15 April 2008

Rock epic of the month: "Sheep" (Pink Floyd) 1977


Rock epics of the month is a series of posts where I'll look back on classic examples of what I think is the greatest excess of rock and roll - the rock epic.

Like a lot of Australian males, I went through a Pink Floyd phase during my high school years. This is something that Australian females completely misunderstand.

The Floyd thing usually manifests itself during the lower years of high school, possibly even during primary school, when it gets rebellious and "cool" to sing at the top of your voice in the playground, or possibly even during class, "Hey! Teacher! Leave those kids alone!"

Why the bridge from Alice Cooper's "School's Out" doesn't get quite the same attention is a mystery to me, but I'll continue. ("No more pencils/No more books/No more teacher's dirty looks")

Anyway, later on during high school, someone inevitably passes around a copy of The Wall. Kids love themes of alienation, and it's not long before the movie gets a viewing as well ("Whoa! Check out this bit where Bob Geldof shaves his nipple off!")

Before long, an older brother will suggest that they should give The Dark Side Of The Moon a look. The kids love this, particularly the odd time signature changes of "Money" and the rocking out of "Time". The fact that "Brain Damage" has the word "lunatic" in it is greeted with much hilarity, kinda like what would happen if you said "boobs" in front of Beavis and Butt-head.

Eventually, other Pink Floyd work gets a going over. When I was at high school, the album A Momentary Lapse Of Reason was released which got a few more fans. For the casual fans, it tends to fizzle out after getting into Wish You Were Here.

I stuck it out a little bit longer than this. And I'm glad that I did. Animals was, to me, their best album, and it had a rocking selection of tunes on it. All five of them.

Three of them were extremely long rock epics.

Animals came after they'd finished exercising the collective guilt that they had built up over the missing-in-action guitarist and vocalist Syd Barrett, who had left the band early on in their careers, with the album Wish You Were Here. Animals was a concept album of sorts, inspired by George Orwell's book, Animal Farm. It was also probably the last Pink Floyd album created on group consultation, although the nascent dictatorship of bassplayer Roger Waters was starting to display itself covertly here, even if the only evidence of this was the writing credits - all Waters except "Dogs" which is credited jointly to Waters and guitarist David Gilmour.

"Sheep"
was my favourite from this long player. Ten minutes and twenty one seconds of rock.

"Sheep" starts innocently enough, with some baa-ing and some initially cheesy work on the Fender Rhodes by keyboardist Rick Wright. Waters bass starts hinting at things to come, shortly followed by the drums, albeit in an exploratory capacity. Before too long, it launches straight into the main riff and the first verse together. It actually, unlike a lot of Floyd's work, nestles into a groove early on and refuses to leave, right up until the end of the end of the song. Even through the bits where it breaks down to bass and some keyboards.

Waters' vocals sound quite urgent and pained during this song. He wasn't the best vocalist in Pink Floyd - Gilmour was - but his delivery matches the song rather nicely.

Gilmour, on the other hand, lets rip on the guitar in a way that hadn't been heard since Floyd's 1970 album, Meddle. This was probably some of the more aggressive work that he had done.

This song really had everything thrown at it - recorded baa-ing, unusual keyboard textures, highly aggressive guitar, even drummer Nick Mason chimes in with a reading of "The Lord is my shepherd" (Psalm 23) via a vocoder - yet none of it seems out of place. Mainly due to the fact that Waters bass is just point blank refusing to give up the groove it is milking.

And this is another example of a rock epic that builds and builds. In fact it nearly explodes halfway through, before the breakdown. It does finally, before the end, when Gilmour goes bananas with some frenzied strumming which signifies both the climax of the tune, and the start of the final fade-out.

Glorious stuff.

Floyd would go on to record The Wall, and The Final Cut - both of which were dominated more and more by Waters' megalomania. The Final Cut is really, for all intents and purposes, Waters' first solo album.

Floyd split after this. Waters refused to participate when Gilmour and Mason reformed Floyd in the mid eighties to record under the Pink Floyd name, and Wright joined them full time, not long after. Waters sued, lost and then didn't speak to anyone other than Mason for a long time afterwards.

Pink Floyd still record occasionally, sans Waters.

Here's a video someone made for this, starring that sheep screensaver. But that's not all...



Pink Floyd worked on this tune for many years. It was originally called, "Raving and Drooling".

Here's a 1974 bootleg of "Raving and Drooling".

Part 1; and

Part 2.

By 1975, that had changed a bit closer to what appeared on Animals.

Part 1
; and

Part 2.

It's worth listening to hear how this little tune evolved. Enjoy.

18 comments:

Plonka said...

Well I'm still stuck on them at 43. Mind you, it helps to have a 16 yr old boy that can play every riff, solo and lick Gilmore eve recorded almost as well as he did himself...:)

I'm wondering if Alan Parsons might make an appearance in this series.

phoenix said...

This is something that Australian females completely misunderstand.

Pfft! Twaddle!! Them thar's fightin' words, sonny.

Firstly... Dave Gilmour is a good singer... and an amazing guitarist (I've just attained an even greater respect for you, young Dan. Bravo, Dude), and Roger Waters is ok, but The Floyd would never have made a cent if not for the contribution made by Syd Barrett ('god' rest his soul). Most people don't give him the due respect that his musical genius calls for.

Secondly... Syd did not 'leave' Pink Floyd, but rather was dropped by the band because of his 'eccentric' behaviour... behaviour which, co-incidentally, provided the basis for the psychedelic music that the remaining band members eventually had to admit was more popular, and therefore adopted as it was more lucrative.

Thirdly... Animals is indeed a brilliant album, and Sheep a very good song... although, in my humble opinion there are many more praiseworthy Pink Floyd songs.

So now, Grasshopper, school is in. A challenge for you...

"Aye an' a bit of Mackeral settler rack and ruin ran it doon by the haim. 'Ma place, well I slapped me and I slapped it doon in the side and I cried, cried, cried."

"I know a mouse, and he hasn't got a house. I don't know why I call him Gerald. He's getting rather old, but he's a good mouse."

"Quickness of the eye deceives the mind. Envy is the bond between the hopeful and the damned."

"Distant bells, new mown grass smells so sweet. By the river holding hands, roll me up and lay me down and if you sit don't make a sound."

"I don't care if the sun don't shine, and I don't care if nothing is mine, and I don't care if I'm nervous with you. I'll do my loving in the winter."


Scores out of 15... Song title, album and release dates, each correct answer scoring one point.

No google please. I could tell you... and I'm just a girl.

Plonka said...

but rather was dropped by the band

Sad but true. There's a three or four part doco on Floyd where Gilmore says "Basically, we just didn't pick Syd up on the way to the gig one night."

I won't ruin your quiz Pheonix, but I will say that young Daniel just rattled them off without thinking about it. That's my boy...:)

phoenix said...

Congratulations Plonka. You have a son that we'd be proud of.

;o)

Dikkii said...

G'day Phoenix and welcome to the blog.

I have to say that I could only recognise "Bike" from that list off The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. Unsure of the year.

But I've never been much of a lyrics person. I remember things like riffs a bit better. That's a curse of being a musician.

And Phoenix, if you, a chick, dig Floyd, then you're a rare one. Perhaps I should have put "most Australian females completely misunderstand".

You're quite right about Floyd not being anything if not for Barrett - I suspect that they would have been yet another boring English band mining the blues thing that dominated English music at that stage. Barrett brought an awareness of English folk that lifted them apart from the blues thing.

And he wrote some pretty good tunes as well.

Yes I know that Barrett didn't "leave" Floyd and was booted out, but, you know, as Nigel Tufnel once said, "That's nitpicking, innit?"

There are many praiseworthy Pink Floyd songs, but this is the epic that is doing it for me at the moment. And Animals was always my favourite Floyd album.

I suspect that as I run out of ideas for this series, I will be milking Floyd's back catalogue more and more - they were, of course, epic aficionados.

Thanks for popping by and do come back.

Dikkii said...

Plonka, I suspected that you might be/have been a Floyd fan. And I see that you're blessing your son similarly - this is good. Imagine if he was playing Justin Timberlake instead? Eurgh!

Alan Parsons? Now that's a thought. Any particular requests?

Gryphonn said...

In 1974 I was Ten, going on Eleven. I first heard DSOTM on a quadraphonic sound system. Thirty Four years later and I (we actually - Phoenix and I) still listen to the album at least three times a week. It's more often than not every night, when we go to bed.
In 1979, I was lucky enough to badger a record rep who sold me 'The Wall' three months before its Australian release.
I bought the first box set of Pink Floyd studio albums (on cassette) in 1980 I *think* it was. I've owned the 10th, 20th and 30th anniversary re-issues of DSOTM. We still have a vinyl copy (quadraphonic) of the album. At one stage, before I got a computer, I had three CDs of DSOTM, just in case one or two got lost, broken or stolen.
Currently we own every album except 'More', including a lesser known album, 'Smoking Blues'. 'Smoking Blues' was recorded at Montreux Casino, Montreux Switzerland on 21st November, 1969.
That's what our copy says on the cover. However, most online references to the album say it was recorded in 1970. I'm pretty sure it was a bootleg, not an 'official' album. We don't have any greatest hits type albums (A Collection of Great Dance Songs, Relics) because they are not really our thing. We do however own Pulse because it's a brilliant live album.
We also have 'The Wall' on DVD, 'Pulse' live on DVD, the 'Classic Albums' Dark Side of the Moon documentary and 'The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett' story doco. The reference Plonka made about the boys not picking up Syd one day is on that documentary actually.
We also bought the 'Live 8' DVD set because it has, on disc 3, the following:
Speak To Me
Breathe
Money
Wish You Were Here
Comfortably Numb
Live 8 is the only time that Dave, Roger, Richard and Nick have performed together since their falling out and I'm pretty sure it will be the last unless Dave can convince Roger to join them again for another charity performance (hardly likely though).

I guess you could say we like Pink Floyd. Some might even say we have an unhealthy obsession with Dark Side of the Moon. We'd call it respect for a piece of aural artistry that will never be surpassed.
One of the reasons I fell for Phoenix was because of her love of Pink Floyd.

Gryphonn said...

Ooops, I should have added, we do love 'Animals' as well Dikkii. Your description of Sheep is very tactile. Phoenix just said we'll have to listen to Animals as well when we go to bed now.
:o)

Dikkii said...

G'day Gryphonn and welcome to Dikkii's Diatribe. Hmm. Phoenix. Gryphonn. Definite theme here. Will it be Basilisk next? Chimaera?

I suppose that after reading your comment, one could say that you're a Floyd tragic. I can't say the same, although unlike yourself, I do own a copy of Relics. I do recommend that you get this - it has a series of singles on it which didn't make it on to albums. You will like it.

I'm not sure how to take the "tactile" comment. It sounds good, and you know, I haven't had this much in the way of comments so quickly about a rock epic since Guns n' Roses "November Rain".

Glad to hear that you and Phoenix dig Animals. It's a good-un. Sleep well, and do come back to Dikkii's Diatribe.

phoenix said...

Dikkii,

Thanks for the welcome, although I've been here before. I should probably have announced myself before walking through your door, rather than spend my time lurking in the shadows and hiding beneath side tables. I don't comment much, but I do read and I will be back (just couldn't help myself this time).

I'm going to leave the challenge here, out of curiosity more than anything. I'm kind of hoping that Dan will provide the answers, if only so that I can say 'hello' to him again.

Now, 'Rare' is one of the more polite terms that have been used describe me in the past. Thanks for that genteel descriptive. I guess I will have to acknowledge the fact that most chicks don't dig Pink Floyd all that much, but I'm working on it. That said, never underestimate the value of that little word 'most'.

BTW, 'Eccentric' is another word that one could use in the same sentence as my name, so I suppose Syd and I have something in common there. Personally, I don't think that eccentric is such a bad thing. The world would be rather boring without eccentricity, wouldn't it?

And 'nitpicking'? No, just highlighting the truth. It sometimes irks me that Syd doesn't often get the accolades that he deserves, that's all.

On another note (pardon the pun) I find it rather ironic that both of the founding members (Barrett and Waters) were eventually excluded by the other band members. And also that the newest band member (Gilmour, who was brought in to replace Syd Barrett when he 'went crazy') is more often perceived as being the frontman and backbone of Pink Floyd. Incidentally, did you know that if you type www.sonymusic.com/artists/PinkFloyd/ into your search bar, you'll be taken to David Gilmour's website?

Another point of interest... on the subject of Live 8, Dave Gilmour was the force behind Pink Floyd's reunion, due in large part to his passion for supporting charities. He has organised for his own increased record profits (brought about by the media coverage of said reunion) to go to charity. Further, he gave the entire proceeds of the sale of his London town house to Crisis, a charity that cares for the homeless. See, he is a good guy, and I'm not just a Gilmour-basher.

Unhealthy obsession? Pshaw! That's merely a matter of opinion.

Plonka said...

Pheonix:

You have a son that we'd be proud of.

And don't I know it...:)

It comes at a price though. He reckons he's outgrown his Strat and needs a Les Paul as well now...:(

Dikkii:

Well there's plenty to choose from, let's face it.

But... If it was "theme albums", my fav would have to be "Turn Of A Friendly Card". If it was individual songs, I'd probably go for "Ammonia Avenue" for me it has that certain something that makes it stand out as an excellent track.

Dikkii said...

Phoenix: I think that it is a shame that Barrett didn't get much acknowledgment, however, it very much looks to history that he only contributed to the first two albums of Floyd's. Imagine what could have happened if he had stayed sane?

It's interesting that both of the "founding members" are gone, although I think that Mason and Wright were also part of the band with Waters before Barrett joined. Although I think that it was Barrett who came up with the name, Pink Floyd so I think that Wright and Mason qualify as original members.

That's good stuff about Gilmour and charities. See, not all rock and rollers are self-interested drug-addled idiots.

Thanks Phoenix.

Plonka: I'll have to go out and research this. My knowledge of Parsons is restricted to I Robot.

phoenix said...

Well Dikki, this is going to take some time, so I hope you've got a cuppa/scotch/raspberry cordial or whatever other relaxant you prefer handy. If not, I'll wait for you...

Ok now... I'll try for an abridged version, shall I?

As the name 'Pink Floyd' was only adopted by the band in 1965 after several name changes, it's a bit difficult to argue this point. Before the name change, they were known as Sigma 6, The Abdabs, The Architectural Abdabs, The Screaming Abdabs, The Meggadeaths and Tea Set. Before The Floyd came into being, the band members were Roger Waters (founder-lead guitar, backing vocals), Rick Wright (guitar, backing vocals), Nick Mason (drums) and Clive Metcalfe (bass), with Juliette Gale (flute, vocals) and Chris Noble (cello, vocals).

The band broke up when Metcalfe and Noble left in 1965. Around this time Juliette Gale married Rick Wright and also left the band. Bob Klose joined as a guitar player, which is when Waters switched to playing the bass. Chris Dennis also made a brief appearance on vocals. He was soon replaced by Syd Barrett. Syd then took on lead guitar, lead vocals, and most of the song-writing. By this time the band was known as Tea Set (or T Set, there's some discrepancy here).

The name 'The Pink Floyd Sound' came about when Barrett discovered that there would be another band by the name of The Tea Set playing at the same venue, so he and Waters decided to change the band's name again, to differentiate themselves from that other band. The name was Barrett's idea, coined for two blues players, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Shortly afterwards it was shortened simply to Pink Floyd.

Now, the rhythm and blues influence morphed into a more abstract form with the influence of Barrett as songwriter, and Bob Klose also left the band soon after as he believed that the band should continue to play the blues-based music that they had originally started with.

In 1967 Pink Floyd was signed to EMI music and their first single, 'Arnold Layne' (B-side, 'Candy and a Currant Bun') was released. The second was 'See Emily Play' (B-side, 'Scarecrow'), followed by the release of the album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Later that year, 'Apples And Oranges' (B-side, 'Paintbox') was released.

After the release of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (of which most of the music was Barrett's), Pink Floyd was booked on a tour of the US. It has been argued that Barrett was against the idea of touring the States, and this was the basis of his psychosis (others say that it was simply because by this time he'd become slightly drug-$@&*ed). Nonetheless, he became somewhat difficult, in some instances refusing to sing or play when on stage. The 'Christmas On Earth Revisited' set staged at Olympia, where Syd stood stock-still as the rest of the band played around him, is well documented.

In 1968 Dave Gilmour joined the group as guitarist and vocalist due to Barrett's increasing mental instability. At first he was on hand only as a back-up, as Barrett would sometimes play as normal. Then came the day that the other band members decided to just 'not pick him up on the way to the gig'. Shortly afterwards a press-release was issued, saying that Syd had decided to leave the band.

You're absolutely correct in saying that Syd only had input into Pink Floyd's first two albums, however he was and is generally given credit for moulding the style of music that is Pink Floyd. After his mental decline, the remaining members continued along the same musical lines, knowing that his style had been the reason for their success.

So, there you go. You're right, Mason and Wright were also a part of the band at it's inception so they can be listed as original members. However, they were a completely different band before Syd Barrett joined and made their music into something that was a style of his own. So when you look at it technically like that, I think it's fair to give Syd Barrett credit for founding Pink Floyd itself. Even Dave Gilmour (on the FAQ's page of his own website) gives Barrett the credit for founding Pink Floyd. Just to be pedantic, this is an excerpt from said page...

"How did Pink Floyd get their name?
— Original front man and band founder, Syd Barrett, thought up the name when he discovered that there was another Tea Set due to play at the same venue as his Tea Set. So he merged the names of two blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, and settled on The Pink Floyd Sound, which was later shortened to Pink Floyd. The rest, as they say, is history. Other early names include The Screaming Abdabs, The Architectural Abdabs, Sigma 6, and The Meggadeaths.


As for what he could have achieved 'had he stayed sane'... well, one could argue that his insanity was the driving force behind his music. Had he stayed sane, there might well never have been a Pink Floyd at all.

No worries, Dikkii. Is there anything else that you'd like to know? Have I earned the right to call myself 'The Pink Floyd Queen' yet? Or have I just proven that I'm a pedantic know-it-all... on this subject, at least?

PS... On the subject of Alan Parsons. Personally, I'd do something from DSOTM, which he had a huge influence in. But that's just me. Failing that, I'd go for something from Eye in the Sky. Psychobabble is a particular favourite of mine. BTW, The song, Mammagamma (on the same album) is said to be a derivitave of the word, Ummagumma, (which is british slang for intercourse), I believe.

Dikkii said...

Phoenix - May I quote Wayne and Garth here:

"We're not worthy!"

That was excellent, thank you.

s for what he could have achieved 'had he stayed sane'... well, one could argue that his insanity was the driving force behind his music. Had he stayed sane, there might well never have been a Pink Floyd at all.

Good point. It's almost like what appears to have inspired John Forbes Nash to do his best work, as he was far less creative when he was on his medication, according to Ron Howard's movie.

I can see I'm going to have to check out Parsons' work, too.

phoenix said...

Dikkii,

You may indeed quote... as long as you're down on your knees.

But this brings a question to my mind. Do you see yourself as a Wayne to Plonka's Garth?... Or would it be the other way around?

Dikkii said...

If anything, I think that I may be Garth.

Good question, though.

phoenix said...

Hmm... Interesting.

ZANG! Party on Garth... I guess.

Dikkii said...

Of course, I could be wrong.

Party on, Phoenix!