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Home arrow Interviews arrow Pink Floyd band interviews arrow December 24th 1976 - Capital Radio PF Story - part 2
December 24th 1976 - Capital Radio PF Story - part 2 Print E-mail
Part 2; Capital Radio, London, 24th December 1976.

The following is one part of the legendary Capital Radio Pink Floyd Story - the history of the band, told by the band themselves in a set of interviews undertaken in 1976, and broadcast at the end of 1976/start of 1977. This transcription done by Matt Johns, Brain Damage - please seek permission from us before using elsewhere.

The programme presenter was Nicky Horne. Abbreviations used as follows:
NM: Nick Mason, RW: Roger Waters, DG: David Gilmour, RWr: Rick Wright, ST: Storm Thorgerson,
NH: Nicky Horne, NS: Norman Smith, PJ: Peter Jenner, RG: Ron Geesin

JP: Interestingly enough, actually, I live now in a little town up in East Anglia. A little village actually, called Great Fimbrew, which is near Stowmarket, which is another place that people have never heard of, when I first moved up there I was buying a dustbin at the local Woolworths, and this fellow came up to me and said, "It's John Peel, isn't it?" and I said, "Yes". He said "Having you move into the area is the best thing that's happened since the Pink Floyd played here".

And apparently they did a gig in the football ground at Stowmarket back in 1967 when they were first starting out, and everybody went along expecting a band playing the top 20, and there were about a dozen people who went there who were knocked out by them - the local freaks and loonies. Everybody else hated them, but it's the biggest thing musically that's happened in Stowmarket ever, I think...

RW: Ten years ago the business was very different. The "album" thing didn't really happen 'til a bit...well, it was beginning to happen then... it was just beginning to happen that you could have bands who were popular without them releasing a single. And we had a producer, Norman, who was involved in that whole syndrome; that "single" syndrome.

NS: I'm not too sure that the dealers could... know exactly what they were about. It was a terribly difficult thing that they were trying to express and I guess this is where an awful lot of dissatisfaction of the end product came about, as will do naturally. I mean, obviously there is a... It's very difficult for any artist to get "the absolute" or any producer, for that matter, to get the absolute end of an end product. Thank God we don't get that, because obviously I think this is what motivates them, this is what keeps you going, to strive for something to be better next time.

But, with the Floyd's type of material in performance... I think that really they were just as much a stage group, just as much a gig group as they were a recording group. And if there, in some way, could have been a meeting of those two half-way, so that you got the best of both worlds, then everybody perhaps would have been... I mean, with the same performance you understand, so perhaps a live recording or something like that suggests what I'm talking about...

NH: Storm Thorgerson is one of the men responsible for the Pink Floyd album covers. He's been a friend of the band for many years, and here's how he remembers those early days:

ST: Why I think 66/67 is interesting for the music business is that I think there was a power shift from record companies to groups. And a concomene to that power shift was that not only would they write their own material, but the Floyd did their own material, their own "thing" - doing their own sleeves, 'cos the Beatles things were atrocious to begin with. They were really cruddy [laughs] I thought... but I'm sure the Beatles do too. And I think Floyd after "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" which was somehow, although you may not look on it as a nostalgic piece of picture... graphics, it's actually not very... didn't seem to say very much about the Pink Floyd. I think they felt that they'd like to say something more about Pink Floyd on the sleeve.

DG: It's mistaken, to think that Syd was the active force in the band - anti-commercialism. Certainly Norman tried to make us more commercial and we sometimes had arguments about things that we thought we liked in one way, and he thought we more commercial another way. In fact, I would suggest that "Piper..." is a far more overtly commercial sort of album than the next one, "Saucerful Of Secrets", the title track, a commercial thing. It was certainly the most experimental thing that the group had done, I think.

RWr: That was at the time when we were splitting from Norma. He was getting less and less, if you like, involved in what we were doing, and virtually at the end he was just sitting in the background listening, but he realised I think that we were taking over production and it was a natural thing - a natural process. So he just sort of let it happen, and, there wasn't a sudden break, or a bad feeling at all; there wasn't all of us one day saying, "Right, Norman, you're out!" We, all of us, realised that was what was happening, 'cos his good point I think early on was teaching us how to work in a studio. A lot of producers with a band, maybe not us because we wouldn't let it happen, but the band would sit aside while the producer did all the work. They'd never learn anything.

Whereas, he got us to be really interested in that side of it as soon as we started, so we learnt a lot, and then by the time "Ummagumma" came out we all felt, "Well, we could do it ourselves". And he wasn't really interested, I don't think, in us after Syd left. He was into the songs, but "Saucerful Of Secrets" he just couldn't - he didn't - understand. He said, "Well, I think it's rubbish. It won't sell a single copy, but go ahead and do it, if you want" sort of thing. Whereas we all believed it was gonna be one of the best things we'd ever put onto record. Which I think it was at that time, and... but it was a natural process, he just slowly got into the background, and then finally we said "OK".

DG: I contributed what I could, but I was, quite honestly, a little on the outside through it all. I wasn't really a... I certainly didn't feel like a full member, and I wasn't right up front contributing all the way on it... I think my quarter composer share on "Saucerful Of Secrets" is not really I don't think that I had a lot to do with writing it...

NH: Those early Floyd gigs have almost become folk-lore, and John Peel remembers:

JP: I used to see them a lot actually, y'know, the end of the sixties. I always claim that the best outdoor event that I've ever been to was the Pink Floyd concert in Hyde Park, when I hired a boat and rowed out, and I lay on the bottom of the boat, in the way that we hippies did, in the middle of the Serpentine, and just listened to the band play, and their music then, as I think, suited the open air perfectly. It was... it sounds ludicrous now, it's the kind of thing you can get away with saying at the time and which is now, in these harsher times sounds a bit silly... but I mean it was like a religious experience, it was marvelous. They played "A Saucerful Of Secrets" and things... they just seemed to fill the whole sky and everything y'know. And to coincide perfectly with the water and the lapping of the water and the trees and everything. It just seemed to be the perfect event. I think that it was the nicest concert I've ever been to, in fact, and in a complete contrast to that I remember another, very good one at a club in Birmingham which was very famous for a lot of years, called "Mothers", in Erdington, which was a marvelous gig to do because I've always liked the Midlands, for the audiences and things, 'cos they're very matter-of-fact and down-to-earth... and you have to do well in order to impress them.

I suppose that's true practically anywhere really, but... um... well, I don't know whether it is actually, 'cos nowadays you get that sort of conditioned response from the audience where if they're seeing somebody famous, they'll go mad for them; even if they're being very boring. And the Floyd played there, in this great beery club it was, and... they were marvelous there too. They did - it was one of these things which is very annoying. They did a great "Interstellar Overdrive" which went on for about 25-30 minutes, that I wrote such an ecstatic report about it, that I got into "Pseuds Corner" in "Private Eye" on the strength of it, which was another of my ambitions fulfilled. I wrote a whole bunch of stuff about the sound of dying galaxies which I think I'd actually stolen from a science fiction book I'd read... but it got me in "Pseuds Corner". But it really was like that. It was just a marvelous performance, and they taped it and they gave me a copy of the tape, and I used to listen to it like every day. Then some burglar broke into my flat and took it, along with a whole bunch of Dylan tapes, which was very annoying. But... I don't think there were many bands then, or now, which could work so well in two such widely differing places you know, environments...

RWr: Well, "Mothers" is a fantastic place to play anyway, I think we must've played there quite a few times and it was the place where... well, one of the places we chose to do the album because it's such a nice place to play, and the people who ran the club were really nice, and I can't remember much about that evening we recorded it, except everything went wrong [laughs]. You know, the mics, and we were recording on a four track as well, trying to get this whole thing down. I remember... it was a good gig and for me the tapes were disappointing afterwards. But there were a lot of technical faults with the tape... To be honest, that gig doesn't stand out to any other gig we've done in "Mothers".

JP: Now you know that something like "Atom Heart Mother", particularly in America, people would spend weeks in debate about what the title meant, you know, and people were quite capable of starting religions [laughs] based on "Atom Heart Mother". You know, there was some attractive blond woman who'd be called "Atom Heart Mother" and the rest of them would call themselves little Red Indian names and worship her. And you know that sort of thing goes on, whereas if they got fat, or started to lose their hair, they'd be chucked out!

But, it was called "Atom Heart Mother" actually because they were going to record the work on a concert programme at the BBC, and the producer, Geoff Griffin, asked them what the thing was called and they didn't have a name for it, so I nipped out an "Evening Standard" and we looked through the headlines and tried to find a suitable headline that would fit as a title for the work; and there was a little story in there about some woman who'd had an atom powered pace-maker put in her chest and it was just headlined "ATOM HEART MOTHER", and Roger Waters said, "Oh, yes, that's a nice name, we'll call it that!"

RW: Well, the idea came about because Dave, he came up with the original riff. I can remember that very clearly strangely enough, he played it, somewhere or other, we were rehearsing somewhere or other and he played that riff.. and we all listened to it and thought, "Oh, that's quite nice..." but we all thought the same thing which was that it sounds like a theme from some awful Western; it had that kind of... slight pastiche, heroic, plodding quality to it... of horses silhouetted against the sunset. Which is why we thought it'd be a good idea to play on that really and cover it in horns and strings and voices and whatever else. So that's why we did it; because it sounded like a... very heavy movie score. I think we found... I have no idea why we fouled it up. I think we probably did it because we were... we felt rather inadequate to cope with it.

NH: The person responsible for arranging "Atom Heart Mother" was poet, musician, and solo performer Ron Geesin. Here he tells how he got involved with "Atom Heart Mother":

RG: I'd seen them all at that time, I think. 'Cos Rick just lived down... I was in Notting Hill, he was down South Notting Hill [laughs] looking back now I think that they were, at that time, they had hit creative exhaustion. They had been battling away with each other and had not learnt the skills of pulling off, retreating from each other, and they I think were rather heavily battling. I think they were creatively exhausted and they needed the influence of an outside view. That was it. That's the view now, so as I was their mate at the time, they proposed this thing that they wanted brass and choir on, this long piece, and they provided me with really what I would call the backing tracks, probably they were a bit more than backing tracks - they did have the sound that was the astral slide guitar on them in places, but I really took the... backing tracks and formed all the top, all the... I don't know, icing on the cake, or something... whatever analogy... working, most of the time on my own, but part of the choir section was done with Rick, say the first half of it was done in collaboration with him, but I did all the writing. It was really just him and I discussing where the float should go, where the wisps of smoke and lines ought to go.

RWr: The way we did it was overlaying the musicians onto the backing track and you can hear it on the record - it just sounds... it doesn't flow very well. There's lots of edits on it, and... I wasn't happy, I wasn't... I was at the time; thinking back I'm not happy now of the recording of "Atom Heart Mother", but I did enjoy playing it live when it worked, particularly in America, where for some reason musicians just seemed to get... just got into the thing a lot more. I don't know why. I certainly enjoyed playing it live 'cos it was a totally new experience of well, working with other people. The actual recording of it is not that good, I don't think.

NH: Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis, remembers the thinking behind the "Atom Heart Mother" sleeve:

ST: There was a very conscious attempt to undo some of the very obvious psychedelic traps. I mean, there were quite of lot of sleeves after that, all these sleeves coming from the West Coast, that were a bit jumbled and highly imaginative - what I call psychedelia, and full of colours and images all swirling together and complex. So there was a desire to unearth that, and that was all based on the notion that whatever else you may say about the Floyd I do think their music reaches on a couple of levels - I don't think it's singular.

So that I think you can appreciate it as... a very romantic atmosphere mood thing... but they were unlike quite a lot of other people in rock'n'roll - fairly intelligent and knew some of the kind of... difficult to explain it... but knew something about themselves... a little bit about themselves - were able to kind of laugh at it a little bit and know the other side. So in order to give an indication that the Floyd had perhaps that little bit more depth... without it wasn't a kind of "better than thou" notion, it was just a descriptive thing.

At least you could say, if nothing else about the Floyd, it was multi-level, right? We wanted to do something that in fact was that but wouldn't look like it. So "Atom Heart Mother" is really a sleeve that was an undoing - a non Pink Floyd sleeve. It was very much a conscious attempt to do a pretty ordinary damn thing. I mean, that was my idea, to do a kind of non-cover... but not in a high-art sense, but to do a kind of common or garden - away from all that psychedelia, knowing that the Floyd could handle that, even though their music may be romantic and atmospheric because they've got an ability... alright, they were characteristic whereby there'd be more than one level involved, they could on their sleeve handle something that went totally the other way.

So, we had three ideas for that sleeve. One was a picture of a cow. One was a picture of a person diving into water, which is funny since that came up again but in a different context altogether, and the other picture was a woman walking out a door. All, in a way, very flat, and un-psychedelic, and un-heady. "Ummagumma" was heady, see, "Ummagumma" had an intellectuality about it, right, so they intended to undo that, but knowing if you did that consciously it would still carry a lot of weight behind it. So, in fact although we did... when the band saw it I think they enjoyed the humour of it most. I think to be a cow, and such a cow!

In terms of the notion we started out with, it totally backfired. But in terms of being a good sleeve, which I think it is, and a good picture, I mean it's a very simple idea. Actually, the idea came from a friend of mine in conversation. He just said, "How about a picture of a cow?" as an example of something pretty damn ordinary, and immediately he said it, I kind of twigged and went out and shot a cow. (In Essex it was actually, outside Potters Bar) [laughs] and I took a picture like how I remembered at school, in an animal textbook - it's supposed to be the ultimate picture of a cow - it's just totally cow... it should say "COW" to you.

But, riding on top of that are all those other thoughts although it's just a cow, right? Since all those other thoughts are in it consciously - you just put a cow on a Matt Monroe album or if you put it on the Wombles, it would never have carried the weight it carries now on a Pink Floyd album. And giving it that title as well, which was equally extraneous, seemed to work very well, and yes, it stood out very clearly [laughs] and was certainly not a non-event.

NH: As Ron Geesin said earlier, he felt that the Floyd were having their personality problems during the recording of "Atom Heart Mother". I asked Nick Mason if the band have ever been close to break up.

NM: Absolutely not! We are absolutely as close as anything, it's a great honour and pleasure to work with the other members of the band! No, the - yes, of course it has. I mean, working in a band is... very, very difficult! Very difficult indeed. Because it's a very close relationship, 'cos you work together not only because you love each other, but actually because of all the other "things" that come with it. All that lust for success, or love, or whatever is the problem that makes people join rock'n'roll bands. And... it's murder. I mean a lot of the time it's absolutely 'orrible to have to be with people that you're not... seeing eye to eye with at every moment. Yeah inevitably there's moments where everyone just feels like packing it in. And... it isn't like we have a row and someone leaves the room threatening to leave - it tends to move in waves more, I think. Perhaps... it depends what activity we're on. I tend to feel like I've had enough towards the end of every American tour, and I think, for me, it's all over. In fact, although I have felt this, it never has been over.

And I think a lot of it is to do with frustration - particularly amongst writers which I'm not really... I'm talking particularly perhaps about Roger, where perhaps he feels that his ideas aren't getting across, or that he's having to fight to get his ideas across, or perhaps at another moment where Roger's cool and the others feel, Rick or Dave perhaps, frustrated that they're doing something... that they're not getting their ideas across. I mean all one can say is that it would appear that a solo career is just as painful as a group career. I think under the threat of the other three doing solo albums,and mean not doing one, I'd do one. I mean it's like "Ummagumma" - if pushed [laughs] you can do something.

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