A Nice Pair of 1967 shows
Copenhagen, Denmark - September 13, 1967
Rotterdam, Netherlands - November 13, 1967
In this issue there will certainly be arguments about what influence, if any, drugs had on Pink Floyd after Syd Barrett left the band in 1968. But there is little doubt that drugs influenced Pink Floyd's live performances during Syd's tenure. Thus, the RoIOs I am reviewing for this issue are from two concerts that took place in 1967.
First up is Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen, recorded at Star Club in Copenhagen, Denmark on September 13, 1967. This set features cleaned-up audio compared to other releases of the same recording, making it quite listenable and a vast improvement over what had been available previously.
The show opens with a howl of loud guitar feedback that begins "Reaction in G", and after a few seconds, the rest of the instruments join in. This song is well improvised and slightly resembles "Interstellar Overdrive". According to Vernon Fitch's Pink Floyd Encyclopedia, "Reaction in G" was Pink Floyd's reaction to their 1967 tour of Scotland where they had to play their hit "See Emily Play". I like this song as it is quite listenable compared to the next song.
After "Reaction in G" comes "Arnold Layne", and while the instruments are well-played, including a beautiful organ performance, the vocals are barely audible. It sounds as if Syd didn't sing at all! The song is only about three minutes long, with around half a minute for instrument tuning. Up next is "One in a Million"; according to The Pink Floyd Encyclopedia, this concert was the only time this song was performed. I like "One in a Million"; it is the best song of the first RoIO, in my opinion. I like the beat, and tempo and is very different from the rest of the band's Syd-era repertoire. Unfortunately, the vocals are again barely audible and I don't even know who actually sang it.
Up next is "Matilda Mother", one of my favorites off Piper at the Gates of Dawn. This song is about a child listening to his mother telling old stories. When she stopped telling the story, the child would ask for more stories. As with the original version, this live performance prominently features Rick Wright's beautiful organ. The entire song performance sounds a lot like the album version, but with a few improvisations.
After some brief tuning, "Scream Thy Last Scream" starts up. This is the only song in the entire Pink Floyd history, besides "One of These Days", that is sung by Nick Mason. Various studio versions have been available on RoIOs, but have never been released officially. I like this song and it is funny to actually hear Nick sing, but again the vocals are barely audible. Otherwise, the live sound is the same as the original, including the mid-song tempo speed change.
The last song is "Astronomy Domine". They saved the best song off their debut album to close this short concert. (Perhaps all the shows at this tour were this short. I don't know.) This live version sounds like the studio version, only a little slower and with more improvisation. Again, the vocals are barely audible.
A RoIO entitled The Live Pink Floyd is taken from a performance at the Hippy Happy Fair at Oude-Ahoy Hallen in Rotterdam, Netherlands on November 13, 1967, just one night after the end of the band's semi-disastrous American tour. Like Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen this RoIO boasts some measure of audio remastering, but there is still significant distortion nonetheless.
This show also begins with "Reaction in G", but unlike the other version, this one is far too distorted to enjoy. There is still distortion on "Pow R Toc H", it but the recording is listenable. Vocals can actually be heard, including Roger Waters' screams and cackles. The third song is "Scream Thy Last Scream". Vocals can be heard, though I don't know if it is Nick singing this live version; the distortion makes it hard to hear. This live performance is similar to the first ROIO and the studio version.
Next up is a rare Syd-era recording of "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", later released on A Saucerful of Secrets. This is the best song of this RoIO, in my opinion. Roger's vocals can be hard to hear, but overall the distortion isn't as intrusive as on the previous songs. The distortion returns for "Interstellar Overdrive", and makes this 14-minute song hard to endure. As I'm not a real fan of this song, I just cannot force myself to listen through this long song with distortion this bad. Otherwise, the song resembles the original album version, but with more improvisations. Immediately following the song, a man's voice hollers out "Pink Floyd!" and then continues some inaudible talking. I think this man might have been a show promoter that got on stage to thank the band for their performance.
Both of these shows were cleaned-up, upgraded versions compared to the older versions that had been circulated for years. I have the old and new versions of both RoIOs, and I hear a huge improvement on the Copenhagen show compared to the old version. The person who remastered this deserves a pat on the back, as this concert performance is now actually listenable, though the vocals can still be inaudible at times. And as much as I complained about distortion on the Rotterdam show, believe it or not, this cleaned-up version is actually better than the older version found on the Have You Got It Yet? Syd Barrett RoIO compilation. The old version was truly awful and utterly unlistenable. By comparison, this new version is much more tolerable.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd's debut album, am I am hopeful that the band has some recordings of the 1967 tour in their vaults. These recordings might be released as part of the upcoming box set that Storm Thorgerson let slip is currently in production. No details are out yet on what the box set will contain, but it would be nice to hear some quality live recordings of the Barrett-era Floyd. Hey, I can dream, right?
The Camera Eye
Trip, trip, to a dream dragon
Syd's First Trip
What exactly are we watching here? Is this a document of a genius who found his muse, or is this the beginning of a sad spiral into drug abuse? That point of view would depend entirely on the viewer, but Syd's First Trip offers a rare look into the personal life of Syd Barrett during the summer of 1967 through spring 1968.
There appear to be two versions of this video in circulation: one silent, and one with background music track by a group called Dilate. There is no original Pink Floyd or Syd Barrett music on these videos. The video content appears to be the same, but with different menu layouts and audio. The quality is very good from the original 8mm film shot by film student and friend of Barrett, Nigel Gordon. The camera work is good, with many odd angles being used and footage of Syd in a variety of states from placid to manic. Syd is shown holding the 'magic mushrooms' and this was purported to be his first experimentation with the hallucinogenic drug.
This DVD can be purchased through import outlets and the Internet, or found for free in various trading circles. It is recommended for fans of Syd and the early Floyd, but if you are like most and picked up on Floyd in the post-Syd era then this might not be an enjoyable experience for you.
The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story
Whether you are a casual or die hard fan of the early years of Pink Floyd or just want to dispel many of the myths and rumors of the Syd era, then this video is definitely worthy of a place in your collection.
Released by United Energy Entertainment in 2005, this video, while a bit short at around 50 minutes, still offers a treasure trove of information direct from the sources. While there is no new Pink Floyd music or film clips, the value in this DVD is the interviews. To really understand the Syd story you have to hear it from his band mates and the friends who were around him. Besides new and exclusive interviews with the other members of Pink Floyd, we are also treated to some very personal recollections from everyone ranging from his landlord, roommates, and girlfriend, to producers, promoters, and fellow musicians. The interview sessions are beautifully filmed, most likely with a high definition camera as the video is presented in 16:9 widescreen format. Here is where the real story is told, sometimes painfully, as evidenced by the discussions and expressions of those interviewed. It is obvious that all members of Pink Floyd--especially Roger Waters who seemed to be the most connected with Syd--struggle with this part of the band's legacy.
Entertaining tales are told by his former roommate who tells the story behind the cover of The Madcap Laughs album, which brings a whole new understanding of Syd.
There are a couple nice touches on the DVD, with bonus songs by Robyn Hitchcock and Graham Coxon of Blur. As someone who admittedly wasn't familiar with Robyn Hitchcock, I found his interview enjoyable and I enjoyed his acoustic renditions of Syd songs enough that I went out and bought some of his CDs. Other bonus features include a slide show of posters and memorabilia.
Considering this video can be found online and at retail stores who carry 'import' DVDs for around $15, it is well worth the small investment.