Monday, November 24, 2014

The Enduring Privacy of Pink Floyd - Pete Clemons

The latest article by Pete Clemons for the Coventry Telegraph features Pink Floyd. not such a strong Coventry angle this time but interesting all the same.

The enduring privacy of Pink Floyd
by Pete Clemons for the Coventry Telegraph

Despite recording the most pre-ordered album in Amazon's history, rock group have always been reluctant rock stars.

To mark the release of Pink Floyd's new album, music writer Pete Clemons remembers when he bought the band members' solo albums and explains how they retained their privacy despite their fame...

It is a Saturday morning during September 1978 and I still remember hurrying into town to pick up an LP I had ordered from Virgin records in the arcade. The record I had bought that day was titled ‘Wet Dream’ and had been released by Richard Wright.

A similar thing had happened earlier in the year when I went to pick up the first solo release by Pink Floyd guitarist and fellow band mate David Gilmour.

I think at the time I expected to hear, within those two albums, extensions of the Pink Floyd sound. But solo albums were a different concept altogether and I had not really grasped that notion back then.

I suppose that this had been an opportunity to cut loose from the band and flex their individual talents in slightly different directions. David Gilmour’s album was more blues based whereas Richard Wright’s was a more laid back, easy going affair.

As it happened though, I was far from disappointed in those records. Both contain some brilliant songs and some very fine moments are to be found within them.
Pink Floyd in the early days

Wet Dream had been the first solo album by the late Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright and both this release and that of Gilmour’s slipped out very quietly and almost unnoticed at the time.

This, I am guessing, was down to the fact that, up until then, Pink Floyd had been a fairly private band. The individual band member’s names were only really known to those really keen fans who actively sought this kind of information out.

Check out the covers, or gatefold sleeves, on some of their early albums. At times these covers did not feature the band’s name. And the majority of the sleeves did not even contain any images of the group.

During the 1970s when the band was arguably at their peak interviews with them were, apparently, incredibly awkward affairs. This was particularly so when the questions veered away from the band’s current project or what the band was attempting to create musically. I personally, don’t think Pink Floyd were trying to be pretentious or anything like that. I just think it was a case of them wanting to keep their individual personalities out of their collective publicity.

In fact during an interview conducted in 1978 David Gilmour touched on this infamy: “This album was important to me in terms of self-respect. At first I didn't think my name was big enough to carry it. Being in a group for so long can be a bit claustrophobic, and I needed to step out from behind Pink Floyd’s shadow.”

And this privacy has, by and large, remained throughout the band’s existence. When Richard Wright passed away at the age of 65, during September 2008, the sparsest of information surrounding the incident was made available to the public.

In true Pink Floyd tradition and completely out of the blue a tweet appeared on July 5, 2014. It had been released by Polly Samson, the partner of David Gilmour, and simply mentioned that ‘Btw Pink Floyd album out in October is called ‘The Endless River’. Based on 1994 sessions is Rick Wright’s swansong and very beautiful.’

A day or so after that tweet the following statement appeared on Pink Floyd’s website: ‘Pink Floyd can confirm that they are releasing a new album The Endless River in October 2014. It is an album of mainly ambient and instrumental music based on the 1993/4 Division Bell sessions which feature David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright. The album is produced by David Gilmour with Phil Manzanera, Youth and recording engineer Andy Jackson. Work is still in progress, but more details to come at the end of the summer.’ Of course, the album’s actual release date was set for November 10.

Durga McBroom, who is one of Pink Floyd’s long time backing vocalist and a touring member, went on to
reveal: “The recording did start during The Division Bell sessions which is why there are Richard Wright tracks on it. But David and Nick Mason (Pink Floyd’s drummer) have gone in and done a lot more since then. It was originally to be a completely instrumental recording, but I came in last December and sang on a few tracks. David then expanded on my backing vocals and has done a lead on at least one of them.”

The cover art, created by Ahmed Emad Eldin, is a vision of a man punting across an ocean of clouds and onwards towards a sunset. I do think that it has brilliantly captured the essence of what the album is about.

The Endless River will be Pink Floyd’s 15th and, apparently, final album. David Gilmour was very recently quoted on BBC Radio 6 as saying, “It’s a shame, but this is the end. The Endless River is a continuous flow of music that builds gradually over four separate pieces over the 55 odd minutes. There’s a sort of continuum from the Division Bell album to this, and the last phrase but one on The Division Bell is ‘the endless river’: the endless river forever and ever, at the end of the song High Hopes. The only concept is the concept of me, Rick and Nick and I, playing together in a way that we had done way way back in the past but had forgotten that we did, and was instantly familiar.”

Nick Mason continued, “I think Rick would be thrilled actually. I think this record is rather a good way of recognising a lot of what he does. I think the most significant element was really actually hearing what Rick did, because, having lost Rick, it was that thing of... it really brought home what a special player he was.”

Pink Floyd played gigs in the Coventry area several times, in particular, during their early years. In addition to the package tour of 1967 that stopped off at Coventry Theatre and also featured Jimi Hendrix they also played venues like Warwick University and the Locarno ballroom.

These venues, along with the Lanchester Polytechnic, were revisited by the band during 1969. And then of course they returned to the Locarno during 1972 where they performed an early version of what would become ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.

During their time together it is estimated that Pink Floyd sold more than 250 million records worldwide. And that is before this latest release. During July 2005 the ‘classic’ line-up reformed for the Live 8 event at Hyde Park. Given the events that followed it was a rather timely reformation.

And it appears that the appetite for Pink Floyd music still exists. Apparently ‘The Endless River’ was the most pre-ordered album on Amazon of 2014. But as the saying goes, all good things come to an end sometime.

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