When the Reverend spotted an expensive collectors limited edition 4 DVD & book set in his favourite bookshop last week there was a little voice going in his head whispering: “Don't buy it, don't buy it...” Unfortunately the Reverend has this problem with authority, so this good advice was completely ignored. The moment he had paid 60 Euro (44.65£, 68.00$) he immediately regretted the purchase, but by then it was already too late. “Told you so!”, said the voice in his head. Little bugger.
The Reverend, Felix for the rapidly diminishing herd he calls his friends, should have been warned by the fact that there was no author on the cover and that the editor goes by the name of Blitz Books, but the promise on the back that read: four DVD films packed with in-depth rare archive interviews with the band, made him forget several of the seven deadly sins.
So he returned to Atagong mansion with Pink Floyd: 50 Years On The Dark Side tucked inside his overcoat and he only opened it in the privacy of his study room.
At first sight the 110 pages coffee table book looks impressive. It starts with an essay titled Pink Floyd In The Beginning that covers their early history from The Pink Floyd Blues Band, although that name may have been some kind of an urban legend, until Ummagumma, so roughly from 1965 till 1969. It's not particularly innovative, nor original as Barry Miles has his 2006 The Early Years book that roughly covers the same old ground and that is well worth the read. But, it has to be said, the article is not bad and does quote a lot from early interviews with the band.
The text, however, is not original, it was first published in a book called Pink Floyd: Reflections and Echoes from Bob Carruthers, that also had – coincidence ? - 4 DVDs packed with in-depth rare archive interviews with the band.
We're starting to see a pattern here.
Part one ends at page 58 but, mind you, two-thirds of the pages are filled with pictures from our friends at Pictorial Press who, by the way, still haven't answered if they have any Iggy Rose pictures in their archive, which we know with certainty they do.
After the quite enjoyable read about vintage Floyd and the somewhat quirky attempts from the remaining members, plus one newbie: David Gilmour, to find a new direction it is time for the rest of the Floydian history. That second part start with The Wall.
Does this mean the book skips a whole decade, not coincidentally the one that had the Floyd's classic albums Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and the somewhat underrated Animals and Obscured By Clouds?
Apparently it does.
Blitz Books' business plan is to have some text on paper, any text, so that they can put (coloured) photographs around. On top of that The Wall-part mainly tells what happens on the album, song per song, so it is not even a review. We're still trying to recover from the disastrous catastrophe that was Roger Waters' The Wall show in summer 2013 and we solemnly confess we didn't read this chapter because reading about The Wall is even more tedious than listening to the album. We once tried getting through Phil Rose's Which One's Pink that analyses the concepts of the different Roger Waters albums, as a solo artist and with Pink Floyd, but it only made our psycho-therapist wealthier.
The third and final part of the 50 Years On The Dark Side book is a discography of the studio albums from The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn till The Division Bell, with a (small) description of every song. The Floyd's debut, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is described as 'deeply disappointing' where 'two completely different, and totally irreconcilable, musical personalities battle for supremacy'. As long as we know where these fans really stand it is fine for us.
Not only is the page order for the A Saucerful Of Secrets review wrong, but the (anonymous) author also seems to have found a new Floyd track called 'Heavenly Voices', probably the ending piece of the title track is meant, better known as 'Celestial Voices'.
The other album reviews are generally acceptable and from page 100 to 103 The Wall comes around for a second time and again all individual tracks are mentioned with some titbits her and there.
It would have been an excellent idea to have added the track-listing of The Endless River, but that was too much asked from the Blitz boys. To add insult to injury the Division Bell review omits the last three songs... because there are no more pages left in the book. Really, it is, we're not trying to tell you a joke or something...
This book is an even greater insult than the history book that could be found in the Pink Floyd 1992 Shine On box set that mysteriously ended in mid sentence on page 107. All in all 50 Years On The Dark Side is not a book, it is merely text on paper.
After the obvious debacle that is the piece of printed paper pretending to be a book, it was time for the Reverend to sit in front of the monitor and have a four hours DVD watching marathon.
Theoretically the four DVDs should be well attached to plastic 'teeth' (probably there is a more scientific term) at the inside-back-cover, but these things are from such a poor quality that when you grab the book, at least one DVD will lose its grip and fall with a kling klang on the floor. Yes, Kraftwerk has build an empire on these things.
This is not really unique for Blitz Books. David Gilmour's solo album On An Island is packed in a digibook that has a rubber round soft cap to hold the compact disc. The only problem is that once you take the CD out it often is impossible to slide it again over the rubber plug. It's about the same problem as getting a cork back inside a bottle. In the Reverend's case this lead to the situation that for years he knew where the digibook was, but that he had lost the whereabouts of the CD.
The same situation happened with the over-expensive Pink Floyd Immersion sets of Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. While the marbles ("Marbles? Yes, marbles.") were individually packed in bubble-wrap bags the unprotected CDs and DVDs would freely roam all over the box, collecting scratches during the transport on plains, trains and auto-mobiles. (Read more at: Fuck all that, Pink Floyd Ltd.)
The Syd Barrett Years
DVD 1 (The Syd Barrett Years) seems to be a compilation of at least 2 to 4 other documentaries as one recognises people from the awful 'Inside Pink Floyd' set, the 'Critical Rock Review' series, the aforementioned 'Reflections and Echoes', plus 'Musical Milestones - Reflections on the Wall', although these documentaries may already share the same pieces. It is a common trick from these low-budget companies to repackage the same garbage. The documentary 'Pink Floyd behind the wall' is basically the same, perhaps with some cuts here and there, as 'Pink Floyd in their own words' to give just one example.
But actually the first DVD isn't that bad as it has interviews with Duggie Fields, Joe Boyd, Norman Smith, Ron Geesin and the recently deceased John 'Hoppy' Hopkins...
Pink Floyd in Development
DVD 2 (Pink Floyd in Development) highlights the Floyd's career from A Saucerful Of Secrets to Atom Heart Mother. Here is where shit really starts to hit the fan. Basically these are interviews with people who have absolutely nothing to do with the band whatsoever, sharing their opinions. One could say that the presence of some journalists eases the pain a bit: John Cavanagh (read an interview with him here: so much to do, so little time), author of the 33 1/3 book The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn has the most intelligent things to say, followed by Syd Barrett & the Dawn of Pink Floyd biographer Mike Watkinson. Chris Welch who wrote the stinker Learning To Fly in 1994 comes in as third.
The notable exception on the second DVD is Ron Geesin, who gives his side of the Atom Heart Mother story, but stays gentle in regard to the boys who didn't want to put his name on the sleeve. Ron's name can only be found in small print, on the credits for the suite, and that duly pissed him off at the time. Geesin wrote the sublime The Flaming Cow in 2013 and as Nick Mason provided the introduction it seems that the problems have been solved 44 years later. Even with Ron Geesin's testimony the second disk lingers on and on, dragging for minutes that turn into quarters, a bit like Atom Heart Mother itself, one might say. If you might have a 2005 DVD called The Ultimate Critical Review: Atom Heart Mother don't bother to watch this as it is the same material.
Getting back to the sleeve one more time. We are probably all aware about Lullubelle the third, the iconic cow on the Atom Heart Mother album cover. It is funny..., no we're looking for another term here, it is pathetic that the people on the 50 Years On The Dark Side DVDs keep on discussing the merits of Storm Thorgerson and his Hipgnosis team without actually showing the covers. What they show are replicas of the covers, a generic cow for Atom Heart Mother, a three-dimensional prism for Dark Side of the Moon, a psychedelic picture of Battersea Power Station for Animals. This is the Aldi approach, replacing the real deal with a cheap lookalike.
Let's be brief about the third and fourth DVDs that are called 'Momentary Lapses 1971-1977' and 'Momentary Lapses 1979-1994'. Again these DVDs are filled with people who have absolutely nothing to do with the band saying lots of things about the band. One wonders if these 'specialists' could talk for 52 minutes about a loaf of bread instead, and probably they could: “This is a remarkable loaf of bread, considered when it was made in 1975 without the technology of today. That loaf of bread has set the standard for all other loafs of bread to come.” Ad infinitum.
The only exception on these DVDs are some interviews, but not as elaborated as the Ron Geesin one before, with Clare Torry, who did the vocals on The Great Gig In The Sky, Snowy White who sheds some light on his (live) work on Animals and The Wall, Andy Roberts who replaced Snowy White as a Surrogate Band member on the 1981 Wall shows and Tim Renwick who sessioned for the diet Pink Floyd that emerged after Roger Waters had left the band. Don't get too overexcited either, what they tell is something that has been rehashed in a million magazine articles and books before.
Several of the Pink Floyd specialists are chosen a bit too incestuously. Amongst these are people who are (or were) associated to Classic Rock magazine and members of the prog-rock band Mostly Autumn, who – what a coincidence! - were under contract at Classic Rock when the Inside Pink Floyd DVDs came out. As a matter of fact the second Inside Pink Floyd DVD tried so hard to be a Mostly Autumn promotional film that the Reverend took a solemn oath never ever to allow any of their mediocre albums to enter Atagong mansion.
As stated before, 'Pink Floyd: 50 Years On The Dark Side' is a combination of four or more of these pseudo-documentaries and – on paper – it was a good idea to weed out the crap and only to keep the interesting stuff. Both 'Pink Floyd: Reflections and Echoes' and 'Inside Pink Floyd' have interviews with members of the band, although coming from other sources like the BBC Omnibus documentary, radio shows, snippets from TV clips, parts of the KQED performance and others.
Unfortunately, all copyrighted material showing the Pink Floyd lads and music has now been removed and only the talking heads remain. '50 years on the dark side' is even crappier than the original DVDs it has compiled. This is not a documentary, this is a bloody insult.
And oh, by the way... that line on the back cover saying 'four DVD films packed with in-depth rare archive interviews with the band', nothing of that is true, but you had figured that out by now, we think.
The only reason why we should advise you to buy this DVD set is to ritually burn it, cast a spell over its makers, so that they will land in the fourth circle of hell, where they will be tortured until eternity by the rancid muzak of Mostly Autumn.
This image says it all, we think...
(The above article is entirely based upon facts, some situations may have been enlarged for satirical purposes.)