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The spitting accident - Montreal, July 6th, 1977
A Recollection of the spitting accident (Montreal, July 6th, 1977)
by Marcel Daoust, August 2001Hi folks,
It's been 24 years now and I had almost completely forgotten about it, but through a recent coincidental turn of events I started reading about the famous spitting incident in Montreal on July 6th 1977, involving Roger Waters and the long term effect this and other events have had on him and other members of Pink Floyd and there subsequent careers.
My only problem with this is that so far all we have is the band's version of it.
If I may, I would like to give one fan's version of it as I was there that particular night, facing Roger Waters in the first row. I still have my ticket from that show.
One has to understand that in Montreal, Pink Floyd venues have been the absolute #1 entertainment events of all times. It surpasses Genesis venues and even the Stones, as only Pink Floyd would be one of the very few bands to dare play the Olympic Stadium to full capacity.
So the announcement in 1977 of a new show (the 1975 show was still vivid in my mind as that of everyone that attended), brought instant waves of hype to get the best seats in the house.
The stadium could then seat about 62000 and successive waves of new ticket sales likely filled the ground level field to nearly 40000. I think we got our tickets at the very end.
We got to the stadium early, and stood by the entrance. By the time the doors opened, tens of thousands of people were pushing to get on the field and I clearly remember fearing to be crushed to death against the wall.
As the show began, many people were already half intoxicated from a long hot day of waiting and drinking and else. Then it struck: the PA system was nowhere near what was required for this type of event. The sound was horrible for likely 75% of the crowd in attendance!!! Roger Waters himself acknowledged later that some folks in the crowd during the "In the Flesh" tour likely never heard the music.
In an interview, Mick Kluczynski (Pink Floyd road manager) commented: 'On the eve of the North American leg of the tour, Kluczynski and Graeme Fleming made an advance check on the first outdoor venue, Atlanta Stadium, to gauge the extent of the PA equipment and sound power required. Kluczynski: "I walked down onto the field and started looking upwards, and up, and up... I suddenly went into a blind panic and couldn't wait to get on the phone to Robbie in London to tell him to double what we'd ordered!" '
It was confirmed in Montreal that they were not equipped to address a stadium of this magnitude.
In Montreal, the attempt to compensate for the waves of echo bouncing off the round statium structure just made it worse as all was out of phase and muddy. I guess the sound engineers struggled to tune the system with a full stadium, as compared with an empty one during sound check. Heck, Pink Floyd never learned their lesson and repeated the same mistakes in 1988 and 1994 (this time the power was there, but it was atrociously distorded; we just could not believe our ears) in the same stadium to the point the first time my wife attended a rock concert in 1994, we walked away pissed off, halfway into the show (A $150 throwaway!!).
When they played the Montreal Forum in 1987, as a warm up gig to the "Delicate Sound of Thunder" tour, it was magical, just like in 1975 at the Autostadium. I think this is what triggered what would become a long list of unfortunate events on July 6th 1977.
Montrealers are notoriously loud. Either they love you and will shower you with magnificient applause or they will bury the show in anger.
This is what happened that evening as folks started throwing firecrakers and things and blowing horns, I believe in frustration.
My friends and I set to head right to first row, and we were facing Roger Waters. The crowd just could not shut up and listen. By the way most of us don't speak English here, as I did not myself in 77, so most didn't care about the lyrics. That may be another ingredient for disaster. When Roger Waters tried to sing "Pigs on the Wing", one particular firecraker came from the upper balcony, from his left-hand side and popped loudly just above his head.
He just freaked! Stopped playing and talked back to the audience. That was like a declaration of war. Many teanagers in the front rows, started pushing and shoving. We were 17 at the time and heavily into punk music (Iggy Pop and the Ramones) and heavy metal (Rainbow, etc.). Not a quiet crowd. One of my friend was fluent in English then and quite verbal against Waters, actually screaming to the top of his lungs. This is when I began feeling quite embarrassed by the whole thing. But what can one expect from half-drunken teanagers? Roger Waters should have known better.
There was a high (about 2.5 meters) and opaque barricade protecting the stage. The security crew were smashing fingers of anyone hanging from the barricade and my friend had his fingers bruised badly. Waters got close to the edge of the stage, almost defiant. My friend and others started calling "riot, riot", but it was just a stupid game. Riot never broke. I don't remember anyone getting hurt other than by security.
At one point Roger Waters spat at someone and David Gilmour was getting pretty upset too. I don't know if it was because of Waters behavior or the crowd's. He did not show up for the encore and the remaining members played a blues without him. The show ended in confusion and many fans (including myself) walked away quite disappointed.
I only found out recently that the rest of the tour was apparently cancelled and that the foundation for "The Wall" grew from that tour and this particular evening. I feel the stadium's architecture may also have influenced the representation of stadiums in the movie with the high rising concrete arches.
I am now convinced that Roger Waters was right in saying that playing large stadiums just takes away the magic, but David Gilmour disagrees. I attended 5 Pink Floyd concerts and one by Gilmour alone, and it only worked in smaller venues.
I've also seen the Rolling Stones in the Olympic stadium twice and David Bowie once. The first time (Steel Wheel's tour) it was almost perfect, where as on the second occasion on the Voodoo Lounge tour, they struggled to get the sound right. Bowie's show was a disaster too (and so was Michael Jackson's, I was told). So, it's not only Pink Floyd who are having difficulties with the place... Yes (the band) never attempted, nor did Genesis. They'd play the Forum for three nigths instead, a smart choice!
I also checked with another good friend of mine (whom I did not know then in 1977), who was there too and here are his comments about the incident:
Thank you for your "version".
I was there too. Not in the front row, but I am able to remember the firework that started the whole incident. I remember the immediate reaction of Waters, I remember the profanities, I remember the spit, and I remember the sound fiasco and the great disappointment.
I had no clue that this was a "famous" incident that changed their history.
It is nice to know that I was a part of history as an observer.
I only wish this could be brought to Roger Waters and David Gilmour. I wish they would accept my appology in behalf of the young punks we were at the time. My *dream* would be that the two could sit down and settle the various issues they've had in the last 25 years and give it a try.
If Mr. Gilmour could agree to go back to smaller stadiums (like they did in the Montreal Forum in 1987) and if Mr. Waters could try to overcome his emotions, I am sure the crowd would behave and the magic would be there again. The biggest impression I ever felt in my whole life is still Pink Floyd's 1975 show at the Autostadium, a small open stadium built for the 1967 World Fare in Montreal (demolished later) that could only seat a few tens of thousands of people. It was a beautifull evening I will never forget!
All that said though, we all went on with our lives and I am now 41, married, have two children and do my best to live in harmony with others. My friends of that era are also married, and individuals moved to Italy and New-Jersey.
What surprises me though is that I am not convinced that Roger Waters went on with his life, as that period in his career seems to have had a profound effect on him, even up to today.
Do I feel sorry? Yes.
Should I appologize? Certainly, but how?!!
Were we (unwillingly) part of Pink Floyd history? I have a feeling so...
What do I miss most about Pink Floyd? The 71-75 era, when the four of them seemed to enjoy a relative harmonious and creative relationship. I have lost track of what Roger Waters did in the last 15 years and I truly miss him, but not his anger. I occasionnally follows what David Gilmour has been doing and liked his solo efforts, but I think something broke way back then, which affected him as well. I only hope they are happy with their lives nowadays...
|pink floyd montreal 1977, roger waters, spit incident, spitting incident|
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