The Australian Pink Floyd - Liverpool Summer Pops by Tug Benson
I imagine that if you sat down and thought about the "typical" person who might want to go and see a Pink Floyd tribute band, you would probably be thinking of some sort of 40-50 year old real-ale biker bloke, possibly with a few hippie/grebo trappings still in place such as a bit of a ponytail sprouting out the back of a Franny Rossi balding nut, maybe sporting a dark waistcoat or denim jacket with a vintage Floyd "The Wall" Tour T-Shirt underneath. Even a studded belt holding up some black jeans slightly half-mast to a pair of black Airwear shoes. The same sort of people who still get excited at the news that "The $tones" are planning another world tour. Well I saw one of those fellas at Friday night's performance by the Australian Pink Floyd at the Liverpool Summer Pops, and he was looking a little bit apprehensive. Because his high was being blown by hordes of shaven headed Lacoste and Adidas clad football supporter types who were standing up and indulging in a little bit of communal singing. Altogether now,
"Lime and limpid green, a second scene
A fight between the blue you once knew
Floating down, the sound resounds
Around the icy waters underground
Jupiter and Saturn, Oberon, Miranda and Titania
Neptune, Titan, Stars can frighten"
"Aussie Floyd", as they are known to all in Liverpool, are in town, and like the Aintree Grand National, Creamfields and The Beatles Festival, it's one of the key cultural events of the Mersey Social Calendar...
In recent years, much has been made in print of the self-proclaimed "unique" scouse identity and its various guises. And I'm sure that the rest of the country who have had to endure it don't really give a rat's ass about it either, so skip this bit you lot. But if you want to know what makes the Aussie Floyd's Liverpool performances so bizarre then a bit of background is necessary. In the gruesome years of Thatcher's rule, the city saw a strange cult grow up amongst many of the younger match-going fraternity which other people have christened "Stoner Scall". This was gangs of togger following potheads, from both camps, who seriously got into their dad's or older brother's 60's psychedelic and 70's prog rock record collections. This manifested itself in many ways, from the Netherley based Jefferson Airplane family (which over time mutated into a poodle-hair-metal loving clan - which explains the Van Halen and RATT graffiti on the boarded up tenements, alongside the ubiquitous denunciations of alleged police informants - complete with stunt Dave Lee Roth wigs and shades worn to go out on a Sunday night to the Town Hall on Wavertree High Street), to hanging round the Backtrax second hand record shop in town digging out Zappa vinyl, to the graffiti on Park Road in Dingle proclaiming "HANG THE BASTARDS WHO KILLED JIMI HENDRIX", to the insane popularity of Hawkwind and Family B-sides on pub jukeys in town, to the osmotic absorption of the whole Captain Beefheart canon into the Huyton water supply. It was a truly underground scene, quite simply because, apart from the odd psychedelic night at the Bier Keller or a Groundpig or The La's gig, there was absolutely nowhere to go in town for these people, so the whole thing was centered round weed-friendly boozers and then back to bedrooms and flats for more smoking and the putting-on of the "tunes".
Until the arrival of acid house in 1988/89, a chunk of Liverpool music fans were stuck in a dope induced timewarp. And the daddies of the whole scene were Pink Floyd, particularly their 1980 double concept album The Wall, but including pretty much all their recorded work. The Floyd's 1988 concert at Manchester City's Maine Road stadium saw a mass exodus from the city to a venue usually more known to visiting scousers as a place of violence and 4 goal hammerings, where the bizzies were bang on top if you swore, where it was well shady if you got sussed on your own, where it was always worth getting off at Oxford Road and walking it as long as you stuck together, and where nobody knew the fucking time. Floyd's Maine Road gig was probably the highpoint of the whole sub-scene. (If you want to explore this deeper - as if! - check out the chapter in Phil Thornton's "Casuals" book, or the articles by John McCready that he did at the time for the NME and The Face, such as:
Nothing lasts forever though, as some beaked up weirdo once said, and as the 90s kicked in, so did the use of Ecstasy and cocaine in favour of ganja and LSD. Good clubs and bars that didn't care if you wore trainees and jeans started opening. By the turn of the Millennium it seemed that Liverpool had finally re-entered the mainstream of going out, getting blitzed and ending up handcuffed and covered in spew on Sky One's "Britain's Most Pissed And Dangerous". But old habits die hard. Even though it was much more likely to come on top if you were caught chonging as the pubs and clubs in town ruthlessly enforced their "PATRONS ARE ONLY ALLOWED TO CONSUME GEAR BOUGHT OFF THE DOOR STAFF - STRICTLY NO GREEN" policy, the weekend beak heads still needed to drift off when they got home. And after a 5 hour full volume Banging House soundtrack to the charlie, tablets, Viagra and Magic experience, it needs a few spliffs listening to dub reggae or country rock or The Floyd or Blue Note to sort your head back round. Also, it's worth noting that inside and outside the football grounds of Merseyside, the unmistakable reek of green still pervades. European away trips are plotted around the target destination's proximity to Amsterdam. Boozers that operate a weed-friendly policy with a decent jukey are still there, just not in town any more. And everyone's CD collection has been enlarged by access to Broadband, burners, and Napster clones, which means those albums you always wanted just for one tune are now available buck-shee (with no cover). Which is how Easy All Stars' "Dub Side Of The Moon" came to be the most popular record last year in Liverpool, despite zero sales or airplay. The snide version is even on the jukey of one of South Liverpool's premier smoking establishments, where it competes with The Best Of Marty Robbins for airplay when the football and line-dancing crowd are both in residence. This is the backdrop to Aussie Floyd's Liverpool appearances.
The Friday night show is one of two the group are doing at Liverpool's 2005 Summer Pops. This one features the complete performance of 1975's "Wish You Were Here". Saturday's features the complete performance of "Animals". Both are to be followed by "greatest hits". We meet in a bar in Tithebarne Street at 6.00pm where a few introductory joints are smoked, much to the disgust of the resident parrot headed office beauts who are on the Friday night post-work pull. Shortly after, the trog to the venue begins and as we go past Moorfields station 15 Garston heads that we know bounce out of the station. This is as close a snapshot of the overall audience profile as you can get - Liverpool and Everton lads, Columbia cargo shorts or Levis jeans, Lacoste shirts, Rockport boots or adidas trainees, crewcuts and baldies, aged 30-60, and giggling like naughty sixth formers on magic mushrooms. And that's because, yes indeed, most of them are on magic mushrooms. Brief salutations follow, knowing looks are cast to each other, and we all agree that the cancellation of the Easy All Stars Liverpool Academy performance the previous week was a tragedy, and tonight will be great. A swift pint with the rogues follows, including a conversational nugget from Ronnie Rumour that world famous miserable twat Roger Waters is "always on the ale in Liverpool, he's got a mate up here and they go to Penny Lane Wine Bar all the time", and then a taxi to the venue.
Outside you'd be forgiven for thinking it was the Champions League semi finals, such is the prevalence of heads from the match. Loads of the touts are there, trying to fleece the occasional 50-something UNIX Guru who has come down on spec. "Security" also seems to be run by the lads. Shouts to them of "Where's your seat, Joey?" are replied with, "I'm working tonight kid! Headphones, Pepper Spray, the lot!", and almost shamefaced grins.
The ticket fella is negotiated with minimum fuss, no-one's getting searched and on arrival inside the venue perimeter you are confronted by the original Animals Tour inflatable pig and the inflatable schoolteacher made famous for not leaving them kids alone. According to Ronnie Rumour, Dave Gilmour has lent them to the band, but this is pooh-poohed by Resident Floyd Expert, who contends that the teacher actually belongs to Waters, from his Berlin Wall shows. They both agree that the Animals Pig is kosher. At this point, one of the chaps shoved a Speckled Jim down my throat. 4 rockets are also demolished in double quick time. And the poor sap who had to go to the bar has given us the devastating news, "They've only got fucking Pils". Alco-pops it is then, I'll regret it in the morning.
Taking up the seats is a challenge best negotiated straight and early, but we fail this key test as the opening machine noise throb and whimsical keyboard noodling of "Shine On” Track One, Side One begins to drift outside and we realise they've started. We're in the stalls to the left side of the stage, and none of us has been there before and we start getting confused and in the line of sight of the early birds. A man with a torch and a very flat nose appears out of the darkness to check our tickets. "Over there, dickhead", he whispers while firing his ray gun at some empty seats. Second to back row for the five of us. Not a bad spec. The last row behind is full of young Bootle boneheads. They're all stood up and are holding bottles of Pils, and to a man they are belting out "Shi-iine On You Crazy Diamond". I actually get goose-pimples. I'm not sure if it's the E, if a steel breeze has blown in, or it's just hearing the tune at full blam, but the fact that my jaw has started chewing the Orbit sugar free gum like an outboard motor makes me think it's the Speckled Jim kicking in. As for the rest of the "Wish You Were Here" section, I have vague memories of the lazers being great, one of the backing singer’s cleavage being better, and the construction of the upper reaches of the tent being some sort of squared off trapezoid affair.
Next thing I know, it's half time and we're out in the fresh air again. We've bumped into one of the match heads, who we last saw twisted outside the Attaturk Stadium. He's on the arm and we're desperately trying to Maintain Orbital Status as it's not good for his future benders if he's with his girl and his chums appear to be deranged opium eaters. "Youse are all wrecked", he whispers. Discussion about the possibility of us hiring a container vessel to transport the boys to Japan for the World Club Championships is his excuse to leave. We remain outside to contemplate the odds of "Grandchester Meadows" or "Pow R Toc H" getting an airing.
Once again we miss the cue to return, and when we get back (unaided) to our seats the band have begun performing the fantastic "Astronome Domine" from Floyd's greatest album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. Everywhere around us now is madness. The serious mushy users have been given a slice of pure English psychedelic rock to get to grips with, the E-heads are searching for the beat, and the young boneheads behind are whispering, "What's this one off?” Francis Rossi still looks worried. When the band cranks up "One Of These Days" off Meddle, pandemonium breaks out. A young lad in the aisle seats with a red Reservoir Dogs T-Shirt on is playing a massive air guitar, like one of those ones Los Lobos have. His mate is doing a spot of Isle Of Wight-style loon dancing. They are not alone, far from it. They are both about 18 years old. Knowing their audience, the band do another ace blast of psych nuttiness, "Careful With That Axe Eugene", a scary number that can induce serious psychosis amongst the unwary - not in this crowd though. On they go, running through a greatest hits package of which I have almost no recollection, except for going outside for a ciggy when the obligatory post-Waters Dave Gilmour dirge comes on. Only one tonight. Thank you baby Jesus. Wall favourites “Hey You” and the obligatory "Comfortably Numb" are given the full treatment, the crowd belting back all the lyrics while the band provide instrumental accompaniment. A surprise airing of "In The Flesh" as an encore causes the first serious security incident. A crew of fellas about 5 rows in front of us have obviously been waiting for this one, and they lose the plot. They attempt to create a human pyramid as a base for an impromptu stage dive attempt, but the black suited headphone wearing heavy mob launch a rapid action incursion and removal operation which takes out Skin Number One with extreme prejudice. His last words of "See yer in Ma Edgie's" segued nicely into "Run Like Hell", and before I know it the house lights are on, we're shuffling out into the warm night air, and dozens of Red wreck-heads are humming the "Ring Of Fire" motif, much to the annoyance of the Evertonian contingent.
So there it is. A spectacular night of music that has absolutely no relevance to the modern scene, in a giant circus tent on the banks of the River Mersey. Full of several species of furry, fearless, brain damaged lunatics on the grass, completely drunk at all times. If mental Syd Barrett had ridden his bike to this great gig in the sky, he'd have felt like he'd come home. Unless he's bang into McFly these days. That's what Ronnie Rumour reckons.