Wish You Were Here? Pos­si­bly not!

It was the night that Pink Floyd played Gor­leston ... but did it leave the au­di­ence ‘Com­fort­ably Numb’? David Clay­ton talks to the band that stepped in to help when things went wrong

Let's Talk - - MUSIC NOSTALGIA -

It’s quite some­thing when you res­cue the night for one of the most fa­mous groups in the world, al­beit 51 years ago ...

That’s what hap­pened to The Alex Wil­son Set back in July 1967. Be­ing a pop­u­lar group in East An­glia, they’d been booked by pro­moter Howard Platt as the sup­port band for a Wed­nes­day night at Gor­leston’s Flo­ral Hall.

The evening was dif­fer­ent in the sense that TV cam­eras were there record­ing footage for a new, colour BBC Two pro­gramme called ‘The Im­pre­sar­ios’. How­ever, they weren’t point­ing at the lo­cal band, they were there for a rel­a­tively new group. It was dif­fer­ent and avant­garde, had a record in the charts and it was at the cut­ting edge of psychedelia. In the ‘Flower Power’ sum­mer of 1967, Pink Floyd was soon to go global.

Howard Platt pro­moted bands at sev­eral venues around the area and the trick was to book a band just at the right time to max­imise any chart suc­cess. Howard had a rep­u­ta­tion for se­cur­ing the top bands at the Flo­ral Hall and got it right with Pink Floyd be­cause the place was packed. ‘See Emily Play’ was the group’s sec­ond sin­gle and it was firmly in the Top 10.

Whether it was be­cause Gor­leston was dif­fi­cult to get to via the 1960s’ road net­work or chart suc­cess made bands re­think the book­ing they’d ac­cepted, Howard had had prob­lems with the bands not turn­ing up on time or some­times at all. For that rea­son, he’d gone to meet the Pink Floyd mem­bers, who he knew were fly­ing in to Manch­ester air­port, to es­cort them across the coun­try to the east coast. That way he could make sure they got to the gig. That all went wrong be­cause the band changed its plans at the last minute and flew into Lon­don in­stead.

They even­tu­ally made it to the Flo­ral Hall, where 800 peo­ple were cu­ri­ous to see this much talked about, psy­che­delic band. How­ever, there was one prob­lem, the band’s im­pres­sively large PA sys­tem didn’t work. There was only one thing for it, they had to bor­row the lo­cal band’s sound sys­tem.

The Alex Wil­son Set’s drum­mer, Jim Jewel, re­mem­bers the mo­ment well:

“They’d ar­rived late and had al­ready brought in a mas­sive light­ing sys­tem, but they couldn’t get a peep out of their PA. Roger Wa­ters asked me if they could use ours.”

The lo­cal band was happy to help, but to be hon­est its own PA wasn’t up to much. Ac­cord­ing to Jim, it was only half built in the sense they’d made the cab­i­nets but could only af­ford to in­stall half the speak­ers. Good enough for its

set, but Pink Floyd’s reper­toire was some­thing else . . . it was loud and then some!

“I stood at the back to watch them,” says Jim. “Their in­stru­ments and am­pli­fiers were so pow­er­ful, not only couldn’t we hear them sing, we couldn’t even hear an­nounce­ments be­tween songs.”

The lo­cal band had done a set to start the evening and, as it was play­ing fa­mil­iar hits of the day, it had gone down well. The Floyd’s ma­te­rial was more ob­scure. The band was prob­a­bly do­ing stuff from the de­but al­bum ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’.

Kings­ley Har­ris’s splen­did web­site, www. mu­sicfromtheeast­zone.co.uk has an ac­count of the gig which picks up on the dra­matic swirling light­ing ef­fects but al­ludes to the fact the band was very loud. There’s a sense that the lo­cal au­di­ence looked on, try­ing to make sense of this psy­che­delic hap­pen­ing. The Alex Wil­son Set’s man­ager, Tony Baker, now re­tired and liv­ing near Nor­wich, summed it up: “It was a bit bizarre for Gor­leston” and “The mu­sic was noth­ing spec­tac­u­lar”.

There were re­ports of Floyd be­ing booed off stage and the lo­cal band go­ing on to res­cue the evening.

Jim Jewel says that’s not true. He can’t re­call any boo­ing and nor can he re­call peo­ple leav­ing. When Pink Floyd fin­ished, the Alex Wil­son Set went back on to fin­ish the evening, which was nor­mal, and it’s likely the recog­nis­able cover ver­sions went down well to close the night.

Jim laughs as he tells me:

“We were prob­a­bly re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing Pink Floyd with the worst PA they ever played through!”

To date, the BBC footage of Pink Floyd at Gor­leston’s Flo­ral Hall – now The Ocean Room – has never been found. It was never used in The Im­pre­sar­ios se­ries, prob­a­bly be­cause of the poor sound. But there’s just the tan­ta­lis­ing pos­si­bil­ity it could be ly­ing on a shelf some­where.

It was a bit bizarre for Gor­leston

An ad­vert for The Pink Floyd gig at The Flo­ral Hall – were you there?

The Alex Wil­son Sect drew some pub­lic­ity of their own in the Eastern Evening News.

The Alex Wil­son Set around the time that they sup­ported Pink Floyd at Gor­leston. They were a Bec­cles-based band and this is from a prac­tice night at a hall in Bec­cles. Left to right: Brian Wil­son, Derek Driver, Dave Smith-How­ell and Jim Jew­ell. Photo: Cour­tesy of the band’s man­ager Tony Baker.

This moody photo of the Alex Wil­son Set shows the band as a five-piece. Photo: Cour­tesy of Jim Jewel.

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