Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd
Four of students attending Cambridge form a band and do drugs. Their lead guitarist/singer/composer has a psychotic break. This would be enough to destroy most bands, but Pink Floyd finds an even better guitarist in David Gilmour (one of my three favorite guitarists of all time), and the bass player, Roger Waters, takes over the songwriting duties. The band achieves even more success thanks to their association with psychedelic music and the UFO club. Their lack of talent in the early days is almost besides the point. The band hangs on long enough to learn their craft. They are also one of the first bands to take full advantage of the recording studio. So their albums sound better than most and are more inventive than most.
From the first days at Cambridge, Roger Waters has been an asshole. As he takes on (takes over) more and more responsibility, this trait becomes more pronounced. Rick Wright is kicked out of the band after “The Wall”. Then Nick Mason, Roger’s former roommate is marginalize. Roger even tries to fire Steve O’Rourke, Pink Floyd’s excellent manager. Finally, easy going David Gilmour is pushed to the breaking point. The band realizes it would be easier to kick Roger out, and then the fireworks start. It takes twenty years for tempers to cool off enough for the band to play together one last time.
It’s a good story and there is enough trivia to keep me engaged. I wish there was more information about their creative life and fewer stories about the tours. There are many stories about their friends and business partners (primary sources?) that I just didn’t care about. I see Nick Mason has written about his band, I may have to read it to get the complete story.
Excerpts From My Kindle
Pink Floyd’s collaboration with Ballet de Marseille had finally come to fruition, after twelve months of to-ing and fro-ing. Floyd performed five shows at Salle Valliers in Marseilles in November 1972, before taking the show to the Palais de Sports in Paris in January the following year. The programme included three pieces: ‘Allumez Les Etoiles‘ (Light the Stars), a ballet based around the Russian Revolution, with music by Mussorgsky and Prokofiev; ‘La Rose Malade‘ (The Sick Rose), based on the William Blake poem of the same name; and, finally, the prosaically titled ‘The Pink Floyd Ballet‘, during which the band performed ‘Echoes‘, ‘One of These Days‘, ‘Careful With That Axe Eugene‘, ‘Obscured by Clouds‘ and ‘When You’re In‘. Roland Petit’s choreographed routines included performances from Ballet de Marseille stars Rudy Bryans and Danièle Jossi; the latter apparently dragged across the stage in the full splits position, much to the dismay of the assembled rock press, unused to such athleticism. – location 3420-3427
Replying to questions such as “Are you afraid of dying?” and “Do you ever think you’re going mad?”, the other contributions proved far more revealing and, in the context of the finished album, atmospheric. The opening track, ‘Speak to Me‘, collaged sounds lifted from elsewhere on the album, ticking clocks, jangling coins, set against an eerie, booming heartbeat. But its most striking elements were Peter Watts’ deranged laughter, and Chris Adamson and Gerry O’Driscoll’s pronouncements: “I’ve been mad for fucking years, absolutely years” and “I’ve always been mad, I know I’ve been mad, like most of us have.” Similar snippets of speech now peppered the rest of the album. Waters had lost the question cards by the time he’d tracked down Roger the Hat, and was forced to bluff it. The roadie’s answers were funny, candid and among the most memorable on the record, as he can be heard recalling a road rage incident with a motorist in North London, in response to the question, “When was the last time you were violent?” “If you give ’em a quick, short, sharp shock, they won’t do it again,” he explains. “I mean, he got off lightly, cos I would’ve give him a thrashing.” The speech was slipped in alongside Wright’s gentle keyboards on ‘Us and Them‘. Elsewhere, on the fade-out groove of ‘Money‘, Puddie and Henry McCulloch were among those justifying the last time they’d hit someone. Puddie, the only female interviewee, is emphatic: “That geezer was cruising for a bruising.” McCulloch offers an even simpler explanation: “Why does anyone do anything? Who knows? I was really drunk at the time.” Gerry O’Driscoll’s would be the last voice heard on the album, his soft Irish accent punctuating the last few bars of ‘Eclipse‘: “There is no dark side of the moon. Matter of fact, it’s all dark.” Waters’ quest for ‘honest, human voices’ had worked perfectly. – location 3528-3542
“When you’ve been in a pop group for fifteen years, things that made you laugh about someone when you started can irritate the shit out of you later.” David Gilmour – location 5287-5289
Andy Bown, a man who, to date, has survived nearly thirty-five years as keyboard player to Status Quo, takes a more unusual view. “There was quite a lot of friction,” he admits. “But the difference between Pink Floyd and every other band I’ve worked with is that they are gentlemen. No outsider would be able to tell there was friction. Pink Floyd are the only band I’ve encountered who know how to behave properly.” – location 5351-5354