On Stage With Zappa (no label)
Festival Actuel, Amougies, Belgium – October 25th, 1969
Astronomy Domine, Green Is The Colour, Careful With That Axe Eugene, tuning up with Frank Zappa, Interstellar Overdrive (Frank Zappa on guitar), Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, A Saucerful Of Secrets
Le Festival Actuel is one of the more interesting festivals from the 60’s. It was intended to be France’s first rock festival and the French version of Woodstock. Originally planned to be held in Paris, the promoters were not able to gain the necessary permits and was rescheduled to be elsewhere in France until it was finally moved out of France altogether and held in the Belgian village Amougies for twenty thousand fans.
The five day long event was hosted by Frank Zappa and featured Captain Beefheart, Yes, Soft Machine and many other experimental psychedelic and jazz acts. The entire festival was filmed and a documentary was released in 1970 called Amougies Music Power – European Music Revolution which has been described as horrible, like “Woodstock movie on brown acid”.
Pink Floyd headlined the second day of the festival on October 25th (which was also the day Ummagumma was released in the United Kingdom).
“Green Is The Colour”, “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” and “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” have been available from the soundtrack but the entire set, including “Interstellar Overdrive” with Frank Zappa, has never circulated until now.
Recently an audience recording of most of the festival surfaced and for the first time we have an almost complete document of Pink Floyd’s set. On Stage With Zappa is the first commercial release of the Pink Floyd tape.
The sound quality is just barely listenable with significant distortion in the upper frequencies, very noticeable hiss and compression. There is a cut after “Interstellar Overdrive” and tape crinkles at 5:27 in “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” and at 12:44 in “A Saucerful Of Secrets”.
It takes some time for the ears to adjust to the low fidelity of the recording but is listenable and somewhat enjoyable. It’s true value lies in being an important historical artifact and one of the very few times an established artist jammed onstage with Pink Floyd (Roy Harper jammed with the band at Knebworth in 1975 but that’s about it).
After “Astronomy Domine”, “Green Is The Colour” is introduced as from the soundtrack to Moreand segues with “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” which is ten minutes long but still sounds rushed and has some fascinating whale-like moans coming from Gilmour’s guitar by the end.
An announcer comes on stage and introduces the band and Frank Zappa (in French). After a three-minute tune-up they launch into a twenty-one minute version of “Interstellar Overdrive”. The middle begins with a very conventional sounding improvisation before Zappa introduces his own jazz-like figures.
The set ends with “A Saucerful Of Secrets” which lasts eighteen minutes in this recording and fades at the very end. The “Syncopated Pandemonium” section sounds particularly brutal in this recording. There is no mention of a label or matrix number although it looks European in origin. The manufacturers produced an attractive double-sided insert with several pictures of the event. This isn’t for the casual Pink Floyd fan by any means, but is an important historic document and hopefully other bands from this taper will begin to surface on silver titles in the future.