Plumpton 1969 (Sigma 233)
9th National Jazz & Blues Festival, Plumpton Racecourse, Plumpton, Sussex, UK – August 8, 1969
(72:25) Introduction, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Cymbaline “The Journey” Suite, The Beginning, Beset By Creatures Of The Deep, The Narrow Way, The Pink Jungle, The Labyrinths Of Auximines, Behold The Temple Of Light, The End Of The Beginning, Interstellar Overdrive
There are two known recordings for the Plumpton gig, the first referred to as recorder 1 was recorded by Anders V and is an incomplete audience source clocking in at 36 minutes. It is very clear and detailed with just a small amount of tape hiss, easily falling into the very good plus range. However, due to it being an open air gig, the sound is thin yet the instruments and vocals are nicely balanced and features the first part of the performance, from the introduction through The Narrow Way. The second source is again an audience recording taped by Nick Ralph, an early Floyd enthusiast who also recorded the Southampton 1969 and Royal Albert Hall 1969 shows. His recording captures the complete show in very good sound quality, it is again clear and detailed although sometimes is hard to initially hear as it has more hiss than source 1. It also has a better frequency range, much fuller sounding with quite nice bottom end and very much compliments the first tape. The first source is used through the 4:52 mark of The Narrow Way, the remainder comes from recorder 2, the transitions of tape sources is excellent and while you can clearly here the differences in recordings it does not hamper ones enjoyment of the performance.
The only release of the Plumpton concert to date is an old Highland title The Journey Through The Past (Highland-HL195) that uses recorder 1 and adds A Saucerful Of Secrets from the Pepperland 1970 concert. I was curious how these would compare so I pulled out my copy of the Highland release. It actually holds up well, this new Sigma version is not as loud and has just a bit more hiss, it also has a warmer feel and better frequency range making it much easier on the ears, the Highland sound almost brittle in comparison. It should also be noted that a two source composite was done by the Yeeshkul community, that is not the source for this release but a CD-R version of that set was offered as “bonus” for this set by some distributors. I snagged some info from that torrent I thought gave some insightful information on the event itself:
One of 42 acts scheduled, the Floyd were booked to appear at 10.25 p.m. for an hour on Friday 8 August, following UFO club friends and rivals Soft Machine and closing the first night of the three-day festival. Future collaborators Ron Geesin and Roy Harper appeared on the other two days, along with major groups such as The Who.
The festival comperes, one of whom can be heard at the start of recorder 1, at the end of The Journey on this recording and after the encore, were John C Gee (Marquee Club) and Colin Caldwell (Marquee Studios).
Including a nice Ummagumma style sleeve photo, the event programme noted in the style of the time that Pink Floyd’s “music is so highly personal many a pagan has been converted to their musical conceptions.” For their “unique, avant garde” contribution to proceedings records show that the band were paid £600.
Because of power problems affecting the preceding bands, some accounts suggest the Floyd played their set in the early hours of Saturday morning when, it’s commonly reported, a good part of the audience had gone to sleep. It’s possible therefore that we should therefore really be referring to the date of this tape as 9 August 1969. International Times 63 records the start time differently, however, suggesting the “the Floyd finally appeared at 11, very cool and unconcerned by it all.”
IT went on to say that “their sound was as nicely balanced as it’s ever been outdoors but there was a controlling restraint that went through the first part of their set which was unfortunate under the circumstances, as already there were hang-ups with the last train.”
The recording features the intro “…welcome to the Pink Floyd” to a nice round of applause, one that is equal to Roger’s introduction of “This is a song called Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun”. The song continues to evolve just three months after the live recordings that would be featured on Ummagumma, there is a very nice improvisation section just before the second set of lyrics that sounds a bit like the Storm Section of A Saucerful Of Secrets. Richard tests the seabirds sound effects during the tune ups, Roger introduces the next song as “This is a much newer song, its called Cymbaline”, written for the recently released More soundtrack, the song was also part of “The Man” segment where it was entitled Nightmare/ Daybreak, this version is nice and melancholy and sans footsteps section.
“Some of you may have seen we did a kind of concert thing around the country a bit earlier this year, and this, which is what we’re gonna do now ’til we finish, is the second half of that concert. It’s called The Journey”. The piece begins with the paring of Green Is The Colour into Careful With That Axe, Eugene aka The Beginning and Beset By Creatures Of The Deep. Rogers’s screams during Beset drown out Gilmour’s leads and while the beginning is rather up tempo once the violence subsides they get into some really ambient playing that surely will be expanded upon in the coming years.
One of my favorite pieces of the studio side of Ummagumma is David Gilmour’s The Narrow Way, dramatic and very haunting and one pretty heavy as well, I love the live versions from The Journey as well as the BBC Sessions. The Pink Jungle is a very cool take on Pow R Toc H, very interesting hearing Roger’s vocals, part owl part Eugene. The Pink Jungle, The Labyrinths Of Auximines is a variation of A Saucerful Of Secrets with some wonderful bubbling sounds inter spaced over the top and really is a musical description the songs title, or vice versa. This leads into the footsteps and doors soundscape that would feature heavy in future versions of Cymbaline and become a highlight of future live performances.
Behold The Temple Of Light is a rather monotone instrumental piece that is not really interesting but a variation of a small piece of The Narrow Way, The End Of The Beginning is the Celestial Voices from A Saucerful Of Secrets and a stunning ending to an avant garde music piece, it is easy to see why this stayed in the live repertoire versus The Man, it is a more coherent music piece and very enjoyable. The encore is a superb version of Interstellar Overdrive, Roger plays some very aggressive bass runs leading into a Gilmour and Wright trading what can only be described to as “notes” and the song, the recording is cut at the 10:50 mark just as the band were getting into the coda, strange as their is a bit of audience noise cheering afterwards.
The packaging is typical for Sigma, bright hot pink coloured cover adorned with live shots of the group, ticket stub, and a couple different posters. First off this is an excellent sounding document of a superb mid 1969 performance by Pink Floyd as complete as we will ever get. Secondly it’s about time. The 1967-1969 years of Pink Floyd have largely been ignored by Sigma, sadly as this period is very interesting and very transitional, one can only hope they will look deeper into the well and give us more.