THE JOURNALS OF ALAN RHODES
part II 1971-1977
PINK FLOYD: The Forum, March 12th, 1973
by Daniel Richler 2008
I remember reading that Montreal Gazette article Juan Rodriguez wrote about them being reminded of the church music they'd grown up with: it featured, I think, a photograph of Rick Wakeman at his keyboards in the golden cape he regularly wore on the Tales From Topographic Oceans tour, looking very much like a character out of a movie about the historical papacy. What exactly do I mean? Black Robe? The Godfather III? Ken Russell’s The Devils?. Whatever, Rodriguez was quite specific, as I recall, about Québecois teens yearning after a substitute for the smells and bells of church in what had been a domineering Roman Catholic and Jesuitical provincial history, and there you had it in arena art rock: the dry ice smoke, the stained-glass colours of the lighting rigs, the quasi-mediaeval outfits, the mellotron chorales, etc., not to mention a language which the fans did not, by and large, understand.
If you went to a French-Canadian school, which I did (Stanislas, in Outremont), and you knew those kids, it was hard to dismiss Rodriguez’ theory as pure BS. At the Forum in 1973 I remember kids shouting out for (and I don’t mean to sound demeaning, like Rudyard Kipling doing his insufferable Indian patois), “Hattom Art Mudder!” What were they thinking that meant? What did they think that album was about? (What did anybody, for that matter.) At my classmates’ parties and Laurentian ski trips, where I was embraced as a recently arrived, authentic “bloke” from England who was taking the trouble to learn French, I sat in circles listening to both sides of Echoes uninterrupted, while stoned to the point of levitation and being bombarded with questions about how close I’d lived to “de” Floyd (not at all), if I’d seen them at Crystal Palace in the 60s (I had not), what specific lines of “A Pillow of Winds” or “San Tropez” meant, and what the chorus at the end of “Fearless” was (it’s the Liverpool Football Club warming up before putting the boot in—I was sorry to burst their balloon).
Anyway, for the Forum show in 1973, it being in support of Dark Side of the Moon, their breakthrough album in North America, Pink Floyd pulled out all the stops available at the time, theatrically speaking: the circular projection screen, movies and lights and smoke galore, plus a rudimentary surround-sound system put to particular effect at the start of the second half - no warm-up act for them, even then - with with the cash register FX in “Money” crashing around the arena like a titanic sack of money. I had pushed my way to the very front, as security in those days was a lot more lax (a year or two later I remember Carlos Santana interrupting a number to complain that security wasn’t allowing kids to even stand up to dance), and I had my elbows on the stage right at David Gilmour’s feet. Cool!
What can I tell you about the music? Basically, it was a supersonic dream. I remember Dave Mason’s drums in particular being fantastically crisp, especially during the warm-up to “Time” as they echoed across the galaxy, and Gilmour’s guitar effects being intoxicatingly stratospheric. I’ve always been struck by how the sheer simplicity of Pink Floyd’s compositions had such a mind-blowing effect. I mean, Roger Waters’ bass lines often re-trod the same bum-bumm-bum-bum-bummm octave step, and the improvs were so frequently an elementary blues progression, but man, the imaginative use they put to those basic building blocks helped us all take off like no-one else did. I’d love to be proven wrong about that, but I’m also surprised how hard it is to find concert diaries on the web; even www.brain-damage.co.uk, which one would think would be a magnet for teen journals like yours, Alan, really only features the legendary Olympic Stadium gig in any detail. Perhaps it’s that, cinematic as the experience of being there was at the time, the shows were very similar, note-for-note and one to the next, and the band were for most of the crowd like ants on a matchbox. Listen to any bootleg and you’ll know what I mean; it’s not like the volatile and anarchic Sex Pistols events, for instance, less than five years later.
One thing I do remember is that when the lights went up at the end of the first half, there was an 18,000-strong gasp of wonder at the accumulation of smoke—you couldn’t see from one end of the Forum to the other.
Another memory I have is of Roger Waters during the intermission, seated behind the amp stacks in his black T-shirt and jeans, eating a banana. I remember thinking how disappointingly un-rockstar that was, as if rock stars weren’t allowed to do regular human things like eat fruit. Of course, if you think now of the distance between the breakfast cafeteria scenes in Live at Pompeii and the terminally decadent fantasies in Alan Parker’s The Wall, you see how it was “all in the mind.”