Nothing Parts 1 To 24 (Highland HL609/610)
Internationale Musikforum, Stiftshoff, Ossiach, Austria (Ossiach Festival) – July 1st, 1971
Disc 1 (38:33): Return Of The Son Of Nothing, Careful With That Axe Eugene
Disc 2 (45:20): Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Atom Heart Mother (with brass and choir)
The Ossiach Festival in Stifshoff, Austria was a week long event in the summer of 1971. Featuring world renowned orchestras, Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream were the only “pop” acts to perform. In keeping with the festival’s nature, they performed four of their longest and most symphonic pieces to a very quiet and respectful audience. Although some sources claim they played six songs (“Cymbaline” and “A Saucerful Of Secrets” at the end), only four songs were played that night.
Nothing Parts 1 to 24 presents a low generation mono audience recording of the event in very good sound quality. Some of the detail is obscured in the echoes in the venue, but for a 1971 audience recording it is pretty good. There is a cut after “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” and a cut and repeat when Roger Waters introduces “Atom Heart Mother” but is otherwise complete. It was also featured on the one disc title Ossiach Musik Forum (The Swingin’ Pig TSP-CD-324-325) with the tunings edited out to preserve space, but Highland has the complete tape.
Their set begins with “Return Of The Son Of Nothing.” Floyd would rename the piece “Echoes” the following month when they made their first trip to Japan. They perform the song in its early version with differences from its final form on Meddle released later in the year. The first three verses are the “space” lyrics which would be later dropped:
Planets singing face to face
Bound to the air of life, how sweet!
If purposely 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 shining better
Than one light can
And in that longing to be one
The parting suns shine as one
I’ll see you’ve got to travel on
And on and on, around the sun
These lyrics were dropped by Waters since he was becoming annoyed with Pink Floyd being labeled as “space rock.” The theme of “Echoes” had always been about alienation but the new lyrics emphasize the internal, spiritual dimension without using the overbearing image of space to express the point. Musically it is similar to the final version and Gilmour and Wright also engage in a dramatic duel between guitar and organ before the middle seabirds section.
“Careful With That Axe, Eugene” is fascinating for the build up and anticipation to the bloody scream in the middle. It is played with deliberation upon every doom laden note and the first part turns out to be much more interesting than the second. But the weight of the performance lays upon the best recorded version of “Atom Heart Mother” with choir and orchestra on record. There is about a three minute tune up before the piece and unlike other orchestral versions, which sounds tentative and unrehearsed, this is tight and sounds more like Gustav Mahler than Pink Floyd. The choir almost overwhelms the electric instruments and seems to inspire the band in the middle since they play very lyrical improvisations.
Nothing Parts 1 To 24 was released in 2001 and is one of the last Pink Floyd titles released on Highland before they closed. As it stands it is the definitive version of this performance even though the label gets the date wrong on the cover (stating June 1st instead of July).