Saturday, 19 May 2012
Dear all, this week has been beyond my wildest dreams! At last we collectors have a fine set of BBC recordings to go alongside the classic sets by The Beatles, Kinks, Who and Animals, it seems only a matter of time before David Cameron is kicked out of the UK’s coalition (conservative MPs are busy drawing up signatures for a ‘crisis in confidence’ poll as we speak) and I have a bona fide fan. Well, some one made some nice comments on a Lindisfarne forum anyway – many thanks for the plug Derek if you’re still reading these newsletters and I’m just sorry I didn’t find the comment earlier! By the way, now that the Shorty Awards are over for another year (see news and views 129 – we got three votes, all in different categories sadly so we didn’t win anything!) we’ve replaced that box on our site with a ‘press releasers’ one. We’re having a bit of teething trouble with it at the moment, but in theory if our site is mentioned on another site it should appear on the list – please notify us at the usual email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’ve heard about us on a site that we might have missed! I’m sure this run of luck can’t last – I’m still waiting for the next dreaded ATOS form which seems to be overdue and there’s another pointless job centre appointment and hospital appointment next week where the last lot tell me to work less and the first lot tell me to work harder – but that’s another week. For the moment the sun is shining, the Byrds are singing and our site is roaring past 17,000 views (17414 at the last count!) See you next issue!
♫ Lindisfarne News: Alan Hull played at Newcastle City Hall an impressive 120 times during his short life, both with Lindisfarne and with any number of solo and off-shoot bands. As Newcastle’s favourite musical sons, the City Hall has votes to have a plaque to commemorate the life of this great songwriter on July 19th, when a street concert will be held featuring friends, family and bandmates. The event will mark 17 years since the singer’s tragic death at the age of 50 and is long overdue!
♫Lulu News: The singer will be the next guest on Pier’s Morgan’s ‘Life Show’ on ITV this Friday, May 18th. Some TV listings (eg mine) had her down as guest last week where she was mysteriously replaced by Dennis Waterman – not the most fitting substitute for Lulu, even if they both do a lot of ‘shouting’! I have new respect for Morgan since his surprisingly supportive and heartfelt programme on Davy Jones’ death where he got the most out of a visibly upset Micky Dolenz and actually stopped talking for once – let’s hop the same is true for this series after some pretty lame interviewing techniques in his first series!
♫ Paul Simon News: Sweden doesn’t give out many music awards – in fact it’s main honour, The Polar Prize, is only awarded twice a year – once to a pop and once to a classical performer. This year Paul Simon’s been chosen to receive the prize, worth a cool £91,000, in a ceremony on August 28th this year. Interestingly Yo Yo Ma is the recipient of the ‘classical’ award this year – never have the lines between pop and classical music been more thinly drawn (I can’t wait for the year Paul McCartney wins both!)
ANNIVERSARIES: Birthdays this week are for those AAA stars born between May 16th and 22nd: Pete Townshend (guitarist with The Who 1965-82 and various reunions) turns 67 on May 19th. Anniversaries of events include: Pete Townshend will have bad memories of a who gig at the Fillmore East – tired of seeing fans climbing onto the stage, Pete kicks one off during the middle of the set only to find out it is a policeman! He spends a night in prison on assault charges (May 16th 1969); The Beatles headline their first ever concert in the exotic location of Slough following the success of ‘Please Please Me’ during a Helen Shapiro tour (May 18th 1963); Dire Straits release their debut single ‘Sultans Of Swing’ (May 19th 1979); Three Beatles get back together for an impromptu jam session to celebrate Eric Clapton’s wedding to George Harrison’s ex Patti Boyd, the first time more than two moptops have been seen in public since 1970 (May 19th 1979); The BBC bans a Beatles track for the first time – no, not the drugs-referenced ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ or the subversive ‘Revolution’ but ‘A Day In The Life’ (and its not even the ‘love to turn you on’ postscript but the line about ‘4000 holes’ relating to drug injections) (May 20th 1967), Our AAA classic no 50 – the first Stephen Stills/Manassas album – is released (May 20th 1972), two important dates for The Who on May 21st : 1965 sees the release of second single ‘Anyway Anyhow Anywhere’ and the band’s first appearance on Ready Steady Go, the TV show that will become synonymous with the group (1965) while Pete Townshend marries first wife Karen Astley in 1968 and finally, the first – of many – posthumous CSNY releases, the live record ‘4 Way Street’ is released (May 22nd 1971).
In lieu of any burning issues to write about this week, I thought do another of my occasional columns filling you in about the ‘B-list’ purchases I’ve made recently – and whether they were a good idea or not! So, in no particular order...
Crosby-Nash In Concert (DVD 2012)
Oh dear. Without a regular record contract and without the hoped-for comeback with the ‘covers’ album abandoned by producer Rick Rubin early last year CSN are fading fast. By Crosby and Nash’s high standards this live DVD recorded on tour last year is a pretty shoddy piece of work, with their roughest harmonies on record yet and a rather tired and uninteresting track selection. That said, no CSN release yet has been entirely devoid of interest and at times this set does come alive, most notably on the two excellent new songs ‘In Your Name’ (Nash’s) and ‘A Slice Of Time’ (Crosby’s), a pair of songs as good as anything the pair have written to date. There’s also a pretty neat medley of ‘Orleans’ and ‘Cathedral’ rarely heard at all in concert and never like this, as a sort of religious hymnal medley. Crosby’s often overlooked ‘Camera’ gets a welcome showing too, while there are a handful of extras of interest to collectors: a demo for ‘Clear Blue Skies’, the sweet but ropey Nash song ruined for CSNY’s ‘American Dream’ album that sounds rather better here and a C-N take on Crosby’s co-written Byrds song ‘8 Miles High’. One for collectors only, really, though things bode well if CSN ever do secure another record contract, together or apart.
(I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson (2012)
I must admit I haven’t played this album much, only the second member of Belle and Sebastian to go solo (after the surprise runaway success of Isobel Campbell). Stevie Jackson is a likeable chap, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of rock and roll even I can’t hope to match and this album features as large an array of ideas, styles and emotions as you’d expect. Through it all, though, Stevie’s love of a basic rock and roll beat shines through. ‘Dead Man’s Fall’ and ‘Richie Now’ are particularly interesting, especially the latter which is a re-write of The Kinks’ glorious ‘Do You Remember, Walter?’ about a childhood friend who changes. Richie even had ‘all the Beatles LPs and the Twist and Shout’ EP from 1963 when I had none’, so he must have been a special kind of guy! It has to be said there’s nothing here to rival Jackson’s two greatest B+S moments to date ‘Roy Walker’ and ‘Seymour Stein’. It’s a shame, though, that the last two rather lesser B+S albums didn’t make more use of Jackson’s talents – had they split half of Murdoch’s songs with the better half of this album ‘Write About Love’ wouldn’t have been such a crushing disappointment.
Art Garfunkel “Everything Waits To Be Noticed” (2002)
By far the best of my recent bunch is the most non-assuming. Art Garfunkel’s albums have pretty much all been subdued low-key moments of bliss, but few have been quite as clever or moving as this one, which is sure to get its own review on the site once I get to know it a bit better. Recorded with partners Maia Sharp and Buddy Mondlock, it represents the first time Art has had a composing credit on record since 1961! (There’s no less than four co-credits here, including many of the best songs!)Going for ethereal beauty rather than desperate attempts at harshness or anger as per the last few Garfunkel albums, this track never raises it’s voice above a whisper despite having some very deep things to say. My favourite song – probably my favourite discovery of the past six months – is the song ‘The Kid’, a spot-on song about the narrator looking out the window when he should be working, dreaming of things much bigger than what he can see in the schoolyard. Unusually, though, for these sorts of songs the narrator remains an unknown no one by the end of the song and yet still doesn’t regret a minute of it, quoting ‘I could no more stop dreaming than I could make all my dreams come true’. So lovely I wonder why this record passed me by when it came out – certainly I’d never seen a copy until recently. Perhaps the very Simon and Garfunkel sentiment in the title track really is true and, yes, everything really does wait to be noticed! If so, what other gems are out there for me to find?!
Hot Tuna “Five Classic Albums” (1970-76, re-issued 2012)
For those who don’t know, Hot Tuna are the blues-based rhythm section of the Jefferson Airplane who used to work as the ‘opening act’ for their main band on the last few Jefferson tours before going fully solo. I must admit I’d never heard any of their work until getting this set of five albums, part of an excellent series that’s already seen reissues by both the Airplane and Starship as well as Buffalo Springfield spin-off group Poco. To be honest, a little from these first five albums goes a long way, but ‘Phosphorescent Rat’ (the third album from 1973) is already becoming a firm favourite (not a popular choice among fans I hear, how normally plump for either the first acoustic ‘live’ album or the rather-too-MOR ‘Amerrica’s Choice’. Still, guitarist Jorma Kaukanen, who writes and sings most of the material here, is welcome company even on the worse songs and its nice to hear so much more of the talent from a songwriter who was always a little over-looked in the Airplane (his last few songs for the band are better than Slick’s or Kantner’s in my eyes). ‘In The Kingdom’ and ‘Corners From The Earth’ are particularly strong and unusually imager-filled for Jorma, who seems to have taken a leaf out of partner Paul Kantner’s writing style. That said the best track of all may well be a joyous acoustic cover of ‘I Know You Rider’ which may well be the definitive version of this classic folk song, despite dozens of recordings down the years (most of them by the Grateful Dead!)
Julian Lennon “Everything Changes” (2011)
Lastly, a big surprise. I last left Julian Lennon as a rather nervy and derivative songwriter desperate to get a pop hit around the time of ‘Valotte’. Since then his reputation has sunk and his profile slipped to almost nothing, so it was with surprise that I read a review of his new album in Mojo a few months back (they hated it). But at long last Julian has developed his own voice, complementary to but not derivative of his dad’s work and this album is never less than good and rarely less than fascinating. The eldest Beatle child might not have developed his dad’s singing voice in his genes, but I always felt that given a break his song’s might prove their worth and, largely, they have. The title track of this album, in particular, is becoming a real favourite and is an ecological protest song more akin to a CSN song than any of John’s work. ‘Invisible’ is another great track, a surefire hit single for somebody with a different name and a pretty neat analysis of what it means for a former star to ‘disappear’ from the news for a time. Let’s hope Julian gets back to where he deserves soon because there’s a real weight and passion about his songs this time around and it would be a shame to see such talent fade away again. Incidentally, why didn’t seemingly proud mum Cynthia talk more about her son’s work in her book ‘John’?
And that’s all we have to talk about for now. Join us next issue for more thrills, spills and chills – err no sorry more news, views and music – till then, goodbye!
Pink Floyd "Dark Side Of The Moon" "Wish You Were Here" "The Wall" (Re-issues) (News, Views and Music 144)
You can now buy 'Remember A Day - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of Pink Floyd' in e-book form by clicking here!
Pink Floyd – Deluxe ‘Immersion’ Editions of ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’ (2011/2012) and ‘Experience’ edition of ‘The Wall’
Dark Side: Speak To Me/Breathe/On The Run/Time/The Great Gig In The Sky/Money/Us And Them/Any Colour You Like/Brian Damage/Eclipse (All tracks live at Wembley 1974 and in early mix form)/The Hard Way/Us and Them (piano demo)/The Travel Sequence (outtake)/Money (Demo)
Wish You Were Here: Shine On You Crazy Diamond/Raving and Drooling (Sheep)/You’ve Got To Be Crazy (Dogs) (All live at Wembley 1974)/Wine Glasses/Have A Cigar (Alternate Version)/Wish You Were Here (Alternate Mix)
The Wall Demos: Prelude/Another Brick In The Wall (x7!)/The Thin Ice Of Modern Life x2/Goodbye Blue Sky/Teacher, Teacher (The Hero’s Retunr)/Empty Spaces x2/Young Lust/Mother x2/Don’t Leave Me Now x2/The Sexual Revolution/Goodbye Cruel World x2/In The Flesh?/The Happiest Days Of Our Lives/One Of My Turns/Backs To The Wall/The Doctor (Comfortably Numb)/Run Like Hell
In which we see the ‘bright side’ of ‘Moon’ and lots of intriguing discarded foundations for ‘The Wall’, but wish we weren’t here for some of ‘Wish’s lesser moments...
For such an anonymous band, Pink Floyd don’t half like doing things in a big way. The two box sets we’ll be looking at this issue contain not just CDs, not just packaging, not even just a few free posters but coasters (yes, coasters!), as if the listener doesn’t have enough to drink in just from the music! To be honest you’ll probably need a stiff drink anyway after finding out the retail prices for these sets but, well, Floyd have always been an expensive as well as expansive band and actually these sets offer better value than I was expecting (I only had to go without eating for a month, not two as per the last set of Pink Floyd box sets!) This review we’ll be looking at the extra features contained within three mammoth multi-CD box sets at the tail end of last year and the early part of this! Now for the past two reviews we’ve been re-looking at old reviews and doing them slightly differently in the light of the new material that’s come to light. This time round we won’t quite be doing that because in my haste to bring you the neglected and overlooked I seem to have omitted covering either ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ or ‘Wish You Were Here’ yet. Don’t worry Floyd fans, full reviews of both will surely be coming your way soon (our review of ‘The Wall’ is core review no 76) – in the meantime we’ll leave you a few titbits here about the original albums and assume that you’ll all know the gist of the stories behind two of the biggest selling albums of all time already. By the way, I only have the ‘experience’ edition of ‘WYWH’ and ‘The Wall’ so can’t talk about the ‘extra’ features – on the latter mainly demos, mainly by David Gilmour, released on this set – although frankly the two discs on WYWH are plenty considering the box just has mixes mixes and more mixes and the four discs of The Wall are quite enough (seeing as I already own the excellent ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ live edition that makes up discs 5 and 6.
Looking at these sets in order, for the record, I ‘get’ why ‘Dark Side’ is such a big record – it somehow manages to tie up the half-themes of most Floyd albums the best of any, the melodies sparkle, the lyrics are brief but moving and there’s a real clarity about the production behind this album that nobody seemed to match again, never mind the often murky Floyd. But for my money the best thing about ‘Dark Side’ – and the same goes for all of their 1971-73 material – is that they sound like a fully fledged band, utilising each member’s strengths and pushing no one outside their comfort zones. The use of spoken cards, with interview snippets from various willing and unwilling guests shepherded late at night into Abbey Road, is inspired, with this album taking on a much bigger spiritual ‘everyman’ tone than just the songs would have had on their own. And yes the startling album cover - of light reflected through a prism - is one of the most recognisable images in rock, even if it has nothing to do with the album (Hipgnosis hadn’t heard a note before coming up with the idea and it was just one among dozens they submitted to the band for approval). Best of all, Rick Wright and Nick Mason are the powerhouse of the band, as they rightly should be, not musicians neglected by Roger’s desire for lyrical and thematic perfection and David Gilmour’s equally strong desire for musical perfection. Like many Floyd fans, though, I have to say that far from being the greatest album of all time (or even the 1970s) it’s not even the Floyd’s greatest album. Any LP with three instrumentals out of 10 tracks (admittedly three great and very different instrumentals) and one spoken word collage cannot be the most crafted, most dedicated, most communicatable album of all time (even if I can see why it became the best-selling). With that bee out of my bonnet, go out and buy ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ (to hear Syd Barrett in full creative flood), ‘Meddle’ (to hear ‘Echoes’, the one epic song that makes sense of everything the Floyd ever tried to do) or ‘The Wall’ (to hear how great a concept album really can be). That said, ‘Dark Side’ has a number of songs that are still among my firm favourites – ‘Breathe’ ‘Time’ ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’ (OK so I was a bit too hasty about the instrumentals there) and especially ‘Us and Them’ are some of the best songs ever written and even on Dark Side’s – gulp – 7th re-issue in the lifetime of the CD they still shine bright and powerfully, as resonant as music will ever be.
‘Dark Side’ still resonates better than pretty much any other album from the era because it was deliberately made to sound timeless. There’s no gimmicky singles, no use of then-modern now-outmoded equipment and the key album themes of the pressures of life and growing older affect all of us somewhere somehow. There isn’t a line on ‘Dark Side’ that hasn’t flashed through your brain at some time in your life, even before knowing the words: ‘Everyday is getting shorter, never seen to find the time’ ‘No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun’ ‘With without – and God only knows that’s what the writing’s all about’, ‘Dark Side’ is a strong candidate for the most lyrical album ever made. The melodies of the key six or seven songs on the album are perfectly suited too, with a ‘quiet desperation’ quite unlike the Floyd’s usual improvise-and-see-where-this-goes-spirit that makes the words sound hard-fought over and as if the album has been lived and mused over many times before it was recorded. Unlike pretty much every other album ever made ‘Dark Side’ was played live getting on for a year before it was all recorded – a phenomenal length of time back in the days when an artist released albums every year like clockwork and when ravenous concert-goers expected to find what they’d just heard live in the shops or the concert foyer. But ultimately what makes ‘Dark Side’ the success it is is how much work went into making it, of smoothing out those rough edges, letting the songs take their natural shape and with all four band members perfectly clear of their role on each song, not just the composer (there’s a wonderful amount of shared writing credits on this album too, something that often gets overlooked in the Floyd’s history).
This means that the extra tracks on ‘Dark Side’ are more interesting than on possibly any other album they could release – and not just because its an album that sold really well. And fans intrigued to know what ingredients went into the melting point won’t be disappointed – for any of these three sets (although they might well find themselves selling all their other CDs to both afford and make room for these sets in their house!) For three albums so deeply about the ‘isolation’ of human nature, these new sets aren’t half comprehensive. The discs in the ‘Dark Side’ set just keep coming, with Alan Parson’s original mix for the album, the entire album performed at Wembley in 1974, a handful of tracks in an early, formless stage at a concert in Brighton and some intriguing off-cut demos for ‘Us and Them’ and ‘Money’ and one track from the unreleased ‘Household Objects’ that we’ll be looking at below. Not to mention various 5.1 surround sound/super-enhanced/this will blow your ears off mixes which, to ears that have spent this many years buried deep in records, don’t really enhance your understanding of the album – sure it sounds a bit better when you compare it to your old CD, but unless you’re playing both at the same time whose going to know where the differences are? The DVD even contains bits of film of the Floyd in action, although most of the footage is just the specially shot footage the band showed on one of the first concert TV screens and doesn’t feature the band themselves (the flying hospital bed on ‘On The Run’ is always good for a laugh, though, and neatly sums up the opposite of my experience with hospitals and chronic fatigue, where speed is not of any essence whatsoever). There’s also a curious moment when Nixon comes on the screen in the middle of ‘Breathe’ to the lines ‘...Leave, don’t leave me’, which is surely overdue for a conspiracy theory or four!
Umm, anyway, you don’t need the visuals (which are just a bit of fun) and you really don’t need the coasters (even though I do have a growing collection of Pink Floyd mugs), but arguably if you’re a Floyd collector you’re going to want the ‘Dark Side’ mixes and the early live recordings (though I don’t care so much for the Wembley performance) because they really are important to the whole story. Usually I hate remixes and like 5.1 mixes discount them when I see them on the back of packaging, but no – for once these alternate mixes are the real deal. Alan Parsons, the engineer, un-credited producer and so much more to ‘Dark Side’ made these mixes as a sort of ‘first attempt’ and frankly I wouldn’t have bothered to do any more because they perfectly capture the album’s spirit and the mix of music, madness, sound effects and spoken word. I wouldn’t say its better than the finished mix, but it is much better than all the stories behind it’s creation lead me to believe and most importantly it’s as different as a different mix will ever get: ‘Breathe’ has even more ‘space’ between all the elements, has Roger’s bass much higher in the mix and a neat ‘echo’ of Dave’s guitar that really should have been kept in the final mix; ‘On The Run’ is almost entirely different, with louder ‘atmosphere’ (ie held synth notes) and sound effects of running, plus snatches of train horns, buzzing planes and police sirens left out of the final mix (this version makes the song’s links to pressures of travelling and the fear of death by accident much more explicit); ‘Time’ has much more of the opening clock ticking sound effect (no surprise seeing as it was Parson’s discovery on a tape reel of sound effects at Abbey Road), a much more delayed start for Nick Mason’s drums and a second Gilmour rhythm guitar part underneath the famous solo that together with a louder keyboard part makes the piece sound much rockier; ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’ has much more ‘space’ between the piano and steel guitar (Instead of sounding like on instrument) and, most shockingly of all, has no Clare Torry! Instead we get the ‘original’(well, second) idea for the song, with a bunch of announcements from the Apollo Moon landings over the top. This change is fascinating, making the piece less emotional and more about ‘achievement’ than loss, celebratory rather than mourning (its also the only time on the album you hear a mention of ‘moon’ until ‘Eclipse’); ‘Money’ has a longer opening before the ‘proper’ sound effects kick in and the switch from 3/4 to 4/4 time is more exaggerated; ‘Us and Them’ opens with a terrific saxophone solo (playing a riff quite different to the finished version) and a slower tempo that makes a classic song sound even better, with the keyboard and guitars mixed right down low in the mix. I actually prefer this version to the finished one!; ‘Any Colour You Like’ is the one mix here that sounds much the same, but there is slightly more of Gilmour’s spiky rhythm parts and his singing along with his solo is much louder in this version; ‘Brain Damage’ has an echoey guitar effect on the opening and rather more manic giggling on the main part of the song; finally ‘Eclipse’ has an unused guitar part instead of the main keyboard riff and sounds much closer in style to the version we hear Gilmour ‘overdubbing’ in the ‘Live At Pompeii’ film. The backing singers are louder in the mix too, although the effect of building up line by line doesn’t work quite so well in this version, this being the one alternate mix that doesn’t at least stack up to the ‘finished’ version.
That said, that’s still one heck of a list of differences considering these are merely the same recordings heard in a slightly different way. Hearing an album that so many of us know inside out and back to front is very strange, but very rewarding, as if we are now seeing the ‘dark side’ of the album come through. The same could be said for some of the other oddities in the box. The first studio outtake for ‘The Travel Sequence’ is a kind of halfway house between the early live and studio versions, still played on the band’s usual instruments but with a much more electronic, alienating theme going on (especially Nick Mason’s neat and very un-Floyd drumming!) Frankly the band did right to drop it as it’s nowhere near as exciting as the finished, fascinatingly peculiar and then-modern sounding recording, although there’s a neat ‘Any Colour’-type jam on the end as a coda following a hummable six-note riff that should have been kept in the final version too. ‘Money’ is heard in early demo form and is startling different – not only is Roger singing the lead not Dave, it’s a slow acoustic walking blues, without a hint of the sarcasm or wit of the finished product. Shockingly for the Floyd, there are no overdubs or sound effects on this version (yes, even their demos sound overproduced – see ‘The Wall’ below!) and the effect is a pretty neat one, with Roger promoted to the unlikely role of the Ledbelly or Big Bill Broonzy of the band! Incidentally, there’s no change of time signature on this first version and no great rock breakout at the end – from what I’ve read this was Gilmour’s idea, worked out in the studio and the reason why the guitarist gets a co-credit on the song. Best of all, Rick’s lovely demo of ‘Us and Them’ is actually the long-lost first recording of the song, made in 1972 and intended for the ‘violence’ scene in Antonioni’s ‘Zabriskie Point’ film but rejected (shockingly he rejected CSN’s equally superlative ‘Find The Cost Of Freedom’ too! – in the end he chose re-make of the Floyd b-side ‘Come In no 54, Your Time Is Up!’, which is nice but not in the same league) The stark beauty of this song, back when it was still an instrumental, would have been the perfect contrasting balm to scenes of hippies being beaten up by police and hearing it here you can see why so many of the fans that have heard it have raved on about it so – and why Roger, Rick’s polar opposite in the band, was moved enough to write one of his better lyrics for the piece.
Meanwhile, over on the end of disc three, we get to hear even more of ‘Dark Side’s evolution from just another half-concept album into something more substantial. The band don’t quite know where they’re going in the three songs chosen from an early ‘Dark Side’ performance in Brighton in 1972, but the bumpy ride is all the more interesting for the collector who knows these songs backwards. ‘The Travel Sequence’ is an early version of ‘On The Run’, but played on the band’s normal guitar-bass-drum-keyboard set up rather than the modern, pulsing, hypnotic sound of what was in 1972 the most futuristic sounding synthesiser ever put on record. It’s an aimless jam this version, a bit like ‘Any Colour You Like’ at this stage, driven by some unusually grungy choppy chord work from Gilmour’s guitar work and a sudden kick into angry heavy metal mode partway through which sounds suspiciously like ‘Careful With That Axe Eugene’, but with a lot less screaming. There are no sound effects as yet and the theme of travel appears to be in the mind of the musicians rather than the audience as there’s no mention of it onstage. ‘The Morality Sequence’ is more different still, an even earlier abandoned attempt at turning Rick’s lovely chord sequence for ‘The Great Gig’ into an actual song. Rick’s playing is much more ‘churchy’ and basic, without the piano counterpoint to the song and there’s a curious garbled church sermon going on in stereo over the top (the Floyd being the Floyd, they appear to be giving two ‘denominations’ at once, with the two speakers clashing so much it’s hard to hear what’s going on – perhaps that’s the point!) If the final version of ‘Great Gig’ is all about death and the first mix all about achievement, then this version is all about confusion and how the church comes to play such a role in people’s lives without them really knowing quite why (see also the first draft of ‘Sheep’ on the Wish You Were Here’ disc, which is even plainer than the finished product of how Waters, at least, feels about a compulsory religion. Incidentally, do the box set compilers really mean to call this a ‘morality’ sequence (this invoking the confusion) or have they simply mis-spelled ‘mortality’ (which is closer to the ‘death’ theme)? Finally, ‘Any Colour You Like’ is slower and much more laidback, although its much closer to the finished ‘jam’ than the other two versions here, except for a more contrasted quiet-fast passage in the middle and a loss of Wright’s buzzing ARP synth.
Live, in 1974 form as heard on disc two, ‘Dark Side’ sounds like a slicker and altogether more MOR beast and sounds like it’s been played so often now in concert that everyone is getting rather bored of it – band, audience, the poor guy working the sound effects machines, etc. The album is a marvellous collage of ideas flowing out seemingly from one into the other, but also overlapping by way of sound effect and spoken word part. This show from Wembley in 1974 finds ‘Dark Side’, in contrast to the Brighton show two years previously, running so smoothly on its gears that you can almost hear band and audience get into the groove of the next track before the one before it ends. The differences between the album and this show are pretty marginal and none of them put the concert in a good light; ‘Speak To Me’ has some slightly different opening voices, ‘The Great Gig’ now has three noisy backing singers trying to do the job Clare Torry did with a single voice and failing badly; ‘Money’ has turned from a song about release and freedom into a plodding parody of itself, now with more swagger than intelligence; ‘Us and Them’ has a longer organ-part opening which is lovely, but otherwise noodles so aimlessly that it’s hard to believe it’s the revelatory composition about denial and division that’s become one of my favourite Floyd songs. Of the four players Roger sounds unusually quiet, Nick sounds usually quiet and Dave sounds as if he’s trying just a bit too hard to be the front-man for a band that did their best to avoid having a ‘face’ at all. Only Rick comes through with any amount of credit, still working what are chiefly ‘his’ two songs (‘Us and Them’ and ‘Great Gig’) into something new by stretching out tempos and adding little sections and adding similar subtle keyboard parts to the songs by his colleagues. You have to say, though, this Wembley show is the worst of Floyd – a band who broke so big that they could afford to rest on their laurels and know the audience isn’t going to give them any grief. Perhaps we just caught them on a bad night but, for all the extra musicality and sonic breadth, I prefer the rough and ragged and much more intimate ‘Brighton’ show and it’s a shame it’s not available complete.
We’re now going to look at the two songs left over from the ‘Household Objects’ project played with by the band in 1973 in an attempt to do something in the wake of ‘Dark Side’s immense success, although everyone agreed now reckons it was a bad idea and simply felt like ‘something to do’ before inspiration properly arrived in 1974. From the two tracks that have now come to light (and may well be the only ones, no one’s really said down the years and nor have these tapes been leaked, surprisingly) it could have been made to work had the band had more patience and a few extra ideas. ‘The Hard Way’ (the track released on the deluxe ‘Dark Side’) sounds pretty much as you’d expect a Floyd backing track to sound and the fact that the tune is being played on struck plates and elastic bands with Nick Mason calmly walking round the studio floor in squeaky shoes doesn’t stop this sounding like a Floyd song, with melancholy in the air, a fleeting glimpse of ‘something’ that never quite arrives and plenty of ‘space’ between the musicians (in more ways than one). Frankly, it’s a lot more entertaining than hearing the whole 12 parts of ‘Shine On’, though its hard to imagine sitting through a whole LP of this. ‘Wine Glasses’ (the song from this project available on ‘WYWH?’) sounds very like the opening to ‘Shine On’, interestingly enough, with a single held note of resonating wine glasses being rubbed to order by a bank of Abbey Road staff and technicians and some floaty Wright keyboards over the top. Again, it’s not enough to make a whole song over but does make sense for where the starting point of ‘Shine On’ came from and as such is a privilege for any Floyd fan to hear after all this time. Would ‘Household Objects’ have worked as an album? Not on your life, but it’s easy to see where the ethereal and strange beauty of WYWH came from.
Going back to round off ‘Dark Side’, though, is there enough content here to make it worth £80 odd of your hard-earned money? Only if you’re very very rich is the answer – as was the case with our reviews for ‘Smile’ and ‘Quadrophenia’, there simply isn’t enough content here to make it reasonable to expect a collector to pay more than £40 for one of these sets when you can buy the two-disc version for £15. However, unlike the other two boxes which were sometimes packaging over content, there’s a lot more in this box than I expected. There’s so much superfluous stuff here, in amongst the coasters and the DVD of film clips and the 5.1 surround mix and the hour long concert you really don’t need that it’s easy to lose track of what’s important. The tracks from Brighton, the demo of ‘Money’, the early and highly different outtakes of ‘Us and Them’ and ‘On The Run’, the Household Objects track and especially the Alan Parsons alternate mixes are very very revealing and some of them (particularly the first mix of ‘Us and Them’) are as good as anything that came out on the album. You really get a sense of the band evolving this album little bit by little bit here and its great that the Floyd have opened so much of their vaults to us, instead of just trickling out a few titbits every years as they could have done. But, still, £80 for that and a few coasters? Suddenly the chorus to ‘Money’ about ‘hi fidelity’ and ‘grab that cash with both hands’ doesn’t sound so sarcastic anymore...
‘Wish You Were Here’ is a harder pill to swallow as a ‘great album’, even though its the one album that ‘fans’ like as much as the general public. If Dark Side’s six ‘proper’ songs (with lyrics and a tune) was short-change then ‘WYWH’ is worse: five songs, one of them a reprise, one of them not featuring any of the band on lead vocals at all. The band had a hard time making it and will from this point on be a power struggle between Roger and Dave rather than the band bringing out the best in each other, but Dave and Rick both nominated this album as their best work (personally I’m with Nick over film soundtrack ‘Obscured With Clouds’ being one of the un-sung heroes of the Floyd catalogue!) Obviously the success of ‘Dark Side’ helped, but I suspect this album caught on in the public’s eye because its so much the traditional image of the Floyd: absent, empty, long great spaces with nothing happening, a touch cynical and very very sad. When you know the whole Floyd canon, from the Barrett beginning to ‘Division Bell’ end, it’s hard not to hear this as the band sleep-walking their way through an album. I’m going to say this quietly in case all the Floyd fans get together and find out where I love but I don’t actually like album centre-piece ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ that much. I do like the bits where Roger actually does some singing as the track contains some of his better lyrics, written for Syd and clearly with more emotional resonance than most of Roger’s work, but have you seen how few of them there are – and how long the song goes on for (near enough 25 minutes if both ‘parts’ of the song are stuck together). Without that song there’s not much left, although the title track contains perhaps the best Floyd lyric of all and one of Gilmour’s better tunes to match and ‘Welcome To The Machine’ is an often-overlooked gem that sums up well Dark Side’s sense of dissatisfaction with the pressures of life into a pithy (for the Floyd at least) seven minute track. That said, this is an OK album, not the be and end all of music so many Floydians make it out to be (or so it is to me anyway – you’re all welcome to leave your own opinions if you don’t agree; that’s what this site is all about).
The one intense feeling that the listener gets from ‘Wish You Were Here’ is isolation. Not many albums have the same solemnity of mood that WYWH keeps up for the whole LP and it’s shockingly, ominously low on energy throughout, with even the comparative jig of ‘Have A Cigar’ slow by any other album’s standards. That said this consistency of mood is impressive, matching its clever title about absence (‘there but not there’ as many Floyd books now put it) and another clever array of Hipgnosis images of people where something isn’t quite right (the swimmer drowning in sand, the man on fire who doesn’t notice, the man who’d be invisible if it wasn’t for his pin-stripe suit and bowler hat). If this album were a TV series it would be ‘Sapphire and Steel’, full of mystery and intrigue and eminently watchable, but without even the few ‘answers’ that were there for ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’. Strangely that isolation is accelerated by what you get with this second box set – more extracts from the rather tired sounding Wembley show (including the two songs kept over for the ‘Animals’ album in 1977 – meaning that, apart from a few lyric changes, the Floyd invented just three new songs between here and ‘The Wall’ in 1979 (with one of those split into two parts)), that second song from ‘Household Objects’ and, well, not much else to be honest. Even the much lauded £80 ‘Immersion’ set that’s a bit out of my price range right now has nothing more to offer except a ridiculous array of 5.1 and blue-ray audio mixes of the album, a DVD of the Wembley show and the films projected onto the concert screen and more flipping coasters! Wish you were here? Yes, but at that price I’d rather stick with travelling second class (the two-disc set is a highly reasonable £12 on our partners Amazon at the time of asking!)
Anyway, on the plus side the Floyd seem to be much more awake for this section of the ‘Wembley’ concert than they were for ‘Dark Side’, perhaps because the material is that much newer and exciting for them to play (after all ‘Dark Side’ was on its way to it’s 400th performances by the time of the ‘Wembley’ gig). ‘Shine On’ isn’t so much a revelation as an astonishing account of how well the Floyd could accurately re-create a mightily complex album seemingly effortlessly on stage. Gilmour, especially, is on superb form, drawing every ounce of melancholy from his guitar notes in this 20 minute version back in the days before it was split in two. Hearing it all together makes more sense, with the ‘break’ coming at around the 11 minute mark – except that here it’s not so much a break as a subtle segue, with Rick suddenly turning his flexible, soft playing into jagged, almost reggae-ish tones and the rest of the band fall into line and follow him through to the end of the song. It’s not the best version of the song I’ve ever heard (the version Gilmour did with David Crosby and Graham Nash on the former’s ‘Remember That Night’ DVD or even his solo version on ‘In Concert’ are better than any performances of this the Floyd did as a band), but it’s a good one.
‘Raving and Drooling’ (soon to be better known as ‘Sheep’) is such a great song, even in sketchy alternate-lyric and aimless doodling form, that fans at that show in 1974 were shocked when it didn’t turn up on ‘Wish You Were Here’. On the ‘Animals’ record (another Floyd album I keep meaning to review) it’s a spiky dig at that portion of the population who go along with whoever the last person to speak says, obeying all the rules blindly even though in their heart they don’t believe in them or trust the people who hand them out. This early version starts with that song’s ending, the blood-curdling ‘Raving and drooling I fell on his neck with a scream’, a shockingly aggressive image for the usually passive Floyd and the start of an altogether darker, nastier song more akin to those on ‘The Wall’. This version has less words and more instrumental interludes between verses which, far from slowing the song down as you’d expect, simply makes each line sound more menacing, as we have time to consider the implications of everything Roger tells us. The lyrics aren’t anything as like as strong as on the finished product, but they do have a certain poetic turn: ‘He will zigzag his way through memories of boredom and malaise’, for instance, is a great and very Floydian-line that’ll turn up (sort of ) in ‘Pigs On The Wing’. ‘He was caught in the middle between the illusion of safety in numbers and being brought down to his knees’ is another that should have made the final cut. The song’s first central guitar-riff-and-rhythmic-bass-pattern is there, as is the fantastic climax of shimmering guitars playing one of the great rock and roll riffs, but the middle ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd’ passage, spoken by Nick Mason via a vocoder, is missing. Daft as that passage was, it’s clear this early version needs something in the middle as it rather sags between its two similar verses. That said, this early version of a much-bootlegged recording is a treat to hear in perfect sound at last and it’s clear to hear why so many fans were ‘raving and drooling’ for this song in the show, a full three years before it’s appearance on record.
‘You’ve Got To Be Crazy’ (soon to be better known as ‘Dogs’) is even closer to the finished product, even if the opening lyrics seem to pitch it way off. The NME posted a damning review of this Wembley show and later interrogated poor David Gilmour about this song’s lines (which were actually written by Roger) ‘You gotta keep smiling, you gotta keep fit, you gotta keep drinking, you gotta keep people buying this shit’. They saw this song as the most smug and condescending part of a smug and condescending gig, but whilst the ‘Dark Side’ portion of the show is boredom personified this early version of ‘Dogs’ might well be the revelation of the entire concert. With a slightly different vocal line (which bobs and weaves its way through the song rather than flowing along with the melody as per the album) and some shockingly intense lyrics (the pioneering ‘dog’ narrator ends up dying alone of cancer much earlier in the piece), ‘Crazy’ ironically doesn’t sound as ‘Crazy’ as it did on record; more the desperate final statement by a lonely and disillusioned man the sometime bonkers statements of the final version. This 18 minute version – marginally shorter than the record would you believe – still has all the faults of the final product. It sags badly in the middle (from around the 4 minute mark where the tempo slows down to a crawl), and has a truly weak ending where Roger goes back to his favourite writing device of making ‘lists’ (so effective on ‘Eclipse’, this device just slows the whole song down on ‘Animals’). But this version has some added bonuses: Gilmour doesn’t sound as uncomfortable singing the opening half of the song, even adding some lovely wordless singing in the middle, Rick adds some cushioning keyboard layers underneath all that harshness and bile which far from diluting the song makes it sound ever more believable and Gilmour’s guitar work is much more fiery and passionate. Like ‘Raving and Drooling’ it’s easy to see why the audience talked about this show for years afterwards and why the final versions on ‘Animals’ came as such a crushing disappointment. The fact that the Floyd passed over these two songs for another few years, even when replaced when ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, is frankly shocking. After a year of aimlessly groping for new ideas to follow-up ‘Dark Side’ the answer is right here before their ears only none of them can see it. Fascinating stuff.
Finally, there are two alternate studio versions of songs from the album to enjoy. The original take of ‘Have A Cigar’ is something that as a fan I’ve been dying to hear for years, with Dave and Roger in a (rather fittingly as it turns out) awkward attempt at harmony. Band friend Roy Harper sang the song on the record because neither of Waters and Gilmour (the song’s composers) felt they could do its acerbic wit justice. Roger for one regretted the decision straight away after the record’s release and his comment (‘it’s not that Roy did it badly – it’s just that it wasn’t ‘ours’ anymore)’ sums up how most fans have felt about it ever since. It’s not as easy on the ear but this first version is much more ‘Floydian’ and could have sounded superb had either of the vocalists sung it on their own (Roger is having great fun with the lyrics, so it’s a shame a mix of him alone doesn’t exist). The only other difference is a rather awkward synth part from Rick’s that’s louder in the mix and for once doesn’t fit, it’s pastoral feel on a then-modern sounding instrument being at odds with this song’s seen-it-all-but-doing-it-again-anyway attitude. By the way, an executive of EMI really did ask the band at a meeting ‘which one of you is Pink?’, an absolute gift to Waters in a sarcastic frame of mind who felt that nobody in the business side of things gave a damn about the Floyd and their records. He’s been using the line ever since whenever a question about whether the Floyd should have carried on after his departure turns up in press interviews. The other alternate version is less startling, with the much-discussed alternate mix of the title track with the legendary Stephane Grapelli on violin (he’s also on the first Paul Simon record from 1972) turning out to be a short burst of busking rather than any great addition to the record. Legend has it that he was playing next door at Abbey Road when the band asked him to add a few lines at the end of the song – and that he was rightly annoyed when the band decided to mix him out without telling him. Typically, the Floyd have spent the past few interviews saying ‘gee, I wonder why we mixed him out?’ without saying the obvious – Grapelli’s part is clearly invented on the spot, doesn’t fit such a beautiful song and was clearly rejected for sounding rubbish. A bit of a shame after hearing about it for so long.
So, in all, ‘Wish You Were Here’ the box set is a bit like ‘WYWH’ the album – less accessible and somehow less complex than ‘Dark Side’ all at the same time. That’s doubly true for the expensive Immersion boxes because, boy, do those need to be amazing mixes and pretty coasters to make it worth forking out all that extra money for. The good bits though are very good indeed – the early versions of two songs from ‘Animals’ (that might perhaps have been better saved for an ‘Animals’ re-issue) are essential for any Floyd collection, the early version of ‘Have A Cigar’ finally heard as a bona fide Floyd song instead of a Roy Harper guest appearance is equally impressive and ‘Wine Glasses’ from ‘Household Objects’ is an intriguing discovery. There must be more than this in archives the size of the Floyd’s though, surely – ‘Shine On’ changed so much that it’s sad so little of it is presented here (Gilmour famously hit on the familiar opening phrase when messing about in the recording studio – someone must have taped this bit but where it is remains a mystery). Equally ‘Welcome To The Machine’ has so many layers going on it would have been nice to have taken the ‘Machine’ apart and seen what was gluing it all together. Equally ‘Wish You Were Here’ was given a tinny radio effect on the LP (for some reason best known to the Floyd) – it would have been nice to hear the guitar part re-mixed into clarity. Ah well, I’d love to have heard all the many tapes of the Syd Barrett era Floyd from 1965 and 1966 too but I can’t see that happening – Floyd fans have learnt to get by on titbits here and there and I guess there’s still more here than we’ve had in a long time. But oh to be in the Abbey Road vaults, how I wish we were there...
Ah, ‘The Wall’. Love it or loathe it, its an important work and a major achievement in rock circles. It’s – well, you don’t really need me to tell you what I think of ‘The Wall’ because I spent nearly 10,000 words telling you all what I thought in review no 76 (if it’s a discussion of that album’s songs you really came here to read I suggest you go there now). For now its sufficient to say that few albums are as open and honest as this one about breakdowns, self-sabotage and alienation and in this world where rock stars are more or less forced at gunpoint to smile at their fans its very alienation makes it stand out now even more than it did in 1979. For the record, although punks hated and sneered at Pink Floyd, this is one of the closest AAA albums to ‘punk’ on our list, sticking its nose up at the way a ‘backwards’ repressed society behaved and the way the older generation no longer represent the youth of then-today and using the most feared symbols of their day to throw back in their faces (only in Floyd’s hands this is a rant against post-war Britain not 1970s prog rockers and the emblems are Nazi swastikas). Roger Waters might as well be singing ‘no future for youuuu’ as he condemns his oppressive childhood years where parents and teachers are so afraid of getting emotionally close to their offspring that they deliberately cut them off cold. Of course this is the eyes of only one childhood and doesn’t pretend to be universal for one or any generation – Pink’s experiences in the second half of the album where rock and roll fame goes to his head are clearly experiences none of us are likely to have. And yet there’s something universal about ‘The Wall’, of how a combination of cruelties made against us at every stage of our lives can build up a picture of who we are unless we take the matter into our own hands and ‘tear down the wall’. It’s a messy album, it’s a rushed album, in places it’s a comprehensible album and it’s certainly one of the most unrelentingly grim albums you will ever – but that’s what makes ‘The Wall’ so special, because it’s quite unlike any other album ever made. This angry slab of bile and bitterness could also only come from the pen of Pink Floyd, a band not afraid of expressing their darker side or alienating their audience.
The one drawback of ‘The Wall’ is how much this is a Roger Waters album. Luckily for us Roger’s on top form cajoling, castigating, pleading and above all screaming his way through the album as if to underline what a personal work this is for him (even if many of the incidents are based on rock and roll myth rather than real life – albeit there’s a lot of Syd Barrett sad decline in Pink’s story). But that means the other members of the band hardly get a look-in, robbing us of the band camaraderie and shared vision that made ‘Dark Side’ such a palatable and lasting album. That’s doubly true in my ‘experience’ edition of the album where – would you believe it – the extras all centre around Roger Waters. Apparently Gilmour gets three demos on the ‘Immersion’ box set, as if to keep his ideas firmly away from Roger’s ideas, and for the most part vocally Roger’s all that’s there on the third disc of demos. In fact, you sense that had his name been big enough to sell this album without the ‘Floyd’ banner Roger would have been much happier making this as a solo album – he certainly puts his all into the multi-overdubbed demos and the others barely get a look in.
To give you the history of these demos, back in 1978 the Floyd had been drifting apart badly and after a few bad business decisions desperately needed some new income (as even ‘Dark Side’ hadn’t been enough to keep the dogs, pig and sheep from the door). Dave and Rick had been idly doodling and – assuming the band to be finished for the time being – recorded their first solo albums. Because neither of them had ever been that prolific they had little material left over for a new album. Roger, however had lots: not only had he written a good 40 songs for ‘The Wall’ (including many that didn’t make the final cut, as it were) he’d also written the whole of his even weirder, Dali-esque sleep sequence ‘The Pros and Cons Of Hitch-Hiking’ and delivered his demos of both projects to the band, friends and management to see which they preferred. They nearly all went for ‘The Wall’, prompting much speculation as to how ‘Pros’ might have sounded as a ‘Floyd’ album (‘weird’ is the usual answer). You get to hear here briefly as ‘The Sexual Revolution’ has been added to this deluxe album. Not the most obvious song for either project, it’s notably bluesier as a demo, arguably sounding more like Clapton’s work than the finished version (which actually does feature Clapton on lead guitar!) Perhaps it was intended for ‘The Wall’ this early on, but its lyrics (a customary mix of the heartfelt and the sarcastic) belong to a project about a generation, not an everyman like Pink, describing the rise of feminism over the decades (and sounding not unlike Yoko’s work, though sadly more the one-dimensional ‘Women Power’ than anything from AAA classic album ‘Approximately Infinite Universe’). Like the album it’s not bad – it’s just that it takes such an amount of head-screwing round to understand its non-linear leaps and subconscious hopes and fears that you end up being unable to listen to any other album made the ‘normal’ way for some time afterwards.
With that out the way, what’s notable about the selection of demos on this third disc is what’s missing. Those who’ve heard the complete (or near complete) demos on bootleg say that there’s a whole great sub-plot about ‘worms’ born from festering hurt anger and fear that grow in the mind and turn man against his fellow man. Sadly (and surprisingly) I’ve never heard them but I do know that demos for several segments of this album are missing (the whole end sequence of ‘Waiting For The Worms’ > ‘Stop!’ > ‘The Trial’ > ‘Outside The Wall’ for instance). Instead we get multiple versions of some songs – and a whole seven versions of the three ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ songs (the second part being the hit single that everybody knows). There’s also no early version of ‘Hey, You’, generally acknowledged as one of the album’s better songs. Considering that at one stage ‘The Wall’ could very nearly have become a triple album there’s very little unreleased here either – apart from ‘Sexual Revolution’ the only song here not to make the final cut is a song that made, erm, ‘The Final Cut’, the Floyd sequel to this album released in 1983. I’ve always had a soft spot for this album, which is either as barmy as the Floyd get, full of orchestras, booming sound effects and vocals that barely get above a whisper – but if you share my upbringing in a nightmare world of Thatcher cuts and political stabs in the back then you’ll be greedy for more. ‘Teacher, Teacher’ is an early version of ‘The Heros’ Return’ but with fascinatingly different lyrics. The album version is a moving account by the school teacher/war hero’s desperation at having to ‘inspire’ a younger generation when his were bred for the second world war and died in their thousands (‘when I was their age all the lights went out – the memory is too powerful to withstand the light of day’), which helps to put some flesh on this grumpy unlikeable man’s bones. The early version here is the schoolboy trying to come to terms with why his elders always seem to want to hurt him (corporal punishment being in vogue at the time) and whether his wild-eyed, manic depressive tutor might not have been better off dying on the battle-field if he hates being alive so much. Sure this would have overloaded ‘The Wall’ in favour of school songs had it made the album and its not as catchy as ‘Another Brick’, but frankly it’s the analysis of childhood on ‘The Wall’ that’s the album’s most interesting side and badly deserves to be better known. Apparently much of the material cut from ‘The Wall’ that ended up on this album was actively thrown out by David Gilmour – if it was his decision to cut this song from the album then that’s a tragedy because ‘Teacher’ is one of the very best songs here and one of the set’s greatest surprises.
Like most demos these are rough and ready sketches of what ended up on the record – and like most demos the fun comes from picking out the differences between these and the finished versions. The arrangements are nearly all there, even this early on in the process, and the melodies are pretty much set in stone – but there are some big changes when it comes to the words. Roger completely re-thinks some of his lyrics as he goes on, possibly as the plot becomes clearer and more chronological to him. Some of the lines for ‘Mother’ ‘Young Lust’ and ‘Comfortably Numb’ (the still known as ‘The Doctor’) are very different indeed, whereas other songs like ‘In The Flesh?’ and ‘Backs To The Wall’ (the great ‘What Shall We Do Now?’, heard in the film but replaced on the album by ‘Empty Spaces’) sound near enough identical to the final version (if a little rougher in execution). I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re an anorak like me who knows every inch of ‘The Wall’ then it’s fascinating to take an extra glimpse at some of its foundations left buried for so many years we thought we’d never get to see them – but if you’re a casual fan whose bought this set on the strength of ‘Another Brick’ then you’re going to have something of a bumpy ride. And even the coasters won’t be enough to cheer you up at the thought of spending £80 (on the ‘immersion’ set at least) on a series of barely listenable half-spoken, half-screamed demos.
That said, the alternate versions we have here are nicely different and fascinating for those who really do love this album. Opening track ‘Prelude (Vera)’ isn’t one of them – you remember the opening of ‘The Wall’ film starts with a very quiet piece by Vera Lynn and an awful lot of sound effects – amazingly it was here in demo form some three years before the film’s release and yet neither recording was ever going to be a good idea in a million years (despite some reviewers’ obsession, WW2 isn’t the key theme to this album, although it does explain why some of the older figures act the way they do). The ‘first’ version of ‘In The Flesh?’ is missing from the demos so instead we move on to track two of the album. ‘The Thin Ice Of Modern Life’ is much better, appearing here in two very different versions. Track three contains a fascinating verse – the first sung by Roger – about how schoolboys are trained to ‘follow all the rules’ but come unstuck when they discover what a warped and messy world the adult world is, with no rules or compulsory choices to make anymore. There’s a neat ‘help me, help me, help meeee!’ chorus cut from the final version at the point where Waters sings about falling through ‘the thin ice of modern life’ and fans of Gilmour’s electric guitar will be thrilled by his solo at the end, maddeningly cut from the record. Here the demo of ‘Thin Ice’ sounds as if its on very solid ground indeed and I actually prefer this demo to the record! The other version on track 14 fares less well, though, despite being closer to the record – with sound effects and all – with only a few alternate lyrics from Roger near the end, ‘dropped in’ to an earlier demo judging by the change in sound quality, about the trappings of fame and stardom. This was probably lost when the song was made to be effectively track two of the record.
‘Another Brick’ is clearly a key track on the album (and not just because it’s the hit single) and its nice to have so many variations on it. Of the – gulp – seven ‘Another Brick In The Walls’ track 2 is the most fascinating, even though it’s clearly out of sequence this early on. With some very different lyrics this really should have been a ‘part 4’ on the album, with Pink the rock star beginning to turn on his fanbase and declare ‘We don’t need your adulation, we don’t need your starry gaze’. There’s even a dig at the band’s longterm fans, drowned out by the ‘modern’ fans who came along during ‘dark Side’, sit at the back of the gigs and grumble ‘you should have seen them in their early days...’ The distance between star and fans – the starting point for this album, thanks to the much discussed incident where Waters found himself spitting at his fans during a poorly received show on the ‘Animals’ tour – got lost somewhere in the album, but its there in the stage shows alright what with the wall built between band and audience and all. Thematically it fills in a major piece in the puzzle and should have been released – even if it would have made the album even more ‘Another Brick’ heavy (frankly, it’s better than Part One!) Fittingly the backing for ‘this’ version of the song is epic, even in demo form, starting with a throbbing synth re-creating the scary world of ‘Welcome To The Machine’ and then segueing into perhaps the most produced demo of the set, with a full band playing behind Roger and a neat tinkling piano fade from Rick which shows just how involved he was in these early sessions (he was ‘sacked’ from the band soon after recording). Track 6 is also interesting, being a slower, bluesier take on ‘part 2’ only with alternate manic laughter and the line ‘I don’t need your flecks of foam’ instead of ‘tho-ert contrawlll’. It’s simple but effective, even without the choir, the sound effects or even the full band. Track 12 is an early go at ‘Part 3’, but sung the same as the other parts rather than in the souped-up, angry reflective electric sting of the record. The lyrics are only marginally different but the mood of quiet growing bitterness is quite different to the release of the record. Track 18 is another go at ‘Part 2’, this time with Gilmour’s churning guitar part added and the lyrics are very much in place now, though Roger’s still singing the song in a strangely calm way and there’s no choir or sound effects yet. Finally, track 23 is a go at ‘Part 3’ which is even more like the record, with Roger singing angrily and only the one lyrical change (‘I don’t need your hopes around me’ instead of ‘I have seen the writing on ‘the wall’). Note the lack of demos for ‘Part 1’ by the way, the slow blues workout that comes before the double whammy of ‘Part 2’ and ‘The Happiest Days Of Our Lives’ on the record. Was this a late addition to the album added when (what we’ve called) Part 4 wasn’t working out? Hearing the ‘bricks’ of ‘The Wall’ slot into place here is fascinating!
‘The Happiest Days Of Our Lives’ – strangely moved to as late as track 17 on the demos disc - is alarmingly close to the record, complete with Roger’s marvellously unhinged impressions of a nasty school teacher double –tracked over the demo. Roger’s mumbled vocals are hard to hear but appear to be the same, with the only real musical difference being the lack of punctuated percussion and bass work from Nick and Roger. Even the ending falsetto choir passage is there, of sorts (Roger howling to the sound of his fuzz bass guitar and a marvellous scream at the end!) Moving on, ‘Mother’ is heard in two different versions, tracks 9 and 19, though they aren’t all that different either from each other or the album. No 9 is slightly looser and rougher with no held organ note to ‘root’ the song (a clever trick on the album seeing as this song is all about parental control preventing children from discovering life for themselves), whilst no 19 has more band input and the organ note has been replaced by a rather irritating high-pitched synthesiser whine. Both pieces sound a little tired surprisingly and the lyrical differences are marginal in both making them among the lowest points of the set. ‘Goodbye Blue Sky’, here placed as early as track 3, isn’t that different either but sounds amazing with a double-tracked Gilmour at his best joined by banks of synthesisers and some lovely guitar work. Non-fans probably couldn’t even tell you it was different to the album version, but you can hear the odd subtle difference, mainly in the synth doodle on the fade and some slight changes in inflection in Gilmour’s singing voice.
‘Empty Spaces’ is also heard here twice, as track 7 (noisy synth-based demo with a much longer instrumental opening and Waters creakily voicing his lines over the top of it with a notably distorted microphone) and track 22 (a much more listenable version with a shorter intro, although the synth used here is still more like ‘Welcome To The Machine’ than the more austere version on the record). The only lyrical difference is that the second demo asks how shall we complete the wall?’ (rather than ‘I’ singular !) ‘Backs To The Wall’ (track 22) is better known as ‘What Shall We Do Now?’ (replacing ‘Spaces’ in the film) and sounds magnificent here (if not quite as angrily nasty as in the movie soundtrack). Roger Waters has often been criticised for writing ‘lists’ in his lyrics, but when that idea works it sounds terrific, with Roger piling on pressure after pressure on top of Pink’s heads and ending with the memorable line ‘with not time to relax at all?’ A kind of follow-up to ‘The Thin Ice Of Modern Life’ this is the Floyd at their rockiest, turning into a powerhouse in concert (as heard on ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’) and even in rough form here it sounds like one of the best things written for ‘The Wall’ (so how dare they cut it from the album!)
‘Young Lust’ is heard as early as track 8 and also features perhaps the biggest differences between the demo and the record. If the ‘final’ version is the closest the Floyd ever got to heavy metal, then this version is closer to the swampy blues of ‘Creedence Clearwater Revival’, with a slow aimless blues that has Roger and Dave swapping verses and would sound unrecognisable if it weren’t for the familiar chorus and chiming guitar riff. The lyrics are almost completely too, with this tale of two youngsters falling in love played more genuinely than the much more lustful record. That said, it’s still not that romantic even in this version, with the narrator fingering a packet of condoms in his packet as he nervously tries to seduce the object of his affections. Possibly the weakest track on ‘The Wall’ anyway, at least the album version has swagger going for it – I can’t say I like this first demo version even that much. Still, that’s demos for you.
‘One Of My Turns’ is the (excuse the pun) turning point in the record and the switch from cold blazing anger on the opening section to heavy rock anguish on the second is one of the most exhilarating moments on the record, even if frankly the song isn’t up to much. Track 20 features a sped-up Roger pretending to be a girl which is, erm, interesting (he sounds like Sandra Dickinson!) singing very much the same lyrics over the same synth part, but one that’s notably rougher in execution. The sudden switch in mood and tempo sounds mild here, played on just a single synth, rather than the maelstrom it is on the record. Not great to be honest. The same goes for ‘Don’t Leave Me Now’ (track 21), which only featured Roger a synth and some heavy breathing on the record anyway. The latter has been replaced by some synthesised snuffling effects and the synth itself sounds slightly warmer in tone but that’s all the difference really – even Pink’s misunderstanding of why his girls’ left him (the lyrics basically say ‘why would you leave when I need you so much – to beat to a pulp when I’m angry’) is there line for line. Closing off the original first record of the album, ‘Goodbye Cruel World’ is heard twice, which seems like an awful lot of fuss for such a short and simple song. Pink’s suicide note in song, the version heard as track 13 has Roger singing the lines properly (and with some marginal differences, going ‘up’ when the record version goes ‘down’) and track 25 has Roger mumbling a bit, with some added echo to his lines and more emphasis on a rather out-of-tune version of the familiar bass octave leap (a key part of most of Roger’s songs since 1968, though never heard quite as baldly as it is here).
There’s then a massive gap before the next track on the album proper, with such gems as ‘Hey You’ and ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ missing (for which demos presumably exist, although the absence of ‘Nobody Home’ makes more sense as it was added in the studio at more or less the last minute). It isn’t until ‘Comfortably Numb’ that we reach our next song and the demo has been one of the set’s biggest talking points. Starting as a Gilmour instrumental demo (released on the ‘Immersion’ version of this set but not the ‘Experience’ one , worst luck), this song was originally called ‘The Doctor’ and the emphasis is much more the story in the film (where a doctor gives a clearly cracked up and unwell Pink a shot of some drug to ‘keep him going’ – something that really happened to poor Syd Barrett near the end of his time with the band, allegedly) than the memory-filled vision of the record. The see-saw between Roger at his most cynical and Dave at his most ethereal is still there and although Gilmour’s parts are pretty much the same Roger’s ‘doctor’ patter is very different. ‘This’ version of the doctor has seen it all before and thinks the singer is faking it, talking about what ‘real’ patients he’s seen and telling the hapless musician to ‘take it like a man’ (and an all too likely scenario given the medical world’s appallingly poor treatment of chronic fatigue!) Waters even gets a third verse to sing over what’s more commonly known as the ‘instrumental’ fade of the record, giving the song a noticeably more down-beat ending than the record. You can see why the lines got changed (the album version is better in every way) but the chance to hear this early version of perhaps the most celebrated Floyd track is wonderful. What’s interesting too is where there aren’t any differences – Gilmour’s lines are already note-perfect and his two guitar solos, while a lot more tentative than the record and with a few mistakes, are very much perfected this early on.
Side four of the original record is equally barren, with just two tracks to go. The second version of ‘In The Flesh’ sounds just as un-Floydlike as on the record (we’re clearly meant to see this song as Pink’s ‘performance’ rather than the band themselves). Despite being the second, nastier version of the song this demo starts with the familiar long opening of the first version – is part 2 of this song (the one without the question mark) the one that was written first perhaps? This demo version ends with the line ‘we’re going to find out where you fans really stand’ rather than going to the long list of people the crowd should turn on for being ‘different’ (Pink’s clearly gone mad by this stage in the record!) It ends with the plane crash from the ‘first’ version too – the sound that invokes Pink’s memories of his childhood. Bombastic, noisy and difficult to listen to, things aren’t improved by the demo of this song – but then, as with many of ‘The Wall’s lesser moments, that’s the point: you’re meant to feel u uncomfortable and its interesting that the feeling is there as early as the demo. The disc of demos then ends with a rather disco-fied demo of ‘Run Like Hell’ to enjoy. The song starts with the second verse (the first is missing entirely) and has a much less rocky drum pattern from Nick Mason, but otherwise isn’t all that different. Gilmour’s familiar double-tracked guitar part is still there intact and I could well believe that rather than a demo this was actually a work-in-progress backing track for the song before the overdubs of keyboards and a chanting choir of backing vocalists got added.
And that’s that. It’s nice to hear ‘The Wall’ being built up like this and certainly the ‘discovery’ edition (currently retailing at £15) should be a delight for either those who know this album really well or don’t know it at all and want to get to grips with it. Some of the demos here – the first ‘Another Brick’, ‘Teacher Teacher’ and ‘Comfortably Numb’ are all superb and well worth owning, with the first two actually better than their ‘finished’ versions. What’s a shame is that there isn’t an even more comprehensive collection of Wall demos available – and no the three Gilmour songs added to the ‘Immersion’ set doesn’t count! Side three and four, for many fans the real meat of the record, are missing and if you didn’t know the ‘Wall’ album well you’d get really lost with the way the sequence comes and goes, sometimes matching and sometimes breaking away from the original album. Still, even if this set is a fraction less exciting than the ‘Dark Side’ one, there’s a lot more to enjoy than on ‘Wish You Were Here’ and a real sense that someone somewhere is caring about the fanbase (for all the album plot points about stars being cut off from their supporters!)
The ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ albums, by the way, aren’t available on the ‘Experience’ box set but I do own them separately. The Floyd caught performing the Wall at Earl’s Court, it’s probably the most effective of all the versions of the album available (record, film and now demos included). The major differences are the addition of the superior ‘What Shall We Do Now?’ instead of ‘Empty Spaces’ and the instrumental-only ‘A Few Spare Bricks’ which uses several themes from throughout the album (mainly ‘Empty Spaces’ and ‘Another Brick’) and was used as ‘filler’ when the stage engineers hadn’t quite built the cardboard wall on stage in time to hit the first note of set ender ‘Goodbye Cruel World’. It’s a marvellously clever idea, being open-ended enough to loop round and round for as long as needed (although in the end this three-minute version was the longest time the band ever needed to fill) and offering as a sort of partway ‘summation’ of the album. The band play the hell out of it too, especially Gilmour whose on top form as a guitarist during these concerts, however limited his input into the album was. The other main differences are in on-stage announcements, first by an MC who appears on stage to offer theatre ‘warnings’ only to be drowned out by ‘the band’ (actually a surrogate band of friends and fellow musicians wearing masks of the band members – Snowy White plays Gilmour’s part and had solo hits of his own in the 1980s).After all, by the time the band get to play behind the ‘wall’; for the second half, whose to say that’s really the Floyd playing live either? (There are more philosophical discussions about this on our review for the album, no 76 on our review page). By the time we ‘reach’ this point in the story again with Pink hitting the stage for ‘In The Flesh’ 2 the MC is a zombie, reading out his instructions in a silly spoof voice and being drowned out once again. It’s a very clever idea if you’re there – but not one one born out for repeated listening! Elsewhere Roger’s on wicked form, dedicating the paranoid ‘Run Like Hell’ to all ‘the weak people in the audience’ and screaming his head off. In fact, the pumped up, rockier ‘Run Like Hell’ works the best of all the songs in the live set, with Waters criss-crossing vocals with Gilmour instead of himself and Nick Mason’s drumming at its frantic best. ‘What Shall We Do Now?’ (heard in the film but not the album) is a close second, however, with the band clearly loving the chance to ‘rock out’ after some of the album’s artier moments and this song could easily have gone on for much longer, gaining momentum with every line. ‘Comfortably Numb’ sounds magnificent too, with the added cheers for Gilmour’s solo coming because he really is standing on top of the cardboard wall (the first ‘real’ activity the audience would have seen for quite a few minutes!) The more ‘arty’ tracks on side two of the original album fare less well, though surprisingly perhaps most of the songs heard here ‘live’ sound much better than on the album (the band know it really well by then – although given the amount of demos on this set I’m surprised that wasn’t true for the album sessions as well). Even if you can’t afford the full ‘Immersion’ set (and there’s not much there for you to buy really) it’s worth looking out for a second-hand copy of this concert because it really does help make more sense of what ‘The Wall’ is all about.
In conclusion, then, do you need any of these three sets? Well, need is probably the wrong word. There’s not enough in any of them to make paying the full price worth it and you get the sense that a lot of the ‘Immersion’ sets (the one for WYWH in particular) are taking the micky out of the kind of fan who has to have everything and uses his collection for one-up-manship on other collectors. But if you love the original albums and have a bit of money spare then it is well worth buying the ‘Discovery’ editions and maybe even the ‘Immersion’ set of ‘Dark Side’ because the combination of alternate mixes, demos, outtakes and live recordings on all three sets mean we get a closer insight into the making of these albums than ever before. That said, there’s a lot more that could have gone into these sets –(and probably should have done given the price of the ‘Immersion’ sets) and I can’t help feeling that there’ll be an even more definitive version of all of these sets in another 10 years or so. And I bet for the 2020 editions we’ll have to be forking out for tea-towels as well as coasters in the vain hope of owning another 10 tracks per set...