Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, New Year's Eve 1966-67.
By MIke Godwin
Well, it's quite a while ago. Do you remember the Roundhouse at all? It's a former LNWR locomotive shed (Code 1B) which was converted into an "arts centre" by some people including Arnold Wesker IIRC. Just a big round hall basically. I'd only seen the Floyd once before, doing a short set at an Albert Hall Oxfam fundraiser, where they were billed very oddly alongside Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Eleanor Bron, Bernard Braden, The Alan Price Set and so forth. They were very noisy and very freaky and I was immediately hooked.
At the Roundhouse, they had set up their mark 1 light show, which I think must have been devised and operated by that tech college lecturer who was interviewed on the recent Syd Barrett programme. The light show was all gloopy oil wheels in red, blue etc, and the overall illumination level was extremely low. The group were virtually invisible apart from when their shadows were cast on the wall against the light show. Then you could see that the bass player was very tall and the others weren't.
Bear in mind that I knew nothing about them and they hadn't released any records at the time. The bass player appeared to be the leader, but that may just have been because he was the tallest. They played very long, free form numbers which used things like the 'Candy and a Currant Bun' (i.e. 'Smokestack Lightning') riff. I remember the sound as deafening, but all the technical people assure me that nobody had the technology to make very much noise in those days. All I can say is I think that those old speaker
cabs could be wound up to quite a level.
They definitely played 'Pow R Toc H' and 'Interstellar Overdrive'. During 'Pow R Toc H' it passed midnight, and instead of the usual "ch ch" lyric they started chanting "Happy NEW Year" in a spectral sort of way. Otherwise there were next to no vocals.The organist was picking out those full-of-Eastern-promise licks, the bass player did the ostinato bit, and the drums were pounding out a stoned Bo Diddley beat. I have no idea what the guitarist was doing, but in retrospect I guess he was using all kinds of tape loop effects and possibly playing some slide guitar too.
They played for an hour fifteen or so, and then the Who came on at about 1 a.m. and I had to go home. The Floyd definitely weren't playing any of the Syd type dippy hippy trippy songs. The only time I ever saw them performed was at the 1967 'Games for May' concert at the QEH, where they played 'See Emily Play', 'Bike' and 'Scarecrow'.
- - Mike Godwin