; but can't, because it's excruciatingly irritating at the same time.

In the song's defense, I was listening to "Quicksilver" out of context. After all, More is a soundtrack album to a film by the same name. Perhaps that mindless-yet-irritating feeling was the perfect accompaniment to some scene in the film? I would have to wait and find out.

Many years elapsed until I was able to see the actual movie (released on VHS tape in 1991). In truth, I quite enjoyed the film. It tells the story of an average Joe with a "not for me" attitude towards drugs that gets seduced, addicted, and killed by them. In my opinion, writer/director/producer Barbet Schroeder does a great job driving home the "don't do drugs" moral of the story.

But whether the film is good or bad is not the point. We're pursuing a narrower context. Where is in the film's 115-minute runtime can we find "Quicksilver"?

Actually, the song makes an appearance twice. The first comes about two-thirds of the way into the film. Estelle and Stephan, the film's two main characters, are smoking a bong and discussing Estelle's recent bad trip on heroin. Two and a half minutes of "Quicksilver" are played faintly in the background under the dialogue. As such, the song is easily ignored as you concentrate on the dialogue.

Stephan and Estelle's dish of quicksilver.

Six minutes later, the song makes its second appearance. A short 1:15 segment of "Quicksilver" is played as Stephan and Estelle are both enjoying being high on heroin. The scene shows them transfixed by a blob of mercury as it rolls around in a dish. This time, there is no dialogue and the music is in the foreground. As such, it's quite nasty and does not fit the mood of the scene.

Although the song is no good even in context; at least, we did manage to learn something new. The title for the music is now apparent. 'Quicksilver' is an ancient term for elemental mercury. And yes, the Pink Floyd were shown a working copy of the film whilst developing the score in the studio.

The song's title may make sense; however, its length does not. On the soundtrack album, "Quicksilver" runs a full 7:13. What a disaster! Why include all that extra time not used in the film? Other pieces of mood music in the film are abbreviated. "Party Sequence" runs for 1:07. "A Spanish Piece" runs for 1:05. Oh please, oh please--why couldn't "Quicksilver" have been given this same treatment? For my sanity's sake!

Those aren't water droplets adorning the remastered More CD--that's quicksilver!

After discussing the album and film versions of this forgettable piece of music, only one other aspect remains to complete our analysis. Did Pink Floyd ever play "Quicksilver" live?

The answer is an unfortunate 'yes'. It was used as part of an early concept piece known as "The Man and the Journey". Toured in 1969, the show consisted mainly of slightly reworked and retitled songs from their existing catalogue. The first set comprised the day in the life of a man. From "Daybreak", "Work", and "Tea Time" through to "Sleeping" and a "Nightmare". The second set comprised "The Journey".

Previously, I described "Quicksilver" as a "mindless meandering that almost puts you to sleep." It appears that Pink Floyd felt the same way. Accompanied by the sounds of a ticking bedside alarm clock and some rhythmic in-out-in-out breathing, "Quicksilver" was performed live as "Sleeping". Or better yet, as "Pee Break" before the rest of the crowd hits the restrooms at intermission.

Ed Paule is a staff writer for Spare Bricks.


The Sad Days and the Bad Days

Pink Floyd's worst moments onstage

To many of their fans Pink Floyd epitomize live performance at its most awe-inspiring, with a collection of precisely performed songs that sound as good, if not better, then their recorded counterparts. But like all bands, Pink Floyd has thrown in a stinker of a performance here and there. As a fan of Pink Floyd's work, both good and bad, I thought I would take some time to reminisce with you about some of the best of the worst. So sit back, put your favorite Floyd tune on the stereo and have a laugh with me.

"The Narrow Way" - September 17, 1969 - Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Despite the poor performance, the FM-quality sound makes this show quite popular among collectors, and it has been bootlegged under a number of titles.

Let's start way back in 1969. The Floyd were performing their first real "concept" concert suite, entitled "The Man and the Journey". The first half of the suite consisted of several existing pieces of music, and a few new pieces as well, renamed and structured to represent the typical day of a "Man". The second half featured more songs renamed and structured to represent a mythical journey through the deep and beyond. One of the pieces in "The Journey" suite was "The Narrow Way". When "The Man and the Journey" premiered, this song had yet to be released on record, and in fact it didn't get its release until late October 1969.

On September 17, 1969 Pink Floyd had been performing the suite for quite some time and in fact on this date were performing it for a national Dutch radio audience on Hilversum 3 Radio. After "Beset by the Creatures of the Deep" had wrapped up the band began to play the aforementioned composition "The Narrow Way". Now what makes this performance so incredibly bad is something that usually makes Pink Floyd performances so incredibly good: David Gilmour's voice. On this tune, Gilmour's vocals are horribly out of tune and fall somewhere between amusing and unlistenable. The verses ("Following the path...") do not present Gilmour with any problem, but the true horror arrives during the chorus ("If you want to stay for a little bit..."). Gilmour's vocals are comparable to the incessant meowing of a cat in heat on a hot summer night.

What I find most perplexing about this performance is that Gilmour wrote this song himself. Normally Gilmour is very aware of his vocal strengths and weaknesses. He writes songs that he knows he can easily sing, or that suit his vocal styling. Perhaps this song, being one of his earlier solo works with the Floyd, is an example of why he developed that songwriting style in later years! Incidentally, the rest of the band is in fine form; in fact Gilmour's guitar work is also brilliant, especially the blistering solo at the end of the song which really knocked my socks off during a recent listen.

"Have a Cigar" - July 5, 1975 - Knebworth Festival, Knebworth, UK

This bootleg cover features art from the poster advertising the 1975 Knebworth show.

It's safe to say that the Floyd's two appearances at the Knebworth Festival over the last 30 years have not been among their best shows. Oddly enough both shows were hijacked by a highly anticipated and extremely horrible collaborator. The Floyd didn't collaborate much over the years, and their two most famous turned out to work brilliantly on vinyl. However, when taken to the stage scary things happened!

The Floyd were in the midst of finishing up the Wish You Were Here album. Their final show of the year was a headlining appearance at the Knebworth festival. As a special treat for the fans the Floyd arranged for twin Spitfires to buzz the audience before the show. In addition Roy Harper was going to sing lead vocals on "Have A Cigar" (something fans would soon hear on the forthcoming album). The early stages of the performance were marred by out-of-tune instruments (due to the tight timeline caused by the Spitfires, as well as some electrical problems). By the time "Shine On You Crazy Diamond I-V" was wrapping, things were starting to take shape for the Floyd, but as "Have A Cigar" begins, Harper immediately begins to sing out of time.

It's very apparent to my ears that there wasn't much rehearsal time for this performance, or Roy had one too many beers waiting for his turn on the stage. He misses cues several times, and speeds up his singing to get back in time. The melody of the vocals never seems right and during the chorus you can hear Roger Waters pipe in with backing vocals, attempting to fix the problem. The Floyd go on to finish off the show well, trying to erase the memory of this ill-fated collaboration.

"The Great Gig in the Sky" - June 30, 1990 - Knebworth Festival, Knebworth, UK

No official release of 'the best British rock concert of all time' features Clare Torry's performance of "The Great Gig in the Sky".

The Floyd played the 200th (and final) show of their highly successful Momentary Lapse Of Reason tour as the headliners at the 1990 Knebworth festival. The big change of note for Floyd fans was the addition of Clare Torry as a backing vocalist. Clare joined Durga McBroom, Sam Brown, and Vicki Brown, and was scheduled to be the featured voice in "The Great Gig In The Sky". This was the first time Clare would perform live with the Floyd since her legendary performance on The Dark Side of the Moon.

As Rick tickled the ivories to open the song, the anticipation was enormous. But as Clare Torry's vocals started everything crashed down to earth. Where there once were soulful yells of ecstasy now came tone-deaf screams of horror. Where there once was the perfect use of voice as an instrument now came a preview of Roseanne Barr's rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. This is on the few live performances by the Floyd where I actually cringe as I listen to it. What could Dave, Rick, and Nick have been thinking during this train wreck? Surely they would never ask Clare to cameo at a show again, and they never did. It was really no surprise when none of the official Knebworth 1990 releases contained one note of this atrocity.

"Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" - Roger Waters' 1984-85 Pros & Cons of Hitchhiking Tour

Part of the 'old Pink Floyd stuff' Waters played on the Pros and Cons tour was a jazzed-up version of "Set the Controls".

Pink Floyd became legendary for their spacey sound, made famous in the late 60s and early 70s with anthems like "A Saucerful of Secrets", "Echoes", "Careful With That Axe, Eugene", and The Dark Side of the Moon. "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" was another of these legendary tunes. Concert performances of the song were full of washes of ethereal Hammond organ and flurries of guitar and drums.

By 1984 Pink Floyd were all but broken up, and had not performed the song since 1973. As Roger Waters set out on his first solo tour, he was likely looking to perform a good cross-section of Floyd material from the early days to The Wall and The Final Cut. "Set the Controls", being one of Roger's first solo songwriting credits, probably seemed like the perfect choice. Most fans would jump at the chance to see the song live.

That's where they were wrong. Each night of the tour opened with the song. Instead of atmospheric space rock, we got watered-down muzak. Instead of the aforementioned ethereal organ, we now got a saxophone solo. Suddenly a timeless song felt very, very dated. In retrospect, I suspect Roger felt the same way. The song wasn't performed regularly during the 1987 Radio KAOS shows, though it made a few appearances as a simple acoustic number. By the 2000 tour Roger was performing the song again with a full band, this time with much more of the original attitude and mood intact.

"Comfortably Numb" - July 30, 1990 - Berlin, Germany

Van Morrison performs at the Berlin <i>Wall</i> show.
Van Morrison performs at the Berlin Wall show."

Many music fans, whether they are Floyd fans or not, list "Comfortably Numb" as the seminal Pink Floyd tune. A true classic! David Gilmour's sweet vocals followed by a blistering guitar solo are what made this song stand out above the rest. Over time the song became the Floyd's calling card. Traditionally, Roger Waters shied away from performing the song during the early stages of his solo career. This was likely due to the inability of anyone other than David Gilmour to duplicate the guitar and vocal parts to the fans' satisfaction.

Roger Waters' performance of The Wall in the summer of 1990 marked the first performance of the song by Roger and his band. In a concert strewn with guest vocalists, Roger had chosen the legendary Van Morrison to sing Gilmour's parts in "Comfortably Numb". The song opened with Roger arriving on stage in an ambulance. Based on the beginning of the performance, the fans looked to be in for a treat. But the bad luck with guest performers continued as soon as Van Morrison took the stage. Where Gilmour once added soft, floating vocals, Morrison belted out the chorus in a bellowing Welsh brogue. I've never heard Roger's opinion of Van's performance, but based on this mess I can't imagine he was impressed.

• • •

It's very easy for me as a fan to pick out a few terrible moments in Pink Floyd's live history. However, if you consider this was a band that performed consistently for almost 30 years, five hiccups in quality doesn't seem all that bad, does it? Picking five of the best live moments would really be exponentially more difficult. That's why we love this band to begin with.

Mike McCartney is a staff writer for Spare Bricks.


One of his bad days

What was Roger thinking when he decided to stage an all-star version of The Wall in Berlin?

Saturday, July 21, 1990 saw what should have been the greatest rock show in the history of the form. Roger Waters had laid aside his long-standing pledge to never again perform The Wall in its entirety live (well, almost) in order to benefit The Memorial Fund For Disaster Relief.

Founded by Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, the goal of the Memorial Fund was to raise five pounds for each life lost in the wars of the 20th century. The original goal was five million pounds (remember, this was before Desert Storm and Bosnia.) Mick Wormwood asked Roger Waters to stage a live performance of The Wall to help raise funds for the fund. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to re-stage the fabled crown jewel of Rock Theater which had only been performed 31 times in four cities.

If only that was what Roger had done.

It was enough to make even the most die-hard Floyd fanatic throw his hands up in exasperation.

Instead, Roger announced that the show would feature a special guest cast of "living legends" helping to perform his magnum opus. This tantalizing tidbit of information led many to wonder who would be involved. Of course, Eric Clapton had been involved in Roger's Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking; would he be substituting for Gilmour?

No such luck. Roger's cast of "living legends" included the likes of James Galway (who?) and The Hooters (ah, yes... they of the classic song... ummm... oh, come on, you remember The Hooters, don't you?)

(As an aficionado of Eighties music, I actually DO remember The Hooters. I'm particularly fond of their songs "All You Zombies" and "Where Do the Children Go".)

Let's now take a chronological look at the various people who helped turn Roger's magnum opus into a case of muddled onanism.

The show begins with the sounds of a rumbling Hammond Organ helping build the anticipation of who is going to be stepping out of the white limo driving across the stage. Will it be Roger?

Nah... the original shows had a surrogate band, no doubt this one will, too. But who would comprise the surrogate band? Is this going to be an all-star band of the "living legends" that Roger spoke of?

No... only the Scorpions.

The Scorpions? Okay... I understand their ties to Germany and the whole Berlin Wall coming down sort of thing; and they were one of the bigger European bands of the eighties hair metal scene, but "living legends?" No effing way, man.

The Scorpions ham it up during "In the Flesh!".

It is bad enough that we have to watch these guys awkwardly pose their way through the long introduction of "In the Flesh?" (Notice Rudolph Schencker's sudden change of expression when he realizes the camera is on him. He goes from a bored sort of "Ho-hum" look to a "YEAH!!!! ROCK ON!!!!" grimace that is totally artificial,) but having to listen to Klaus Meine tell us that to find out what's behind his cold eyes we're going to have to "...crawl your way froo this disguise..." was enough to make even the most die-hard Floyd fanatic (like yours truly, for example) throw his hands up in exasperation. This is going to suck... there's no way to save it now.

"The Thin Ice" begins reparations, however, with a moving vocal performance by Ute (how the hell do you pronounce that?) Lemper. In fact, it's almost an improvement over Gilmour's original vocal (did I just say that out loud?).

However, this relief is short lived as Ute ("Ooot?" "Yoot?" "Oootay?") continues singing wordlessly after Roger's vocal entry.

Now... I grant that Roger Waters is not the greatest vocalist in the world, but was it really necessary for this chick to sing underneath him? Couldn't she have just stood there looking good (which wouldn't have been hard at all?)

This is all followed by Rick DiFonzo's apparent inability to decide if he should attempt to re-create Gilmour's solo note-for-note or if he should try to put his own spin on it. He seem to attempt both simultaneously and performs the astounding feat of rendering Gilmour's mini-composition absolutely soul-less and bland. A feat he continues to perform unfailingly throughout the show.

"Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1" comes the closest of any song during this show to re-creating the original's emotion and atmosphere. Even Roger's overdramatic grimace on the line "a snapshot in the family album" cannot ruin the sound of this piece. Garth Hudson's sax noodling over the guitar solo, however, does; Brick part 1 recast as Vegas Lounge music?

It's no secret (if you think about it for three seconds) that Roger's "guests" were there to sing Gilmour's parts since Gilmour wasn't there. This is understandable, actually. Gilmour's voice has a quality that Roger's doesn't, and while I'm glad that Roger didn't opt to sing the Gilmour parts himself, I find myself puzzled as to why he turned over first part of "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" to backup singers Joe Chemay, Jim Farber, Jim Haas, and John Joyce.

Granted, they were on the original album and tour... but why give them the lead vocal on this song?

While we're on the subject of "why," let's ask "why Cyndi Lauper?"

Certainly no "living legend" in 1990, more of a "has been", Ms. Lauper manages the amazing feat of turning a piece of satire into self-parody. And, just in case anyone in the audience should fail to see the 82 foot high, 591 foot long wall behind her, or miss its significance to the show, she makes sure to gesture at it during the line "another brick in the wall".

Thanks, Cyndi... I know I would never have gotten that layer of symbolism had you not pointed it out to me.

For the first solo, Rick DiFonzo again seems to surmise that his job is to butcher Gilmour's contribution even more so than the guest vocalists (if possible). Snowy White, however, has no such notions and turns in the first scorching, meaningful guitar solo of the evening. Keyboardist Peter Wood (an original member of the Surrogate Band) turns in a powerful organ solo that is all but dismissed by Thomas Dolby's tragic decision to play the Keytar.

(As a musician, I have to join my more enlightened brethren in seeing the Keytar stamped out of existence. If keyboardists want to strut around a stage like a guitarist, they should have become guitarists. Keyboardists are supposed to remain in one place on the stage, just like a drummer.)

"Mother" gives nothing but bafflement. Sinead O'Connor? In what way, exactly, does the term "living legend" apply to her? Even today? Nonetheless, she turns in an adequate performance that is entirely swept away by Levon Helm and Rick Danko's attempt to turn "Mother" into a country song. "Huhsh nayow, bayabee, bayabee, don't yew crai..." YEEEEEEEESH-KUL!!

Joni Mitchell performing "Goodbye Blue Sky"

"Goodbye Blue Sky" gives us an overwrought, ham-handed performance by Joni Mitchell accompanied by "living legend" James Galway (who?) that is, at least, not quite as surreal as what follows.

Just when you thought Roger had come back to his senses by taking over the lead vocal for "What Shall We Do Now", he makes you question his sanity by bringing out the 'legendary' Bryan Adams to sing with him.

As if that wasn't enough to make you question whether or not Roger had really given up drugs after seeing what they did to Syd, Roger lets Bryan totally hang his pathetically undernourished unit out for "Young Lust". I understand that "Young Lust" is supposed to be a pastiche, a parody of "cock rock," but shouldn't Roger have let someone who actually gets laid sing this song? And once again, Rick DiFonzo... ah... nevermind. You know by now.

The absolute sacrilege, however, is yet to come. Jerry Hall (another "living legend," to be sure) performs the part of the groupie using an accent never before heard before or since; sort of a "slutty-southern-belle-meets-Greedo" kind of accent.

Thankfully, Roger takes over the lead vocals for "One Of My Turns", "Don't Leave Me Now", "Another Brick, Part 3" (the Berlin disco mix, apparently), and "Goodbye Cruel World", reminding us that he is the man... even if his judgment is a little questionable.


Act Two begins with Paul Carrack turning in what I feel to be the best performance of the guest stars (that's really not saying much, though, is it?) with "Hey You". Given that Carrack was actually a member of the Bleeding Heart Band during the Radio KAOS tour, one has to wonder why Roger didn't decide to just let Carrack sing all of Gilmour's parts. Carrack certainly has the pipes, even if he does look a little like Phil Collins' younger brother.

Roger takes over the mic for "Is There Anybody Out There", "Nobody Home" (accompanied by a blistering, if Clapton-influenced, solo by Snowy White), "Vera", and "Bring The Boys Back Home", as well as the verses of "Comfortably Numb".

Van Morrison, however, would probably have sounded a lot better on the pre-chorus and chorus of "Comfortably Numb" had not Levon Helm and Rick Danko showed up again to try to turn that bit into a country song. "Thayr ays noe payn, yew ahr resaiding... "

No pain, indeed.

For reasons unknown (perhaps because Roger couldn't find anyone to butcher it), "The Show Must Go On" was not performed at the Berlin show. Given as the subtext of the song is about giving a performance one doesn't think they have to soul to give, it seems an odd omission. Perhaps including it would have been far too close to the truth for Roger's liking.

Elaborate costumes and silly pantomime can't rescue "In the Flesh!"

The reprise of "In the Flesh!" finds the Scorpions once again looking totally lost onstage while Roger takes the vocals looking more than a bit like Fearless Leader from Rocky and Bullwinkle.

"Run Like Hell" does nothing whatsoever for making Roger appear menacing. I keep waiting to see if Boris and Natasha aren't somewhere in the marching band.

"Waiting For The Worms" just demonstrates why Roger hired other people to sing Gilmour's parts instead of doing them all himself. He's terrible at it. However, it's not a totally wasted song, as we get to see how cool Klaus Meine looks while playing a tambourine. Only the bass player of the Scorpions appears to actually be feeling any sort of musical vibe... everyone else just moves like puppets on the Schoolmaster's strings, or something.

Roger's strip tease during "Stop" is marred when he nearly knocks his microphone off of its stand while getting down to those oh-so-sexy shoulder pads.

Speaking of sexy, Tim Curry's portrayal of the Prosecutor during "The Trial" comes off as even more homoerotic than his turn as Dr. Frankenfurter, albeit more subdued. One had the idea that Frankenfurter would at least try sleeping with a woman.

Thomas Dolby's turn as the Schoolmaster reminds us of why he was a one-hit-wonder to begin with.

Ute (ahem) Lemper returns as the wife, and let me tell you guys, green polyester and blazing red wigs have never looked so damned appealing.

Marianne Faithfull looks exactly old enough to be playing Pink's grandmother, but she's almost adequate as the mother... providing Pink's mother smoked four packs of Marlboro Reds every day since she was four.

Albert Finney turns in a performance as the Judge that is desperately in need of Viagra. "Flaccid" doesn't even begin to describe the weakness of this performance. There is zero menace, no threat from this judge. In fact, he seems to take an almost kindly (dare I suggest fatherly) view that tearing down the wall is in Pink's best interest.

The Wall finally comes crashing down after what feels like Roger's lifetime up to that point (some forty-seven years) in a spectacular display of lights and, well, lights that almost make the whole thing worthwhile.

Ute Lemper (still dressed as Pink's wife) watches as Roger sings "The Tide is Turning" to close the show.

Not content to allow something this good to remain untarnished, however, Roger feels the need to drag the whole cast back out in front of us for the final number. This final number, however, is not "Outside the Wall", but rather "The Tide Is Turning (After Live Aid)", the closer of Radio KAOS.

Okay, let me first say that I get it. Pink built a wall and tore it down; Berlin built a wall and tore it down. Let's finish the whole thing with a song about the world finally coming together in harmony. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, very clever trying to combine the two in some kind of symbolic way.

No, it's not.

It's totally "CRAP" (as Bryan Adams makes it a point to over-enunciate), in my humble yet outspoken opinion. Now, a whole generation of dim bulbs is going to grow up thinking that Pink Floyd's album The Wall is about the Berlin Wall. Being a participant of several Floyd-themed message boards, I have already seen this manifesting itself with my own eyes.

Don't get me wrong. It is Roger's baby, and he can make it mean whatever he wants it to mean. However, having devoted eleven years (at the time of this show) to analyzing and dissecting and determining the meaning of every line of every song, I have the right to call "shenanigans" whenever I see the intended meaning of this album being mistaken.

In the 14 years since this show, my cry of "shenanigans" only continues to grow louder as the show is released on DVD with revisionist audio re-mixing (removing Cyndi Lauper's shout of "HEY," during "Brick 2", and substituting "Oooh Babe, why are you running away" for "I need you, babe" in "Don't Leave Me Now", for example) and video re-editing.

I shudder to think about what Roger is going to be changing when he finally brings The Wall to Broadway.

One wonders if it wouldn't have been better for Roger to just donate $850,000 of his own money and take a tax write-off.

To Mr. Waters, I would like to offer my services. I understand exactly what your magnum opus is about... I "get" it. And I think that I can bring the humor to it that you desire to be in the piece without having to hire a bunch of second rate has-beens to butcher your songs in a most un-humorous fashion.

There are a number of other reasons why The Wall Live In Berlin was a disappointment. The power failures are well known of (the picture of Roger on his knees in prayer has reached mythic proportions), as is the fact that the show cost $10 million dollars to stage.

The staging costs were funded by a $5 million dollar advance from Polygram Records, another $5 million from the sale of television rights and an estimated $850,000 publishing advance from Roger Waters, plus ticket sales.

One wonders if it wouldn't have been better for Roger to just donate $850,000 of his own money and take a tax write-off. As it happens, much more was spent on the staging of the show than the charity actually received. This would appear to be borne out by the legend on the back of the original VHS release that states that "... all of (the artists') royalties from the sale of this video in perpetuity" are donated to The Memorial Fund.

If the goal is to raise five million pounds, why would "royalties... in perpetuity" be donated unless the show was a colossal failure, financially speaking?

All in all (pun intended), The Wall Live In Berlin just didn't live up to expectations. To be fair, though, there's no way it could have. Even had Wright, Mason, and Gilmour been involved, it was simply too large for life. The enormous Schoolmaster that draped over the wall was so huge, he was largely immobile. The same goes for the pig. There was no attempt (apparently) to re-create the Wife inflatable, and Mother was even relegated to a painting on a segment of the wall (which, impressively, disappeared at the end of the song). Only Gerald Scarfe's nightmarish animations served as notice of what the original shows might have been like, aside from the wall itself, which was still made out of different materials and much larger this time.

Part of what I think must have made the original shows work was that the original wall stretched across the arenas from one wall to another. When the walls all touched, the audience was effectively blocked inside. It had to have been claustrophobic. The Berlin show featured a wall which didn't connect with any other structures, it just stood out in the open in the middle of a field. The only claustrophobia that I could see coming from that would have to have been needing to take a leak and having to fight your way through the better part of a quarter of a million people to get to a john.

It would seem that if Roger Waters really wanted to use The Wall to benefit a charity, the most cost-effective way would be to build a theater in Branson, Missouri (or even Las Vegas) dedicated to the sole purpose of staging four performances of The Wall per day (featuring a wall made from lightweight PVC plastic bricks) for audiences willing to pay, say $15 bucks a head.

I would guarantee that could make the proposed 5 million pounds faster than the (admittedly well-meaning) fiasco that went on instead.

Sean Ellis is a new addition to the Spare Bricks staff.


It's not enough, It's not enough

The Obscured by Clouds Factor

The only bad thing about Pink Floyd is that they slowed down, petered out, and died, while pretending all along to be active.

To support me in my little rant here, I have chosen Obscured by Clouds as my partner in crime, so if you have it, put it on while you read away. (And if you don't have it, log off, bugger off and get it. Then come back here and keep reading.)

Music fades in, a simple but hypnotic rhythm with an underlying terror.

First, a little mathematics and statistical analysis. A quick rundown of the Pink Floyd catalogue reveals they have released 11.5 studio albums, 3.5 live albums, 3 soundtracks, 2 films, 2 live videos, 1 short film, 17 singles, 5 12" singles, 2 EPs, 1 documentary, and 5 compilations. On top of that we can add 14 solo albums, 2 solo live albums, 4 solo concert films, 1 book, 2 solo compilation albums, and numerous solo singles. Ignoring singles and the book, that adds up to 52 releases spread over 36 years; not a bad strike rate. When you take out EPs, compilations, doubling up of live albums and videos etc, you are left with 37 releases over 36 years; but that's still pretty good.

So let's chop that career in half, to 18 years: 1967-1985 and 1986-2004. 1967 to 1985 covers the Floyd era of Piper at the Gates of Dawn through The Final Cut (15 Floyd albums) plus:
2 of 3 solo releases by Rick Wright
2 of 3 solo releases by Dave Gilmour
2 of 4 solo releases by Roger Waters
both solo releases by Nick Mason
and 2 of 3 solo releases by Syd Barrett
giving a total: 25 of 37 releases in 18 years.

While you are checking these statistics, looking for errors, or blindly believing what I have written, let the full beauty of "Obscured by Clouds" fading out and the drums of "When You're In" jolt you out of your stupor at having to sort through the math. At full volume is better, and far more effective.

1986 to 2004 covers the Floyd era of A Momentary Lapse of Reason through Is There Anybody Out There (5 Floyd albums) plus:
1 solo release by Rick
1 solo release by Dave
4 solo releases by Roger
and 1 solo release by Syd
total: 12 of 37 releases in 18 years.

But still, 12 releases in 18 years (plus the compilations and accompanying live videos) isn't that bad, it could be argued. What makes it stand out, and annoying, is that in the first half of the time frame the same people doing the same thing did it three times quicker, and had a much higher strike rate for new material.

More time for pausing and reflection. "Burning Bridges" and "The Gold It's In The..." need to be fully consumed at this stage. As these are songs, with singing, following along with the lyrics might prove even more beneficial for those of you who haven't really paid attention to this album. Don't you just love the way Dave plays the slide guitar lap thingy? (I'm very technical!)

But as solo artists, it is the three remaining Floyds who really flounder, making Roger's semi-professional output look positively healthy.

Nick Mason:
Nick, as part of the Floyd, successfully developed and organised the scorched Earth policy, showing the dictators of the world how to take control; just not how to keep it. On the solo front he managed a CD of car noises (although I confess the Panhard is most amusing!) to accompany a book on his hobby, which I loved, even though I hate cars. And he played the drums for Roger. Twice.

Richard Wright:
Rick has always been considered the musical one in the group, but writer's block was cemented into him in the late 70s due various problems. It would seem that writer's block is the norm for Rick for about 25 years now. Since regaining what he lost, he has successfully ruled the world twice with his two companions and by himself managed one album and three guest appearances on his own.

David Gilmour:
The driving force behind Pink Floyd for the 18 years in question, Dave has managed two albums and tours with the band, as well as a handful of covers and a handful of re-arrangements (and one new song) in a handful of performances by himself.

All in all, the three of them combined don't add up to much more than sparrow droppings in comparison to their previous output.

"Wots... Uh the Deal", "Mudmen", "Childhood's End" and "Free Four" need to be fully consumed. The glorious melodies of "Wots..." followed by possibly the first soaring guitar instrumental by a Gilmour-led Floyd is the perfect platform for the album's glory. Although it is tempting to skip the first minute of "Childhood's End", it is vital to play this mostly silent part in order to fully enjoy how it creeps up on you and gobbles you whole. And then listen for their laziness by ripping themselves off with bits of "Time". But still a stunning song and one of their best. And as it fades out, the seemingly throw away effort of "Free Four" wakes you up and shakes you in a simplistic poppy way.

When Roger finally releases his opera, there will plenty of reasons for people to go on the attack. And attack they will.

Roger Waters:
But easily the biggest offender has to be Roger. Not so much for what he hasn't done, as he has done more than the rest combined, but for what he has teased us with for year after year. Amused to Death, like The Final Cut, started off as a sequel album, but ended up being a new work altogether, which took 3-plus years to complete. Then he took a seven-year holiday before

starting (via a three-year tour, bless him) a new album, which isn't hitting the shops until 2005 at the earliest, if we're lucky.

But the king of the world, the ruler of the roost, the leader of the pack, has to be without doubt Ca Ira. Conceived as part of the 1989 bicentennial celebrations in France, as recently as this past February (15 years!) Roger has informed the world that his focus for this year is the completion and release of this monumental offering. A sneak preview of the overture tells us that it is at least an opera. A world of fans will be expecting a rock opera along the lines of Roger's not so favourite composer, Mr. Webber, and so they will be disappointed. And a legion of opera-challenged fans will be disappointed because Roger's not singing on it and so on. Ironically, his famous lyrical ability established over the decades will not be there simply because of the very nature of the piece he is writing. And so there will be more reasons for people to go on the attack.

And attack they will. I can imagine the legions of fans already poised to chop off his head. Roger himself has expressed these very same views; he expects nothing but a bagging from all corners. But for me, all these negative vibes come about because of the time it has taken. If Roger had released it in 1989 as promised, or even within a year or two, then it would have had a much better chance. Or if he had had a steady stream of albums over the 15 years it has taken, then fans would forgive him this indulgence. We shall see.

At least the current version of Pink Floyd, even though they have been far slacker than Roger, have at least made no promises as to when, if anything is coming along.

And to finish off the album, the lovely "Stay" and comically haunting "Absolutely Curtains". A brilliant ending showing the Floyd's abilities to intertwine the outside world with their own music, as though everyone and everything aims to be included on one of their albums.

So why all the interspersing of Obscured by Clouds? Simple. It took Pink Floyd two weeks to record Obscured by Clouds, from writing to finished product. This was done at the height of a busy time: in between tours, studio time, and film making. And if you have listened along, or already know the album well, then you know that it is a great album, lost in the shadow of The Dark Side of the Moon. It took them two weeks! I don't think I need to explain myself anymore there. Two Weeks!!!

In the coming year, if we are lucky, we might see released a book by Nick Mason, Pulse on DVD (possibly with extras, possibly not), a Richard Wright solo album, a David Gilmour solo album, Roger Waters' opera and a one off performance by Gilmour with Jools Holland in April. Our heroes are old men, they are tired, and long ago achieved their various goals in the music industry. Selfishly on my part (and on the parts of millions of other fans), we still want more from them. And that selfishness is the only reason that the one thing bad about Pink Floyd is how they have slowed down, petered out, and died.

A parting shot. At David Gilmour's June 2001 solo performance, a fan cried out from the audience between songs: "When is the next Pink Floyd album?" Gilmour's reply? "Who gives a fuck!"

Was the sound that followed an audience's laughter, or was it tears?

Christopher Hughes is a new addition to the Spare Bricks staff.