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Pink Floyd - Rugby Benn Hall, England, June 1967 Print E-mail

Written by Brain Damage contributor, John Phillpott in 1996 for BD Magazine
REPORTER AT THE GATES OF DAWN

It was twenty-nine years ago, but then again, it could have been yesterday. I was an eighteen year-old cub reporter on the Rugby Advertiser, ever-eager with open notebook and sharpened pencil, waiting to pounce on any snippet of news that moved.

1967. There are a few years in the 20th century that will always be remembered by the western world, burned into our collective psyche. 1914, 1939... days of war. 1912 Titanic disaster, 1926 the General Strike. But there was no date with destruction here, for this was the dawn of the legendary Summer of Love.

It was an amazing age to live through, especially if you were one of those fortunate baby boomers who had the ability and drive, or just plain luck, to fall into one of the creative jobs newly available to the proles. I was literate but innumerate. The "0" levels of two years before had been stumbled and muddled through; how could any free spirit caught in the musical web woven by Dylan, Berry, the Beatles and Stones concentrate on anything other than the cultural Spring bursting into bloom?

Pink Floyd came to Rugby Benn Hall probably sometime in the June of 1967. I had already interviewed John Lee Hooker, The Small Faces, and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. So who were these Pink Floyd? Pop band, soul... R & B or blues? I decided to find out. Now the amazing thing about being a reporter in those days was that it was perfectly possible to cover a boring old flower show on a Saturday afternoon and mingle with pop stars later that evening. It is an understatement to say that those days are long gone.

The day I met the Pink Floyd was one such as this, the kind of day we all took for granted then, yet seem so remarkable when viewed through the mist of years. Down to the Benn Hall I went, flashed my Press Card on the desk and then made a beeline for a door on the left next to the stage marked 'exit'. I had done this many times before. I walked a few yards down a brightly-lit corridor that smelled of stale cigarettes and sweat, came to the dressing room, and knocked on the door. And there was Pink Floyd, sitting having a drink and maybe a smoke or two.

They appeared fairly welcoming, but I have to admit I was not sure about Roger Waters. The thick lips reminded me of Mick Jagger and I was always worried about wise-cracking showbiz people demolishing my somewhat shaky credentials as being a man of the Press. Status Quo had given me a hard time a few weeks before; the lyrics to Pictures of Matchstick Men should have provided a pointer to their verbal prowess. So, taking a long draw of the cigarette that was never far from my lips, I latched on to Syd Barrett... he looked the most harmless and presumably the most friendly member of the band.

He had an intelligent and sensitive face, was softly-spoken and genuinely patient enough to answer my cliche-ridden questions. I asked about the music they played, an obvious but necessary query in a media world not quite accustomed to the rock and roll revolution that was now gathering pace. The remaining questions would, I imagine, have been entirely predictable too; favourite artists, film stars, influences, likes and dislikes, ambitions etc. Oh yes, and favorite food. This shopping list might appear crass to the relative sophistication of a 1990s reader, but it must be remembered that young journalists in those days were fighting an uphill struggle convincing their elders - the people in control of power bases such as newspapers - that something called a Pink Floyd Happening was worth covering in the first place.

Around midnight, I returned to the Advertiser Office and wrote until dawn, fuelled by a couple of bottles of brown ale and a packet of 20 Bristols. I probably produced about a thousand words - far too long - and this was cut back by the Editor, an English gentleman called John Lawson, a man in his 50s who had been a prisoner of the Germans during the Second World War and who was rapidly becoming bewildered by the events unfolding during the momentous year of 1967. This is what appeared in the Rugby Advertiser's columns the next Friday...

And so... the Editor admitted that I had done a good job and chosen my words with care. My writing style showed promise, despite the fact that I was describing a world alien to him.

But 1967 was like that; a pivotal year where the new was ushered in and many of the old ways died on the vine.

 
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