The great Pink Floyd mystery
Melody Maker, August 5 1967, Chris Welch
As thousands in ballrooms and assorted hell-holes across the country are deafened and blinded nightly by the Pink Floyd, the well-known psychedelic group, thousands might be forgiven for thinking: “What the ‘ell’s it all about?”
Are the Pink Floyd being quite honest when they make coy and attractive records like “See Emily Play” then proceed to make the night hideous with a thunderous, incomprehensible, screaming, sonic torture that five American doctors agree could permanently damage the senses?
The Floyd do not wish to appear dishonest, but they are worried. They appreciate the contrast between their records and live performances, agree the latter might not be all that they should be, and are taking steps to rectify the situation.
Roger Waters, bass player, with rather aesthetic good looks, and a taste for frequent pints of bitter, grappled frankly with Floyd problems this week.
“We’re being frustrated at the moment by the fact that to stay alive we have to play lots and lots of places and venues that are not really suitable. This can’t last obviously and we’re hoping to create our own venues.”
Roger accepted a government-approved cigarette and warmed to his theme: “We all like our music. That’s the only driving force behind us. All the trappings of becoming vaguely successful – like being able to buy bigger amplifiers – none of that stuff is really important.
“We’ve got a name of sorts now among the public so everybody comes to have a look at us, and we get full houses. But the atmosphere in these places is very stale. There is no feeling of occasion.
“There is no nastiness about it, but we don’t get rebooked on the club or ballroom circuit. What I’m trying to say is that the sort of thing we are trying to do doesn’t fit into the sort of environment we are playing in. The supporting bands play ‘Midnight Hour’ and the records are all soul, then we come on.
“I’ve got nothing against the people who come, and I’m not putting down our audiences. But they have to compare everybody. So-and-so’s group is better than everybody else. It’s like marking exercise books. Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich get a gold star in the margin, or ‘Tick – Very Good.’
“On the club scene we rate about two out of ten and ‘Must try harder.’ “We’ve had problems with our equipment and we can’t get the P.A. to work because we play extremely loudly. It’s a pity because Syd (singer Syd Barrett) writes great lyrics and nobody ever hears them.
“Maybe it’s our fault because we are trying too hard. After all the human voice can’t compete with Fender Telecasters and double drum kits. We’re a very young group, not in age, but in experience. We’re trying to solve problems that haven’t existed before. Perhaps we should stop trying to do our singles on stage. Even the Beatles, when they worked live, sounded like their records. But the sort of records we make today are impossible to reproduce on stage so there is no point in trying.”
Isn’t this being dishonest?
“This is the point: We don’t think so. We still do ‘Arnold Layne’ and struggle through ‘Emily’ occasionally. We don’t think it’s dishonest because we can’t play live what we play on records. It’s a perfectly ok scene. Can you imagine somebody trying to play ‘A Day In The Life’? Yet that’s one of the greatest tracks ever made. A lot of stuff on our LP is completely impossible to do live. We’ve got the recording side together and not the playing side.”
“So what we’ve got to do now is get together a stage act that has nothing to do with our records, things like ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ which is beautiful, and instrumentals that are much easier to play.”
Are the group depressed when they fail to communicate with an audience?
“It’s sometimes depressing and becomes a drag. There are various things you can do. You can close your mind to the fact you’re not happening with the audience and play for yourself. When the music clicks, even if it’s only with ten or twelve people, it’s such a gas.
“We’re trying to play music of which it can be said that it has freedom of feeling. That sounds very corny, but it is very free.”
What is the future of the Floyd?
“We can’t go on doing clubs and ballrooms. We want a brand new environment, and we’ve hit on the idea of using a big top. We’ll have a huge tent and go around like a travelling circus. We’ll have a huge screen 120 feet wide and 40 feet high inside and project films and slides.
“We’ll play the big cities, or anywhere and become an occasion, just like a circus. It’ll be a beautiful scene. It could even be the salvation of the circus!
“The thing is, I don’t think we can go on doing what we are doing now. If we do, we’ll all be on the dole.”