Monday, January 10, 2011

Pink Floyd In the Flesh Tour 1977

Pink Floyd is not only one of the most popular bands of all times, but they have consistently raised the bar for rock concerts production since they formed in the late 60's. First known for their psychedelic light shows in England, the band always set about to incorporate new elements to their live show that complimented their sound. With the mainstream success of 1973's Dark Side of the Moon, and the financial rewards that went along with it, the band was one of the first to tour with a giant circular screen and a projector that played custom made films that were perfectly syncopated with their songs. The circular screen would remain a Pink Floyd trademark appearing at every Pink Floyd show throug the last tour in 1994. Keyboardist Rick Wright elaborated on this in an interview "People always expect the Flyod to come up with something different, new and better, when its comes to visuals, and its very difficult to keep thinking of new ideas. The projector for the film was incredibly expensive. Videos and projections are now commonplace at rock concerts and its easy to forget that the Floyd were pioneers in this regard. (See Photos Below)
They were also one of the first bands to use pyrotechnics, something that most large rock bands now incorporate into their shows.  See below from their 1973 tour:
 In 1977, Pink Floyd released Animals and set out to play some of their first American outdoor stadium shows in Spring and Summer of of that year. The tour was groundbreaking in several areas but was an important building block to putting together Mark Fisher and Jonathan Park for the first time and also building the team that 3 years later would create perhaps the most famous and audacious rock production of all time, The Wall (which will be explored in detail later in another post). At that time, most bands played under generic roofs made from scaffolding and tarp (see below) that were not appealing visually, so the band set out to create something different to perform under. At that time, most bands played under generic roofs made from scaffolding and tarp and was not appealing visually so the band set out to create something different. 

Ted Happold and Frei Otto were called upon to design umbrellas that would rise from below the stage and unfurl. They were ranged in diameter from 4.5m to 7m and made from White Cotton. Below are photos taken of all the umbrellas being tested in Cleveland, Ohio were the band set an all time attendance record.


 This enabled the band to use infatables above the stage which they would have not been able to do if using a scarffold stage roof.  If there was a chance of rain, the umbrellas would be deployed.  Mark Fiasher took these photos when the the umbrellas were being tested in London. All Photos Below: Copyright Mark Fisher


The inflatables were used in dramatic fashion during the show. The album Animals was influenced by George Orwell's book 1984 with the hierarchy of animals being represented by Sheep (people), Dogs (police), and Pigs (masters, politicians). During the song Dogs, the family would rise up inflated and then deflate, they then would inflate again with internal lights on, and at the line "dragged down by the stone" the family would deflate and slowly deflate down into a crumpled heap behind the stage.
This tour also marked the first time Mark Fisher and Jonathan Park collaborated on a stage design a relationship that would be one of the most creative partnerships in the touring business for years. They were responsible for creating the inflatables used on the tour. To tie in with the Animals album cover which features a floating pig ballon in front of the Battersea Power Station in London, Pink Floyd through Andrew Sanders commissioned the pair to create a nuclear family of a Mother, Father, and 2.5 offspring, a reference to a statistic that the average American nuclear family had 2.5 kids. A cadillac, a television, and a refrigerator full of phallic sausages was also made.
"Sanders and Fisher sculpted the scale models for the inflatables in styrofoam and using an overhead projector, enlarged tissue paper patterns from them up to full-size cutting patterns...Park engineered the rigging and designed and built the raising and lowering systems for the inflatables." (Sutherland Lyall, Rock Sets).





Jonathan Park recounts: "And so the sequence that these things would rise up would be the... if I remember the sequence correctly, the children would rise up first. There was a boy, and then a girl with half a boy. These were just two separate objects. They would go up, and they would be followed by the television, the refrigerator, the Cadillac and then would come the wife on the sofa, and also simultaneously rising would be the father... the man, both climbing the highest. And then they would all be rising up together and this was quite difficult to achieve, because what I discovered... you know we were working right on the limits of what the electric motors could do... the electric winches could do... with these special grooved drums that I had drawn up... and we actually made them all...the family would deflate and just hang there and then expand again, with their internal lights. And in the last verse the where the man is dragged down by the stone and found dead on the end of the phone, the family would descend and he would fly across to the far side of the stage and descend over the head and behind Dave Gilmour. And in the last dying moments of the song he would crumple in a heap behind the stage." (Rogerwaters.org)Below notice the .5 child.
 Below, stage techs are preparing the cadillac's "launch" before the show in Cleveland.
During the song Pigs, a giant inflatable Pink pig like the one on the album cover of Animals would rise up from the middle of the stadium where the mixing and light boards were located. It would fly over the audience on a cable sometimes as long as 1300 feet depending on the size of the stadium, stopping here and there to snort at the audience.
It would then disappear at the back of the stage. At outdoor shows, stage techs would fill a cheaper version of the inflatable with propane and helium and an igniter and let it rise above the stage into the sky where it would be ignited and would ignite and fall backstage. This stunt was successful until a show in Milwaukee where Mark Fischer and Richard Hartman experimented with acetlylene and oxygen and the cable got disconnected and the pig flew away over the parking lot where it exploded and fell damaging several cars. Park remembers the scene, "And I was holding one of the wires up to the head... with a snap hook on it and I just watched my wire come down with the snap on it. And the rest of it had disintegrated. And it went off with the most enormous bang... it was out in the car park, and it affected... it damaged a number of cars. It was extremely loud, and flaming bits of the inflatable even flew on to stage inside the stadium and the band jumped out of their skins. And there were definite orders to not repeat this after the concert. after being told off by the head master. It might look good... Roger was always very... it was very instructive working with him in this respect... because he might well decide that however interesting an affect was, it may become excessive and inappropriate he was a good judge."(Rogerwaters.org)
Below the only known photo of the "exploding" pig:

The enormous crowds on this tour began to bother Roger as he felt the crowd were there to party rather then contemplate the music and the lyrics. At the show in Cleveland, someone climbed onto the giant cable that stretched across the stadium and carried the pig. On the bootleg, an announcer can be heard pleading with the person telling them If anybody has hold of the other line on the pig up there, please let go, its very dangerous. We’re trying to bring it back in from over the audience. Please! Please let go of the line if you have your hand on the line.” Ten days later in Montreal, the famous "spitting" incident would happen, where Roger, supposedly spit on a fan who wouldn't be quite, and from his experience on this tour came up with the concept for The Wall, feeling that there was a metaphorical wall between the band and the audience. This idea came to fruition on The Wall tour 3 years later when a 40 foot wall was gradually erected between the band and the audience. The flying pig would become a concert staple for Pink Floyd and Roger Waters on all their subsequent tours. Below a photo from the Montreal concert:

At the outdoor Stadium shows During the song Sheep, small Sheep made out of a similar material as the inflatables where shot out of cannons from the side of the stage and floated down upon the crowd on the floor of the stadium.  Below: Sheep being tested.

©Copyright Mark Fisher

Above: sheep being unpacked before a show at Angels Stadium, Anaheim, CA.
Due to the lack of a permanent overhead stage truss, lighting was provided on pneumatic telescopic towers on either side of the stage, cherry pickers (which were also equipped with Pyro effects), and lights that were attached around the circular video screen." The cherry pickers were quire impressive as they could lower and rise above the band. Roadie Chris Cockram remembers the cherry pickers, "They were mounted on a 10 metre tractor unit that was driven in to position each side of stage. Each cherry picker traveled in its own 45ft truck. In the air they could be extended out over the entire stage, and the hydraulics, supporting the arm and cage were, smooth and responsive, they literally flew.The pilot sat in a racing car seat, and operated a single joy stick at his right hand, on the left all the switches for lights and flares, the Follow Spot was mounted to a swivel plate and sat just above his right shoulder, like some bloody great rocket launcher, theses things would glide in to position in silence, completely blacked out, the guy's wore all black, with balaclavas and gloves and then they would burst into view in a blaze of light and fly across the stage, I thought they were brilliant. There was a point in the show, with David Gilmour starting off on Steel slide guitar, the Cherry Pickers were positioned high over head, one over the Keyboard's, one over David, this thing would drop in to position to about 3 meters above his head, completely blacked out. The pilot was flying blind in a straight drop, I would count him down on the headset, that was fun, it became a competition to see how close we could get, and how quickly he could drop, but it had to be a smooth stop, H underneath was possibly one of the worlds leading musicians! Today you wouldn't get away with it."(Pinkfloydz.com) 
Close up of the Cherry Picker and the mounted lights:


Above Photos: Copyright Erich Biruk
As a climax to the show a huge rotating mirror fan that was built for the bands 1975 tour would rise up from behind drummer Nick Mason and spin as spotlights hit it creating prisms of lights that would reflect all over the audience and venue.
Chris Cockram remembers "We rehearsed assembling the bottom wings on to the massive mirror ball, as it appeared from under the stage, it was too big to fit under in one piece, so we assembled it as it rose. One night one of the wings wouldn't go on, (it had been bent during the last pack-down), there followed a frantic scramble for cable ties and Gaffa tape.
It was a race against time as we fumbled our way through trying to get it on, these things weighed a lot, steel frame, 2 meters long, and thick board with a thousand or so mirrors, just holding it up was hard, as it started to rise, we stuck 3 or 4 cable ties in each bolt hole, and slapped Gaff' across the frame, we kept at it until it was out of reach, When it started to spin, we all said a silent pray, and just hoped it would hold, underneath that was Nick Mason, thankfully it did, Forget putting tiles on the space shuttle, they should've used Gaff'!" (Pinkfloydz.com)
Photos Below: Copyright Erich Biruk

A video that shows good shots of the cherry pickers in action as well as the spinning mirror fan can be viewed by
clicking here.
At the Cleveland show, the band treated the record breaking 83,000 crowd to a treat with their plane emblazoned with Pink pigs on the underside of the wings. Jonathan Park recounts the story:"...at that time, the band and often the crew flew around in a 737 jet aircraft which was hired to transport us because we were doing these shows every other day all over the States. And in Cleveland, at the beginning of the show, there were sounds in the quad sound system like in Grand Chester Meadows. And then five minutes before the show, you'd hear church bells. And then about 30 seconds before the show the sound of a jet would fly over in the Quad... and very effective too. But at this show, it was decided that the group's aircraft was to actually be the jet! And it came... and it flew 500 feet over the docks... you know the badlands was near the docks in Cleveland... right over the stadium at about 500 feet! I mean it was fantastic!! And we got fined but $1500.00 for violating Federal air regulations. Of course these days you would not be even allowed to do anything like that, especially after 9/11." (Rogerwaters.org)

Roger was also very particular about the inflatables and other effects happening at precisely the right time. On a bootleg of the Cleveland show he is heard saying ''NOW WERE GOING TO DO ANOTHER SONG DEDICATED TO THE CREW CALLED ''WOULDNT KNOW A CUE IF IT FELL ON YOUR FUCKING HEAD'' obviously upset that they had missed a cue in the previous song.
Jonathan Park elaborates on this there was a lot of rushing around and frantic signaling to make sure that the cues took place on time, because you couldn't hear the music. What people don't realize is that when you're back stage, you can't hear the music with the same clarity as you can out front. And if you have to do a cue on a particular beat or word or particular guitar solo, then you need to be cued by the people out on the desk (the sound board usually located in the center of the audience) who can see and hear these things. So we eventually solved this by the time we did The Wall and would have a play back system in our control desk so we could hear everything, and also a television monitor so we could also have a complete picture of what was going on. So that we could keep... so we could cue things accurately. With Pink Floyd, and with Roger in particular, EXACT cueing was absolutely required. There was nothing that would make Roger more upset than if the cues didn't take place in the right place... if they just became just an effect that didn't relate to precisely to the song. There was a moment in dogs... I can't remember the line at the moment... but if I listen to Dogs... I know... suddenly my body goes into GO mode... you know, and it's counting out 20 seconds to go... 10 seconds to go... and Go... and my fingers operate, you know my eight fingers, would go into this array which would press all the buttons one by one. (Rogerwaters.org)


Like many tours during this period, the footage is limited and until any professional footage is released, all that exists are grainy super 8mm footage shot by fans. In the video below shot at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA in 1977, the umbrellas can be seen deployed over the stage and the cherry pickers can be seen hovering over the band and at one point deploying sparking pyrotechnics. At 2:40 there is footage of the "exploding pig".

  

I hope you enjoyed reading this, please feel free to comment or write andy thoughts or with any info that I can add to this article. I will be posting some shorter pieces in the next few months highlighting stages that have gone under the radar and have been forgotten by history.

7 comments:

Kunny said...

Awesome stuff! Thanks for posting this information. This has got to be my all time favorite Floyd material and tour in regards to the bootlegs I've heard. This helps to build the imagery in regards to how the show went chronologically.

geetarteem said...

It made my day finding this site.The exploding pig show in Milwaukee was my first concert.To this day day,that still stands as the loudest noise I ever heard.I had a grass pass and wasnt far from the stage.Awesome!It scared the crap out of me.I have been a stagehand almost 20 years and that is still my favorite concert.Ironically,the Division Bell in Ames Iowa was the first concert I built as a stagehand.Two very very high points of my life.I love the site THANK YOU!!!!!

Sagedrummer said...

Thanks for the kind words, I am glad there are some people out there who can appreciate the art of rock stage production. Lets hope the Floyd will go out on one more tour with Roger Waters!

geetarteem said...

You are very welcome my friend.It is totaly cool that you took the time and gave us chance to relive a great show.I worked on the U2 360 show in Seattle last month.WOW!that was huge.Prodution has sure come a long way since Animals.The call was relitively small for the size of that.The cranes did most of the work.I miss the old steel gigs.It was the biggest and most advanced prodution I have yet to work on,but it still didnt top the Animals show.I dont think anything ever will.That show had an intensity and feel to it that will never be recreated.The combination of the music,the artistry and the band was simply magic.When watch the clips or listen to the bootleg fron anehime,the feel comes back.I was only 15 and I remember it like yesterday.I still get the goose bumps when I talk about that show.The Division Bell had moments,but it wasnt the same.A tour with Roger would be the icing on the cake.Animals,both LP and show are masterpieces.I have seen better lights and better sound,but nothing will have that aura.The beauty of Pink Floyd.

Eder said...

Awesome! Thank you!

Unknown said...

I was at the Cleveland show in 77.
It was actually my first concert, and I was 15 at the time.
I have told stories about this show where I don't think people believed me. Thanks for the article.
Now I can substantiate my account of the best shows I have ever attended.

SkaaTeeBoy said...

Thank you SO much for this! I was 19 years old in Chicago when I saw this show. After ALL my years now of college and experience in audio/studio/performing, do I fully realize the miracle I was graced to witness. Info is SO limited on this subject and tour. Horrible it was never properly filmed. Again, many thanks!