Pink Floyd – Multimedia Pioneers

Pink Floyd band photo in black and white

Pink Floyd – Multimedia Pioneers

For college we had to look at Multimedia Pioneers, myself, Aaron Duane and Jamie Baker were grouped and came up with the idea of looking at the career of Pink Floyd.

My job was to look at Pink Floyd’s Live shows.. here it is:

Pink Floyd – Multimedia Pioneers – The Live Shows

The Pink Floyd live show has set a standard for rock shows. They turned live shows into events.
In the late 1960’s when most rock bands were happy to stand on stage and let the music speak Pink Floyd also wanted to make a visual impact.

As well as being one of the first acts to play at a free concert in Hyde Park in London, which set a precedence for years to come and also being the first band to use quadraphonic sound, they were one of the first bands to have a dedicated light show traveling from gig to gig with them. Psychedelic lights were projected onto a backdrop while the band played. Mike Leonard, worked with Pink Floyd during this time. He was also the band’s live in landlord and friend.

In 1967, Pink Floyd appeared on BBC’s The Look of The Week TV show, showing off their lighting show to a television audience for the first time. What is also fascinating now is that Mike Leonard and the band appeared on Tomorrow’s World, while Leonard showed off his light projector, the band provided improvised music. This is one of Pink Floyd’s first truly multimedia projects.

As the band developed, they strived for all-round audio visual perfection. Props, Pyrotechnics and inflatables all became commonplace in a Pink Floyd Live show. The two main players were Marc Brickmann and Mark Fisher.

Marc Brickmann, 2004 Lighting Designer of the year, nominated for an Emmy award, has also worked with the Blue Man Group, Tina Turner, Bon Jovi. He has also worked in the movie world on Minority Report, A.I., and Spiderman amongst others.

Mark Fisher worked with Pink Floyd as Production Designer. He has also worked for Cirque Du Soleil, designing the permanent show in Las Vegas, the Shaolin Wheel of Life Show for the Shaolin Monks and most recently and remarkably the Closing Ceremony at the Bejing Olympics. His company, Stufish, have an impressive clientèle list.

The Dark Side of the Moon was released in 1973 but the first public performance was in February 1972 in The Rainbow Theatre in London as Dark Side Of The Moon A Piece for Assorted Lunatics Marc Brickmann had worked with Pink Floyd for all their tours after Mike Leonard. He had used hundreds of lasers and automated lights. These ‘intelligent’ lights were programmed to act in a certain way at a certain time. What was state of the art in 1973 has now become commonplace and all arena tours have preprogrammed lighting which are triggered at certain points to corresponding audio.

During the Dark Side of The Moon tour a circular projection screen was used. Hailed ‘Mr Screen’ 35mm films specially recorded were shown, some directed by art designer Storm Thorgerson. During this tour, glitter balls also appeared on stage. This continued throughout the band’s career to The Division Bell where the ball ‘grew’ and expanded to reveal an array of petals and a 12 kilowatt light inside. This causes one to be reminded of the infamous ‘lemon’ of U2’s Popmart, which Stufish designed.

Helium balloons were first introduced to the live show during the Dark Side of The Moon tour. A pyramid airship was used during the tour. This was unstable though and the audience tore it into souvenirs. An oversized pig was introduced for the ‘In the flesh’ tour, as was a television, a Cadillac and a nuclear family.

Once Brickmann and Fisher got something to work properly and the band were happy with it, they used it on different tours. These mainstays became what made Pink Floyd shows immediately recognizable. During Dark Side of the Moon they also introduced a scale model plane that flew across the audience and exploded on the stage. This was also used on The Wall and Division Bell Shows.

The Wall’s elaborate stage show is still highly spoken of. 340 bricks built a wall between the audience and the band during the first half of the show. Waters was inspired when a fan spat in his face during a show promoting ‘Animals’ and he was saddened that such a wall existed in society.

The inflatables used in previous live shows were to become even more real with Gerald Scarfe’s designed puppets. The Band played most of the second half of the show behind ‘The Wall’ apart from a hole which represented the main character’s (Pink) bedroom.

Drawings and Animations of Gerald Scarfe were projected onto the wall. These illustrations were also used in the film ‘The Wall’. The original idea was that ‘The Wall’ Live shows would be recorded and edited together with Alan Parker’s film footage. This never happened.

Brickmann’s designs also filtered through to his work for other bands including the Rolling Stones, who on their Bridges to Babylon tour, had a projector screen similar to Mr Screen and inflatable Towers. It was described by as what appears to be essentially a scaled-down version of Pink Floyd’s 1994 _Division Bell_ stage.”

In an interview in 1988, when Marc Brickmann was working on a Momentary Lapse of Reason ( he spoke in an interview of ‘Floyd Droids’ four robot like lamps which have MIDI capability, so the musicians on stage could control the lights. In his 25 Live tour George Michael used a similar technique throughout his show. Assigning different colours to different instruments or voices, the signal from that instrument or voice would trigger each colour, throughout the course of each song the predominant pulsating colour would correspond to the predominant instrument or voice at that time.

Pink Floyds influence is seen all around the music industry and as the industry is changing their influence is becoming more apparent. An obvious act to look at is The Pet Shop Boys, who are also noted for their extravagant live shows. While the music differences are obvious, the art and design paths are remarkably similar. While Pink Floyd used friends who were architects, The Pet Shop Boys also rely heavily on a cast of architects, theatre designers, and film directors and designers for their end product. In 1972 Pink Floyd performed with the Roland Petit Ballet, The Pet Shop Boys are currently writing a ballet. Marc Brickman also worked for The Pet Shop Boys as Lighting Designer on ‘Montage The Nightlife Tour’ in 2001.

Pink Floyd should be remembered as more than a rock band, they deserve to be called Multimedia Pioneers. They enlisted the help of their friends and brought sound, art, design, age lighting, the overall stage show to a new level.

If they did not where would we be now when the band recorded Money no samplers existed they chopped up pieces of 2 inch tape to get their desired loop. They utilized their friends’ ideas;
Mike Leonard’s, perspex projection system, Hypgnosis’ Art design, Brickman and Fisher’s ideas and brought them all to a new level.

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© Vanessa Monaghan – 2008