A musical experience:
Dark Side of the Moon, Part 3
My first exposure to Pink Floyd was in the early 70s, thanks to my best friend Joe, whom I was playing chess with on a regular basis. He couldn’t defeat me at the time, but he said he needed the practice to sharpen his skills for the ROTC chess tournament at Howard University.
I shared with him a strategy I had devised back then and he won the tournament.
Later, when Pink Floyd had a concert at the Capital Center, in the mid 70s, I chose the seats and we went to the concert. It turned out the seats I chose, straight back from center stage on the upper level, would be occupied by a speaker, as part of a quadraphonic sound system.
Our seats were moved forward into an aisle, but we were still straight back from center stage, the best way to hear stereo.
I’ll never forget the extremely unique experience of being at that concert. As the lights went down, the audience lit up their cigarettes and pipes. I witnessed a pipe in the aisle in front of me choke seven people going down and seven people coming back!
Then the concert started with a song from their current LP at the time, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” The soothing mellow intro, along with a round screen above the stage showing a video, seemed to put me into a trance. I had been taught not to talk while watching a movie with others, as a common courtesy. So there I was, sitting with Joe, listening to the music and watching videos. I never looked to the right or left until the music stopped and the band was taking a break!
I looked at Joe and all I could say was, “Wow!”
Then, when they performed the instrumental “On the Run,” the sound effects that I had experienced in stereo were further enhanced by the propagation of the unusual quadraphonic placement of the speakers. In addition to the normal stage speakers, there was a speaker behind me, and speakers located on the far left and far right, centered between the back speaker and the stage. The sound engineers caused the music to go from the stage, to the back, to the left, to the right; then from the stage, to the left, to the back to the right; and back to the stage. This was an awesome demonstration of their audio system.
As this was going on, just before the end of the song, spotlights illuminated an airplane starting from the top-rear of the arena, headed toward the stage. The audience began to cheer!
When it reached the stage, there was an explosion. I recall sparks flying as though the plane had crashed.
The audience roared with excitement! I believe the next song was “Time.” The visual effects are still in my memory. In the beginning, when the alarm clocks and bells were sounding off, they were displayed on the video screen. In addition, there was an extremely large crystal ball, maybe 20-feet wide, that began to rotate in a clockwise direction with at least 12 spotlights pointed at it. The visual effect made the interior of the Capital Center look like a swarm of bees, represented by tiny dots of white lights. As the song went on, petals with their own reflective surface began to emanate from behind the crystal ball. By the time the song ended, the crystal ball had slowed to a stop, the petals had reached their maximum length, about 10 feet, and from my perspective, we were looking at a flower in full bloom. “Wow,” I said again. The audience let out a sustained roar!
When Clare Torrey performed her moaning vocals for “The Great Gig in the Sky,” a green laser emanated from the stage, propagating the image of a wave. It illuminated and was enhanced by the presence of the smoke in the air. As the soulful sound of her voice progressed, the wave of laser light seemed to be a visual representation of the music. “What a great audio/visual presentation,” I thought.
And during the song “Money,” I remember the video screen showing slot machines, people hitting the jackpot, stacks of newly printed bills being delivered to a bank, the stacks of money inside a bank vault and a Learjet in flight. The music and video were “rocking.”
I recall the video of “Us and Them” was a scene from South Africa of rich folks and then enslaved workers in a line putting on boots in unison, then riding down on an elevator to a diamond mine.
I have been to many concerts in my lifetime. To this day, that first Pink Floyd show stands out as the very best. Not only for the music, but for the utilization of a special quadraphonic speaker system, for the surprising visual effects of the movie screen and for the special props. It was, and still is, the most amazing concert I’ve ever been to.
In the future, I will write about the 1988 Pink Floyd concert that I attended in Los Angeles. I purchased the video of that concert on a VCR tape entitled “The Delicate Sound of Thunder.” Experience it yourself if it’s still available! I will also write about the recent Brit Floyd concert that I experienced at the Warner Theater in April.