New Year’s Day Music – The Great Gig In The Sky

Posted on Tue 01/01/2013 by


Today’s music video is The Great Gig In The Sky, played here in this clip by the English band, Pink Floyd, with vocals provided by Clare Torry. While there are a few versions of this song being performed live, I have selected the original from the original album, and why I have done that is explained below.

Link to Video at You Tube

This video was posted to You Tube by Bradley VanEss

One of the good things about having a regular Music segment here at our site is that I can play some of my favourite music, and add some text about the song and the band or artist. Most of the songs I do show clips of here are songs from my large collection of Long Play records that I collected in my younger days, mostly from the late 60’s through to the early 80’s, and because of that I have a wonderful collection of some of the best music from that era. The added advantage I have now, many years later, well, decades really, is I have access to the Internet, and especially to the You Tube site, and I can chase down those songs and then add the clip here at our site.

Pink Floyd Dark SideThe song for today is from one special album in my collection, The Dark Side Of The Moon, that wonderful album from Pink Floyd. This was the first Floyd album I purchased, and after listening to it, and just loving the whole album, every song, that led me to chase up their earlier albums. I did find three earlier albums still on sale at the record shop I frequented, and for the rest, I had to chase them up through second hand record shops, find good copies, because some were in pretty average to poor condition as people sold off old record collections no longer needed. It took me a few years to find their earlier albums, four of them, and I did find almost pristine copies of them to add to my now growing collection of Floyd albums, as with each new album release I would purchase them as well. I now (still) have 14 of their studio albums on vinyl long play records, and three others on CD.

For a number of years, The Dark Side Of The Moon was my favourite Floyd album. That has now changed, not relegated to second favourite, but as equal favourite album, joined by the probably even better Wish You Were Here, which was the next album the band released after Dark Side. In fact, these 2 albums are my most favourite albums that I have in my collection of what is close to 400 albums.

That Dark Side album always throws up a number of things when I think about it. While the album was first released in 1973, it has remained one of the top selling albums of all time. The album holds so many music records, they would be too long to list here. While it was my favourite album for so long, it has always made me think about the music from a number of different perspectives. The first of those was when Floyd released their album A Momentary Lapse Of Reason in 1987, I was teaching new electrical trade trainees with the Air Force. I would allow them to play music during the practical phase of their subject, and one young 17 year old was playing this new album, and I noticed it, not having heard it before, as it had just been released. The young man was surprised that I knew who was playing guitar, David Gilmour, and that I was indeed a fan, thinking that an older guy from the generation older than his generation would like music that he liked. He then proudly proclaimed that he liked this album so much, he went out and got their first album, Dark Side. He got the shock of his life when I told him that Dark Side was the band’s 8th studio album, and that the band had been making music since before he was born.

My son had also been getting into music a year or so earlier, and when he was beginning to appreciate music, anything I had was from that older generation, and the perception was that it was old, and not worth listening to. As I purchased each new album, I would tape it so I didn’t run the risk of ruining the record. During that time as a technical trades instructor with the Air Force, all my tapes gradually started to disappear, as he took them all, and the first to go were all my Pink Floyd tapes.

Now, here we are, in 2012/3. My Son now has a 17 year old son of his own, and you’d never guess, but that young man is now ‘into’ Pink Floyd, especially that amazing album Dark Side. I guess what goes around comes around.

The song featured today is The Great Gig In The Sky, and this is from that Dark Side album, and just like the music as a whole thing, this song also has some things about it that are interesting.

I have played this song here before, when I noted the sad passing of the song’s composer Richard Wright in September of 2008.

Since then, I have found some more information on the song itself.

As is always the way, different people have a different perspective on just about everything, and such is the case with this song. The four members of the band each have their own idea of how the song came about in its final cut version for the album. Even the man considered as the 5th Floyd for this album, Recording Engineer Alan Parsons has another version again.

The melody for the song was written by Rick Wright, the band’s keyboards player, and the voice for the song was provided by Clare Torry, and each version of events differs on what actually happened, and even the version from Clare herself, is different. They are all similar versions with some aspects that differ from each other.

I would suppose that the version from Clare herself would probably be closest to what actually happened. I found her version only recently, and it is well worth reading.

Now, while the song just sounds like a girl screaming the vocalisation behind the haunting keyboards of Wright, the full story is now one of legend, and is is sometimes the case with legends, there always seems to be differing versions of the events surrounding it.

She was called in at the last, just prior to the mixing stage. She sang the vocal part of the song, that was it, virtually just three hours work. As a Session singer, she was paid the standard fee for her part which was 30 Pounds (around $60) and that was it.

What she says at a later interview is an account of what did happen.

That is shown at this link, an interview with Clare Torry, recorded in October of 2005, 32 years after the album was released.

Wright wrote the haunting melody, and while it was slated for the album, the four band members had no real positive idea of what they wanted, just no actual spoken word lyrics. Engineer Alan Parsons mentioned that he knew of a singer, Clare Torry, who might be able to do what the band wanted in the way of providing that voice. Clare was called in, and at first, she said she could not make it on that particular day. As the album was going to the mixing process, it had to be that day, so she came in at short notice on that Sunday Night. At first, just like the band members themselves, she had no idea what was required, with just the general guideline of what the album was all about, life, death, and everything in between. She did some ‘la la las’, but the band heard that and said that wasn’t really what they wanted, and that anybody could do that. She listened to the melody, and asked to be left alone in a separate sound room. She tried a couple of things but they still didn’t sound right. Then she thought of using her voice as a musical instrument and came up with what you hear with the final version, recording it straight away in one hit. The band just loved it, and asked if it could be changed slightly. She did it a second time to tape, and then part of a third time, and said that was all she could do, as singing in that manner was physically taxing. She left after a couple of hours with her fee of 30 Pounds and that was the end of it, she thought. Later, she saw the album in a store and saw her name on the credits as singer for this song. She purchased the album, played it and loved it.

The song became just one of the more enduring classics from the album, and people talked about those wonderful vocals from that girl singer.

Two things from that story came to light many years later. Because the song was indeed so popular, she thought that she should have part of the royalties, as her contribution was indeed an original composition for the vocal section that was required. She won an unnamed out of court settlement for her part on that song, and rightly so too. She is also credited as composer on every version of that song placed onto a new recording since that date. Hers is a wonderful part of that song, an integral part of that album.

Later, when Floyd did their Monster World tour, The Delicate Sound Of Thunder tour, they used three female lead backing vocalists at every concert. Try as they might one singer on her own could not reproduce the whole song in its totality from start to finish. Because of that, those soaring Clare Torry vocals are divided into three sections, which each backing vocalist singing one third of the vocals, and then the next singer takes over.

So, while Dark Side is such a wonderful album that has stood the test of time over the years, it has many stories surrounding it on so many different levels.

While there are clips of the song from those concerts with the three ladies singing each third part of the vocals, you just do not get the full impression of just how beautiful Clare Torry’s composition is, and just how wonderfully she sings it, all done in two and a half sessions over a couple of hours with only 2 full ‘takes’. That’s why I have selected the above video clip of just the original song itself with just the bland screen image of a version of the album cover.

The story surrounding Clare Torry’s part on this album, and how this song came about is a wonderful story from what is arguably one of the greatest albums of all time.

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