Saint Ouen 1972 (Sigma 72)
Centre Sportif de l’Ile des Vannes, Saint Ouen, France – December 1st, 1972
Disc 1 (47:17): Speak To Me, Breathe, On The Run, Time, Breathe (Reprise), The Great Gig In The Sky, Money, Us And Them, Any Colour You Like, Brain Damage, Eclipse
Disc 2 (55:24): One Of These Days, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Blues, Echoes, Childhood’s End
Pink Floyd ended yet another busy year in 1972 with dates in France, Belgium, Switzerland including five special shows with the Roland Petit Ballet in Marseilles in late November. Two shows were scheduled for Paris on December 1st and December 2nd at the Centre Sportif de l’Ile des Vannes.
December 1st was broadcast live on RTL radio. The only silver pressed title featuring this broadcast is Remembrance Of Things Past (Highland HL 281) which has the second half of the show (“One Of These Days” to “Childhood’s End.”) Highland was an improvement over the tape copies at the time of release, but was obviously a few generations from the master and with noticeable hiss. Also, the last couple minutes of “Childhood’s End” has painful pitch problems.
There are several tapes in circulation, all taped from the radio broadcast and none of them complete. The longest version is also the best sounding and is the one Sigma uses for Saint Ouen 1972. It is the most complete, featuring the first half of the show with the Dark Side Of The Moon suite and has less hiss. However, RTL were an AM station so the broadcast was in mono. There are some drop outs and fluctuations in the volume.
The recording also has about ten minute worth of gaps such as the first half of “Speak To Me,” part of “Breathe,” “On The Run,” the first part of “One Of These Days” and “Echoes.” Sigma edited in the tape from the November 29th show in Poitiers, France to establish aesthetic continuity. (The complete Poitiers performance can be found on the excellent Poitiers 1972 (Siréne-105)).
Some may question this decision in the name of historic accuracy. But the editing job is perfect and the quality of the two tapes are close enough to not even notice.
Notes associated with this release offer some historic background. “In 1972, RTL was one of the most popular radio station in Europe. Despite having their studio in France (they were the intended audience), they had an insanely powerful transmitter in Luxembourg to overcome the French legislation that banned private broadcasting at the time. Because of this, they could be heard all over Western Europe, even in Scotland during beautiful days. At the time, Pink Floyd were very popular in France. They knew it and toured extensively there.
“It’s nonetheless quite surprising that the band agreed to broadcast live one of their shows from there because they only dealt with the BBC for this before and after this show. Well, if you consider that RTL was sponsoring 9 of their concerts in french-speaking Europe at the time, it’s not that surprising, maybe it’s part of the deal. The show we’re talking here is the second from those 9 dates. It’s their last live broadcast on any media ’til the 1989 Venice TV show (one of their shows was recorded in November 1974, but was edited prior to broadcasting many months later).”
The first half Dark Side is as close as they would get to the final version before the album’s actual release in early 1973. “On The Run” would still be reworked, but “The Great Gig In The Sky” features the same Richard Wright piano melody but missing the vocals.
Missing also is the saxophone which plays an important part in the middle of the piece, “Money” and “Us & Them.” But the lack of saxophone is compensated by Wright’s keyboards. They are much more prominent in the arrangements than they will be in the next year.
Otherwise, the band give a fantastically tight, confident, and enthusiastic performance of their new masterwork. Roger Waters’ microphone isn’t working but nobody notices until “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse,” the only songs in the piece featuring his vocals.
Given this is the first performance of the new album in Paris, the audience give them an enthusiastic response. But things improve greatly in the second half when the band play older and better known songs, starting with a great “One Of These Days.”
Before “Careful With That Axe, Eugene,” the RTL announcer speaks for a bit. One can glean from his comments this comes from a rebroadcast of the second half of the show (the reason why Highland could only press this part of the show). He says:
“Le deuxième titre que nous allons entendre de Pink Floyd, je vous rappelle que vous écoutez RTL et que c’est la deuxième partie du concert que Pink Floyd a donné à Paris Vendredi dernier, le deuxième morceau que nous allons entendre c’est ‘Careful with that Axe, Eugene’ …hmm, je ne sais pas très bien si ‘Axe’ s’écrit en tant que ‘Hache’ ou en tant que ‘Axe’. Vous savez que les membres de Pink Floyd sont tous d’anciens étudiants en architecture et ils aiment bien jouer un petit peu sur les ‘Careful with that Axe, Eugene’… Floyd Pink.”
Which, in English, is “The second title that we will hear from Pink Floyd, I remind to you that you listen to RTL and that is the second part of the concert that Pink Floyd gave in Paris last Friday, the second song which we will hear is ‘Careful with that Axe, Eugene’ …hmm, I do not know very well if ‘Axe’ is wrote as ‘an Axe’ or as ‘an Axis’. You know that the Pink Floyd members are all old architectural students and they like to play a little bit on the ‘Careful with that Axe, Eugene’? Floyd Pink.”
Afterwards they play the four minutes untitled blues piece that’s been in their repertoire for many years. It’s normally played as an encore. It would be interesting to know exactly why they pulled it out at this point in the show. Gilmour has a lot of fun with the blues chords and the wah-wah pedal. It sounds almost comical compared to the rest of the show.
The show returns to normalcy with “Echoes.” The only encore is “Childhood’s End” from Obscured By Clouds, released the previous summer. This is the first live performance of the track and anything from that album. The title track and “When You’re In” would be played as a set opener the following year.
“Childhood’s End” would be the encore for the rest of the European dates and at the beginning of the US tour in March, but would be dropped. It is a compelling live piece. The melody is catchy and Wright’s Hammond gives it a heavy progressive feel. The middle instrumental is also interesting, lead by Waters’ bass creating a nice rhythm.
Saint Ouen 1972 is a strong Sigma release. The show is rare and the sound quality is good enough to be an important addition to the collection.