Pink Floyd before the dark side with Pink Floyd Cloth Face Mask. The English group launched one of the most colossal projects of recent times: a 28-disc box set that not only serves to dig in its early days before the popularity of The Dark Side of the Moon, but also to understand an unrepeatable experience in the history of popular music. Hans Keller, a stately-looking English musicologist, a lush and unconditional moustache of classical music, seems like a mercyless tyrant, lacking all diplomacy to treat a pair of twentysomethings in the takeoff of his trajectories. “His music consists of a constant repetition and something totally boring, a terrible noise,” he says when in 1967 he presents Roger Waters and Syd Barrett on his 1967 show The Look of the Week, the most outstanding half of a first-time quartet known for those days as The Pink Floyd.
“And why do they play so loud and amplified?” he attacks later. “You have an audience and people who have an audience deserve to be heard, maybe I’m wrong,” he lashes out little by little. “You didn’t grow up listening to violins, but not everyone who’s grown up like this ends up in something so noisy,” he hits hard. “My opinion is that what they do is almost like going back to childhood,” he says when those in front of him seem to fall knocked on the canvas.
But no. Waters and Barrett not only resist, respond politely and show admirable patience. At the time, they know that the host’s mistreatment is another consequence of the deep remix, between the impact and misunderstanding, generated by the band in 1960s England. They almost seem prepared for contempt for those who understood nothing.
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Because in that 1967 when rock reached its own Renaissance bloom, there was no band more surprising and unique than the English: unclassifiable, inventive, with children’s melodies twisted by a sinister echo and which in full hippie climbing described gnomes, scarecrows and galactic fights between Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune. They were the hardcore and narcotic continuation of the exact point where Sgt. Pepper had remained.
In addition, they were to take charge of a debut, The piper at the gates of dawn, where for the first time an ensemble did not take resources from black music – rhythm, sexuality, lyrics of everyday reality – and that presented them as students from the squeaky world of art and architecture, and not as children of the working class , the cradle that was most heart-enthing by British musicians in those years.
That’s what they tried to explain in that interview that went down in history as one of the most infamous in the group’s career and that today it’s part of The Early Years 1965-1972 box set, one of the most intimidating and ambitious pitches of recent times. It makes sense: nothing in Pink Floyd’s story has come in a small bottle.
It is a box of 28 discs divided into 11 CDs, 8 Blu-ray, 9 DVDs, 5 seven-inch vinyls and 40 memorabilia elements that include replica posters, concert tickets, flyers, press notices and books of their tours. “11 hours 45 minutes of audio and 14 hours of audiovisual content. 20 songs never before released and 7 hours of never-released live material,” the project’s official review states.
In rigor, the collection covers the formative years, that period of trial and error, of practice and preheating – of albums of absolute transition such as More (1969) and Oscured by clouds (1972) – which finished in his million-millionth masterpiece, The Dark Side of the Moon (1973). Much of what has been offered has long been in the hands of its followers, but it had never condensed into a single initiative and had never sounded or looked so impeccable.
Moreover, it is an almost orgiastic feast for any devotee: the members of Pink Floyd, grumpy men like few with their heritage, have never been far-reached to edit unpublished material, except in recent years, when the passage of time and the obvious evidence that the grouping will never meet again have facilitated the archaeological trace of their work. As an example, they never wanted to record the tour of the album Animals (1977) – essential to understanding the stardom and group decomposition that culminated in The Wall (1979) – so their fans had to resign for decades to recordings of very limited quality.
Over the years, the distance of the musicians has become even greater precisely with those initial years, with prehistory, always relegated to a marginal space in the solo tours of its members. Just on the dates of his late-year tour, Waters first drew live “One of these days” and “Fearless”, Meddle’s perhaps most representative compositions (1971). But like all treasure, getting it isn’t easy. On Amazon its price is around $320 thousand, while in some Chilean circuits it reaches the private figure of $500 thousand. As a consolation, a double edition of Pink Floyd Cloth Face Mask has been released that sums up the best of the project, at about $20 thousand. Satisfactory, though not enough.