Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pink Floyd

In a Facebook conversation yesterday and today I am reminded of one of the formative musical experiences of my youth: attending Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" tour concert in, I think 1973, at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh. I was around 14 and should not have been going to concerts without an adult. Which makes it all the more memorable and wild. I'll talk about that specifically some other time, if anyone is interested.

Pink Floyd was a huge influence on my thinking at that age and I was the gleeful mark for their double album set "Ummagumma," a reissue of two earlier releases, some of which included the now-legendary Syd Barrett. It was trippy music, scornful of societal convention, ambiguous in its message, childlike in its playful interplay of groove and raw sound and wise to the ways of traditional musical drama. The words represented the tip of the iceberg, the story unfolded in the music and that's a lesson I've never forgotten. "Ummagumma" had such pensive titles as "Careful With that Ax, Eugene"--as I recall it was a long instrumental but for one line, the title, which crescendoes into a scream. Ha! Beautiful.

Classical music offers far more interesting examples of all these things and eventually I was won over by the longhairs, particularly those who similarly pushed the envelope of listener expectation: Ives, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Varese and most of all Messiaen--they became the heroes of my college days. While I've lost my taste for Pink Floyd's music now--to adult ears its posturing, self-conscious and pretty superficial, particularly when the lyrics make sense--I'm grateful to it for its part in luring me into a larger world.

5 comments:

  1. Hi...

    I would be interested in hearing of your Civic Arena experience! I grew up in a small town (Charleroi) south of Pittsburgh, and sometimes rode a bus to the city (a long, roundabout ride), with two friends. All 3 of us were high school students at the time, in the early 70s. We'd wander Pittsburgh (even the "red light" district) on our own, attended Penguin games (and an occasional Pirate game) because they were so cheap! and then walk to the bus station for the ride home.

    I'm a member of the MSO clarinet section... Not sure if we've met in person, possibly through Andrew Lamy?


    Cathy

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  2. Pittsburgh was a different city then, much seamier. I went to dozens of events at the Civic Arena, including hockey games and concerts. I was also at the last game played at Forbes Field, after original Three Rivers Stadium was completed. The fans literally began tearing the stadium apart after the game was over. I used to have a piece of wood taking from the debris that afternoon ... gone now. My brother, who was three years older than me, used to do what you and your friends did. We lived out by the airport, in Moon Township, and he would cut school and take the bus downtown and wander around ... I was more of a homebody.

    Hopefully we'll talk more about this later. Nice to hear from you!

    --C.

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  3. A couple more things, regarding the Pink Floyd concert: First, as I said, I was far too young to be there. The guy next to me was rolling marijuana joints and passing them down the row--giving them away to the crowd, not expecting anything back--one after another. I didn't deliberately puff on them, but I think I got enough secondhand smoke to make me a little whoozy.

    Second, the band started late. A truck broke down and the 8 p.m. concert didn't get under way until sometime around 10 p.m. The crowd was completely loopy by the time the band took the stage.

    Third, my Dad, God bless him, waited to the last minute to get my tickets (I'll contact somebody at work, he kept telling me.) So I didn't see the tickets, didn't hold them in my hand, until about 7 p.m. the day of the performance. Turned out--they were FOURTH ROW. I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it. I don't know how he did it.

    Fourth, it was one of the largest equipment setups I've ever seen onstage. Larger because at that time, I hadn't seen anything like it before, ever. I recall there was a burning spaceman, about 20 feet tall, huge horns clamped to the tops of banks of PA speakers flanking the stage. Just a totally enormous setup.

    Fifth, on the song "Breathe"--a brand new song then, remember--they opened the Civic Arena dome. There I was, in the middle of the magic mushroom of this gigantic stereo sound and light spectacular, 14 years old, staring up at the stars and plumes of cigarette and marijuana smoke billowing to the heavens and layering the city in warm blankets of juvenile wish and wisdom.

    --C.

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  4. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Susan

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    ReplyDelete
  5. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Susan

    http://disturbialyrics.net

    ReplyDelete