Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Music man’s symphonic take on Pink Floyd opus

A HENLEY man has produced a “symphonic” version of Pink Floyd’s landmark 1975 album Wish You Were Here

A HENLEY man has produced a “symphonic” version of Pink Floyd’s landmark 1975 album Wish You Were Here that is released today (Friday).

Music publisher Pete Smith, of St Mark’s Road, played a key role in making Live Aid happen in 1985 — in particular the US leg in Philadelphia — having previously managed The Kinks among other acts.

A Pink Floyd devotee, he subsequently managed the band’s former bassist and songwriter Roger Waters and was event co-ordinator for The Wall: Live in Berlin in July 1990 — a landmark concert that drew 350,000 people to Potsdamer Platz and was broadcast worldwide.

As he first revealed in an article for the Henley Standard last August, Pete’s latest project has seen him add “producer” to his long list of music industry job titles.

The album, Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here Symphonic, features the London Orion Orchestra alongside rock legends Alice Cooper (vocals), Rick Wakeman (piano) and Dave Fowler and Stephen McElroy of the Australian Pink Floyd (guitars).

Released today on Decca Classics, its making coincided with the 40th anniversary of the original’s release.

The finished product is dedicated to the memory of Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett, who died aged 60 in 2006 and who would have turned 70 on January 6.

The other dedicatees are the late Pink Floyd manager Steve O’Rourke, album cover designer Storm Thorgerson, and keyboard player Richard Wright.

While the original Wish You Were Here was not explicitly dedicated to Barrett, one of the tracks — the nine-part opus Shine On You Crazy Diamond — runs for just over 26 minutes in total, accounting for more than half the album’s total length.

Asked how he had come to make the album, Pete, 62, told the Henley Standard: “In 1995, on a whim, I commissioned the producer, Youth, to record a symphonic Pink Floyd album at Air Lyndhurst and Olympic studios with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

“The record was a big success for Polygram in the USA. That led me to the idea of recording a follow-up, albeit 20 years later, using the same conductor [Peter Scholes], but this time producing it myself, which is a first for me.

“Youth could not do it as he was producing the last Pink Floyd album, The Endless River, at the time. Small world.”

Pete continued: “While I was at it, I decided to use Abbey Road. I have got to know the place well over the years and there really is no better place to record for the sheer experience — plus I managed to find some rare time in studio two, the Beatles’ studio.

“I was not sure of exactly what to record going in, but the album defined itself as a Wish You Were Here project in the weeks preceding the sessions, really by serendipity as I reviewed the initial arrangements that Peter Scholes submitted to an open brief, so it was really more by chance than by design that the Wish You Were Here direction emerged as the sessions approached.

“Likewise, I bumped into Kevin Hopgood, the manager of the Australian Pink Floyd, backstage at Rewind in 2014 as he was there looking after another artist there. I had the idea on the spot to ask Kevin if [band members] Dave and Steve would play guitars and they jumped at the opportunity to come to Abbey Road and record guitars on Pink Floyd repertoire that had been originally recorded there. So that was a Henley connection.

“I had taken Alice Cooper around South America with an orchestra some years before and he did Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) as part of his set then, so I knew Alice and I knew he could nail Pink Floyd material with an orchestra. Hence the call to him. Rick Wakeman and I go way back.”

The original Wish You Were Here was famously the follow-up to Pink Floyd’s multi-million-selling The Dark Side of the Moon.

Pete’s symphonic version features versions of all the original tracks on the album, plus a bonus version of Eclipse, the final track on The Dark Side of the Moon.

The majority of the tracks are instrumental, but Alice Cooper sings on Wish You Were Here and Welcome to the Machine. These were the tracks Pete had flown to New York to record last summer, accompanied by his son Oli, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy.

So does this latest venture mark a new direction for Pete — or does it close a circle?

He said: “In the Nineties I made some symphonic albums with Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and Yes, using their respective producers and artists — Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Bill Bruford, Mick Jagger and various guests such as Michael Hutchence, Marianne Faithfull and so on. Alan Parsons produced the Yes album for me. Chris Kimsey produced the Stones. Youth produced the Floyd album for me.

“Combining rock with orchestras is something that I have done, both live and recorded. But it’s not something that I particularly set out to do as a vocation, previously or now.

“I see myself as a large-scale live sector event guru and as an artistes’ manager, while some people know me best as an art publisher and now Decca see me as a record producer. There does seem to be a Pink Floyd thread running through it all.

“I am a product of my times, growing up with the Beatles and Bob Dylan and experiencing the popular culture revolution that embraced my formative years. I enjoy taking it all in. The thing that I most enjoy is writing, and following up on my Live Aid memoir [ Just the Ticket, published in 2014] I have five novels ready to go and one more to finish.

“That’s what you get from reading George Orwell for O- and A-level and growing up in the same street in Henley as him while listening to Bob Dylan and the Beatles.

“That’s what I have in common with Pink Floyd as I would say that Bob Dylan, the Beatles and George Orwell are the main influences on Roger Waters’s writing.”

n Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here Symphonic is available to buy online, priced £10 for the standard version.

Also available is a limited edition, complete with a fine art print signed and numbered by album cover artist Tiernan Trevallion, priced £100.

For more information, visit the website store.universalmusic.com/pinkfloydwishyouwerehere

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