INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Mojo APRIL 2006 - by Phil Manzanera
CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE FLOYD FREAK
From Syd to The Dark Side and beyond! Floyd's three defining eras as witnessed by Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera.
1965-1967: THE BARRETT YEARS
I was a grovelling teenage Pink Floyd fan. Soft Machine were the grooviest, coolest psychedelic band of the era and I noticed Pink Floyd through following Soft Machine because they often played on the same bill. I'd follow their progress and when the first album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, came out [in August, 1967] it was really exciting. I was still at school, very impressionable, sucking up influences.
I went to Christmas On Earth Revisited [at London's Olympia, December 22, 1967]. I had a rather nice French girlfriend so it was a bit like background music but it was wonderful. There were different stages, Hendrix was on, we tranced out until the tube started again in the morning. It seemed so big, culturally and socially it was what was happening.
Floyd with Syd was a vision of wacky Englishness and experimentation with sound. The production was fantastic and they were part of the light show scene that was coming on - epidiascopes, wobbly stuff. I was too scared to take acid but the shows fuelled my imagination, I looked on in awe and amazement.
Syd's songs were too unique. There were a lot of people who were trying to do the same thing - break out of established song structures. Put that with Velvet Underground and that gave me the push to head towards Roxy.
1968-1986: WELCOME TO THE MACHINE
My brother Eugene [Targett-Adams] was at Cambridge University and when he was up there he had met David and he arranged for us to have lunch together. I was seventeen at the time and David had just joined Pink Floyd.
I met David in a restaurant opposite where he lived on Brompton Road - he was sharing with Syd I think. My brother was buying - he had a proper job in a bank. We had this conversation. He said keep practising the scales or keep taking the tablets. I think we went up to the flat and he showed me his guitar. He's got a proper Fender Strat, and you have only got a Galaxy...
At the time when they changed from Syd to David it seemed a continuity, though there was a change in the amount of instrumental stuff being played. David did create a different sound.
I liked A Saucerful Of Secrets [Floyd's second album, released June, 1968]. I loved Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun. We played that in our school band. You could play the riff at the start, then improvise for half an hour, then come back to the riff and everyone seemed happy. Only jazz musicians - and Soft Machine - did that then. That idea of experimenting was what I was into.
Floyd were doing things with sounds, having fun with the traditions of musique concrète and the Radiophonic Workshop making this spacey music. I loved the use of echo. When you got to The Dark Side Of The Moon [released March, 1973] it came together. The songs, the atmospherics, the complete approach - it was all there. In Roxy with Eno we were definitely influenced by them at that point. After I heard David's solo on Money, I sent him a telegram telling him I was in a band and I'd joined Roxy. I think he said something encouraging. Then we bumped into each other over the years.
1987-2006: AFTER THE WAR
In the '80s I was managed by [Floyd manager] Steve O'Rourke too. I had a studio in Chertsey and David and his family would come over for our Christmas Carol service.
When David started working on A Momentary Lapse Of Reason [Floyd's first post-Waters set, released in 1987], we put together a track and worked on that.
David and I are neighbours in Sussex now, so I popped round to borrow a couple of riffs and a cup of sugar and twenty months later I was co-producing his solo album, On An Island! For the first time in a long time, he wasn't going to be affected by the pressure of a brand - he didn't have to sound like Pink Floyd. Of course, he does because his voice is very distinctive. Nobody else sings like him and that's very much part of Pink Floyd, which a lot of people don't realise. It's a very English sound, the tradition of Nick Drake and Robert Wyatt. I don't mean just the accent, it's how you phrase it. And there's his guitar-playing too, which does reflect his personality - very melodic, very strong, it can have an edge, it can have a pastoral tone.
The album is a personal record because David has written with Polly [Samson - his wife] who worked with him on The Division Bell [Floyd's last studio release, 1994]. It's personal but there are all sorts of different tracks waiting there. He could do an album a year for three years. We recorded bags of stuff. Then there's the tour which I'm doing with David - twenty-seven dates, ten in Europe, a dozen in America and a few here. Yes, there are Floyd tracks in the set but the tour won't be a big Pink Floyd show, more like Meltdown, making a connection with the audience. Quite brave of him I think. It will be quite something for me to be playing Floyd songs! What does it all mean?