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I Call Him Gerald

29 September, 2018 (21:10) | Music | By: Ian Burdon

Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun

One of the first LPs I bought with my own money was A Nice Pair by Pink Floyd, a repackaging of their first two albums, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets.

I’d heard Dark Side of the Moon and Meddle by then, but at that point didn’t own a copy of either except for cassettes dubbed by a friend’s big brother. To this day I don’t own a copy of Dark Side of the Moon, and I pretty much lost interest in them completely when The Wall came out.

These days, the only three Pink Floyd albums I own and play are The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets, and Meddle. Of these, the one that gets played most frequently, probably once a week in the office, is The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Alas for my bank account, my original copy of A Nice Pair has long gone.

This is all to preface some comments on Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets at the Armadillo in Glasgow last night.

This is Mason’s deepdive into Pink Floyd’s earliest–and in my view greatest–material. Fearless and One of These Days from Meddle were the most recent things they played and they are from 1971.

And it was fantastic.

Lots of things stick in my head about the show, starting with the obvious: the spirit of Syd Barrett permeated the evening like the smell of joss sticks permeates your curtains. This was evident from first (Interstellar Overdrive) to last (Jugband Blues over the PA as we filed out at the end). I sensed that, whatever international acclaim Pink Floyd might have garnered subsequently, this was the music of the band Mason founded.

There are too many highlights to mention, from Guy Pratt’s casual virtuosity on Let There Be More Light, introduced by the disembodied voice of John Peel as ‘from their latest album’, to Mason’s poignant comment after Vegetable Man that the song was so short because ‘sadly we ran out of Syd, or maybe Syd ran out of us’, to the infectious enthusiasm of all the players. What took me by surprise, though it really shouldn’t have, was how raw and aggressive it was, given the reputation of British psychedelia for being fey and whimsical. This show was ferocious.

On the bus back to Edinburgh, one or two thoughts settled in my mind:

  • I have to see them again
  • It was terrific at the Armadillo; it would have been out of this world at Barrowlands, the venue for which this music is made
  • They could change the set completely and still have a fantastic show. I’d love to hear their take on Echoes and Rick Wright’s Remember A Day
  • I must listen again to Atom Heart Mother and Obscured by Clouds
  • There was only a decade between Pink Floyd at The Roundhouse and UFO and the emergence of punk. More than once I reckoned John Lydon would be a credible front person for this material, as would Siouxie Sioux or Viv Albertine. I’d love to hear Siouxie have a crack at See Emily Play for example. Robert Wyatt would fit in perfectly too.

Very highly recommended if they come round your way.

Setlist:

Interstellar Overdrive
Astronomy Domine
Lucifer Sam
Fearless
Obscured by Clouds
When You’re In
Arnold Layne
Vegetable Man
If
Atom Heart Mother
The Nile Song
Green Is the Colour
Let There Be More Light
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
See Emily Play
Bike
One of These Days
A Saucerful of Secrets
Point Me at the Sky

Comments

Comment from Malcy
Time September 30, 2018 at 6:59 pm

Another possible singer would, in my view, be the peerless Peter Hammill.

p.s. Oddly, although you don’t have a copy on your own of Dark Side Of the Moon, it’s the only album in my collection which I have on all formats. Originally on EMI cassette, then CD, then on an 8 track I found in a flea market (I have nothing to play it on…) and finally, only 4 years ago, on LP.

When they were making us all redundant in an unwise wave of outsourcing at npower, we were tidying up the office and found in the back of a storage cupboard a box containing over 50 LPs : predominately prog and early rock (BJH, Yes, Floyd, Can, Boston, Hawkwind and Budgie) but also containing Melanie, Otway/Barrett, IV Rattus Norvegicus, Carthy’s Out Of The Cut and Liege and Lief. For some reason, many people had thought that it must have been my box all along…

We had an e-mail baggsy/auction and the proceeds went to Macmillan, and the remains to a local charity book/LP shop : the LPs I walked away with (I had almost all the others I wanted already) were Close To The Edge (my LP copy had a damaged cover and no lyric sleeve), Hissing Of Summer Lawns, Technical Ecstasy, On the Border by Eagles and Dark Side Of The Moon. I had leafed through the box, seen DSOTM, had a crafty peek inside the sleeve, as you do, and the stickers were still inside.