Pink Floyd – Melbourne 1971 (Sigma 284)

Melbourne 1971 (Sigma 284) 

Festival Hall, Melbourne, Australia – August 13, 1971 

Disc 1 (55:51) Intro, Atom Heart Mother, Green Is The Colour, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Echoes 

Disc 2 (34:23) Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Cymbaline, A Saucerful Of Secrets 

Back some ten plus years ago there was a fellow that went by the name Plomerus who wrote many Pink Floyd reviews for this Collectors Music Reviews website. His reviews were among the best Floyd reviews on the site, his knowledge of the band’s rich musical history as well as their unofficial live catalog made for informative reviews. His love and sheer passion for the band’s music made his reviews must reads and many times had you waiting in anticipation for your copy to arrive so you could listen to that magic he described. While Plomerus stopped writing title reviews years ago, they are all still archived here so I was pleased when I pulled up his review for the Pink Floyd title First Australian Show (The Godfatherecords G.R. 321) in preparation for this review. After reading his review of Pink Floyd’s first ever concert in Australia, I knew this review of the new Sigma version of that show would be that much easier. 

Melbourne 1971 is Sigma’s first crack at the only Australian recording of Pink Floyd from 1971. The band played two concerts in Australia after their inaugural visit to Japan certainly taking the long way home. Unlike the three Japanese concerts that were widely publicized and attended, the Australian dates were not well promoted and attendance for the two concerts, Friday August 13 in Melbourne and Sunday August 15 in Sydney were poor. We must count our lucky stars that some enterprising rock fan not only went to the concert in Melbourne but took along a recording device to capture the event for posterity. The ensuing recording has been circulating in trade circles for some time, it’s surprising Prog heavy labels like Highland and Sirene never released it. I say surprisingly as the concert has near excellent sound. 

When a 2nd generation source on metal cassette of the concert appeared on a well known tracker, collectors took note of its improved sound quality as well as some interesting background of the tour and the subsequent recording. I found this to be relevant and am including here: 

PF by ME
Pink Floyd first performed in Australia on Friday 13th August 1971, at Melbourne Festival Hall, and on Sunday 15th August at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney.

They arrived in Australia on 11th August 1971, and at MelbourneAirport they were interviewed by Gary Mac for Go-Set (a 24 page music newspaper). Australian journalists, not realizing that the Floyd disliked talking about their music, actually received a couple of decent interviews with all the members of the band. Mac’s interview at the airport, plus a review of the Melbourne concert appeared in the Saturday, 28th August 1971 edition of Go-Set (volume 6, number 35). There were subsequent reviews in Daily Planet, Revolution Magazine and Australian Hi-Fi.

The Rock Concert Club of Australia was responsible for bringing Pink Floyd down under on this occasion, but their promotion left a lot to be desired. The resulting audiences put Floyd off coming here again. At each gig, the Rock Concert Club put 10″ round, purple leaflets on every seat, telling the audience that if they were members of the club they could have seen the band for free. I am sure that the Floyd were unimpressed by this. Oh and the tickets were PINK in Colour.

The Melbourne Festival Hall is renowned for its poor sound, but the Floyd along with their quad sound were able to overcome the hall’s shortcomings. The hall was only about half full owing to almost non-existent promotion. At both concerts Pink Floyd were supported by other bands, a very rare occurrence indeed! Pilgrimage came on first and played for one hour followed by Lindsay Bourke. Both bands were well below the Floyd standard of extreme free-form improvisation.

After a ten minute break (9:30pm approx), Pink Floyd came on stage and Roger announced “Good evening. This is called Atom Heart Mother”. They then went into a sixteen minute non-orchestrated performance of the piece. After a minute or so of tuning up, Roger announced, “We’re just going to re-tune then we’re going to do two things together. The first of which is a song from the soundtrack from the film More, which I hear was banned over here, and it’s called Green Is The Colour. And the second is an instrumental called Careful With That Axe, Eugene“. Both songs together lasted fourteen and a half minutes. This was either the last, or the penultimate, performance of Green Is The Colour (I’m not sure if it was played in Sydney).

After that, Roger said “This next thing is a new piece, and it’s called Echoes. And it’s going to take us a minute or two to get it together because one of our lenses has burnt out”. This was the first time it was announced as “Echoes” (and lasted twenty two minutes), but it still had the alternate lyrics for the first verse and chorus, and the quick ending without the multi-tracked choir as at the Montreaux 1971 gig. The band then played a twelve and a half minute Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun without announcing it. They then played an eleven minute Cymbaline before Roger proclaimed “Okay. This is going to be our last tune. Thank you all for coming. It’s called A Saucerful Of Secrets and we’ll see you again some time”. Unfortunately the original tape ran out after five and a half minutes into Saucerful. The show was recorded about fifty yards from the stage using a Sony TC80 mono portable cassette recorder, smuggled in a schoolbag, and a normal position BASF cassette (chrome wasn’t available in 1971)! With the Melbourne concert out of the way, Pink Floyd made their way to Sydney for an afternoon performance at Randwick Racecourse. Before they went on stage, they were interviewed for the GTK (Get To Know) programme in one of the rooms at Randwick (see transcription in the Pink Floyd Interviews section of this site). The GTK programme was a short (five to ten minute) music show that was screened weeknights before the 6pm news. The Floyd interview lasted four minutes. This is the only interview on film that features all four members talking together!

As yet, no audio recording of the Sydney concert has surfaced, but the GTK programme aired a two minute, fifteen second film with audio taken from the Ummagumma version of Careful With That Axe, Eugene. This showed the band surrounded by the audience with the cameraman at the top of the stands, achieving good closeups of the band, stage, and audience. It is not known how much of the concert was filmed, but this segment is all that has survived. The third part of the GTK show was a two and a half minute clip for Set The Controls using the Saucerful album version. It featured three girls running around in the desert and is an Australian only promo. The band left Australia on Tuesday 17th August 1971. This was episode 365 of GTK broadcast on 23 Aug 1971. The original cassette actually has some of the Lindsay Bourke performance which is why Saucerful is cut short. The Lindsay Bourke material was not transferred to this 1st gen tape.” 

So there you have it, a bit of history about the event, the tape, and the reason A Saucerful Of Secrets is cut short. I was most curious to hear this new Sigma version as the only silver version of this show, First Australian Show (The Godfatherecords G.R. 321) is thirteen years old, it also should be noted that the Godfather is a single disc with A Saucerful Of Secrets being left off so it could fit onto one CD, Sigma utilizes the entire recording with the encore, although incomplete, intact. For a thirteen year old title, First Australian Show still sounds impressive, as Plomerus states it has an in your face sound, this is also true of this new version by Sigma. Where’s Godfather mastered their version to eliminate the tape hiss and went for a really clean sound, this new title by Sigma embraces the lineage and age of the tape and thus gives a much broader range of sound, more depth with nice upper frequencies and an excellent bottom end. The Sigma still has that “in your face” sound and gives one the feeling of power when listening. Godfather also trimmed a bit of between song non music time, Sigma presents the entire 90 minute recording. The combination of the complete and known tape lineage, more current transfer, and gentle mastering by Sigma gives us the improvement in sound that makes Sigma the clear cut winner. Performance? Follow the link to the Plomerus review, it’s all there in black and white. 

The packaging is typical Sigma. The inserts are nice with the interior being shots of The Floyd onstage in Sydney, the pictures confirm that the weather was cold out, the band have coats and sweaters on trying to keep warm in the Australian afternoon. The tray interior has a newspaper review of the performance, the rear has a couple of gig advertisements and a ticket stub as well. Very nice artwork honoring the tour. This new title by Sigma gives us a more definitive version of the Melbourne concert in sound and completeness, a title that should make most happy. 

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