Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tangerine Dream - Coventry Cathedral 1975 Updated 2019

Tangerine Dream played in Coventry Cathedral in 1975. Pete Clemons takes up the story for the Coventry Telegraph
Now includes an update article from Pete Clemons - written in 2019

Dream-y Gig in the Cathedral

Pete Clemons 

FORMED in Berlin, Germany during 1967 by keyboard player Edgar Froese, Tangerine Dream is an electronic music group. If you include studio, live and compilation releases their total output numbers in excess of 200 albums. This includes an incredible 60 plus film soundtracks. They do not gig so often nowadays but on the rare occasions that they do then they can still perform to sell-out audiences.

Tangerine Dream can only be described as a Marmite type band - you either love them or hate them. But there is little doubt that they were certainly an influence on the 1990s, early 2000s trance and dance music scene with its lush soundscapes and repetitive sequences. And I must admit that, when the mood is right, I really do enjoy listening to their atmospheric music. During 1974 Tangerine Dream embarked on a unique tour. It began when they had been invited to play both Munich and Reims Cathedral. At the time these events were seen as groundbreaking. What was essentially a form of rock music was rarely associated with such buildings.

And because of the success of the 1974 gigs Tangerine Dream were then invited to perform in the cathedrals of York, Liverpool and Coventry as a part their next UK tour. The visit attracted unprecedented coverage in the media, especially as how the new Coventry Cathedral had been built from the ruins of the old cathedral which, of course, had been destroyed by the Germans in 1940. However, despite the controversy, the gig went ahead on October 4, 1975 and was seen as a celebration of peace and reconciliation.

Edgar Froese mentioned at the time that he was not sure how well the band would be received in Coventry because of the devastation caused to the city during World War II. He went on that he had left his hotel during the morning of the concert and went for a walk around town. He had passed a news stand and could clearly read a headline that said '35 years ago they came with bombs - today they're coming with synthesisers'.

It was a unique and unconventional occasion for many reasons. Throughout the performance the band never uttered a word. Amid banks of keyboards and flickering computerised devices the three musicians, Edgar Froese, Peter Baumann and Christophe Franke, performed several, apparently, improvised pieces. They neither introduced themselves nor announced the music and as such the three pieces played have always remained untitled.

The performance was incredibly atmospheric. The band at that time was well known for not using guitar or drums, instead, they used taped loops, layers and textures. The three pieces were approximately 32, 40 and 18 minutes long respectively and the sell-out audience seemed spellbound by the whole thing. The band was surrounded by several dozen candles and they used the backdrop of Graham Sutherland's amazing tapestry to great effect.

Although at that time I was young and impressionable I think that, as far as the Coventry Telegraph were concerned, they were less than convinced and saw it all very differently as their reporter at the time noted the following: 'An accurate description and an intelligent definition eluded them. The sound soaked quadrophonically into every pore from the speakers that surrounded the 1,800 listeners and wrenched the senses into pleasant and unpleasant responses. The ultimate chemical reaction they try so hard to achieve just didn't happen'.

On the night it had been unreserved seating at the Cathedral and from memory I was sat a few rows from the front and, looking towards the altar, on the right hand side. I had been aware of camera booms floating around overhead but did not realise until sometime later that the whole event had been filmed by Thames television and directed by Tony Palmer for later broadcast on the BBC.

On October 3, 1976, almost a year to the day after the original concert, Tony Palmer's 30-minute film of the event was broadcast on BBC2. It soon became apparent though that, although the visuals were clearly from the Cathedral, the accompanying music was from something totally different altogether.

It turned out that Tony Palmer had put together the film and then mixed the footage together with excerpts from Tangerine Dream's then latest album 'Ricochet'.

From what I understand it seems that, unfortunately, the original soundtrack was lost along with a lot of the footage of the concert. So sadly we only have a few snippets from the band's sound check to view which had happened earlier in the day. It is also highly unlikely that we will ever get to see the whole event ever again.

'Ricochet' had been the band's first live album and consisted of just two long tracks mixed from recordings of that 1975 European tour. It was long rumoured that it was actually taken from the Coventry gig. But in fact much of the material for the album, in particular side two of the album, was recorded at Fairfield Halls in Croydon during Tangerine Dream's concert there on October 23, 1975. I suspect that very little, if any, of the Coventry Cathedral gig was used on the album.

Palmer's movie has now been made available on DVD and as hardly any film of the band from that period exists then, for me personally, it is still of historical interest. The movie attempted to combine psychedelic effects alongside the Cathedral's impressive architecture. It also gives some great shots of the massive amount of gear that was required to create the band's sounds. Nowadays of course it can be done with a lot less kit.

Tangerine Dream went on to perform in Coventry and the Midlands several more times, most notably at the Coventry Theatre during 1976, but it was that first visit that has remained imprinted in my memory ever since. It was one of those gigs that I had looked forward to with a great deal of excitement, it lived up to those expectations, but then it was all over far too quickly.

New update 2019

Tangerine Dream Coventry Cathedral – Update

The 4th October 1975 saw Tangerine Dream perform, what is now considered by some as a legendary concert, at the Cathedral.

Tony Palmer and a crew form Thames TV were on hand to record the whole thing for an edition of BBC Omnibus. Apparently one of the bands keyboard players, Christophe Franke, flew over specially to help with the editing of the film. A year later an edited version the concert was aired on BBC2.

However, rather than the music performed at the Cathedral being heard, instead you got to hear excerpts of the live album ‘Ricochet’ album being overdubbed.

Several versions of a DVD have since been released. To be fair, none of these DVD releases claim to be the real deal. But the artwork supplied with them is suggestive.

However, it seems that a staggering new box set titled ‘In Search of Hades’ and containing well over 24 hours of music and footage, contains some if not all of the Cathedral gig.

This monstrous box set focuses on the bands pioneering 1970s period with no less that eight discs of previously unreleased material. These include outtakes, unheard tracks, alternate versions along with multiple recordings of legendary live shows including the band's near-mythical ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’ soundtrack. The box set also boasts a heavy hardback book and two Blu-Ray discs.

However and, as to be expected, the box set does not come cheaply. I am seeing it priced at anywhere between a hefty 120 and 150 pounds. But do not give up hope. Several of the individual albums are being re-released at just over a fiver a go.

And one of those albums, Stratosphear, contains part of the gig as a bonus track. A 35 minute bonus track as it happens. Not the full gig but a fair chunk of it.

Additionally another box set that is dedicated to and totally focused on the Coventry Cathedral music and footage is also being promised. It seems that this project is a joint effort between Gonzo Media and the films original producer Tony Palmer.

The original footage of the 1975 Tangerine Dream gig at the Coventry Cathedral. This is NOT the 2007 DVD where BBC added some extras, but unfortunately also dubbed the Ricochet album over the video. This is an original VHS recording from TV as broadcast on BBC on 16/10/76, so the quality is not at all brilliant.


  1. Nice article. The Palmer TV documentary was actually broadcast on Sunday Oct 3rd, 1976 on BBC 2 8.15-8.45pm

  2. I was in the audience with a school friend. The performance was particularly soothing for both of us, as we'd nearly written the car off en route! A truly memorable evening.