Tag Archives: Dark Side Of The Moon

Rocks In The Attic #660: Roger Waters – ‘The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking’ (1984)

RITA#660“Mum, you know I can’t drink that wine!”

“Why not?”

“Durr…” (rolls eyes, points to own stomach) “ – PREGNANT!”

Two nights ago, I saw Roger Waters in Auckland on his Us + Them world tour. I’ve seen him in concert before, six years ago in the same venue, performing The Wall (more on that overheard mother-daughter exchange later). That 2012 was a fantastic show, and something I’ll never forget, but you probably had to be a fan of The Wall to truly enjoy it. This current tour is almost a fully dedicated Pink Floyd greatest hits set, and so there was lots to like.

Opening, of course, with Breathe, the set included the lion’s share of Dark Side Of The Moon, a couple of songs from Wish You Were Here – its title track plus Welcome To The Machine – and the more well-known songs from The WallThe Happiest Days Of Our Lives / Another Brick In The Wall parts 2 and 3, played as one continuous piece, and encores of Mother and Comfortably Numb.

What surprised me though was the portion of the set allocated to Animals – the oft-overlooked 1977 Pink Floyd album (overlooked only in relation to its chronological neighbours Wish You Were Here and The Wall). Up to that point, the concert had been your standard, straightforward arena show: one stage, band playing, big screen at the back projecting images alternating between the band playing, and artful, mind-bending imagery.

But as the band kicked into Dogs, a huge structure descended from the roof of the arena. The four chimneys of the Battersea Power Station emerged telescopically next to an in-scale flying pig, while the sides of the power station were projected onto massive screens. The whole piece looked like the front cover of Animals was floating in the middle of Auckland’s Spark Arena (as a sidenote, the former name of the arena – the Vector Arena – was a more fitting name to host Roger, particularly if Clarence Clemons from the E-Street Band was playing saxophone).

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Dogs segued into Pigs (Three Different Ones), and Waters used this as his opportunity to shame Donald Trump. The band donned pig masks and sat around a dining table sipping from champagne flutes, while a selection of Trump’s inane (or should that be insane?) tweets were projected onto the walls of the power station. ‘TRUMP IS A PIG’ eventually appeared inscribed on the screens as the song climaxed.

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I really appreciate that Waters is still (seemingly) a fan of the Animals record. When it was overlooked as one of the Immersion box sets a few years ago, it seemed to lose some of its cachet. Perhaps it was an absence of decent additional material that could have fleshed out such a set, but it just seemed to be a snub for a record that resonates so much with fans as the last true Floyd album (if you follow the theory that The Wall and The Final Cut are just Roger Waters solo albums in everything but name).

The other highlight of the set for me was the inclusion of One Of These Days, the bass-heavy opening song from 1971’s Meddle. I love this song – it’s in my top 5 Floyd tracks – and so when Waters strummed that first heavily-delayed bass note, I let out a squeal of excitement much to the amusement of my wife.

The rest of the show featured everything you’d expect from a Roger Waters show (or a Pink Floyd show for that matter): laser projections, a school choir for Another Brick In The Wall Part 2, a huge inflatable pig flying around the arena (much more manoeuvrable these days thanks to drone technology), and lyrics to die for. If there’s ever been a finer quartet than ‘And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking / Racing around to come up behind you again / The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older / Shorter of breath and one day closer to death’, I’d really like to know.

My only disappointment was the absence of Shine On You Crazy Diamond – but I presume this was substituted for the Animals suite due to its topicality in terms of world events. Hopefully he’ll return to New Zealand one day and I’ll get to see him play it.

My experience in seeing Roger Waters play live twice now is that he never fails to attract New Zealand’s cream of the bogan crop. When we saw The Wall, I invested in very expensive diamond tickets, just a few rows from the front. We’ll be away from the riff-raff here, I thought. How wrong I was. To my right sat a twenty-something blonde, dressed like a stripper, accompanied by her forty-something mother. They looked so similar – blonde with roots, caked in make-up, stumbling in ridiculously high heels – they could have been sisters. After the older one returned from the bar, forgetting that her daughter was pregnant (she drank the wine regardless), they proceeded to stand-up in their seat, and danced along to the show. Not a huge problem you might say, but the people sat behind them who had shelled out $400 a ticket thought differently. Security was called after they became belligerent and abusive, and they were thrown out.

This time around, we were sat in the cheap seats with a group of drunken bogans sat behind us. Before the show started, one of them kicked a full tray of drinks over, with the resulting liquids spilling under our seats. They apologised, and it wasn’t too much of a problem, so fair enough. The guy sat directly behind me then thought it was acceptable to put his feet up onto the top of my chair, which I just sat back on, his toes digging into my back, until he got the message and stopped.  Then during the show, one of the males spat his drink out, laughing at something one of his companions had said. My wife took the brunt of it to the side of her face, while a lady in front of her stood up and turned around to give him an absolute bollocking. As I was debating whether to notify security – I wasn’t too sure what had happened, or whether it was accidental or a malicious act – one of their party returned from the bar and passed my wife and I a whiskey and coke each to apologise.

I appreciated this greatly – but the exchange did take me by surprise and as a result I missed Roger singing my favourite lines from Wish You Were Here: ‘Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war / For a lead role in a cage?’

Oh well, maybe next time (and I hope there will be a next time)..

I don’t know The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking too well, despite having heard it a number of times. I really need to listen to it more – and probably through headphones so I can pick up on all the little nuances and snippets of dialogue. It’s an album that’s crying out for an accompanying film (like Alan Parker’s 1982 film of The Wall), and while such a project was initially mooted, nothing has emerged in the subsequent 35 years.

Hit: 5:01 am (The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Part 10)

Hidden Gem: 4:47 am (The Remains of Our Love)

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Rocks In The Attic #566: Duke Ellington – ‘Anatomy Of A Murder’ (1959)

rita566Forget Sgt. Pepper’s and Nevermind. Forget Axis: Bold As Love, Abbey Road and Dark Side Of The Moon. The greatest album cover in the history of recorded music is this one, designed by Hitchcock alumnus Saul Bass.

Of course, that’s only my opinion, but that’s what the internet is all about, isn’t it?

Saul Bass’ titles of Hitchock’s films throughout the late ‘50s are peerless – and his work here on Otto Preminger’s 1959 film Anatomy Of A Murder is probably my favourite if I had to choose a single image.

A couple of years ago, this album cover was quite rightly included in a touring exhibition, Degas To Dali, which was showing at the Auckland Art Gallery. I wonder how long it will take until art galleries are showing album covers as exhibitions in their own right. We can’t be that far away, if it hasn’t happened already. The world of album cover design is as strong as any other medium, and contains as many surprises as you can find turkeys. I’ve just glanced at Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Album Covers – I’d question a lot of them, but isn’t that what art’s all about, to provoke discussion and to continually question what has come before?

Hit: Main Title And Anatomy Of A Murder

Hidden Gem: Flirtbird

Rocks In The Attic #495: Neil Young – ‘Harvest’ (1972)

RITA#495If ever I could pick a perfect album, this is one of the ones I would pick. Yes, it might not be to everybody’s taste, but in terms of a record that has a consistent level of quality songwriting from start to finish, it’s up there with the likes of Revolver, Dark Side Of The Moon and Led Zeppelin IV.

I shouldn’t like it either. It’s got both feet firmly steeped in the country tradition, and I’m somewhat allergic to that most inbred of musical genres. It was recorded in Nashville too, so it’s the real deal. Young went down there and recorded the album with a pick-up band, writing out the charts for them using the Nashville number system they would have been very familiar with.

Of all the 33⅓ books I’ve read, the one on Harvest, by Sam Inglis has been my favourite so far. It’s one of the earliest ones in the series – the third one to be published – and is well recommended if you wish to know more about the recording of the record. Some of those 33⅓ books can be a bit hit and miss, but that one seems to stand out from that early bunch of titles.

I probably need a new copy of this record. I picked up a second-hand copy a few years ago that has definitely seen better days. The cover looks like it’s been under somebody’s pillow for 12 months, and there’s a fair bit of surface noise on the actual disc. Either that or Neil Young employed somebody to fry some eggs in the studio as they were recording.

Hit: Heart Of Gold

Hidden Gem: The Needle And The Damage Done

Rocks In The Attic #432: Pink Floyd – ‘Atom Heart Mother’ (1970)

RITA#432Of the Floyd’s run of albums primarily driven by Roger Waters’ songwriting (Atom Heart Mother all the way up to The Wall), this was the one I discovered last. It’s one of my favourites though, alongside Meddle and Obscured By Clouds. I struggle with anything prior to this. I have Ummagumma, but I seldom listen to it, and the Syd Barrett albums don’t really float my boat either.

Everything about Atom Heart Mother is awesome, from the cover to the wicked Atom Heart Mother Suite that takes up the whole of the first slide, to the collection of random hippy-inflected songs on side two.

That first side is where it’s at though. It’s killer. It’s ominous. It sounds so wrong yet so right at the same time. The orchestra must have wondered what on earth this long haired hippy was telling them to play. I once heard the band play it live on the radio – presumably from one of the only times it was played live. My father-in-law turned it off in disgust, saying “This isn’t Pink Floyd!”

What is Pink Floyd though? For the vast majority of casual listeners, Pink Floyd equals Dark Side Of The Moon. But as we all know, that isn’t true at all.

Hit: Atom Heart Mother Suite

Hidden Gem: If

Rocks In The Attic’s buyer’s guide to…AC/DC

  – 3 essential albums, an overlooked gem, a wildcard, one to avoid, and the best of the rest –

“I’m sick to death of people saying we’ve made eleven albums that sounds exactly the same. In fact, we’ve made twelve albums that sound exactly the same.” So says, AC/DC lead guitarist and fifty-nine year old Scottish Australian schoolboy, Angus Young. While other bands have been cursed by following the same formula over and over again (Francis Rossi, please stand up), AC/DC have turned it to their advantage.
ACDC0Over fourteen studio albums, the band have stuck to a blueprint of blues-based heavy rock. 99% of their songs follow the same format – counterpoint guitar riffs from brothers Angus and Malcolm, steady 4/4 drum beats, driving bass lines, soaring vocals and finally, a solo from Angus. There’s no room for piano, no room for strings and the only backing vocals you get are from the rest of the band, who are about as tuneful as an after-hours pub karaoke session.

Lead vocal duties divide the band into two eras – the band’s formative years were helmed by fellow Scottish Australian Bon Scott, but his untimely death in 1980 saw the band enter a more commercial phase under the screams of flat-cap loving Geordie Brian Johnson.

But regardless of what you may have heard, there are differences between their albums. Each of their 1970s albums follow a progressive arc, until they settled on their massive world conquering sound as they entered the 1980s. Albums since that point have struggled to find that same high level of quality, acting mainly as a springboard for the band to go out on the road for yet another world tour.

Start off with: Highway To Hell (1979, Atlantic Records)

ACDC1The album that saw the AC/DC break America was also their swansong with Bon Scott, who would die just months later. Up to this point all the studio albums were produced by former ‘60s Australian beat group stars Harry Vanda and George (older brother of Angus and Malcolm) Young.  For Highway To Hell, the band would enlist the production duties of Robert John “Mutt” Lange – notable amongst other things for producing Def Leppard’s Hysteria, and marrying Shania Twain.

Lange’s production revitalised the band. Overnight they changed from a noisy rock band from the backwaters of Australia into a household-name stadium rock band. Aside from the title track – typically played by the band in their live shows to open their encore – not much else from the album has survived into the band’s live set to this day; but this is probably the most consistent of all their albums.

Follow that with: Back In Black (1980, Atlantic Records)

ACDC2After Bon Scott’s death, the band could have called it a day. Most bands would have, if they’d lost their lead singer. But AC/DC were always more about guitars than vocals. After auditioning half of London for the job (including Gary Holton who would go on to play Wayne in TV’s Auf Wiedersehen, Pet), the band settled on Brian Johnson. The resulting album is a tribute – a relatively sincere one, considering the medium – to their fallen bandmate. Opener Hells Bells sets the scene with a tolling bell, before the band slowly introduce their new banshee vocalist.

Back In Black, also produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange, is probably AC/DC’s most commercial-sounding record. Singles such as the title track and You Shook Me All Night Long saw the album become the best-selling rock album of the 1980s. It’s currently tied with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon as the second best-selling album of all time (after Michael Jackson’s Thriller).

Just like VHS beat Betamax as the consumer’s choice of video in the 1980s (a fact commonly attributed to the pornography industry selecting the fledgling VHS technology as the way forward), Back In Black outstripped all other contenders in record sales by being purchased by every strip club in America. You Shook Me All Night Long has soundtracked a lot of lapdances – it’s not heavy rock, it’s stripper rock! Def Leppard would achieve the same feat later in the decade with Pour Some Sugar On Me, from their best-selling Hysteria album – a song that sounds like it’s describing a sexual act, but was probably written about their one-armed drummer Rick Allen making a cup of tea.

Oh, and Shoot To Thrill? The best middle-eight instrumental section in rock music, hands down.

Then get: Powerage (1978, Atlantic Records)

ACDC3Powerage is AC/DC’s greatest achievement – the last thing they did before they crossed over into the mainstream. At this point, it’s all still them; there’s no ‘hit-making’ hot-shot producer in the background to claim any credit. The album is no-frills rock ‘n roll from start to finish, although it does come with a celebrity endorsement – Rolling Stone Keith Richards earmarked it as his favourite AC/DC record.

Aside from Sin City, not much else from the record has survived into the band’s live set to this day. Still, opener Rock ‘N Roll Damnation is almost the quintessential AC/DC song, and Riff Raff has one of the band’s longest intros, building up for over a minute and finally released when Angus Young bends an open D-chord that sounds as sick as anything.

But it’s the slow-burn of songs like Down Payment Blues that really wins people over, on Powerage, the most introspective of their records.

Criminally overlooked: The Razor’s Edge (1990, Atco Records)

ACDC4In March 1990, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry mentioned to Guitar World magazine that ‘people put us down for [using outside songwriters], but I wonder how an AC/DC record would sound if they’d pull somebody like Jim Vallance into the songwriting process. Would they get another one-song record with Heatseeker, or would you get a whole album that was that cool?”

At the time, AC/DC were actually in the process of doing something along these lines. While that September’s The Razor’s Edge was written in its entirety by Angus and Malcolm Young, it was produced by Bruce Fairbairn – the man who had produced Aerosmith’s successful comeback albums, Permanent Vacation (1987) and Pump (1989).

It’s almost a cliché to disregard any of the post-Back In Black albums as cannon-fodder (pun very much intended); but The Razor’s Edge saw the end of a run of ‘80s albums where the band had very much lost their way. From this point on, with albums produced by the likes of Rick Rubin and Brendan O’Brien, they spent a bit more time and effort on their studio output.

The album’s opener, Thunderstruck, is another contender for the quintessential AC/DC song and concrete proof that they were still as relevant to ‘90s rock music as they were in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

The long-shot: For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) (1981, Atlantic Records)

ACDC5The third and final album produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange fails to match the quality of its two predecessors, but it does have its moments. It’s so close to Back In Black and Highway To Hell in its chronology that you can almost hear some of the magic of those records in its grooves. Of course, on the other side of the coin, the album’s other next-door neighbour is 1983’s Flick Of The Switch, where their mid-‘80s rot really set in.

The album-opening title trackremains a firm live fixture – they’ve closed their sets with the track for the last thirty three years – and the track serves as the true peak of their creative accomplishments. It was all steadily downhill from this point on.

Avoid like the plague: ’74 Jailbreak (1984, Atlantic Records)

ACDC6An EP – usually priced as a full-length album – containing just twenty four minutes of material, ’74 Jailbreak is a cynical cash-in release on the behalf of Atlantic Records. It’s essentially a small collection of leftover songs that didn’t make the international releases at the start of the band’s career (several of these early albums were combinations of songs from more than one Australian release, with some omissions made in the interests of running time).

This really is what you buy only when you have all of the other AC/DC albums, even the questionable mid-‘80s ones.

Best compilation: Iron Man 2 (O.S.T.) (2010)

ACDC7AC/DC must be one of the only major bands in the world without an official ‘greatest hits’ compilation. Sure, there are box-sets – Bonfire (1997) and BackTracks (2009) – but these aren’t compilations in the true sense of the word. The band has avoided issuing a simple collection of their singles – something I really respect them for.

Of the two soundtracks they have released – 1986’s Who Made Who (the soundtrack to Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive) and 2010’s Iron Man 2 – it is the later release that stands as the nearest thing to a ‘greatest hits’ release, split roughly 50/50 between the Bon Scott and Brian Johnson eras.

It’s just a shame the film is so boring!

Best live album: AC/DC Live (1992, Atco Records)

ACDC81978’s If You Want Blood You’ve Got It captured the live sound of the Bon Scott era, but its raw energy was plagued by a muddy Vanda / Young production. 1992’s AC/DC Live doesn’t suffer from that problem. Taken from 1991’s The Razor’s Edge tour, the album offered an authentic live recording of the band. Bruce Fairbairn had got close to capturing that sound on record (on The Razor’s Edge) and was invited back to produce the live record.

Live At Donington, the album’s companion piece video, is also worth checking out. Recording during their third headlining appearance at the British rock festival, it’s essentially the same set as can be found on the AC/DC Live record (and on every subsequent tour for that matter). One nice little bonus extra on the DVD / Blu Ray version is a commentary track comprised of an interview with the Young brothers as they talk though the concepts and directions behind each of their albums. You know, those albums that are supposedly all the same…
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Rocks In The Attic #288: Pink Floyd – ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ (1973)

RITA#288If there’s one thing that I just cannot understand about people who don’t listen to music regularly, it’s their lack of commitment. The Dark Side Of The Moon is a great example of an album that a lot of people own – it is thought around fifty million copies have been sold worldwide – but it’s also an album that for an overwhelming majority of the people who own a copy, it’s probably the only Pink Floyd album they own.

If you love an album so much, why would you not seek out more? I think if you go either way from this album – onwards with Wish You Were, Animals and The Wall; or backwards with Meddle, Obscured With Clouds and Atom Heart Mother – there are a run of seven very strong albums, each with their own strengths and highlights (but perhaps none with the universality and perfection of Dark Side). Are people just lazy or do they just want to avoid hearing a Pink Floyd record that’s a little rougher around the edges?

Personally, I prefer Wish You Were Here to this, and I even prefer the earlier albums from Atom Heart Mother onwards, but I can see why people love Dark Side so much. It’s one of those LPs that offers so much to the listener, and like a lot of Floyd’s other material it rewards repeat plays – a spin of this record through a pair of headphones uncovers a wealth of treasures that can otherwise go unnoticed through a stereo.

I’ve never been a fan of lyrics – my preference is always to put the music first – but Roger Waters’ lyrics are always a treat. This passage from Time is a great example of his skill and strength as a poet:

So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking,
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

Hit: Money

Hidden Gem: Breathe

Rocks In The Attic #135: Pink Floyd – ‘Meddle’ (1971)

Rocks In The Attic #135: Pink Floyd - ‘Meddle’ (1971)My favourite Pink Floyd album changes all the time. When I first started listening to them, Meddle was easily my favourite as it didn’t come prepackaged with a load of hype and expectancy like their later albums. I’d say the same for the Obscured By Clouds soundtrack too – another hidden gem in their back-catalogue.

You can hear the beginnings of Dark Side Of The Moon on Meddle too, in the close-knit harmonies of David Gilmour and Rick Wright’s vocals. If they hadn’t recorded Dark Side, and instead gone on to record umpteen albums like Meddle, I’d be a very happy man; but I’d also be very sad at losing Dark Side, Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall from that parallel universe.

Right now, and for maybe the past year or so, Wish You Were Here has been my favourite Floyd album.  That doesn’t mean I still don’t enjoy Meddle though. I love its laid-back attitude, and the low-key approach to the song choices – as though they just recorded what seemed to fall out of them at the time. I also like the fact that they decided to fill one side of the record up with just one song – albeit a 23-minute song.

In terms of album covers, it might be one of their most overlooked, but I love it. On the outside cover, a super close-up photograph of a human ear, overlaid with a lighting effect projected onto ripples of water; on the inner gatefold, a warts and all black and white shot of the band – essentially just a photograph, but one of my favourites.

Hit: One Of These Days

Hidden Gem: A Pillow Of Winds