Sheffield 1970 1st Gen (Sigma 271)
City Hall, Sheffield, UK – December 22, 1970
Disc 1 (76:21) Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast, The Embryo, Fat Old Sun, Careful With That Axe, Eugene
Disc 2 (76:12) Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, A Saucerful Of Secrets, Celestial Voices, Atom Heart Mother, Atom Heart Mother (reprise)
Pink Floyd played a short 6 date tour of the UK dubbed “Atom Heart Mother Is Going On The Road” to end 1970. The last four of these dates would feature The Floyd accompanied by a brass and choir ensemble during Atom Heart Mother as well as a rare performance of Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast where various roadies would fry eggs and make tea onstage. Roger Waters spoke to Sounds shortly before the tour “The logistics of doing it live are quite difficult, we can’t obviously take a set of a kitchen round with us and do it all, but we’ll have to have some table arrangements to fry eggs on and boil kettles and everything.”
Thankfully one of the concerts was recorded, the final gig being at the City Hall in Sheffield just days before Christmas 1970. In the late 80’s portions of this recording began to appear on bootleg LP’s Lost In The Corridors (Rockwell & Good RG 5003 – Spatial Arrangements 3) and Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast (Circus Sun) both feature the rare Atom Heart Mother track. Eventually a more complete version of the concert appeared on A Psychedelic Night Part 1 (Triangle Records PYCD 038), A Psychedelic Night Part 2 (Triangle Records PYCD 039), and Pink’s Psychedelic Last Night (Highland HL176). Eventually a lower generation tape was discovered and released as The Ultimate Breakfast (Devils Breath DB 001), a huge upgrade over all previous titles. Eat A Peach released a more complete version of the recording that did not have the cut in Careful With that Axe, Eugene on the excellent title A Final Breakfast At The Gates Of Dawn (Eat A Peach EAT 91/92).
Earlier this year the incredible Jimfisheye worked his magic on a verified first generation copy to create the best sounding version to date. His work included speed correction and small areas of flutter, removing the loud noise caused by the tape machine at a few between song cuts, noise reduction, and equalized the sound so the sound levels are consistent throughout the performance. All this work was done to improve and enhance all while keeping the integrity of the original mono analog recording in tact, the results are amazing and hands down this is the best circulating version of this concert available. There is just a trace amount of hiss remaining, to completely remove it would ruin the recording, and it sounds very natural. The drums are still a bit on the background but the clarity and separation of instruments is incredible.
Roger gives an introduction to the proceedings “I’d like you all to relax if you can please for a few minutes. This is our last performance before Christmas and we’d like you all to look upon it as a kind of party. So, thank you very much. so anyway I think we’re ready to begin now and this first thing is called Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast”. The opening piece is a true rarity and the stage action is better captured here, as are the audience’s reactions to it and all sounds like a relaxed and intimate performance. Listening to this version gives me new appreciation for the song as a live piece versus a curiosity, it was actually well played and enjoyable and to get an even better perspective I pulled out my old Highland title for comparisons as well as the Devil’s Breath and Eat A Peach versions. Again this new version is the clear winner. What I find interesting is that for the last concert of the year, they seem to not be in any hurry and play a laid back and excellent set. The version of The Embryo is stunning, they put a lot of sound into the middle section and I simply love this version. Also quite fun is during the tune ups for the song, it takes Dave a couple of minutes to get ready and Roger jokes with him a bit.
Fat Old Sun finds the band on, the middle improvisation jamming gets really intense while remaining pastoral, while at times the interplay is subtle and quiet and others loud and strongly rhythmic in their presentation. The interplay between Dave and Rick is at times like two bodies one mind, both being lead players yet enjoying each others contributions. Careful With That Axe, Eugene is typical for late 1970, typically incredible that is, older versions of this tape had a cut during Roger’s scream, both this title and the Peach title feature the complete song. This song has been expanded and improvised throughout the year, the sound here is incredibly clear, the taper is believed to be on the side and close to one of the surround sound speakers and thus picks up a lot of Roger’s quiet “conversations” with himself. They sound like whispers, you can almost hear him breathing at times, the whispers evolve into distant screams and one gets the effect of Gollum from the Lord Of The Rings movies. Incredible the band is so in-tune with each other, Roger leads and David and Rick seem to interpret his vocals into the building of tension until it cannot be contained any longer. Roger’s scream is the embodiment of a violent sequence and is perfectly captured on this recording and is far less distorted than older versions of this tape…precious.
This recording captures David’s guitar perfectly during Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, he is slashing at his strings while the other instruments provide a cacophony of sounds as they enter the heart of the sun, the latter soundscapes by Richard Wright evoke some part of space where one is just floating and Roger’s bass seems to be the sound of ones heartbeat. “OK we’re going to do one more thing now before we take a break, for I don’t know ten minutes or probably a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes actually….while we’re taking a break we’ll get some other musicians who going to join us and we’ll do Atom Heart Mother but before we take the break we’d like to do A Saucerful Of Secrets”. The sound of the instruments are very clear and detailed during this piece, it’s really interesting to hear David’s guitar with this clarity, the more it goes on it pushes the drums to the rear of the mix. You really get an idea of what this song must have been like hearing it in person with the quadraphonic system. A woman near the taper has a coughing spell during Richard’s beginning of Celestial Voices, it is not obtrusive and if not for the timing could have been a sound effect. The song cuts as David begins the vocal section, funny to hear Nick keep playing when the instruments stop, the audience applauds like its the end of the song. After a brief cut Richard Wright begins to play on an acoustic piano to entertain the audience while the power issue is rectified. They begin the Celestial Voices segment again, complete with the poor woman’s cough.
After a cut we get the tail end of Roger’s intro “…called Atom Heart Mother” and the band begin the piece accompanied by a brass section and choir. It is interesting to hear this version as the brass section is well defined in the mix and it seems like David is purposing playing at a bit lower volume possibly in an attempt not to overwhelm them. Five minutes in he is back up higher as he plays the slide meanderings. It’s interesting to listen to the band with the accompaniment and then the middle section where it’s just the four. When the other musicians are playing they sound tentative as one would expect, when it’s just the four they play relaxed and more energetic. I like the way the brass starts to creep back in followed by the choir and how much the instruments and vocals seemed tuned to the proper pitches, no small feet I am sure. As they move back into the main theme I can only consider this performance a triumph, the fact that The Floyd would go through the trouble of the performances with the other musicians shows how proud they were of their piece (at the time that is). “Whatever that was down there cause that’s what we’re gonna do we’re gonna go back a bit and start again” and the band play the middle section of Atom Heart Mother as a four piece with brass and choir getting in for the final minute.
The packaging is typical for Sigma, here we have black and white shots of the band onstage as well as a posed shot on the interior. They also have a small concert advert and ticket stub to tie it all in. The discs have a four-way shot of the band while the sticker has just Roger, all housed in a slim lined jewel case. 1970 was an incredible year, it started with the “weird shows” and ended with equally unique performances, I have not met a 1970 I didn’t like. This is an essential upgrade with full kudos going to Jimfisheye whose remarkable talents and passion for the preservation and enjoyment of these Relics has given collections worldwide much joy.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)