Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Pink Floyd

Just holding an LP by Pink Floyd immediately takes me to a very special place. From my first experience with them, they have been the exemplars of what mysterious, art-rock looks like. In 1970 our local PBS station (now known as Rocky Mountain PBS) aired “An Hour with Pink Floyd,” which was recorded at KQED studios in San Francisco on April 30, 1970. Because it was on PBS it inherently had our parents blessing. Little did they know! The show featured the band playing six songs ripped from the beating heart of their super-psychedelic post-Barrett period. My 12-year old mind was blown. Atom Heart Mother confused, Grantchester Meadows and Green Is the Colour soothed and Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun and Careful with That Axe Eugene terrified me. Much of the music I hold dearest started out scaring me. It’s true, my first reaction to Bitches Brew, The Shape of Jazz to Come, Live Dead and Electric Ladyland was fear. These records pushed the limit of traditional song and imagery into more adult realms. This wasn’t verse, chorus, verse. This was staring at yourself in the mirror until you had to look away. Yeah-that’s for me! After seeing An Hour with Pink Floyd I went with my brother to Underground Records at 724 S. Pearl St. and purchased Ummagumma. 18 years later, I would buy Underground Records at a tax auction and turn it into Twist and Shout. I was again, thrilled and scared by this album. The cover was awesome, especially the back cover where two members of the band’s road crew stood in the middle of a country road surrounded by all the band’s gear artfully displayed in a giant V. I was so sold on this band!

My next major experience with the band came when the movie Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii was shown at midnight at The Vogue Theatre on South Pearl Street. Once again, I was both excited and terrified by the futuristic music the band was creating. Once again, I went to Underground Records and headed straight for the Pink Floyd section. This time, I was greeted by a strange album with minimal information. It just said Pink Floyd Fillmore West. My brother told me it was a bootleg and encouraged me to get it. I saved my allowance over the next few months, and when I finally had 15 bucks saved up, we went back and I got it. We breathlessly listened to it.  The album gave no clue what songs the band played at the concert, but we were excited when the program was very similar the PBS special. On the back of the album, you can see the home-made setlist I typed up on my father’s Royal typewriter. (the same one on which he wrote 10 novels). I was so psyched. This was going to be my band.

I continued to follow Pink Floyd, buying every one of their new albums the day it came out, and eventually finding all their older ones. I also got heavily into Syd Barrett and his two incredible solo albums. His descent into madness stuck with me throughout my young life and remains a poignant touchstone to the reality that art and madness often walk a parallel path. When Wish You Were Here came out I was 18 and the messages of alienation and societal oppression could not have been more timely for me. Again, the artwork was so memorable. Instead of covering the album in clear plastic shrink-wrap, this album had a custom blue shrink, so you had to buy the album to see all the artwork.

Animals promotional item. Last week I mentioned Corey over at Furthur Frames.
This piece might represent the apex of his work for me. It’s hard to see in the picture but the display is
3 dimensional and the pig in the bottom half is hanging in there and can swing freely.

And, ultimately, this is what is so great about Pink Floyd. Every move they made was intelligent, beautiful, calculated. They are the ultimate art-rock band.

Paul Epstein

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