Pink Floyd are an English institution. Revered and lauded by so many, their songs have left an indelible mark on music. Here, our writer Howard, talks of his experiences of seeing Pink Floyd live in 1974.
Most people began their Pink Floyd journey with the release of Dark Side Of The Moon and understandably so as it was indeed the beginning of my live experiences of seeing Floyd’s performances.
Even though I was piping at the gates of dawn with the release of Arnold Layne and See Emily Play, purchasing power was limited until 1973 when my wage-earning began both for LP purchases and gigs.
When concerts were announced to promote Dark Side Of The Moon a reunion with two college friends provided an opportunity to see Pink Floyd at the Empire Pool, Wembley.
Floyd were renowned for introducing new material live; trialling pieces that were later to become tracks on future albums.
Little did we know that their set opening would become so famous. Shine On You Crazy Diamond, the tribute to Syd Barrett, and later the main feature of Wish You Were Here (the highly successful follow up to Dark Side Of The Moon) and a must-play track at every Floyd concert thereafter both with and without Roger Waters. A beam of light projecting onto large mirror ball might sound a bit naff and disco-like now but the effect it gave deflecting rays around the venue was incredible in such a large arena.
The next two embryonic songs on the set didn’t appear in recorded form until the Animals album and even had different titles. Raving and Drooling became Sheep and Gotta Be Crazy became Dogs. Some details of the first half of the show are a little hazy to me, but after an interval the graphics on the huge circular screen, which became a constant feature of Floyd concerts for many years, were outstanding and have left a huge mark on me.
Sitting in a half-empty arena as the interval ended when the heartbeats which began Dark Side Of The Moon were played and circled saw the stadium seats rapidly filled as unexpected drinkers and smokers dashed back to their seats.
“I know I’m mad, I’ve always been mad…” followed the heartbeats until the opening to Breathe burst into my eardrums for the first time. An image of the moon grew larger and larger. The entire album was played from beginning to end; the sounds and sights extending the aural and visual senses further than they ever had been before.
No need for extra smoking enhancement, of which there was plenty, to fully appreciate the magnificence of Pink Floyd’s music. The graphics during On The Run were particularly exceptional as we were flown at speed over various landscapes and through flashing colours. The huge ticking clocks pulsing into our brains began Time. Then, after the reprise of Breathe, the haunting Great Gig In The Sky.
More wonderful mix of images for Money, which continued until the end of the second set through Us & Them, Any Colour You Like, Brain Damage and Eclipse. An encore of Echoes ended an unforgettable evening. Although they hadn’t yet got into inflatables yet, this was a spectacular concert.
Somewhere I still have a copy of the programme which took the form of a comic with feature stories on each member. It is now a collector’s item but it’s not for sale, for the main reason I haven’t a clue where it is..but my son does!
What’s more, a couple of weeks later I saw it all again but in the smaller venue of The Palace, Manchester. At the Empire Pool, we were very remote from the stage but it was far more intimate at the Palace. I remember getting in very early. So early we saw a ‘roadie’ setting up a guitar. We walked up to the stage to get a closer look. Standing at the edge of the stage we looked up to see it wasn’t a roadie….it was David Gilmour himself!
During the concert, there were many calls for Arnold Layne but Mr Waters, in a rather tactless but typical manner, imitated a northern accent saying “We don’t do that anymore.” The reply sounded something like, “Well go away then!”
The huge disc-like screen was awesome enough at the Empire Pool, but at Manchester, it took up the whole backdrop of the stage. It was an emotional moment at the Pink Floyd Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in November 2018 as it was exactly 34 years to the day I saw it for the first time in November 1974.
Although Floyd’s shows became far more technologically advanced and spectacular with lasers and massive inflatables, flying aeroplanes and beds, screens dropping the full length of arenas, not to mention a Wall. Nothing really surpasses those images and sounds in the eyes and ears of a young Floydian.
Many try to equal or better them, but they can’t and never will; not even the Sex Pistols or their contemporaries and fans who thought us boring. My reply to them is the same that Roger got in 1974…”Well go away then!”
Many thanks to Howard for taking the time to share his recollections. Howard had a busy old year in 1974; he also saw The Who at Charlton. Read what he made of that rock extravaganza here.
Were you lucky enough to see Pink Floyd in 1974? Share your recollections in the comments.