Archive for the ‘roundhouse’ Tag

My Saucer Runneth Over

Nick Masons Saucerful of Secrets Roundhouse London 4 May 2019

Nick Mason & Gary Kemp

In October 1966 Pink Floyd played an all-nighter at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London, the circular former railway turning shed which that night proved a musical and cultural turning point too.

floyd roundhouse allnight rave international times poster handbill

It’s interesting to see what language was already in circulation in 1966 – “rave” which we commonly think of as an 80s term from the E era; “pop-up” as a 2000s term from the new age of austerity.

This line-up touches on my life in a couple of ways. I have met Barry Miles, editor of International Times, a couple of times since 2013 – once when I was writing about Allen Ginsberg, another time at a party at the October Gallery given by my friend Kathelin Gray. The Roundhouse event was the official launch of the publication.

My wedding suit was made by John Pearse, co-founder of Granny/Grannie Takes a Trip, which was established at 488 Kings Road, Chelsea that February. (He also made my Lucky Jacket which I’ll be wearing next week to the TV BAFTAs.)

nick masons saucerful of secrets roundhouse london 4 may 2019

So to be gathered in The Roundhouse in 2019 awaiting the arrival on stage of Pink Floyd’s drummer, Nick Mason, the most consistent member of the landmark band, with his new band, Saucerful of Secrets, was highly resonant.

The new band consisted of:

  • Dom Beken, on keyboards, formerly of The Orb
  • Lee Harris, on guitar & vocals
  • Gary Kemp, on guitar & vocals, beating heart of Spandau Ballet
  • Guy Pratt, on bass & vocals, related by marriage to Rick Wright (Floyd’s keyboardist) – as far as I know, I last saw him live on Bowie’s Serious Moonlight tour in 1982

Gary Kemp I had the pleasure of meeting around the same time as Barry Miles, in connection with the same writing project (When Sparks Fly). He has a very clear take on bands, their dynamics and motivations. I also met him when he unveiled the David Bowie blue plaque in Haddon Street. And one other time briefly (with Barbara Windsor, who I also interviewed for When Sparks Fly) at the Theatre Royal, Stratford when he was performing in a Joan Littlewood musical, Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be.

On Saturday night, the final night of their tour of the UK and USA, Saucerful played a great selection of songs from pre-Dark Side of the Moon Floyd, from 1967’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn to 1972’s Obscured by Clouds, their first and seventh studio album respectively:

Interstellar Overdrive – probably the one everyone was waiting for, emblematic of early Floyd psychedelia, it didn’t disappoint from those distinctive opening chords – the lighting replicated the lava lamp type effects I’ve seen in photos and footage from the era
(The Piper at the Gates of Dawn)

Astronomy Domine
(The Piper at the Gates of Dawn)

Lucifer Sam
(The Piper at the Gates of Dawn)

Fearless – from my favourite early Floyd record, one I grew up with
(Meddle)

Obscured by Clouds
(Obscured by Clouds)

When You’re In
(Obscured by Clouds)

Remember a Day
(A Saucerful of Secrets)

Arnold Layne – also grew up with the 1971 compilation album Relics, as Guy observed, it was the one everyone had because it was cheap (on MfP label I think – Music for Pleasure) – Nick Mason designed the cover when he was an architecture student at Regent Street Polytechnic
(single March 1967)

Vegetable Man
(1967 unreleased)

If – a highlight sweetly sung by Gary
(Atom Heart Mother)
+
Atom Heart Mother
(Atom Heart Mother)

The Nile Song
(More)

Green Is the Colour
(More)

Let There Be More Light
(A Saucerful of Secrets)

Childhood’s End
(Obscured by Clouds)

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun – another highlight, epic
(A Saucerful of Secrets)

See Emily Play
(Relics, single June 1967)

Bike
(The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Relics)

One of These Days
(Meddle)

Encore:

A Saucerful of Secrets
(A Saucerful of Secrets)

Point Me at the Sky – suitable goodbye lyrics
(single Dec 1968)

Gary mentioned how pleased he was to be home in London with the show. The way most of the songs were sung felt very London – connected back through Bowie (especially early Bowie on Deram – see Mr Gravedigger in this post on the death of Bowie) to Anthony Newley.

syd barratt nick masons saucerful of secrets roundhouse london 4 may 2019

Syd

Nick made a point of paying tribute to Syd Barratt, prime mover of Pink Floyd. I saw him, Dave Gilmour & Rick Wright play at a Syd tribute gig at the Barbican, with Roger Waters playing separately. That night they played Arnold Layne, the debut single that started the whole story.

relics pink floyd album cover record 1971

Fond memories

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The Opposite of Digital

Camille at the Roundhouse

Camille at the Roundhouse

It started deep below Tate Modern. In three large circular spaces, formerly oil tanks for the Bankside power station, Will Gompertz, Director of Tate Media, mentioned he would love to do an event in the brick-walled space before it gets transformed into new gallery space for 2012. The acoustics were enchanting, a huge cylindrical echo chamber punctuated with iron pillars, and a low hum from the remaining generators which made me think of Le Fil, the album by London-based(?) French singer Camille. The name of the record – the Thread – comes from the single note which threads across the whole of it. So when I noticed Camille was playing at the Roundhouse I invited Will.

Le Fil I came across by chance. Just liked the cover. I was down in Brick Lane with the Enfants Terribles one weekend when I ducked into Rough Trade East. When we pass a record or book shop they habitually form up into a SWAT team to bar my way but on that occasion I was too quick for them. It was a good session of buying on instinct – I came across Burial’s Untrue for the first time that day too.

As things turned out Will couldn’t make it in the end (had to meet Steve McQueen of Hunger fame) and I ended up inviting James, my neighbour, on the touchline at Finchley RFC vs Harrow RFC U12s out in Stanmore on an autumnal Sunday morning.

Now James hadn’t been to the Roundhouse since ’69 when he saw Pink Floyd, of which there are colourful accounts in Joe Boyd’s White Bicycles, including a mention of Donegal’s own Henry McCullough, the only Irishman on stage at Woodstock (with Joe Cocker). So it was a pleasure to reintroduce them and resonant to be standing next to an iron column not dissimilar from that secret Tate space.

Camille‘s performance was the opposite of digital. In this age of easy copying, reproduction, recording, on demand, clones – it was a unique performance of an unpredictable singer in dialogue with the live crowd. She seems to have a thing about the colour orange which suits me as so do I (childhood bedroom colour at 2A Selvage Lane aka La Sirene, appropriately enough – lord knows why my parents called the house that (or anything) but the sign ended up being flipped around and having the even worse Popin added to the former reverse side at the next house where my mum still lives and Sirene still hangs hidden).

Camille in short hand is Bobby McFerrin meets Kate Bush with a bit of Swingle Singers, Marcel Marceau and Beardyman thrown in for a good measure of machine-free madness. So all voices and body beats with no instruments beyond a piano which she doesn’t really need.

The gig came to a collective climax and just to show how live it was she came on for one too many encores and an improv with Jamie Cullum which didn’t quite work and dissipated the hard-won energy. But that’s the beauty of transcending the 1s and 0s – you win some, you lose some, you can’t tell til you try, human fallibility seeps in alongside human spirit.

The best 0 of the night was when she came back on for the encore that took the performance to its high point. She’d changed from the LBD under her orange robe to a Longer Black Dress. Then at 1 point she turned around to reveal a large 0 cut into the dress at the base of her spine, revealing an expanse of back which recalled Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger and a delightful toppest bit of bum, an emblem of that mad French sexuality we know and love from the likes of L’Ete Meutrier (One Deadly Summer) and 37.2 degres le Matin (Betty Blue). That threat of madness, that touch of unpredictability, the moment of unevenness, the ambiguous attractions among the band are the undigitalness we all need from time to time.

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