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Pink Floyd at the Paradiso, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in 1969 Print E-mail
Written by Charles Beterams   
Thursday, 07 June 2018
Paradiso, Amsterdam

Charles Beterams is the author of the excellent, recently published Dutch-language book Pink Floyd In Nederland, which looks at the history of the band, as well as the various later solo projects, in that country. The full-colour 256-page hardcover book is a treat, even if you don't speak the language - the book is full of concert pictures (most of which have never been seen before), tour memorabilia (such as tickets, passes, adverts, posters, and production materials), rare record covers, and more. You can obtain the book from Dutch bookshops, or internationally via permafrostpublishers.com.

Just for the Brain Damage readership, he has very kindly provided an English translation of the section of the book looking at the troubled Paradiso concert in August 1969, the recording of which has finally been officially released on the box set, Pink Floyd The Early Years 1965-1972:

Following Pink Floyd's performance at the second and final edition of the Flight To Lowlands Paradise Festival in Utrecht, late December 1968, nothing much is heard from the band in Holland, a few failing attempts and rumours aside. Early August 1969, however, Paradiso announces a Pink Floyd concert a few days later, on the 9th August. "Good news for those into the Floyd, as the well-known band from England will play the Paradiso for a sixty minute show, supported by The Dream from Tiel and Universal Delight from Vlissingen. Tickets are 7,50 Dutch Guilders [a little over 3 euros, ed.] and available from the venue. The concert starts at 8pm," newspaper De Waarheid writes on the 5th of August.

Pink Floyd in midsummer Amsterdam seems to be a good idea. Newspaper De Stem reports that a 'wave of heat and sweaty air is blowing out' in a beautiful article where the event becomes almost tangible. "The heat doesn't want to leave the city. The squares in Amsterdam are full of relaxing, calm, and barely dressed people. They walk slowly, sit a lot, drink. 'Get me something cold' is an often heard phrase. It is Saturday night. We come from boring The Hague and enter the busy centre of Amsterdam. Around the fountain on the clearly illuminated Leidseplein people try to cool down. We go a bit further down a dark Weteringschans and there the international youth temple Paradiso. Hundreds, really hundreds of boys and girls from everywhere insist in vain for the three entrances of the temple because IT is going to happen. Pink Floyd itself, the band 'that from now on only wants to do performances that matter' as the publicity people of Paradiso call it, will do that very thing right here, tonight. But for the time being, there are only a few ready for the gig, because the room is full, overcrowded."

The casually quoted statement unintentionally pins down the big difference between 1968 and 1969. Pink Floyd no longer grab what they can take – which results in tours such as those during Pentecost 1968 in the Netherlands and Belgium - but is busy making steps. The concert at De Doelen in December 1968 is a first sign, the many unfulfilled concerts in the first half of 1969 just a confirmation. Pink Floyd has finally outgrown the amateurism with good intentions of the various Provadya groups, the hastily organised concerts that only with great difficulty escaped oblivion. Here, on a sultry summer evening, despite the – again – late announcement, we see a band that's getting a grip on its own future. The public – and so also the reporters – is getting seriously put to the test. "At nine o'clock we present at the entrance door. After half an hour of free wrestling on the sidewalk, we are finally inside. Over there we hear a Dutch group, who just mastered the technique of the 'screaming guitars' and want to make something of that,” Rotterdam based newspaper Het Vrije Volk writes.

The VPRO broadcasting company has secured a contract to air tonight's Pink Floyd concert during its Jazz and Pop Live programme on the 29th August. Pink Floyd is scheduled to take the stage around midnight. A NOS (the company providing technics for Dutch broadcasting companies) van with technicians Dick Sleeman and Cor Doesburg arrives a few hours earlier and is parked right next to Paradiso. From the van, right through the audience, cables are pulled to no less than nine microphones running on stage. Both technicians are frequently stopped with the question when the concert will be broadcasted.

Mayhem starts just after ten o'clock in the evening as the amperage in a part of the venue drops to 110 Volts, which is not enough to support the recording van and the band's equipment. After some consultation it is decided to disconnect a part of the band's instruments and raise the rest to 127 Volts - a frequently used voltage in large cities in those days - but that too doesn't solve all problems. The audience is thoroughly tested in the heat. "We wait and wait ... in the low-oxygen, but otherwise highly inspiring atmosphere of Paradiso. We wait for one hour. There is some more movement on the stage. Also in the hall itself, by the way. Hand clapping indicates a certain displeasure. One can ask too much, even of this devoted audience."

It is already 1am and there is now talk about restitution of the paid entrance fee when suddenly there is tension again. One part is still at 127 Volts causing an electric discharge that affects, among other things, the guitar of David Gilmour. It's now 1.30am and we have the musicians there on stage, with less equipment than anticipated and without the vocal installation that appears to have failed. The stereo system can also not be used so that a large part of the sound effects can be used. Roger Waters tells the remaining audience that the show will be instrumental.

Five songs are played, four of which are on tape: Interstellar Overdrive, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Careful With That Axe, Eugene and, finally, A Saucerful Of Secrets. Recording technician Dick Sleeman reacts enthusiastically in the recording van which also accommodates journalist Wim Noordhoek, present on behalf of the VPRO, and the pair spent the whole evening with mediation attempts and discussions with all parties involved. Pink Floyd themselves are all but satisfied after the performance. "This was really a bad joke. Everything went wrong and we couldn't bring what we normally do. Poor audience, they might think now that is our way of playing," Roger complains to the VPRO journalist. Wim Noordhoek assures that the audience know Pink Floyd and the performance wasn't too bad. What follows is a discussion about the recordings. Waters asks Noordhoek not to broadcast despite the signed contract and the already scheduled broadcast. Both gentlemen know each other from the pop festival in Rome of a year before, and they even went for a game of football there which provides a mutual trust. Noordhoek promises to talk to promoter Cyriel van den Hemel to come to a solution.

Pink Floyd in Nederland - book by Charles BeteramsThe broadcaster and Pink Floyd indeed come to an agreement. The made recordings are not aired on Jazz and Pop Live. The VPRO gets permission to record a concert that Pink Floyd will plays a month later in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. The technical issues of that hot August night in Paradiso thus indirectly forms the basis for the registration of what later becomes one of milestones in the band's recorded concert history. While in the course of time the VPRO opens a large part of its archives and for broadcast shows, the four numbers of the 9th August, 1969 remain unbroadcast. The concert only turns up with the release of The Early Years 1967-1972, at the end of 2016 and thus becomes saved from oblivion...

Our thanks to Charles for this insight into the concert. You can obtain his book, Pink Floyd in Nederland (seen to the left with its standard cover, and the two limited edition variants) from Dutch bookshops, or internationally via permafrostpublishers.com.

 
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