Posts Tagged ‘Pink Floyd’

‘Matt’ra Fact, It’s All Dark . . .’

August 12, 2021

Catching up with our DVR list, I spent close to an hour last evening watching an episode of Classic Albums from our local public television station, thoroughly enjoying myself as the members of Pink Floyd and some of their associates took us through the making and meaning of 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon.

The show wasn’t new. If I have things right, it was put together in 2003, before Richard Wright died, so he, along with Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason were available for lengthy interviews for the piece, as were engineer Alan Parsons and several other folks involved with the making of the album, along with a journalist or two.

I don’t know that I learned anything really startling about the album, which I know probably as well as any album in my collection. I heard it for the first time (and many times thereafter) in the youth hostel where I lived during the second half of my time in Denmark in 1973-74, and I got my own copy a year later in the spring of 1975.

But it was a pleasant near-hour to spend last evening, hearing how the creators put their work together and hearing what they thought about it decades later. There was one touching moment: David Gilmour said that instead of hearing the work as it evolved and was assembled, he often wishes that he could have experienced what record-buyers did when they put on their headphones and listened to the album for the first time.

“That would have been nice,” he said simply and, I thought, a bit wistfully.

I tried to think back to the first time I heard the album and couldn’t isolate it; it was too much a part of the background of life at the hostel in early 1974. I do recall being startled the first time I heard “The Great Gig in the Sky,” which closed Side One in those pre-CD days. And in the show I watched last evening, the four members of Pink Floyd – talking about it thirty years after the fact – still marveled at Clare Torry’s improvised vocals for the track:

Saturday Single No. 737

May 22, 2021

The last three posts here, we’ve looked back at music bought on that date in the years 2000 and 2014. I thought I’d try the trick again today, and what I found brought back a memory from around 2014, maybe a bit later.

During the last four or five years of Mom’s life – from about 2012 into June 2017 – she quit going to Sunday services at Salem Lutheran Church, the East Side congregation that she and Dad had joined quite probably as soon as they set up housekeeping on Riverside Drive during the summer of 1948.

For about five years before that, after she sold her last car, she’d been riding with a fellow parishioner – also aging – who lived not far from her in Sauk Rapids. But he, too, became unable to drive, which left Mom to listen to the weekly services from Salem on a local radio station. I know she missed seeing Salem’s other members, but she also enjoyed, I think, being able to sit back in her favorite chair and sip a cup of coffee as the service went on, especially during bad weather.

(Could I have driven her to and from Salem? Well, not without major difficulty. That was about the time that the Texas Gal and I became involved in the activities of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in St. Cloud, and the schedule would have been difficult to navigate even at first, and then impossible after I became involved in the music activities at the UUF. I offered once to check with the local bus service’s custom ride program, but Mom demurred. I do think she enjoyed having church come to her.)

Having church come to her, however, did not curtail one of her favorite bits of involvement in Salem’s parish life: As every new year dawned during those last years, when it was difficult for her to be out and about, she’d have me go over to Salem for her and check out the calendars hanging on the corridor wall near the church office. Those calendars showed which members were sponsoring what portion of the service on which Sundays.

There was a calendar for those who wanted to provide flowers for the altar. There was one for those who wished to defray the cost of the radio broadcast of the service. There was another one, too, perhaps for something to do with the cost of communion – I’m not certain. My task, for those years, was to find one Sunday to sponsor the broadcast that was close to the date of Dad’s death in early June or their wedding anniversary in July, as well as sign up to cover the cost of altar flowers on Sundays close to each of those dates.

I don’t remember the cost of doing that. Somewhere around $200, I think. And having signed up on the calendars, I brought a check into the office, and handed it to Viv, the secretary and knower-of-all-things-essential that no organization can survive without. Viv’s younger brother was a high school classmate of my sister, who is three years older than I, so Viv and I were pretty much contemporaries.

I saw Viv maybe ten to twelve times a year during Mom’s last years. Not only was there the January trip to sponsor flowers and the radio broadcast, but there was also the near-monthly stop to pick up the newest edition of the booklet of daily devotions. And pretty much every time I stopped in, Viv had time to chat.

We had shared interest in pets and in pop-rock music, especially on LP. She and her daughter would make frequent trips to the Twin Cities on record-digging expeditions, and she was always pleased to share her successes and failures with me. The size of my LP collection – then at about 3,100 – fascinated her. And one of the constants of our conversations became her attempt to get a good collection of Pink Floyd LPs.

They were, she said, hard to find in any kind of decent condition. So, at one point, I told her that I had a wide collection of Floyd’s tunes in digital form, and if she wanted to give me some blank CDs, I’d burn my Floyd collection on them. I did note that the fidelity would be a little compromised, with the music having been first reduced from CD to mp3 and then stretched back. She didn’t care.

Then came the day I took Mom to Salem for a funeral of a friend. Viv was busy in the office, so I decided I’d get the blank CDs from her when I came back to pick up Mom, and I went home for a couple of hours. Once there, I sat in my study and thought about Pink Floyd. In not too many months, I knew, I was going to sell off two-thirds of my LPs. I had Dark Side Of The Moon and a few other Floyd albums on CD, and – as I mentioned above – most of the group’s entire catalog in digital form.

And when the time came for me to head to Salem again that morning, I pulled all the Pink Floyd LPs from the shelf, put them in a bag and took them with me to Salem. With Mom still at the post-funeral reception in the church’s Great Hall, I headed to the office. As I entered, Viv grabbed a stack of blank CDs and offered them to me. I shook my head and handed her the bag. “No,” I said, “this is yours.”

She looked through the bag and raised her head, staring at me. “How much?”

I shook my head again. “Nothing. You’ve been so good to Mom.”

Expressions of thanks went back and forth, and I left to find my mother, leaving in Viv’s possession five Pink Floyd LPs in very good condition, including my second copy of Dark Side Of The Moon, a record I bought in Minneapolis on May 22, 1993, replacing my first copy, one my Mom had bought for me as a gift in 1975.

And here, from 1973’s Dark Side Of The Moon, is “Time,” today’s Saturday Single.

‘Smoke On The Horizon . . .’

January 5, 2012

I’m back from the dentist’s office with a numb mouth and a couple of new fillings. No, my teeth aren’t getting necessarily worse, just old, and there were a few cracks around some fillings that were probably put in when Jimmy Carter was president.

So the dentist removed those fillings, sanded things down a little, and rebuilt the two teeth. And I can’t feel a thing. I’m sipping tepid coffee through one side of my mouth – as insensate as my mouth is right now, I don’t dare drink anything truly hot – and thinking about what to post here today. I had a topic in mind – based on the Billboard Hot 100 from which I pulled Merry Clayton track on Tuesday – but I think I feel disconnected enough right now to postpone that to tomorrow.

At the same time, I’m pondering the item I saw when I stopped at our neighborhood convenience store just down Lincoln Avenue this morning. The guy behind the counter said that the store has occasionally sold CDs, and he’s no doubt right. I just hadn’t noticed, I guess. Anyway, right by the cash register there was a small display offering a Pink Floyd anthology. I doubt I’ll go back and buy it; I have all the Floyd I need.

But when the universe speaks to me, I listen. And here’s the only track that makes sense this morning with a mouth where feeling is slowly returning.

I’ll be back tomorrow, I hope, with a look at some records from early 1972.

The Anniversary Of Flight

November 9, 2011

Originally posted December 17, 2008

One of my favorite books when I was a kid was titled Men of Science or something like that. (It’s one of the few books from my childhood that has not stayed with me over the years, for some reason, so I’m not at all sure of the title.) I got it as a birthday present when I was eight, and it didn’t take me long at all to work my way through the biographies in the slender volume.

I recall reading the stories of Louis Pasteur, Alexander Fleming, Guglielmo Marconi, Enrico Fermi and the Wright Brothers. I think that the book also had chapters on Henry Ford and on Pierre and Marie Curie, but I’m not certain. (There were some scientists missing, if I recall the book correctly. I’d think that chapters on Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo and a few others should have been there but weren’t, if my memory is accurate.)

Beyond broadening a young boy’s knowledge (and the book was, I recall, aimed specifically at boys in a way that it might not be today), I think that one of the goals of the book’s authors was to guide its readers toward science and scientific thinking as a career. Well, to me at age eight, a life in science wasn’t all that attractive. But the book did make me think: I remember reading the entry on Marconi, which presented the inventor’s internal thoughts as he prepared to test his mechanism for sending and receiving radio waves. “How do they know what he thought?” I wondered. “Who told them that?” In other words, what was their source? I was being a editor.

The book came to mind as I looked at today’s date. It was 105 years ago today that Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the first recorded powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. (There are other claims to the Wrights’ achievement, says Wikipedia, but authorities favor the Wrights.) So it’s a good day for songs about flying.

A Six Pack of Flying

“Flying Sorcery” by Al Stewart from Year of the Cat, 1976

“Flying” by Long John Baldry from It Ain’t Easy, 1971

“Learning To Fly” by Pink Floyd from A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1987

“Come Fly With Me” by Wild Butter from Wild Butter, 1970

“Flying High” by Country Joe & the Fish from Electric Music For The Mind And Body, 1967

“Fly Baby Fly” by the Main Ingredient from Bitter Sweet, 1972

A few notes:

When it came out in 1976, Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat was one of those LP’s that for a year or so was never far from my turntable. Like most U.S listeners, I was unfamiliar with the native of Glasgow, Scotland, until then, but the songs on Year of the Cat – melodic, filled with historic and cultural allusions and produced remarkably well by Alan Parsons – made me a fan. While I like the title song immensely, “Flying Sorcery” is, for those very reasons – the combination of melody, intelligent lyric and pristine production – my favorite Stewart track.

It Ain’t Easy was the album that helped Long John Baldry become lots more hip than he ever had been, at least in England, where he was well known as a folk-blues singer who had drifted over the years to the middle of the road. In the U.S., I would guess, he wasn’t known much at all. But 1971’s It Ain’t Easy – with Rod Stewart producing the first side of the LP and Elton John producing the second – brought Baldry back to attention in the U.K. and into the U.S. spotlight for the first time. The opening track, “Conditional Discharge/Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie-Woogie on the King of Rock & Roll,” was a staple of FM radio in the early Seventies. “Flying” was a track from the second side of the album, and Elton John’s work on both piano and organ are good, but to me, the long track works because of the byplay between Baldry and the background singers, led by Lesley Duncan, a studio stalwart in Britain in those years.

“Learning to Fly” is a track from Pink Floyd’s 1987 album, A Momentary Lapse of Reason. A single edit was released and spent eight weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 that October and November, peaking at No. 70.

Anything I know about Wild Butter, I learned from Leonard at the blog Redtelephone66. When he posted Wild Butter’s self-titled 1970 album last February, Leonard wrote:

“Wild Butter was started in 1970 by drummer/lead singer Rick Garen and keyboard player Jerry Buckner. Garen had previously been in the Collection and recorded a demo called ‘Little Man.’ Former Rogues member Jerry was impressed and got Eric Stevens, WIXY program director and manager of Damnation of Adam Blessing, interested as well. Stevens took it to New York and after a week or two Buckner got a call saying the band had a LP recording deal with United Artists, only there was no band, yet, although UA didn’t know that. ‘Put a band together’ was the request [,] and Rick and Jerry talked to their Akron peers and found Jon Senne’ (guitar) and Steve Price (bass) willing to get on board. Wild Butter played a month or so before recording the LP at Cleveland Recording. ‘Little Man’ was not done, but a whole LP was, including excellent songwriting contributions from everyone. Considering the short time the band had to work up the songs, the high level of writing, musicianship, and vocals are amazing, and the LP is certainly a lost treasure of 1970 contemporary unpretentious melodic rock.”

One of the Rolling Stone album guides said something to the effect that in 1967, any self-respecting hippie had to own a copy of Electric Music For The Mind And Body. Given the number of vinyl copies of the album I’ve seen over the years in used music stores and pawnshops and at garage sales, that might be correct. “Flying High,” the album’s opening track, represents pretty accurately the ethos of the album and the group and most likely most young folks in California in 1967.

“Fly Baby Fly” is a nice bit of light pop-soul from the Main Ingredient’s Bitter Sweet album, the same album that included “Everybody Plays The Fool,” which went to No. 3 in 1972.

Edited slightly on archival posting.

RIP, Rick Wright & Norman Whitfield

August 15, 2011

Originally posted September 18, 2008

Pillars continue to fall.

Monday saw the death from cancer of Rick Wright, keyboard player and one of the founding members of Pink Floyd. He crossed over at his home in England at the age of sixty-five.

Wright appeared on every Pink Floyd but one from 1967’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn onward. (The single exception was The Final Cut in 1983.) Along the way, he wrote some of the most cherished songs in the group’s long history, including two songs – “Us and Them” and “The Great Gig in the Sky” – for the group’s 1973 masterpiece, Dark Side of the Moon.

Also leaving us this week was Norman Whitfield, soul and R&B songwriter and producer, most notably for Motown in the 1960s and 1970s. Whitfield, who was sixty-seven, died from complications of diabetes. He was one of the most prolific songwriters and producers in any genre; the list of recordings of songs he wrote – generally with Barrett Strong – stretches for thirty pages at All-Music Guide covering soul, R&B, funk and many other genres and subgenres of music.

While it’s always risky to distill such a broad-based career down to two or three songs, there were three records I thought of immediately when I heard the news: Marvin Gaye’s version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Edwin Starr’s “War,” and the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.”

Given the news of the two deaths, I went digging at YouTube, as I generally do on Thursdays, and found some interesting things.

Here’s Pink Floyd on its 1994 Pulse tour performing Wright’s “Us and Them,” with some good close-ups of Wright singing and playing keys.

From the same tour, here’s Wright’s “Great Gig in the Sky,” again with a few good looks at Wright.

As for Whitfield, his writing and productions were his performances, so first, here’s the late Marvin Gaye singing “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” during a television performance that’s dated 1968.

Then, here’s a live performance by the Temptations – from Soul Train, I think – of the Whitfield and Strong’s “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.”

And here’s the late Edwin Starr with a performance of Whitfield & Strong’s “War,” evidently from a New Year’s celebration – if I’m wrong, someone please say so – hosted by British musician Jools Holland, who hosts Later . . . With Jools Holland.

Finally, stop by Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas for a moving meditation on the passing of folks whose art matters to us.

Afternote
The Temptations’ performance on Soul Train took place in 1972. The Starr performance was in fact from a show hosted by Holland on December 31, 2001, and was titled Jools Holland’s 9th New Year’s Eve Hootenanny. Four of the five videos – all except the Pink Floyd performance of “The Great Gig In The Sky” – have been re-embedded during posting in the archive although I believe they are the same videos as were originally embedded in 2008. Note added August 15, 2011.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1973, Vol. 3

June 11, 2011

Originally posted February 13, 2008

The first time I saw Billy Preston, he performed in an open-air concert at Selke Field on St. Cloud’s East Side. Selke’s stone walls date from the 1930s and enclose an entire city block. Until not too many years ago, about a third of the space was used for a football field and a surrounding running track. The rest of the area was open space for whatever uses the university might have.

And on a Saturday afternoon in May 1973, its use was as a home for the day for the legendary keyboard player and singer. I recall that my parents had no problem with my going to the concert – I was nineteen. I’m sure, however, that they had some concerns about my companion for the day. Let’s call her Sunny. She was twenty-six, divorced with two kids, in fragile recovery from an addition to at least one illegal substance, and was paying her way through college and feeding her children by dancing in a strip joint.

I’d met Sunny at The Table at school, and I have to give my folks credit: Mom and Dad never really said anything as I spent a few months seeing Sunny at school and then spending a fair amount of time at her apartment during evenings and weekends. My memory tells me that Sunny might even have come over to our home for dinner at least once, an encounter that would have shown my parents that she was actually pretty self-effacing, quiet with a sweet smile and a nice laugh and not at all the rough woman that they might have feared meeting, given only a description.

But I could tell all through the spring that my folks had their concerns, and looking back, that was reasonable. Between Sunny and me lay vast gaps in age and experience, gaps that scared me a little bit, to be honest, as I spent time with her and got closer to her during the spring and early summer.

We never were lovers. I would have happily accepted that role had it been offered, but I didn’t push for it. During the time that we spent hanging around her home or various drinking establishments, there were a few other men who came and went. Several times when I left Sunny’s home in the evening, there were men there who clearly would not be leaving until morning. Did that bother me? Yes, but given my utter inexperience in that aspect of life, it also brought me a sense of quiet relief. I never pushed for more.

I was happy spending time with her and her friends – they were a wide-ranging and fascinating group of people – and also spending time with her kids. I’ll call them Luke and Bethy, and they were eight and six, respectively. We went on picnics, played mini-golf once, I think, and the four of us – augmented more than once by one or more of Sunny’s lady friends and very rarely by one of the men she knew – would go shopping, ending the outing with a stop at a burger joint.

She was good to her kids, tried to be a good mom, from what I knew about the mom biz when I was nineteen, and she seemed – looking back – to be doing well at walking the slender bridge of recovery. I only recall one time when I truly questioned her judgment: In May, the four of us drove to St. Paul with tickets to see the Doobie Brothers. Along the way, we picked up a man she knew, a stop I’d not been told about, but that was okay. At the show, however, Sunny and her guy went dancing in the open space in front of the stage, leaving her two children sitting in the front row, scared and overwhelmed by the crowd and the spectacle and the sounds booming from the ten-foot-tall speaker not all that far away. For most of the concert, I sat between the kids, an arm around each one, very angry.

The academic year ended, and I stayed on campus for the summer, working half-time as a janitor and half-time for Learning Resources. I saw Sunny a few times early in the summer, as I got ready for my time in Denmark. Later, in August of 1973, she was one of those who arranged a surprise going-away party for me at the Grand Mantel, our favorite place for drinks. She sent me off with a kiss.

The night I got home from Denmark, in late May, 1974, I went down to the Grand Mantel to meet Sam, who’d left a note on my car to that effect a day or two earlier. He couldn’t make it that evening, it turned out, but I called him and we arranged to meet the next day on campus. While we were talking, I asked him quickly about some of our mutual friends. All seemed fine until I asked, “And Sunny – how’s she doing?”

There was a silence. “That,” said Sam, “is a sad situation.” He paused before telling me more. She’d gone back to drugs and dropped out of school. He thought the county had taken the kids away from her. And he wasn’t sure, but he didn’t think she was in St. Cloud anymore.

One of the next few days, I drove past the apartment where Sunny and her kids had lived when I left town. It was empty. I never saw her again.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1973, Vol. 3

We’ll start with a song that Sunny and I danced to during that May 1973 concert, and then go on to a song that often makes me think of her. And we’ll go random from there.

“Will It Go Round In Circles” by Billy Preston, A&M single 1411

“Too Late For Prayin’” by Gordon Lightfoot from Sundown

“I’m Just A Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like A Man)” by Hall & Oates from Abandoned Luncheonette

“Mind Games” by John Lennon, Apple single 1868

“Page 43” by Graham Nash & David Crosby from Graham Nash/David Crosby

“The Great Gig in the Sky” by Pink Floyd from Dark Side of the Moon

“Tumbling Dice” by the Rolling Stones, Brussels, Belgium, October 17

“Final Theme” by Bob Dylan from Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid

“Clever Girl” by Tower of Power from Tower of Power

“You Got To Reap Just What You Sow” by Joy of Cooking from Same Old Song And Dance (unreleased)

“Let It Ride” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Mercury single 73457

“If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” by the Staple Singers from Be What You Are

“Together” by El Chicano from El Chicano

A few notes:

The Hall & Oates tune is one of the great tracks from an album that I think gets ignored when talk turns to great records. The album was released in 1973, and “She’s Gone” went out as a single for the first time in 1974, but neither the album nor the single went anywhere until 1976, when they both reached the charts. But both the album and the single soon became afterthoughts to the duo’s more current work at the time. “She’s Gone” survives in the Oldies rotation, but Abandoned Luncheonette deserves a better fate than it got.

The year of 1973 falls smack-dab in the middle of John Lennon’s so-called “Lost Weekend.” His albums might have been fuzzily thought out at the time – Mind Games especially has always seemed erratic – but he could still find great singles inside himself. And the title track to that erratic album was one of them.

Among the various combination of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young, the duo of Crosby and Nash produced some of the best music. Graham Nash/David Crosby was the best of the albums the duo recorded, and “Page 43,” Crosby’s brief and sweet exploration of the purpose of life, is the best track on the album: “ . . . and you should have a sip of it, else you’ll find . . . it’s passed you by.”

It’s difficult to pull individual track from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon without pulling the music entirely out of context. “Money,” which opened Side Two of the original vinyl, worked. “Time” from Side One, and “Us and Them,” from Side Two, worked a little less well. But “The Great Gig In The Sky,” which closed Side One, somehow manages here to stand on its own. If I have my Pink Floyd lore correct, Clare Torry provides the swooping vocals.

I don’t often offer soundboard recordings/bootlegs here. The Muddy Waters recording with the Rolling Stones the other day was an exception. So, too, is the Rolling Stones’ version of “Tumbling Dice” today. Supposedly recorded for a live album, the Brussels show gives a good look at the Stones when they were truly “The Greatest Rock & Roll Band In The World,” and to me, it’s a reminder of how they sounded when I saw them in Denmark thirteen days before they played this show in Brussels.

Of the final four groups in today’s list, the only one you seem have a chance of hearing on Oldies radio is Bachman-Turner Overdrive and its seven Top 40 hits, and that’s too bad. Joy of Cooking, as readers know, is one of my favorite forgotten groups of those years when the Sixties blended into the Seventies, but the group never hit the Top 40. The Staples Singers had eight Top 40 hits between 1971 and 1975, including two No. 1 songs (“I’ll Take You There” in 1972 and “Let’s Do It Again” in 1975), but I don’t recall the last time I heard them on any of the Oldies stations I listen to. The same holds true for El Chicano, which wasn’t nearly as successful reaching the charts as BTO or the Staples but still did have two Top 40 hits, including the sweet “Tell Her She’s Lovely” (No. 40 for one week!) in 1973.