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Battersea Power Station, Pink Floyd and Animals Print E-mail
Written by Chris Leith   
Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Battersea Power Station, LondonSaturday, September 21st 2013 proved a very special day, with the final Roger Waters The Wall Live show taking place at the Stade de France in Paris. On the other side of the English Channel (as we Brits refer to it) an equally fascinating event was taking place on the same day. For Pink Floyd fans who could make it to London that day, there was just one destination on the agenda. Battersea Power Station, opening its doors for a one-off public tour, the final time to see it before the developers roll in, converting and in turn, preserving the iconic building. BD's Chris Leith was in attendance, and a full photo gallery can be seen over at the Brain Damage Facebook page...

For every Pink Floyd album, there an indelible visual reference, but even before I knew about Pink Floyd, I knew about Battersea Power Station.

As a young kid on family day trips into London, the train line in from Kent passed (and still does) right along side the building on its approach to Chelsea Bridge before arriving at its destination of Victoria station.

I was utterly speechless at the size, shape and imposing feel it had, the train ran so close you could see every brick in its walls. As a kid of probably about 7, I have a vivid memory that I thought it looked like an upside-down table.

Even today, when passing it, having seen it hundreds of times, and having now been a life-long Pink Floyd fan, I am still totally in awe of the building and obviously completely unable to disassociate Battersea Power Station with Pink Floyd.

I have no idea how visiting Pink Floyd fans from around the world get their head round seeing the building in the flesh (pun intended!) having seen the album cover for years, by how real it is, how huge, how stunning, even in its decaying glory. Day or night, the building is simply heroic.

Not unlike the building itself, which gave Pink Floyd another truly unforgettable album sleeve in 1977, ask a Pink Floyd fan why they love the Animals album, and they won't be able to give you a straight answer.

If following 1973's The Dark Side of the Moon was considered tough, one can only imagine how hard it was then following its follow-up 1975 album Wish You Were Here as well.

Most fans that follow the band's live recordings often cite the 1977 shows in promotion of the Animals album as their live zenith. It's the one album where countless forum discussions beg for an Animals Immersion box set, and Algie the pig has often been present at nearly all Pink Floyd and Roger Waters shows since, having now become an inseparable image associated with the band Pink Floyd.

Battersea Power Station, London, 2013
Battersea Power Station, London, 2013
Battersea Power Station, London, 2013
bps_distance.jpg

If it wasn't for the final 1977 Animals tour show in Montreal, where a clearly mentally and physically exhausted Roger Waters who, in the live recording, at one point sounds perilously close to a near on-stage meltdown, can be heard ranting to the inflatable pig during the frenzied final crescendo of the song Pigs [3 Different Ones] (which has to be heard to be truly appreciated), from his dissatisfaction of the sea of faces in stadium shows, and from the infamous spitting incident at the same show, the subsequent 1979 album The Wall would surely not have been written.

As a result, Pink Floyd fans, for their own reasons, simply love the Animals album, seeing it as a pivotal part of the band's history. My own view is that under the weight and spotlight of the commercial success of Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and (subsequently) The Wall, Animals becomes the underdog. But people love an underdog, and Animals punches way above its weight.

Pink Floyd's music took another turn in 1977, punk was at its peak, and as many a band in the preceding generation found out, their positions were seriously compromised and some never recovered, as the new generation came knocking.

Pink Floyd seemed to ride this out, with an album which took no prisoners, had very few soft edges possibly featuring Roger's most vitriolic lyrics written anytime before or since, with a cohesive three-part Orwellian vision of human existence, bookended by a love song and then wrapped in a sleeve which just seemed to perfectly encapsulate the album's bleakness.

Battersea Power Station proudly served London for 50 years up until 1983 but has ultimately sat dormant, slowly dying, even being partly internally dismantled for safety reasons since. In the ensuing 30 years, Londoners have however almost willed for Battersea Power Station to be refurbished, losing none of their love for it in the process.

Whether Londoners know about Pink Floyd and the Animals album or not, they have as much, if not more, affection for the towering looming structure. Whilst there is no plausible reason that a disused, crumbling Power Station should command such affection, it is like no other building.

Despite numerous aborted proposed ventures in the ensuing decades to regenerate it for new multi-use purposes and which could have aesthetically changed it forever, of immense relief is that the building was awarded English Heritage Grade II listed status in 1980 (and then Grade II* in 2007) as a heritage site due to its iconic art-deco design, which for those unaware, despite being in prime land for real estate, meant partial or completion demolition was not allowed.

Having found out that Battersea Power Station would be joining the annual London Open House project (more details at www.londonopenhouse.org) and this being the last ever time this could ever happen before refurbishment construction finally starts soon, the public would be able to see the building in its original design, I felt this was chance I could not pass up.

With no pre-registration required and first-come-first-served free entry I arrived at around 8.30am on Saturday for the 11.00am opening, and even then there was already a reasonable queue. As we were ushered into the park you were directed towards the rear of the building where you then get an unfettered view of the building.

To say it is huge is complete understatement, so much so that taking photographs are actually hard to get owing to being in such close proximity. As you disappear under a tunnel you were brought out into small gallery explaining rebuild project and then the main viewing platform at ground floor level INSIDE the main building looking up the steelwork, old windows, tiling and chimneys, in their crumbling glory. A lot of people around me were just standing there with their mouths open it was that unique an experience.

To the right we were directed to a view of Turbine Room B, which is a huge expanse and is again hard to fathom when inside it. Sadly, the tour did not feature viewing of Turbine Room A of the art-deco control rooms, owing to logistical issues with the amount of visitors attending. I understand that that the control rooms are however are being preserved and not removed, and will form part of a 'museum' inside when the building has been finished, thought to be around 2017.

One myth I can hopefully dispel is having listened into an impromptu talk by a gentleman representing the contractors was that that when the work starts, the chimneys will be temporarily coming down, one by one, and are being rebuilt to identical shape, specification and colour.

Such is the notable skyline in London of the iconic four chimneys, is that a condition specified by the planners is that only one chimney can be fully dismantled and rebuilt at a time, so that three chimneys are always in place.

It was unique and fantastic opportunity, well worth the trip and great to know that Battersea Power Station will be reborn as a 21st century icon, living on for many generations to come, as, I hope, will the album which helped immortalise it forever, Pink Floyd's Animals.

The photos here, and on our Facebook page, are all copyright Chris Leith for Brain Damage.

 
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