Leaders Of The Underground (Eat A Peach EAT119/20)
Fairfield Hall, Croydon, England – January 18, 1970
Disc 1 (59:49) Careful With That Axe Eugene, The Embryo (early version), Main Theme From “More” (early version), Biding My Time, A Saucerful Of Secrets
Disc 2 (66:17) The Violent Sequence, Set The Controls for The Heart Of The Sun, Astronomy Domine, The Amazing Pudding (aka Atom Heart Mother early version)
After the arrival of David Gilmour and the departure of Syd Barrett, the Pink Floyd were forced to begin a musical transformation. Barrett was their chief song writer and front man, much of these duties would to Roger Waters and Richard Wright, subsequent singles from this time period shows a lack of direction from earlier songs that topped the British music charts. The band moved away from singles and towards more LP oriented themes, they also were much in demand as a live act, gone was the psychedelic freak outs and the band moved into college circuits where like minded students would intently listen to this new music. 1969 and 1970 were pivotal years for the band, they found that concept based themes could be personally rewarding and quite popular, The Man and The Journey concept concerts were well received. Their work on film soundtracks like Zabriskie Point and More would also provide a sort of testing ground to venture into other areas outside an official record and coupled with such albums as A Saucerful Of Secrets and Ummagumma, made for a very prolific period.
Not wanting to stick with concept performances the band were beginning to experiment with their live set and in early 1970 the band would play some of the most adventurous sets of songs, taking existing crowd favorites and expanding with newer music. This was short lived as the band would soon focus on a collection of songs that would form the basis for their sets for the next two years, it was this set of songs and consistent touring where themes and ideas would evolve into some of the greatest music the band would record. There are three very important recordings in circulation, Feb 11 Birmingham (Atomic Heartbeat In The Hall – Godfatherecords 786/787), Paris Jan 23 (Household Objects In Paris – Godfatherecords GR 897/868, The Man In Paris – Sigma 89) and Croydon Jan 18, the subject of this new release. The recording from Croydon is good, it has circulated for years in trading circles, the master tape has never circulated and the best that does are a couple generations from that tape. Apparently the taper would set up a stall at a record fair and sell copies of his recordings on cheap media, so the sound is not as good as it could be. As stated the sound is good, there is tape hiss present as well as some distortion in loud parts and while the instruments and vocals can be heard the recording lacks clarity. It is also sadly incomplete as to conserve tape the taper would pause the machine to save tape. For years the sequence was the subject of much debate with only news paper reviews to give some clues, finally a person who attended the concert wrote down the set lists at that time and confirmed the sequence of songs on this release are correct, only thing missing is the encore of Intestellar Overdrive!
The first disc begins with Careful With That Axe, Eugene, for a first song it is clear and well defined, clocking in at about 11 minutes it is a focused and excellent version of the song, not as intense as latter versions but certainly an important song in the bands repertoire. Embyro is still in its infancy, it is similar to the recording from the BBC December 1968, you can hear the band incorporating the more bluesy feel into it, something that would be fully in place less than a month later in Birmingham, Dave plays quite a bit of slide guitar during the song. The middle section features the band playing around with different melodies and themes as if simply seeing what works or is interesting. Main Theme From More is great live, it just kind of bobs along, the middle section features some interesting growls or grunts from Roger and you can hear some almost Embryo type jamming in the middle. What is apparent is how well played the song is giving it was very short lived in the band live set. Biding My Time aka Afternoon was part of the suite known as The Man from 1969’s concept concerts and is always an interesting song live. It sounds as if it could be played anywhere from London to New Orleans, Richard Wright would play trombone giving a jazzy feel but soon afterwards Gilmour plays a wonderful blues inspired solo as the song starts to really cook. More than likely A Saucerful Of Secrets is the final song from the first set, clocking in at 17 minutes it is a typically wonderful and mysterious version, the Celestial Voices ending seems to be too much for the recording device as it gets a bit distorted yet adds to the corrosive nature of the song.
The second disc and set begins with The Violent Sequence, it starts with a sort of Heartbeat Pigmeat meets Sysyphus which morphs into a sort of avant garde jazz variation of the percussive beat of the song before moving into the Richard Wright piano which would become Us And Them two years later. This is a very adventurous and at times meandering piece of music, given the rarity of the piece and the fact that the band would ultimately reject it for the stage make for a unique listening experience. A nice long Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun and Astronomy Domine follows, both typical for the era and its obvious that both are audience favorites with the former really starting to reach for the cosmos, gentle yet deliberate. The last thing that makes this tape absolutely essential for Floyd enthusiasts is the last song, the first known recording of what would later be titled as Atom Heart Mother. It is believed that the previous night’s concert in Hull, England was its live debut, yet there is no recording from that performance. The framework of the song is here, it lacks a more focused structure and lacks some of the dynamics that would continue to evolve over the next couple months, one of the more interesting things is Nick Mason’s drum solo section. The recording cuts at its conclusion and the last three minutes is a repeat from the beginning section done as part of a Yeeshkull project restoration of this concert, done so well if you did not know it was there, you never would’ve known.
The packaging is typical Eat A Peach, mini LP sleeve with a collage of live shots from the period. The inner CD sleeves have live and posed shots, the one of Waters seated at a table with a couple of cats glancing out a window in nice, and have the song titles for each cd listed. There is an insert with liner notes from The Lazy Goalkeeper that is well written, simply another well sought out release. As with their The Man And The Journey set, it is obvious Eat A Peach is committed to releasing well thought out and relevant Pink Floyd material, material that deserves such lovingly assembled sets such as this. Oh yeah, the title of this comes from Roy Shipston’s review of this concert in Disc magazine, “Pink Floyd Leaders of the underground”.
Incredible release, early seaching for a setlist 1970 experiment gig, the left channel of my copy suddenly increases in the middle of theme from more, tape source or mastering problem I dont know which. Volume is kind of low similiar to household objects in paris but overall well balanced and enjoyable. A must have for the collector, young and old.
I got this over the weekend. The sound was better than I expected. Atomic Heartbeat remains the best tape from that short era.
Another top gem from EaP team!
Thanks for the review.
Why thank you!!