June 5th 1971, where were you? I wasn’t born yet for a couple of years and if you were around you may have not been at West Germany’s Berliner Sportpalast when The Pink Floyd to the stage that night. It was the first rock concert to be held there using Quadraphonic sound and The Floyd certainly provided the ambiance for the evening’s event accompanied by an impressive set list and eerie overtone to the show. The Floyd were at their creative best live during the 1970-1971 period I always felt as they would often stretch songs out or truncate them accordingly to their mood that night. having listened to literally hundreds of shows by them, the earlier period was their peak times as by 1973 shows had become more mainstream and streamlined too much, albeit still awesome and great to hear their imaginative juices weren’t there by 1973 in the way they performed. Songs varied in length, style, mentality and philosophy in that they utilized the audience as much as the audience were not just there to be in attendance but as a sounding board as the band did throughout their early career to gauge new material on them but the audience themselves were silent for the most part and allowed the band to express themselves however they saw fit that night.
European audiences were very attentive to the band on stage during the 60’s and early 70’s as they almost critiqued the group in what they were doing. Most major bands even to this day will regale stories of how they miss the small club gigs and often they have drawn back their stage shows and done a small club tour, Metallica did that with their Garage Inc. double album and said that it was one of their best tours ever. The majority of the bands who played massive outdoor arenas and large stadium venues in the 70’s are all now doing the casino circuit and actually make money this time around and have a better time playing now then they did back then. Having seen a few of these big names in the casino circuit shows even though they are passed their prime now they actually put on better shows than when they were in their prime! They have that spunk and energy they did when they just started out and were hungry to get an audience which is always good to see bands still pushing that rock up the hill with Sysyphus except this time they get over the hill and keep rolling.
The Berliner Sportpalast wasn’t too small a venue and sadly demolished in 1973, it was a multi purpose arena that seated 14,000 people and was a highlight during the Third Reich for speeches and rallies that saw many a verbalization of the Nazi war and propaganda machines and was labelled as Unsere große politische Tribüne (our big political grandstand) by Joseph Goebbels. Post war times it wasn’t really used until the early 50’s after the roof was fixed from extensive damage and mostly for ice skating events, graced by Sonja Henie at times and it was the late 1960’s and early 1970’s that saw the likes of The Floyd and other bands performing there in hopes to rejuvenate the use of the building but it failed to win over the locals and general consensus of the city’s officials who had it destroyed and a condo was put in it’s place. Adding insult to injury the locals dubbed it “Das Sozialpalast” which I’m sure contributed to the building’s demise in ’73 trying to wipe the nation’s slate clean of the previous usages for it.
But this night belonged to The Pink Floyd and they put on a spectacular show, it was one of the first shows from the 1971 period I got my greedy little hands on as a 19 year old Floyd freak who wanted everything possible he could obtain in the Floyd bootleg canon. Several hundred shows later I think I have almost everything out there and just when i want to give up collecting…something new emerges from the depths of some vault and I have to have it, sigh. It’s my vice, my addiction, my lot in life to have live shows and listen to them really loud to get the closest to the real feeling as possible to being there. This show from the Sportpalast however is amazing and we’re going to get in to it right now!
“Careful With That Axe, Eugene” a rather dark opening track leads us down the corridors yet to come. Not a common opener for the Floyd but on rare occasion yes to segue in to a calm but sinister ending song to unsettle the nerves of the audience. The album’s title, “Berlin Sun” aka “Mauerspechte“(wall woodpeckers) or whichever label version of this show you get all have the same set lists and same sound unless a remastered version has hit the trading circles by now no doubt and all open up with this haunting rendition of CWTAE. This version starts off with the music already in motion with a slight hiss to the air of the record in which it came from, it adds the dark ambiance of the song. A two note bass line walks through the song as the cymbal rides stagnate the air around it. The keyboards create ominous wave upon wave of choral sounds as Gilmour and Waters ad lib vocal sound effects and silent shrieks that pierce the air with deafening cries of pain and sorrow sounds that runs chills throughout the hall and slow bending guitar notes like that of a distant banshee scathe the ears of the audience. At just past four minutes the song builds up to erupt a fury of cacophony of sound that blows the ears off everyone in front of them and Waters’ howling wail shatters the ice tension the audience was holding in check as the band releases maximum sound and drops the eerie notes of their huge and epic quadraphonic sound system all over the Sportpalast. Gilmour adds increasing tension to the guitar notes and brings forth a backup long note howl of his own to continue the grave-like dementia of sinister music that is being heard. It calms down after a few minutes of uproar to return to its inception stage of stability to finally return to the ground from whence it was pulled and culminated from to the clamor of applause from the audience. A foreboding introductory song of darkness and unknown passages from the band leading to their next song that contains less gruesome corridors, that is “Fat Old Sun“.
A song from their 1970 Lp “Atom Heart Mother” and sung by David Gilmour to which the live versions were substantially a lot longer and had a great middle section to them that didn’t appear on the record version sadly as it would have been a great addition to the song in the studio on top of what is already a great piece of music. The sweet refrain of Rick Wright’s opening keyboard chords is briefly interrupted by someone in audience who decides his attempts at yodelling as the song begins, only a second of throwing off the vibe but that’s the great thing about bootlegs, you never know what you might hear! Good example is, listen to Led Zeppelin at the Montreal Forum in 1975 where audience members in front of the taper are discussing and making King Crimson antics from 1971! But I digress and back to Fat Old Sun now. It’s pastoral and humble beginnings are soon to be swept away in a colourful array of sound with a great flowing guitar solo that soars like a bird in flight over a massive canyon, forests and waters below then swoops down to have a closer look at the landscape then coming to a graceful landing somewhere to gather its bearings as the song winds down slowly back to its genesis as the keyboards retell the opening refrain again so the song can change tempo/timbre like any good Prog song should as the middle section begins to build up to a monumental mountain of keyboard leads then it drops off to a basic three jazz chord guitar interlude as the keys once again take the lead with a semi-staccato solo as Wright lets loose so-to-speak which he rarely got to in this form. The song carries on with this for a few minutes then finally segues back to its final verse to calmly end with notes quieting down to sleep, then audience.
“The Embryo“, one David Gilmour riff I have been trying to learn to play on guitar for over 15 years now enters next with a tight drum roll intro and the guitar snaps the air with notes above the 12th fret as he pierces the ambiance of the remains of Fat Old Sun with this ripping first couple of bars. The song does the heavy/light switch in the song being quiet for the verses and heavy for each segment between following the Prog recipe to the point and one of my favourite songs played live from this period. Nick Mason is extremely heavy on the drums here, little more than usual as he pounds out the drums with a fury rarely seen by him but again the 1970/1971 period was their most enlightened and experimental. This song drags the engines through the muddy tracks as it pulls and strains the notes beautifully in raw form as the band just pours the Floyd machine all over the audience with this one. The middle section is a free form bass swing as the keys again take a slight leading hand as children’s voices are heard through the P.A. system playing, a haunting sound to go along side the equally haunting music. It staggers and casually walks through this phase until it begins to get heavier and refer back to the opening section of pounding guitar and drums with a thundering bass backup. Despite what many people think about The Floyd, they were a really heavy band live back then, sure they had many mellow passages but a fair bit of it borderlines on hard rock that was to be heard later on in the 70’s through bands like the MC5 and Black Sabbath etc. “The Return of the Son of Nothing“, you know it better by its official title on the album, “Meddle” as “Echoes“. But before it was to become “Echoes” it was originally titled just “Nothing parts 1-36“, then “Nothing” then “The Return of the Son of Nothing” and finally, “Echoes“. Starting off as a collaboration of just ideas it grew and grew in to taking up one side of a record in an epic piece of music and still crowd favourite to this day and another favourite. Let’s just say Pink Floyd haven’t released anything I don’t like ok? lol This version however is quite unique as it does contain alternate lyrics that did not show up on the album version. The music is almost spot on to the record but it did go through a couple of changes along the way, lyrics being one of them. Here’s the lyrics form this show then below are the actual album’s lyrics;
BERLINER SPORTPALAST LYRICS FIRST VERSE
Planets meeting face to face,
One to the other cry, how sweet!
If endlessly we might embrace,
The perfect union deep in space.
Ever might this once relent,
And give us leave to shine as one,
Our two lights here forever one,
One light blended.
And in that longing to be one,
The parting summers sound is gone,
I see you’ve got to travel on,
And on and on, around the sun.
FINAL MEDDLE LP LYRICS FIRST VERSE
Overhead the albatross hangs motionless upon the air
And deep beneath the rolling waves in labyrinths of coral caves
The echo of a distant tide
Comes willowing across the sand
And everything is green and submarine
And no one showed us to the land
And no one knows the wheres or whys
But something stirs and something tries
And starts to climb towards the light
All the performances caught on tape prior to the release of the album will have similar and slightly varied versions of these lyrics which you will end of singing then by the time you next hear the album version you’ll be thrown off and try to sing the alternate live lyrics wondering why it doesn’t flow anymore! The song’s structure is pretty much at its final stages here complete with the “whale” song in the middle which is Gilmour patching through a wah pedal backwards and utilizing the effect as seen fit. It’s really a sombre song that carries with it a lengthy load of sound and has the emergence of life to it as well. This song was synced up with Disney’s Fantasia once and fits quite well actually, doesn’t have any real premise for being there but the beginning of life and the universe kind of makes it flow rather nicely. This song has Prog smeared all over it and follows the recipe beyond the requirements with tempo/timbre, start/stop, effects and length applied to it with grandiose amounts clocking in at almost 22:50 minutes. From the second verse onward the song pretty much has the album’s lyrics attached to it making more recognizable to sing along but the first verse took a bit more time to construct. The band would often take new material on the road as we read about in the Vancouver ’75 blog and test drive it on audiences as they worked out the bugs and perfected it which is why the bootleg albums are essential to have in your Prog Collective of records because listening to things evolve and become the masterpieces they are is exciting because you hear the band at their creative element and often you will hear things like alternate lyrics or solos are yes even flubs live where nowadays bands are so meticulous about performing perfect on stage that there’s no room for expansion a lot of times anymore as people have become tired of waiting and just want to hear the “hits” in large numbers which I refer again to the casino circuit and bands can just play and jam more. Unfortunately the version from Berlin in 1971 isn’t up ion YouTube, however, from July 1st 1971 at Ossiach, Austria we have the first half of the song with the alternate lyrics to give you an idea. The Ossiach show is only four songs and also very well worth seeking out to add to your collection, there are better sound recording of this show as well than what is presented here so my apologies for that.
“Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” a brilliant dark piece of music about a suicidal space captain rolls in with very sinister keyboard drones and a relentless gong wave by Waters. The versions that Roger Waters performed in the 80’s onward didn’t have the foreboding timbre to it as the ones from the late 60’s to the early 70’s did. The hypnotic tympani drum styles that Mason plays carries the mood as a slow burn and to this day he says it’s his most favourite song to play on the drums. The tense scale on which this song is send chills up your spine and leaves you wondering what happens next after each sung line of the title. With an almost Egyptian like keyboard line one conjures up images of ancient aliens,space and time travel through distant galaxies and places unknown. The song begins its ascent in the middle as the drums speed up and the song erupts in a fury of excitement and intensity as the ship enters higher speeds heading towards its final destination, the sun as the band takes you to a nerve wracking escapade of sound until a final smashing of the gong enters us in to free fall in space as the ship floats around aimlessly as the band adds its eerie ensemble of sounds and the notes that drop through fingers delicately as the drums eventually begin to start up the engines again for the final verse of insanity as our beloved space captain seems to have been overthrown by a coup d’etat from the crew and thrown in to a cell where he contemplates his insanity in his own “sane” ways of how things should be. The song fades away in obscurity as if by clouds of dust thrown in to the wind that echoes throughout the ages. The nervousness of the audience applauds as they carefully consider their own mortality whilst sitting there in a darkened auditorium listening to The Pink Floyd perform.
“Cymbaline” another Waters composition about a nightmare he once had to which the song was called “Nightmare” back in the late 60’s and was referred to during their “The Man and The Journey” Suite of 1969. I searched for a long time when I first heard this song on the soundtrack to the 1969 film, “More” and haunted libraries and dictionaries to find the word Cymbaline to no avail. I finally came to realization that “Cymbaline” is probably the name of a girl in Waters’ dream because nowhere is it to be found so I’m good with that conclusion many years ago and came to peace with that assumption. This is another great opportunity for the Floyd to utilize their massive sound system in the middle section where footsteps can be heard walking around the entire auditorium opening various doors to different scenarios going on within each room causing the “walker” to become more and more anxious to what is going on not understanding and becomming paranoid and delirious now almost running around the hall opening doors until the final door this person opens releases a nuclear weapon seguing us back to the song and its final verse. Bright guitar solos and full bodied sound here makes this song complete and it too follows the Prog recipe quite nicely leading up to the next big track, 1968’s album title number, “A Saucerful of Secrets”. Talk about Prog extremes here, this number ranged from ten to twenty five minute opuses live bringing down a massive onslaught of sound, crashing walls of furious insanity and finishing with choral passages of serenity.
The song’s inauguration takes us just over four minutes in before the syncopated pandemonium section starts up with the droning and extremely acid induced drum pattern commences that is only followed by a titan of sound or perfected noise if you will of guitar effects and gong smashing, slammed keyboard notes and whammy bar dive bombs that careen and strafe over the obscene drumming. An apocalyptic measure of a song that live only took on a life more of its own in regions of your mind you never knew you had. Who does this anymore live? Besides cover bands? No one I know of but I sure as hell wish someone did! The song dies down a bit only to draw upon spectres and phantoms from the depths of some other world to fly about the hall and shriek through the P.A. system a la guitar pedals. Then, out of the mists of chaos comes a quiet dirge like keyboard refrain that celestial voices carry forth to the light, draw us ever so near to our salvation form the fight and battle on which we bore our souls to this ogre of sound and survived its beautiful but heinous tones that punctured our very beings and gashed through out ears as if we were slain by sounds from another realm. The song continues with the cathedral passages as Gilmour’s choral voice echoes through the hall as the song begins its descent to the finale gargantuan crescendo of notes.
“Astronomy Domine” now a rare piece performed live and usually as an encore by 1971 and finished with live performances in ’71 until the resurrection of it on the 1994 Division Bell Tour and now again on David Gilmour’s Rattle That Lock Tour graces us as said, an encore to give the audience one final big blow out of quadraphonic awesomeness to close the show. Performed very similar to the version found on the “Ummagumma” Lp from 1969 with the staccato keyboard note intro and followed shortly thereafter by the pounding of the drums to signal the band to enter with a huge entryway to psychedelia and a remembrance of songs passed from their first album offering, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” from 1967. The band discontinued songs from that album with the last renditions of Astronomy performed by the mid-point of ’71 and its last performance being in Italy June 20th 1971 at the Palazzo Dello Sport E.U.R. in Rome and that was also their last show in Italy for 17 years so that gig is well worth finding too! The band goes through the song with complete accuracy and precision here making no bones about it that they are well rehearsed in it or sick of it as they now favour songs from their second album onward. Live versions of Astronomy fit the heavier facet of Prog with finesse as it contains more psychedelic aspirations than Prog but still has elements of Prog contain within as they do the start/stop ingredient as well as incorporating some little added sprinkles to make it a slightly “new and improved” version than the original.
Below is the version from Italy, June 20th 1971 as a special inclusion since the Berlin version is not available so this is THE last performance of “Astronomy Domine” until 1994!
Not uncommon for The Floyd during the 70’s to completely close off a concert with a 12Bar Blues jam to bring you back from an evening mind expansion which is how this show ends on a bluesy note. The band relaxes and takes a step back from Jupiter for a few minutes to calm your nerves with a 6.5minute jam in E more than likely. The slow southern style of Texas blues gleams throughout the hall giving the German audience a taste of what was only brought over by merchant ships and family who travelled the U.S. in post-war America in the 1950’s. The band does a fine job for Brits pulling off blues music as the guitar swirls notes off the fretboard and the keyboards moan out a soulful ensemble of notes in a flooded wave of electrified ivory keys. The drums and bass provide the backbone for the blues ride down the street to the dead end of the show’s performance for the night as The Floyd would not have the opportunity to play there again so this was a fine fitting for them to close off in the Blues.
This show like with any performance during the periods before 1973 of The Floyd provide an excellent source for experimentation extremism as by March of 1973 when Dark Side of the Moon was released the band had almost cease to include any form of free fall imaginative live actions with the exception of the French Summer and British Winter tours of 1974 and the first half of their set lists in 1975. By ’75 however the “new” songs were slightly better organized than the “newbies” in 1971 and thus the ’74 versions of “Shine On“, “Raving and Drooling” and “You Gotta Be Crazy” are worth seeking out. The band did continue to expand their musicianship live through trial and error in the 74/75 tours but it did not have the same Je ne c’est quoi as it did pre-1972. Not to say it wasn’t any good by then, it most certainly was! It was just a different time a few short years earlier and was a different phase in the Floyd career.
This show from the Berliner Sportpalast is absolutely worth seeking out and a performance you will play many times over throughout your Floydian life. I highly recommend you getting earlier shows than the later ones to build up your knowledge and enjoyment for their pre-Dark Side of the Moon period and go forth from there. Although this show has a very dark overtone to it it’s a great start to their live performances as well as having an early version of “Echoes” in your hands as well. In the pre-Dark Side days the band was more experimental and less concept album orientated yet aware of the emerging design of the concept record to come and they started their journey down that road by the end of 1971 as you can hear during “The Embryo” at Taft Auditorium, University of Cincinnati November 20th 1971 in the middle of the song the opening chords to “Breathe” from the upcoming “Eclipse” suite in 1972 which later became “The Dark Side of the Moon” in March ’73. The band claimed technical problems with mics and it became the longest version of “The Embryo” to date at almost 26minutes long! But that’s a story for another day. Enjoy.
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