Sound On Stage, June 1997 (number 8)
'Welcome to the Machine' The story of Pink Floyd's live sound: PART 4
By Mark Cunningham
MARK CUNNINGHAM concludes his unique 4-part documentary with a look at Pink Floyd's live achievements following the departure of Roger Waters, including the record- breaking Division Bell tour of 1994.
As the dust settled after the multi-faceted "Wall" project, it became clear that Pink Floyd would not be able to withstand the internal problems which had been growing since the making of "Animals" in 1976. Whilst it had not been announced officially, Rick Wright had left the band, and with Roger Waters establishing a virtual autocracy, little room remained for the input of other members. Not surprisingly, the band's next album, "The Final Cut (A Requiem For The Post War Dream)", released in March 1983, was little more than a Waters solo venture, even though he valued (and continues to value) the guitar work of David Gilmour.
Nevertheless, so distanced was Gilmour from the bass player, both creatively and personally, that he withdrew his own name from the production credits of "The Final Cut" and, immediately following the last session began work on his second solo album, "About Face". Waters, meanwhile, returned to a song cycle he had demoed in 1978 as a possible Floyd album, and in 1984, he issued his "Pros and Cons Of Hitchhiking". Both musicians embarked on solo tours in Europe and America that year. Waters hired Eric Clapton as his lead guitarist and staged a live production that won the approval of many a discerning Floyd fan, while Gilmour favored a lower key approach. It soon became obvious that the Pink Floyd name was always going to attract a far greater audience than any of the individual members, even though Waters might not have found it comfortable to agree with such sentiment.
To those close to Pink Floyd, it came as no shock when the tension within the band resulted in Waters quitting in December 1985. "It took a lot of strength to walk away," he said later. A well-publicized feud followed over the next two years, with a legal battle which saw Gilmour eventually winning the rights to the Floyd moniker. By the summer of 1986, he was back in the studio with Mason and the newly re-elected Wright (and a host of session musicians) to work with "The Wall"'s co-producer Bob Ezrin on the first album from this new regime, "A Momentary Lapse Of Reason", and rehearse for the first Pink Floyd live dates since 1981.
The new Floyd was fleshed out by, among others, Gilmour's friend from Cambridge and erstwhile Mike & The Mechanics guitarist Tim Renwick, ex-Icehouse bassist Guy Pratt, percussionist Gary Wallis, and keyboard player Jon Carin, who helped Wright renew his skills as a musician after succumbing to Water's autocratic behavior during the "Wall" project. Talking about the acrimonious split with his former bass playing partner during an interview to publicize the tour, Gilmour said: "There are many things that Roger contributed to Pink Floyd that are missed, such as his positive drive, his concepts, and especially his skill as a lyricist. But I think the awful ex- perience of living with Roger's megalomania burned Nick and Rick out to a certain degree, and it affected their confidence as musicians."
On their "Momentary Lapse" tour of 1987-89, the Floyd performed 199 shows to a total worldwide audience of 5.5 million, despite their initial plan to simply promote the album with an 11 week trek. Typically for Floyd, it was the largest production ever taken on the road at the time and featured the world's biggest outdoor stage, custom-built by Paul Staples. The proscenium alone was 85 foot high by 98 foot wide. Transportation required four steel systems on the road at any one time, and 45 trucks were used to move the steelwork and equipment.
In 1984, during the band's inactive period, Britannia Row Productions became an independent company, purchased from Pink Floyd by Robbie Williams and Bryan Grant. For this tour, Brit Row merged their own facilities with those of their close associates, American-based Maryland Sound Inc. (MSI) whose proprietary PA stock formed the core of the touring system. This featured quantities of 4 x 15-inch low packs, 4 x 12-inch high packs and a TAD 2001 high end driver, all powered by P500 amplification.
The tour began in Ottawa on September 9 1987, with MSI also fulfilling the band's quad requirements. However, by the time the shows hit Europe, Brit Row
exercised its wishes to introduce Turbosound TMS-3s as the quad replacements. Grant says: "The point at which Brit Row began to seriously consider Turbosound as its main source of arena and
stadium systems came in September 1988, when Samuelsons was being radically restructured and we saw an opportunity to purchase its entire TFA Turbosound stock, while also employing most of the
SOUTHERN FRIED SOUND
A new face among the Pink Floyd crew in 1987 was American front-of-house engineer Buford Jones whose experience in the sound reinforcement business began in 1971 as part of Showco's team in Dallas, Texas before he turned freelance in 1980. By the time of his introduction to the Floyd, his live mixing credits had included ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, and David Bowie. Quality references indeed, but 10 years on, Jones is still not clear as to why his name was suggested for the Floyd tour.
He says: "The phone rang one day and Robbie Williams asked if I was interested, so an appointment was set up for me to see David Gilmour in LA, and the next day I was officially on board. Unlike James Guthrie, I had not worked with them in the studio so it was new ground for both parties. Maybe they were looking for someone who was used to working for live bands all year round, in which case I was a perfect candidate. I treated the gig with the same degree of musical sensitivity that I have always relied upon. My objective is always to learn the music and reproduce it as closely as possible for an audience."
Jones may have worked with some of the biggest names in the world, but even he was not accustomed to working with a quad sound system in a stadium production. During rehearsals in Toronto, it became clear to Gilmour that even though he had broad shoulders, the responsibilities he had set himself in pulling the show together were just too much to bear on his own. Inevitably, he called upon James Guthrie and Bob Ezrin to help smooth the way and offer their informed opinions. It was Guthrie who coached Jones as a newcomer to 'the Floyd way', taking him through the vital cues, fader rises, and dynamics of the mix.
Says Jones: "The Floyd project made for an incredibly interesting challenge, and to do that quad mix and analyze it was a hell of an education, because it was not something that came from the book. It was something quite unique to Floyd. What you could achieve by panning an instrument around the room was amazing. You could actually shift the reverb of something into the center of the room or to the back. Those sorts of things were judgment calls that I would use to determine what I thought was exciting. You wouldn't have those opportunities with other artists."
In easing Jones into the situation, David Gilmour made himself available to answer important technical queries and give his views on the engineer's suggestions. "He always gave me a straight answer," says Jones. "But I found that the person who was best at explaining exactly what was needed was Jon Carin. Whenever I am working on a tour, I always focus on one individual from a band, and Jon was my music source. Night after night, we would religiously listen to the show tapes and analyze them so that we could improve on the mix with each performance."
At the start of rehearsals, Jones was using a Midas Pro 4C console, which had become a little tour-weary by 1987 and was in need of replacement. For the meantime, it would still cope admirably with Mason's and Wallis's drums and percussion (with the aid of a 16-channel stretch board), but it was also decided to take on two Yamaha PM3000 consoles. Added to this equipment was a new quad console designed and built expressly for the tour by Britannia Row. This configuration stayed in place until a third PM3000 finally replaced the Midas setup for the 1989 legs, for which the crew personnel remained virtually identical.
Jones comments: "I thing the complexity of MSI's wiring, to get those three consoles working together, was astounding, and those desks were really working for me. I felt the partnership between MSI and Brit Row was very smooth, mainly because of Robbie Williams, for whom I have tremendous respect. The cooperation with regards to what I needed was always there, 100%, and Robbie was always around to back me up.
"We had 136 input channels over three consoles, so that was a lot different to what I'd been used to. In addition to the personnel from MSI and Brit Row, Pink Floyd let me choose two people to help me with the engineering so that I could concentrate more on the musical elements of the mix and ensure a consistency from gig to gig. I had worked on several tours with assistants to whom I would delegate certain responsibilities. When we started out, I had James Geddes, a studio engineer for Jackson Browne, and Bob Hickey, who had mixed James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. I hired Bobby to handle the drum mix for me, while James took control of the effects returns and quad tape returns. Their consoles dumped into mine and I would blend their levels into the rest of the mix."
Once the crew's initial excitement from the early tour dates began to dissipate, Jones started to relax and enjoy working on what he describes as a major highlight of his engineering career. He then watched with amusement as, later in the tour, his assistant engineers were replaced with some new blood, namely Larry Wallace and Dave Lohr. "There were lots of mistakes on the first two shows when the change took place. When the new guys came on, it was quite funny to see them struggle through their initial freak out stage with the sophisticated demands of the show. We'd already been through that and it made us realize the extent of what we were doing. A little bit of every emotion is going to flow as you get to grips with it."
Seth Goldman began mixing the Floyd's monitors in America with a Midas Pro 40 console, but a lack of channels forced him to switch to a Ramsa 840 and a
Yamaha PM3000 for mixdown to sub-groups when the tour reached Europe on June 10 1988. Buford Jones comments: "Very seldom did I have any problem with the feedback that you can sometimes get with
loud monitoring. Although much of that was down to Seth's sensitive skills, the stage design was also responsible in the way that the wedges were pointing upwards from underneath the stage grating, so
there was very little interaction between the monitors and the front-of-house mix. Certainly, the signals that were coming off stage did not require me to do much in the way of extensive EQing."
Having already played at Wembley Stadium and Manchester City FC's Maine Road ground in the August of the previous year, Pink Floyd returned to the UK and performed at London Arena on July 4-9 1989, two weeks before completing the last leg of their long-running "Momentary Lapse" tour in Marseilles.
Following a year which saw the Floyd members individually guesting at friends' gigs and appearing on studio sessions, the band reassembled for a memorable one-off performance in front of 125,000 people at Knebworth on June 30, 1990, where they "headlined" above Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Genesis, Dire Straits, Eric Clapton, Tears For Fears, Status Quo, Cliff Richard & The Shadows, and Robert Plant & Jimmy Page -- easily the greatest gathering of British stars since Live Aid. The concert was in aid of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy and the BPI's BRIT School for Performing Arts, and 60,000 UKP of Pink Floyd's own money was spent on an outstanding fireworks display as the finale.
The Brit Row PA for the occasion consisted of Turbosound TMS-3 cabinets, stacked eighty per side, ten wide and eight deep, and MSI high and low packs on three delays. "The prevailing wind shot right down the site and we had more sound out backstage than out front!" recalls Bryan Grant. Although on tour in Canada that June with David Bowie, Buford Jones was allowed to skip two dates to work with Pink Floyd at Knebworth, and was supported by Andy Jackson who, four years later, would slide into Jones's front-of-house shoes with consummate professionalism.
At this show, his last with the Floyd, Jones was only able to arrive in time for the soundcheck on the previous evening, and in hindsight, he feels that
his task was hampered by his lack of pre-rehearsal. He says: "Knebworth was a wonderful opportunity to reunite with the band and crew, and be able to look back on the previous tour with great
fondness. I gave it my best shot at Knebworth, but I did suffer from the disadvantage of a tight schedule which didn't allow for any preparation. Nonetheless, Andy was a big help by doing what the
other two guys had done for me on the last tour; I think we maybe had two different approaches. And the only thing I regret was not having enough time together to map the show out in detail
beforehand." Despite such problems and even in the face of a rain storm, Pink Floyd's set completed a fabulous day, but the band's most outstanding tour was still yet to come.
THE TOLL OF THE BELL
Recorded aboard The Astoria, David Gilmour's houseboat studio on the River Thames, "The Division Bell" signified the true renaissance of Pink Floyd. For the first time in many years, Mason and Wright were playing with passion and confidence, while Gilmour felt he was in a real band once more, instead of "shaping" music with a bunch of associates as had largely been the case with "A Momentary Lapse Of Reason". With the album in the can, Pink Floyd flew to America in February 1994 to begin production rehearsals for their forthcoming tour in the world's largest aircraft hangar at Norton Air Base in San Bernardino, California, under the jurisdiction of the appointed rehearsals project manager, Richard Hartman and production director Robbie Williams.
These days, it is hard to think of the name Britannia Row without thinking of stadium shows and blue boxes. But Floyd's "Division Bell" tour was one of the first occasions where the Turbosound Flashlight system was used on a full-scale stadium production, on this occasion delivering no less than 232,000 Watts of unbridled music power. Rarely does a rock'n'roll show garner praise for its sonic fidelity in the general press, but throughout the tour, newspapers the world over raved about the "perfect quadraphonic sound system". One reporter, Michael Norman of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, was moved to write: "No rock band can match Pink Floyd when it comes to making a stadium show come off sounding as if it's being held in your living room."
Although the touring system went through several changes following the opening dates in America, the PA itself normally consisted of 200 cabinets with 112 of these forming the front-of- house system across two steel towers. The main PA consisted of 32 Flashlight mid/high cabinets per side, eight wide by four deep, with a further 32 sub-boxes at stage level in the wings. Wide dispersion Floodlights were positioned at the front of the stage as fill-in cabinets, and both Floodlight and Flashlight enclosures were used for the three quadraphonic stacks. Each of the delay towers, meanwhile, carried six focused mid/high and six bass cabinets. The configuration of the PA provided maximum horizontal and front-to-rear coverage, with dispersion spread out to the extremes of the audience. This coverage was further enhanced by having flown mid/high boxes and tall, narrow bass stacks.
This system was amplified by BSS EPC-760s and -780s, and the control racks dedicated to the PA were also full to the brim with BSS wares. These included FDS-360 crossovers, TCS-804 digital delays, MSR-604 and -602 mic splitters, DPR-502 dual graphics, and a bank of Varicurve for accurate remote equalization of the house and delay rigs.
Set designer Mark Fisher and construction companies Brilliant Stages and StageCo designed and built three enormous stage sets (the largest ever) measuring 60 meters wide by 22 deep by 23.5 high, incorporating 700 tons of steel. Each stage (based on the famous domed Hollywood Bowl) took three days to build, eighteen hours to set up, seven hours to break down, and two days to fully dismantle for load-out. Hence, a strict "leapfrogging" regime was put into action on each leg of the tour, with 33 trucks delivering the staging to venues well in advance of each show.
By contrast, the complete PA system, including delays and quad towers, fitted into a paltry two trucks. Years before, a system of similar power would have required more than double the trucking, but the deceptive size-to-performance ratio of the compact, new generation Turbosound system contributed to a healthy cost saving. And yet more staggering statistics: the tour also employed eight tour buses, another eighteen trucks for production, catering and power, and a 161-strong crew. All in all, this required $4 million to finance prior to the first performance, and a further $25 million in running costs. The 100,000 UKP loss suffered by the Floyd on their 1974 UK tour now paled into petty cash-sized insignificance.
Making his first appearance with the band since they played at The Roundhouse in 1968 was lighting designer Peter Wynne Wilson who brought a psychedelic
flavor to the set with the live liquid light show he previously projected onto the Floyd, back in the Syd Barrett era. Fittingly, and much to the amazement of fans, the band included a faithful
interpretation of "Astronomy Domine" (from their 1967 debut album) in their set. The inclusion of the track on the live album "Pulse" would earn Barrett substantial royalties. In
an equally nostalgic gesture, Pink Floyd dusted down and performed "The Dark Side Of The Moon" in its entirety in Detroit on July 15, the first time the band had done so since Knebworth in
1975. This, along with other classics, new and old, from the Floyd catalogue, benefited from the latest in film projection technology, namely four Cameleon Teleprojectors and a Bran Ferren-designed
70mm, 10kW Xenon, SMPTE timecode-controlled projector with the capacity for a 6,000 foot reel. Such expensive hardware was used to display special footage conceived for the tour by long-term Floyd
associate Storm Thorgerson, formerly of design gurus Hipgnosis.
At front-of-house, 136 channels were controlled by two Yamaha PM4000 consoles and a PM3000, whose sole purpose was to handle the effects returns. Added to the desk inventory was a custom- designed Midas XL3 quad board with a central VCA section and dual joysticks for panning. As part of Brit Row's equipment stock, this desk would later be used on a variety of tours, including Oasis's 1996 summer festivals.
Mark Fisher styled the mixing tower in such a way that it would appeal to the band while they performed for two hours! Within this structure were front-of-house engineer Andy Jackson and his assistants Colin Norfield and Dave Lohr. Jackson, who had engineered the new album, the "Wall" movie soundtrack, and "The Final Cut", as well as a number of Floyd solo projects, concentrated on mixing the bulk of the band, while Norfield handled bass, drums, and PA management duties, and Lohr controlled the quad system and tape effects.
This was not the first time that Norfield and Jackson had worked together. Six months before the tour, during a break from the "Division Bell" sessions, Pink Floyd performed a short set of classics at an all-star charity show organized by Mike Rutherford of Genesis in Cowdray Park, Sussex on September 18 1993. Whilst Jackson mixed the Floyd (with Rutherford on bass), he was all too aware of the simplicity of Norfield's front-of-house organization of the consoles for the sets by Eric Clapton, Genesis, and the remaining three members of Queen. Norfield recalls: "I had three drum kits subbed on a Yamaha PM3000 into three pairs of groups on the PM4000. Andy came up to me and said that he thought what I'd done was great and that it made his life a lot easier when it was his turn to mix. So when the Floyd tour came around, he was quite happy to have me on the tour with him. Likewise, it was a big thrill for me."
Jackson's transition from the studio work on the album to arriving in the States for the tour appeared to be seamless. Ahead of him, Norfield and Seth Goldman busied themselves with preparations for the forthcoming American trip. "Andy was doing things on the album right up to the last minute," says Norfield. "We were down at rehearsals in San Bernardino, and it all came together brilliantly from the start."
The responsibility for the overall management of the PA system was assigned to Norfield. He says: "The buck stopped with me, so to speak. Dave Lohr would go in before me to EQ the quads, then Paddi Addison and I would follow him to run up the PA with pink noise and unit checking, so it was all ready to go. I then put some music through the system that I was very familiar with and EQ'd it to my taste. After a thorough line check, Andy would come in, and the countdown to the show began."
Says Jackson: "In theory, I retained overall control of the mix, because Colin's desk was sub-grouped through mine, and I had a couple of master faders for the two drum kits. Originally, I also controlled the bass, but I gave it over to Colin, because it seemed to make more sense. Fortunately, we worked pretty well together and saw eye to eye about most things, so in practice I didn't have to start pushing his masters around as might have happened with other engineers I've worked with."
In spite of appearances, Jackson insists that the job of mixing the Floyd was not as complex as it initially seemed, especially with his partner Norfield around. "In some ways, because of the amount of control we had, it was easier than mixing a gig in a small club. Colin and I had many discussions on how we were going to approach the show, and we both agreed that we would get the best results if we kept it as simple as possible. This, we felt, would leave us free to do the more important things better, namely organize sounds and balances. We weren't making technical changes for the sake of it, we were literally trying to improve the sound quality of the shows as they progressed."
Amongst the 11-piece band (which also featured "Dark Side"/ "Wish You Were Here" saxophonist Dick Parry and backing singer Sam Brown) was Jon Carin whose large synthesizer rig was pre-mixed on stage for a direct stereo feed to Jackson at front of house. "The levels were actually changed on the synths themselves," comments Jackson. "I might say, 'Can you make that piano sample a touch louder?' and Jon would take it up a notch, so that when he called up that patch, for whichever song, it was just that bit louder. We would refine that mix between us in soundchecks before gigs, and once it was sorted, it was the same every night. It was so much easier than having half a desk full of keyboard channels." In a similar vein, Colin Norfield received a stereo feed from Gary Wallis's electronic percussion.
As the tour continued, from America to Europe, Jackson and company set about gradually decreasing the number of channels they were using in an attempt to further simplify their engineering tasks and establish a more foolproof setup. Jackson says: "David Gilmour had four guitar cabinets in stereo, with two different types of cabinet (WEM and Marshall) each side. Initially I had four mics up, one on each cabinet, but I ended up trimming it down to two because they did the job just as well and there was less to go wrong. The same thing would happen on drums where Colin started the tour with a top and a bottom snare mic, but we dumped the bottom mic because it just wasn't necessary. We also lost the mic on Guy Pratt's bass amp and resigned ourselves purely to the DI signal. Within a short time, we had got things down pretty much to a good workable minimum. I would much rather spend my time riding Dave's lead vocal fader because it is more important.
"Dave's guitar sound continued to be processed from his own rack, and we didn't really have to do anything to it at front of house. We didn't use too much outboard really. We used some things to brighten, fatten, and lend ambiance to vocals, such as harmonizers. There were, of course, the normal gates and compressors, and some specific long delays on vocals, but in terms of reverbs, we didn't go very far because there's not much need for reverb when you're playing in stadiums!"
Gilmour used a regular Shure SM58 for vocals, while the other singers were on SM51 condensers. The guitar cabinets were miked with updated versions of the small, square Sennheisers, which were favored Floyd microphones 20 years earlier. "They sounded OK when I pushed the faders up!" laughs Jackson. "We had some other Shure mics on the blankets inside the kick drums," he adds. "They looked like PZMs but were actually dynamic mics. [Shure] SM57s were placed on Nick and Gary's snares, and on toms, we had little Ramsa tie-clip mics that clung to the tom shells." Also for drums were AKG 414s on overheads and SM57s and 414s on Wallis's percussion.
For the first time, Pink Floyd's monitoring comprised of 23 Turbosound floor wedges and three Garwood Radio Station in-ear monitoring systems: Nick Mason exclusively used ear molds, Gary Wallis had molds, headphones, and a regular three-way sidefill, and Dick Parry used molds plus one wedge. Normal wedges were used by every other band member. "I tried the ear molds out with Rick Wright, but he didn't get on with them," says Seth Goldman who was assisted on monitors by Alan Bradshaw. Between them, they controlled the stage mix with two VCA-linked Midas XL3s -- one carrying the vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, and effects returns, the other taking care of the two drum kits and percussion. One interesting invention to aid contact between the band and Goldman was a footswitch device by each vocal microphone, which removed the mic from the house PA and routed the voice to a speaker above Goldman's desks. This enabled any one of the band members to calmly request any adjustment to monitoring levels without resorting to the traditional screaming of abuse endured by other monitor engineers!
Working closely with Jackson and Norfield, Dave Lohr operated two eight-track tape machines for effects playbacks, with the first four tracks sent to each of the four quad points, and the others used for timecode, clicks, and feeds to the stage. Rather than re-invent the wheel, Pink Floyd unearthed the master show tapes from previous tours and compiled new eight-track reels to replace their worn-out predecessors.
Jackson: "For the '94 tour, it was done using Dolby SR, because it was the new system whereas it had previously been dbx noise reduction. It is surprising that the Floyd have been happy to adopt low tech solutions when they are known for being high tech, and again a fairly low tech approach was made. The actual effects were mainly recorded at the time of the albums, and there were quite a few that I was involved in, such as people running down corridors, Roger driving his car around the car park at the back of the studio, and rowing down a river. A few effects were timecode synched to film, but a lot of them were flown in manually. It was a case of Dave Lohr cueing up a section of the tape and pressing the button at the right time. It was always close enough, because the effects were not so musically critical that they had to be bang on time.
"Inevitably, at the end of every show, we'd have a talk about what we did and try to tighten things up on the next one, having listened to the DATs I recorded each night. But it didn't take long to get the show well routined. At the end of the tour, all the DATs were locked in a cupboard somewhere, probably in the Floyd warehouse. They were all collected up and a list had to be made of where each one was and who I'd given one to. A few of them went missing... I'm sure you could find the bootleg somewhere!"
Much shorter than the previous Pink Floyd outing in 1987-1989, "The Division Bell" tour ended in late 1994 and immediately went into the history books as a classic Floyd period, one which was a veritable showcase for the art of concert production in the '90s. As David Gilmour commented: "The response to 'The Division Bell' and the tour was beyond our wildest dreams. To still be pulling in crowds of this magnitude [an average of 45,000 per night in America] is pretty mind-blowing."
Colin Norfield almost certainly speaks for the whole crew when he says: "Andy, Dave, myself, and all the guys had enormous fun on the road with the
Floyd, and it probably rates as the most enjoyable tour I've been on in my 28 years as an engineer."
COMING BACK TO LIFE?
If there is a common thread which links those who have been fortunate to work on the road with Pink Floyd, it is one of immense pride and satisfaction at being part of what critics have dubbed "the greatest show on Earth". Britannia Row's Bryan Grant says: "I've always felt that part of Pink Floyd's success has been because they always wanted to push boundaries and give an immense production value to what they do. Their concerts are multimedia events and that tradition stretches way back to their psychedelic period with the oil slides. They are certainly hugely responsible for the way concert productions have grown more sophisticated over the years." Long-standing lighting designer Marc Brickman agrees: "The thing about the Floyd is that they're always prepared to take chances, and new things evolve because of that. They're still right on the cutting edge."
With thirty years of madness, pigs, walls, musical innovation, and human conflict behind them, one might say that little remains for Pink Floyd to conquer. Critics assumed they were washed up when Syd Barrett left in 1968. They were wrong. Immense skepticism crept in when Floyd continued without Roger Waters. "The Division Bell" kicked the narrow-minded firmly into touch. Despite seeming impossibilities, with every tour they have always managed to exceed even their own monumental standards of presentation. This obviously begs the question, what next?
With David Gilmour mostly concentrated on family life in the Sussex countryside at present, it would seem that if there are plans for the Floyd machine to spring back to life, it will not occur in the near future. But perhaps we could expect a multimedia Millennium spectacular to end all spectaculars. It would certainly be a fitting end to the 20th century -- the century which gave birth to rock'n' roll and witnessed amazing leaps in concert technology.
Perhaps the next Pink Floyd shows will take place somewhere in the outer reaches of the universe, beamed into stadiums around Earth as three-dimensional,
holographic, "virtual" performances. Now, this may all seem just too bizarre to imagine, but no more than the idea of Gilmour, Mason, and Wright going back to their roots and playing a club
tour of the Home Counties... with Syd and Roger. There's more chance of seeing pigs fly.
A MOMENTARY LAPSE OF CASH
Strange but true... When Pink Floyd played Moscow in June 1989, they received no money for their troubles. Instead, they were rewarded with items such as
a large consignment of timber... to fuel a secret Floydian guitar factory perhaps? Probably not.
Here in its breathtaking entirety is the list of contents of David Gilmour's most recent touring rig:
HITCHHIKER'S JAM AT EARLS COURT
The album title, "The Division Bell", was suggested by the author of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and Floyd fan Douglas Adams. His birthday present from David Gilmour later that year was an invitation to play guitar with the Floyd in October 1994. Shockingly, the first night of the band's mini residency there was canceled only minutes before the start of the show when seating collapsed, injuring several of the 1,200 fans sat within the block (see letter from the Floyd members).
[On a letterhead from Pink Floyd with a centered image of the stone heads (and a little boy in front of the left head) at the top of the page, is this
text and large signatures of the band members:] "We are very pleased that you were able to get here tonight after the terrible experience of last Wednesday. We are assured that all safety checks
have been made on the rebuilt stand and feel confident that you can sit back and enjoy the show. Thanks for your support."
BRIT ROW AND TURBOSOUND
1991 was a landmark year for Britannia Row Productions, a year in which Robbie Williams left the company and went on to form his own successful independent production operation, RWP, and one which saw Brit Row move from its original Islington base to a new site in Oslers Road, Wandsworth. Co-director Mike Lowe had joined the company in 1987, and along with Bryan Grant, he was taking an increased interest in Turbosound's new generation of PA Equipment, namely Flashlight.
Lowe says: "We beta tested the prototype Flashlight system in 1989 and used it at Glastonbury and Roskilde, just as we began to get production line equipment going. Roger Water's "The Wall" in Berlin followed and artists such as the Pet Shop Boys and Cliff Richard went out with it in 1991. By the time Flashlight went on its first stadium tour with Dire Straits, we had pretty much disposed of our stock of TMS-3s in favor of this new Turbosound product, and it was inevitable that it would be used for 'The Division Bell' tour."
Andy Jackson and Colin Norfield extend a warm apres-gig welcome to you at The Donkey's Knob -- the 1994 Pink Floyd crew's official traveling pub under
the second tier of the front-of-house riser. Impromptu jam sessions with various Floyd's and roadies were a nightly affair.
GILMOUR'S RIG IN THE '80s & '90s
When Pink Floyd were recording "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" in Los Angeles, equipment design specialist Bob Bradshaw was recommended to David Gilmour as an ideal source for a new guitar processing rig for the band's forthcoming 1987 world tour. Bradshaw was duly commissioned for the job. However, the end product was not without its problems and one show ground to a halt when the system broke down. To solve the dilemma during a break in the tour itinerary, Phil Taylor brought in Pete Cornish initially to rebuild sections of the rig to ensure its road-worthiness. Says Taylor: "Pete stabilized and altered the power supply for the Bradshaw foot controller board which, minus its audio side, was retained when the system was completely rebuilt for the 'Division Bell' tour. We essentially married the board to a Pete Cornish audio routing system.
"Since the 1970s, David's systems have always given permutations of clean, distorted, and delayed sounds. But as time has progressed, the rig has become larger, some of the components have changed, and there are wider choices in each area of effects."
Seventeen years after Gilmour first used a Heil voice box for the recording of the "Animals" track "Pigs (Three Different Ones)", the voice box returned once again to flavor his guitar sound. This time it was a borrowed Electro-Harmonix model, employed for "Keep Talking". Then a new Heil unit was purchased and modified by Cornish to be taken out on the road. "The Heil has a tiny horn unit, and if you power it with a 100 Watt amp, there is nowhere for the bottom end signal to go and you quickly burn out the output transformers. So Pete introduced a crossover to remove those frequencies."
When it was mooted that "The Dark Side Of The Moon" might be dusted off and reintroduced to the Floyd live set, Taylor brought in a Dynacord CLS-222 Leslie Simulator, which Cornish modified in order to set the bass and treble fast and slow speeds independently. But to enforce the rotary sound, Taylor came up with an interesting new product. For the "Division Bell" album, Gilmour recorded with a small Maestro Rover revolving speaker, which he had positioned above his two 1959 Fender Bassman and two HiWatt SA 2 x 12-inch amps. To reproduce the sound live, Phil Taylor used the basis of the Maestro to design a larger, double speaker cabinet version named the Doppola, which was built by Paul Leader. "We powered the two Doppolas with HiWatts and tried out a number of different drivers to see what would handle the power and sounded the most like a guitar speaker. David had the Doppolas switched on throughout the whole show and they were blended into his 4 x 12-inch mix at various points during the set when some movement was required."
The rig is permanently set up in the Floyd warehouse and Taylor occasionally plays through it to ensure that, just in case of emergencies, it is all
operating correctly. Taylor comments: "Since the last date of the '94 tour, David hasn't had the need to go anywhere near it, even though he has been doing the odd guest session spot with people
like B. B. King."
"DIVISION BELL" TOUR BACKLINE
THE LIVE ALBUMS
"Delicate Sound Of Thunder" was recorded in August 1988 over the course of Pink Floyd's five concerts at Nassau County Coliseum, New York, and released in November 1988 as a live document of the "Momentary Lapse of Reason" tour. The album also earned the notoriety of being the first rock music to be played outside of Planet Earth when the cosmonauts of Soyuz 7 took a cassette with them aboard their 1988 space mission.
Front-of-house engineer Buford Jones was asked by David Gilmour to mix the live tapes during a problematic six-week period at Abbey Road Studio 3. Jones says of the recordings: "Dave Hewitt [the recording engineer from the Remote Recording Services mobile] put the tracks down for me on a 32-track Mitsubishi digital machine for all the instruments and vocals, and for drums we recorded with a 24-track Studer. Unfortunately, the sessions coincided with some changes at Abbey Road, and Studio 3 was still under reconstruction with all new equipment, which had not been used nor tested, so we had an enormous amount of downtime which affected creativity. This meant that the album was quite rushed towards the end."
In an interview around the time of its release, it was stated that the album was purely mixed from the live multitracks with no additional recording. However, Jones is emphatic that an additional 32-track machine was wheeled into the studio for overdubs and sub- mixes. He comments: "We only did three overdubs, which I think was a positive thing. David did an acoustic guitar on 'Comfortably Numb', Rick Wright re-recorded his vocal on 'Us And Them', and Sam Brown replaced Rachel Fury's backing vocal on 'Comfortably Numb'. Jones was assisted on the mixing of the album by Larry Wallace and Abbey Road engineers Tristan "TAP" Powell and David Gleeson.
When "Pulse" was issued in [June] 1995 as a souvenir of the "Division Bell" tour, many critics wondered whether yet another Floyd live album was necessary so soon after its predecessor. Even Gilmour had his doubts, although he felt that the presence of both the Barrett-era "Astronomy Domine" and astoundingly faithful live workout of the "Dark Side Of The Moon" suite more than justified its existence. That "Pulse" earned platinum status on advance orders alone proves that his assumption was correct. With a pulsing LED on its spine as a reference to the famous "Dark Side" heartbeat, "Pulse"'s lavish packaging rates among the most sophisticated to ever grace an album.
Co-producer and engineer James Guthrie, who mixed the album in three-dimensional Q sound, says: "Despite the 13-year gap, the recording methods for both "The Wall" shows and "Pulse" were very similar. With "Pulse", we booked a mobile from Paris called Le Voyageur 11 and recorded in Europe and the UK yet again with four 24-track analogue machines running at 15 ips, but this time with Dolby SR. I went back to David's studio, The Astoria, with 116 rolls of tape and waded through them for months before settling on the best performances."
Both "Delicate Sound of Thunder" and "Pulse" were accompanied by video releases.
Mark Cunningham wishes to thank the following people for their valuable pearls of wisdom, treasured photographs, and memorabilia, and (in one or two cases) divine interventions: Peter Barnes (Pink Floyd Music Publishers), Andy Bereza, Bill Kelsey, Charlie Watkins, Alan Parsons, Seth Goldman, Alan Bradshaw, Gary Bradshaw, Mick Kluczynski, Buford Jones, Andy Jackson, Colin Norfield, Mark Fisher, Jonathan Park, Marc Brickman, Bryan Grant, Mike Lowe & Helen Smith (Britannia Row Productions), Chris Hey, Jerry Gilbert, Paul Bradshaw & Lyn Shaw, Andy Wood, Mike Lethby, David Hayden (BSS), Chas Brooks, Stephen court, Harvey Goldsmith CBE & Eleanor Scott-Wilson (Harvey Goldsmith Entertainments), James Cumpsty, Richard Ecclestone, Jeff Green, Guy Pratt, Snowy White, and Mark Fenwick.
Extra special thanks to Phil Taylor, David Gilmour, Roger Waters, James Guthrie, and Robbie Williams.