Games For May 40th Anniversary Show
Well, the digital age moves so fast, that although it took 40 years to recreate the Floyd's Games For May show (12th May 1967 to last night), it was available on-line by the time I had travelled back from London to the Frozen North. And if it's up to Matthijs' usual standards, it will be an excellent recording:
Robyn Hitchcock - Guitar, Vocals
From 'Bike' onwards they were joined by Woody (drummer with Madness) and soon afterwards by Graham Coxon, ex-Blur, on guitar and occasional vocal. The band was tight, emphasising the R'n'B aspects of the early songs, and with the quality of harmonies you expect from the Soft Boys.
I was directly alongside the lighting guys and it was a pleasure / education to watch Peter Wynne-Wilson & co. at work: manipulating those oil slides, projecting bacteria spreading across jelly and other marvellous effects... on the recording, you'll hear Robyn say at one point, "No, don't turn it off, it's fantastic... " or something like that in response to a kaleidoscope that was whirring around him as he tried to concentrate on introducing one number.
The first set is what the Floyd are reported to have played in May 67 by various sources, including Wikipedia. But as delighted as I was to see Robyn & co. perform Jugband Blues, was it really on the original setlist ? I sincerely doubt it. I'm pleased to see that David Parker excludes it in the Random Precision appendix. The first recording of Jugband was on 9th October 1967, and I would be surprised if it wasn't written closer to that date than 12th May 1967. Still, it was a fine version, with Terry Edwards contributing a disintegrating trumpet line while Robyn somehow kept drawing enough breath to keep the circling 'la la la la la la la' vocal going.
During Arnold Layne, women of suitable age, dress and appearance (i.e., they looked like Rose and Licorice of the Incredible String Band back in the day) took to the stage and gyrated in ways which haven't been attempted since my mother had one too many at our 1972 New Year's Party and put on the original cast recording of 'Hair'.
During Interstellar Overdrive the same women (one of them heavily pregnant, but with her bump psychedlically decorated) and their children wandered the audience distributing yellow flowers... iris and chrysanthemums rather than daffodils, I'm told by Inge, who had spent the day running a stall at a farmer's market, so she should know. I noticed someone wearing military uniform in the rear stalls, but he didn't join in on the flower distribution.
And that's where the Floyd finished their set... so it was time for a break. Robyn returned with an acoustic guitar and Isobel Campbell on cello, plus Matthew Cullen on a second acoustic. They ran thru delightful versions of some of my favourite solo songs.
Now I have to say, I don't know a Syd cover version, official or unofficial which I enjoy as much as Syd's originals, but if anyone consistently comes close, it's Robyn Hitchcock. I winced at Chrissie Hynde's anguished version of Late Night at the Barbican. Hitchcock caught the gentle resignation of the song perfectly, and the cello and 'wee voice' accompaniment from Isobel Campbell really complemented his delivery.
Graham Coxon came on for Wined and Dined. Initially he took the lead vocal, but he appeared 0f out of sorts with his voice and left it to Robyn, contributing rather unconvincing lead guitar instead.
Altogether more convincing was the finale, involving absolutely everyone, firstly in a freeform jam, using Reaction in G as the excuse for an Unlimited Freak Out. Robyn pointed out (at the same time that BBC2 was broadcasting a programme saying the same thing !) that this was where progressive rock began... but that was the risk you took when you began to experiment.
We were fortunate to be invited to share a drink or two by Terry Edwards (currently acting as record label supremo to a Department S comeback - or something less dramatic than that), so lingered for another hour or so. Nonetheless, as we left, those dedicated guys were still carefully individually disassembling and packing all of those strange lighting effects. Well worth the effort, and thank you, guys.
PS: My one moan ! As you'll see from the programme scans, Robyn's short piece about Syd is headed 'Syd Barret'... come on, proof readers, get your act together. Just as with Gilmour's Arnold Layne sleeve, the tribute would be more effective if the name of the person being honoured was spelt right.