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"Echoes" - Cliff Jones Print E-mail

Echoes by Cliff JonesPublisher: Omnibus Press ISBN 0-7119-5571-9. Published Autumn 1996, revised and reissued mid-1997. Review from Brain Damage Magazine, 1997.


Once in a while, a new Pink Floyd book appears. As ever, the new kid on the block is self-confessed as the most comprehensive and accurate account of their general history, their life and times, the meaning behind their songs, and so on.

Late 1996, the book "Echoes" appeared, courtesy of Cliff Jones. A roughly-A4 sized book of, all-told, 176 pages, internally this reminds one strongly of Miles' old faithful, "The Visual Documentary". Externally, it features a (for once) attractive cover, depicting head shots of the five past and (some say) present members of the band.

Reminiscent of "...With The Beatles" (look, it's been a long night, OK?) the faces are superimposed over a purple swirly thing that could also be described as a radar ping. With the exception of Syd, the shots are '79 Wall era. So I bet Dave's happy!

Where's the beef though? OK - to the contents of the book itself. Proclaiming itself as "the most comprehensive book ever published on the music and lyrics", it examines tracks "in detail with stories and quotations about the inspiration behind the songs, studio tales and solid reference detail". It also boldly (rashly?) promises a "complete discography, videography and Internet sites listing".

How close does it come to living up to these promises? Read on, dear reader, read on...

Taking the story up to the end of 1995, the book takes us through a reasonable skip through the years. Each chapter consists of an album release, and takes us chronologically through the time spent on it.

The tracks are taken one at a time, and where possible, there is a breakdown of where and when it was recorded, with details of who played what on the track. The accompanying text gives in some cases, an exhaustive description of how the track was created. Peppered throughout are photos - some of which you sigh seeing them wheeled out yet again, others are not so familiar. Others again are only associated with the music, being the inspiration behind a concept or idea - hence the pictures of Spike Milligan, William Burroughs, the Kinks and some Daleks!! It seems like most of the pictures aren't actually of the band at all...most peculiar.

As is typical of a book such as this, some of the photos are in the wrong place: witness such errors as: the big-bollocked inflatable pig, apparently being used for the '77 tour; time-travelling Wall-era line-up again during the '77 tour; many 1990 Berlin Wall shots to accompany the '79 release album and tour; no explanation for a shot of Bowie at Live Aid; a picture of Thomas Dolby as The Teacher, with the caption "Pink as marionette, no longer in control, in Comfortably Numb" even though it was from the trial sequence; and most damningly of all - a 1967 shot of Roger, who is also apparently "a young Dave Gilmour".

Textually, there are also the normal inaccuracies. My initial benchmark for any PF book is how it describes the debut of DSOTM (Brighton, 20 January 1972, then played a number of times before arriving in London in mid-February): this one fails, with the almost expected "...made its debut on the first date of the world tour beginning on 17 February 1972 at the Rainbow Theatre in London". Other errors include proudly revealing the (wrong!) location for the recording of the running footsteps in "On The Run", and stating that in summer 1965, Syd & Dave were arrested in San Tropez for lewd behaviour, and were jailed overnight. Nope - it was for busking and they were released without charge and without being held more than a couple of hours.

Jones also obviously knows nothing about the problems with the British National Health Service (NHS), when he erroneously states that the band hired 800 NHS beds for the AMLOR cover shoot. The NHS haven't got enough beds for patients, let alone have a supply for hire to those of an artistic bent!

Oh and my calendar must be wrong - I felt sure that 'A Momentary Lapse Of Reason" was released in 1987, and not 1994, as the chapter heading boldly states...and why can't I get hold of a copy of "Radio Chaos" in my local record store? All they have is some KAOS thing...

The promise of a "complete discography, videography and Internet sites listing" is one that is broken. The discography has holes in it, with solo works restricted only to Syd; the bibliography is intriguingly small (whatever happened to such quality works as, say, Schaffner's "Saucerful..." and Watkinson/Anderson's "Crazy Diamond"?); the videography has some gaps ("The Body", anyone?); and as for the Internet sites listing? One site is listed, and that is a newsgroup. Oh dear.

Leaving aside the quality of research, writing and presentation within "Echoes", you will recall from the heading of this piece, that the book was quickly revised and reissued. This was due to alleged inaccuracies within the text, which lead to the original version (reviewed here) being swiftly pulled from the shelves of book shops throughout Britain (it is not believed to have ventured off these shores in the original format) and the threat of legal action hanging over the head of Jones. It is clear that there were concerns before the publication of this original version - page 107 has a fair chunk of text hidden by a sticker with replacement words, during the section detailing strain within the band whilst recording WYWH...

As to how dramatically amended the new version is, I don't know. There is certainly a new cover - not as attractive as the original - but that may be just to snatch another sale to an unsuspecting punter who doesn't immediately recognise the title, and who wants to complete their collection. After all, many book stores these days shrink-wrap their books...

On the whole, this book is a fair reference material, covering the mainstream releases pretty thoroughly. Jones has obviously spent some time on the work, so it is a pity that it is spoilt by some glaring inaccuracies, oft-told falsehoods, and in places, lack of time/effort (such as the disc/video/bibliography section).

Having read the book, nothing outrageously scandalous strikes me, that hasn't probably already been printed in various other sources. Initially, threats of legal action over the book surprised me - as there have been far worse tomes printed without official comment from the band.

Could it be that the band finally started doing the right thing, and making sure that fans got what they deserve? For too many years, the lack of official materials (written, aural, and visual) has lead to a burgeoning unofficial market, with scant quality control, and no reward for the band. Around the time of this book being published, we started seeing reissues, particularly of long unavailable material, together with, it seems, a close eye on published books on the band. It was hoped that the publication of Nick's LONG awaited opus on their history was just around the corner. It's not here yet but fingers crossed that the revisions that were apparently required before publication could be sanctioned by the others in the band, are nearing completion.


Addendum

As reported in the Daily Express end of 1995/start of 1996:

    ...Gilmour, estimated to be worth around £35million, is suing over a new book about the group, claiming "aggravated" damages for libel and malicious falsehood. Gilmour, 51, recently admitted to feeling that his huge fortune gave him a bad conscience. "What I earn is obscene," he said. "So I wake up some mornings and write cheques for charity." But the guitarist and singer feels rather less charitable about the book by author Cliff Jones called 'Echoes: Pink Floyd - The Stories Behind the Songs.' His High Court writ also seeks to prevent further publication of the book containing these alleged libels. "The book has a very large number of errors - over 120 - some careless, some very serious," the star's solicitors [explain]. "We have also identified four serious libels of David Gilmour. The band are taking a very serious view of this and are furious." So is David Gilmour the only one suing? Adds his lawyer, ominously: "For the moment..."
 
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