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Home arrow Reviews arrow Concerts arrow Pink Floyd - The Massed Gadgets of Auximenes, Royal Festival Hall, London, April 14th 1969
Pink Floyd - The Massed Gadgets of Auximenes, Royal Festival Hall, London, April 14th 1969 Print E-mail
Written by John Baxter   
Friday, 13 March 2009

Pink Floyd 1969 Royal Festival Hall ticketUnder the heading of The Massed Gadgets of Auximenes, with a clarification of sorts that this was "More Furious Madness from" Pink Floyd, the band's show at the Royal Festival Hall, London, on April 14th 1969, saw the introduction of two new suites of music built around existing and new works: 'The Man' and 'The Journey'.

It also saw the newly built (replacement) Azimuth Co-ordinator pressed into action for the first time, to provide the audience with music and effects panned all around the venue.

Film of the rehearsals, shot by Anthony Stern, emerged a couple of years ago, and shows the band working through some aspects of these new pieces. Sadly, he was prevented from filming the evening's performance by venue management, and it is left to the reminiscences of people like John Baxter, who shares his memories below, that we get a glimpse at this early show...

1969: I'm sixteen years old, I've just finished playing the part of John Proctor in our school production of The Crucible and I've just had my heart broken by Ruth Turner my girlfriend of four months who gave me the elbow. However, salvation is at hand in the shape of Pink Floyd. My best friend at school, Dave Stewart, has an older brother who is into all this underground music and in particular Pink Floyd, and with everyone else listening to Motown, The Equals and Amen Corner, Dave and I are listening with frightening intensity to Pink Floyd.

It is the music that defines who you are and we didn't want to be part of a crowd blindly following the herd. Piper at the Gates of Dawn had been poured over time after time. The lyrics were studied for their true meanings; little did we know that Syd had a disarming way of writing so simply - how could we accept that 'Matilda Mother' was about a mother reading stories to her children?

Then the great news: 'The Floyd' are to tour with something called 'The Massed Gadgets of Auximenes' featuring the 'Azimuth Co-Ordinator'. Saturday job money is saved for the trip of a lifetime to see them in London, at The Royal Festival Hall, the first date of the tour.

Pink Floyd 1969 Royal Festival Hall posterFifteen bob the tickets cost – 75p to you. The train fare from Wigan was £4.10 shillings (£4.50). For comparative prices remember a gallon of petrol was 6/- (30p) and a pint of beer 10d (about 4p). The date of the concert was April 14th, right in the middle of our school holiday. We caught a train at about 11.30am and got to Euston Station around 2.30pm. Then it was on the underground to Waterloo. Remember we were just simple Northern lads and this was only the second time I had ever been to London, and the first time on our own.

How we spent our time up to the start of the show I can't remember. I do know we went into the Festival Hall foyer and could hear tantalising sounds of the band practising. Now when I watch the bits of film on Youtube of the band rehearsing in The Festival Hall I do like to think that I was only the other side of the door at that precise moment in time.

We also went round the back of the hall and found the Floyd's van, the one that later featured on the cover of 'Ummagumma'. Rather charmingly we wrote a fan note to them and shoved it through a ventilation slit in the side; we never got a reply.

Gradually as the time approached the crowd began to gather. Here were truly the 'Beautiful People'. We were dressed in very conservative fashion; I think I was even wearing a tie and a brown cardigan. Now we saw such sights as never before. Crushed velvet, trench coats, John Lennon style 'granny glasses' proliferated.

Then the doors were opened and were admitted. The whole space was full of the sound of bird song to set the mood. On stage, two stools were set in front of four mic stands. We were sat on the side of the stage, on the balcony that offers a side view. As the lights dimmed and the band emerged we could finally see just who was who. Our only pictures up to now had been from the cover of 'Piper' and, although we had worked out which one was Syd(!), the identity of the others was still a mystery.

Roger Waters was dressed in a pink vest like shirt; David Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason were all dressed in tie-die shirts so beloved at the time. David Gilmour’s guitar seemed connected to a whole train of effects pedals, which trailed around behind him as he moved around the stage.

They began with 'Daybreak' aka 'Grantchester Meadows'. From then on the music flowed unceasingly from piece to piece as they went through 'The Man' suite, footsteps resounding around the hall as the 'Azimuth Co-Ordinator' did its stuff. Nothing in the first section was familiar to us: 'Biding My Time', 'Quicksilver', and the other tracks hadn't been released yet, and it did seem to us as if there was an over reliance on the pre-recorded effects.

After the interval we were back and the first bit we recognised was 'Careful with that Axe Eugene', which had been released on the 'B' side of 'Point Me At The Sky', although now it had become 'Beset by Creatures of the Deep'. Other familiar tunes began to appear, such as 'Pow R Toc H', and then Rick climbed up to the Festival Hall organ to begin the closing organ theme from 'Saucerful of Secrets' to bring the half to a close. This was much better we felt. Here the band were really playing and creating a magical atmosphere.

After a few moments they were back as Roger Waters approached the mic to announce the encore. A strong cockney voice called out, "Do Interstellar Overdrive!" Whether Waters had sensed that the show had been slightly sub-standard (in an interview later he had confessed that a friend had commented to him that it was like paying 15 bob to watch them rehearse) and felt they had to do something to make amends or not I can't say but he responded very quickly, and announced, "This is called Interstellar Overdrive".

Then it was back on the underground to Euston and the 11.45pm 'milk train' home. We arrived back at 5.30am.

Later, in June 1969, we saw the Floyd at The Manchester Free Trade Hall, sat on row C in front of Rick. In fact, the bootleg tape that now does the rounds of that show, was recorded by us. By now more of the material embedded in the suite was familiar to us through the release of 'More' and through performances on John Peel's 'Top Gear' lovingly recorded by holding a mic up to the speaker of the radio.

This show still remains the best show I ever saw the Floyd do. The suite performance went really well and was truly polished by now; the pieces segued from one to the other seamlessly. An abiding memory is the link from 'Sleep' (Quicksilver) into 'Nightmare' (Cymbaline). It seemed we could hear the tune emerge minutes before it finally arrived. Rick played trombone on 'Afternoon' (Biding My Time), then xylophone during 'Teatime' and for part of 'Sleep'. At the time we were all members of The Pink Floyd Fan Club, which was run by somebody called Carol Oliver, address Randall Drive, Hornchurch. The only missive we had ever received from this fan club included the news that the band had all been to see "2001 - A Space Odyssey" and declared it to be "a groovy movie". Now here was Roger Waters breathing heavily into the mic at the start of 'Sleep': was this a rip off from the sequence when Dave enters the space ship through the airlock to turn HAL, the super-computer, off? Next time you watch the film have a listen to his tortured breathing and you'll see what I mean.

The encore of 'Set the Controls' was a wonderful charge through the song. Finally Waters said, "Thank you, thank you. Bye bye", and they were gone.

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