After the Beatles, the Stones and Bob Dylan, Jean-Michel Guesdon and Philippe Margotin look at Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon Face Mask for their erudite collection ,”La Totale”, an international publishing success. Some 180 songs are dissected one by one, with a remarkable attention to detail. A sum of 5 kg in which the greatest admirers of Floyd will still find material to discover. In the space of three years, the series “La Totale” written by two Frenchmen, Jean-Michel Guesdon and Philippe Margotin, has become a reference. Born as a tribute to the Beatles on which Jean-Michel Guesdon had accumulated a phenomenal amount of information, “The Beatles La Totale” had to be without follow-up. This was not to mention the success: since 2014, each “Total” has been a hit internationally, especially in the United States, which now accounts for 2/3 of sales.
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This time, it is the cult songs of Pink Floyd that the musician Jean-Michel Guesdon and the publisher Philippe Margotin sift through. Including “outtakes” (songs not initially selected) such as “Embryo”, or those recorded in Rome for the soundtrack of Antonioni’s “Zabriskie Point”. For each is detailed the context of the creation and the meaning of the words. Then are dissected the recording and the technical realization. Portraits of key characters (producers, managers) often unknown, anecdotes, beautiful photos and frames punctuate the story, a true immersion in the creative process of one of the most luminous and revolutionary groups of rock led for a time by Syd Barrett, then by David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright.
Pink Floyd is a special case. Firstly because his early magician, Syd Barrett, was quickly discarded while marking the band very strongly from his imprint. Then because the English band made concept albums (“The Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here” and “Animals”) and a rock opera (“The Wall”). And finally because he composed music for major films like Barbet Schroeder’s “More” (1969). But what has given the authors the most trouble is still elsewhere. “With Pink Floyd, it’s less about texts than about music. And above all a lot of sound experimentation,” stresses Jean-Michel Guesdon. “It was a nightmare to analyze the incredible sounds they were getting. With the arrival of sequencers in the 80s, it became even more complex to know how a sound was produced, even musicians don’t always know it.”
That did not deter him in any way. He plunges us with an often manic precision into the convoluted sound universe of the band known initially for its long psychedelic improvisations from the blues. All the instruments, processes and special effects used to obtain these strange and unpublished sounds are dissected. How Syd Barrett used a plastic ruler as a bottleneck to give a “Hawaiian effect” to the second single “See Emily Play”. How Roger Waters innovated on “Lucifer Sam” by playing his bass Rickenbacker 4001 with a bow. How Syd Barrett got the special sound of the Floyd of the beginning by pairing his Fender Esquire with his Binson Echorec. How the band used an EMS VCS3 synthesizer for the first time to generate the synthetic wind of “One of these days” on the album “Meddle”.
As for the lyrics, Philippe Margotin introduces us to the band’s often enigmatic lyrics, from the first single “Arnold Layne” which dealt with a boy’s fetishism for women’s underwear stolen from clotheslines. He reveals to us who was addressing The threat posed by Nick Mason on “One of These Days”: to Jimmy Young, a BBC host who didn’t like the band’s music and let it be known. However, he does not reveal the mystery of the encrypted words of “San Tropez”, inspired by Roger Waters by a stay in the small port of Vars.
But it’s not just about music in “Pink Floyd The Total”. We learn how one of their collaborators had lit the fuse of their future concerts with great spectacle: he had the ingenious idea, in their very early stages, to attach pieces of colored cellophane to a wheel, which he rotated in front of spots, for a scotching, psychedelic devil result.
It is discovered that it was initially envisaged to photograph the anus of a baboon for the cover of “Meddle”. Then the graphic designer Storm Thorgerson of Hipnosis, the collective that signed most of Pink Floyd’s covers, finally opted for two photos superimposed with a close-up ear and luminous rings in the water (that’s what this pouch has always personally been called “the ear”!).
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Even more anecdotally, we learn that the band was in its early days stocking up on chic fripes at “Granny Takes A Trip” on King’s Road in London, like the Stones. Except that Syd Barrett brought his dirty laundry, convinced it was a laundromat! 5 Questions to Jean-Michel Guesdon, co-author, in charge of the musical analysis of the series “La Totale”. I still remember the day I bought “The Dark Side of the Moon”, I was 13 years old, I was living in Berlin because I am the son of a diplomat. I remember unfolding the posters, it was very new at the time. And when I put the disc on the turntable I really took off, my heart exploded. I still feel it today. So far we have only worked on archives. We read a lot of books, mainly in English, and peeled the Anglo-Saxon press of the period. We cross the sources and keep only what is confirmed. If in doubt, rather than writing an error, we leave question marks.
We know that people at Abbey Road loved our book about the Beatles: they recommended us as experts alongside George Martin (!) with a BBC documentary filmmaker! Dylan, known for being unpredictable and not very tender, was saying that he liked the book we dedicated to him. As far as memory is concerned, there is fortunately in each group a patient of detail and archives. At Pink Floyd, it’s David Gilmour. At the Stones it was Bill Wyman, he had archived everything (until his departure in 1993). As for the Beatles, they were lucky enough to still work in the same place in Abbey Road, which had a very picky administrative department. I discovered how ubiquitous Roger Waters is in Pink Floyd. I thought David Gilmour was more so. But Pink Floyd is the result of an incredible chemistry between four personalities, we could see it when Pink Floyd found Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon Face Mask without Waters and when Waters went solo: their work at all was then of a lower level.