Friday, November 20, 2015

Pink Floyd and "Ecclesiastics": "Let the Holy Spirit fill you.."

Backstory on Pink Floyd's "Great Gig in the Sky": of the Floyd's earliest uses of scripture didn't even make it on record. In 1972, the band was touring The Dark Side of the Moon, working out the kinks in what would become their studio masterpiece. Several of the songs were evolving during this period, but none quite as much as the track that would eventually become "The Great Gig in the Sky". On the album version, Clare Torry's memorable vocals evoke the wails of a death. But in the earliest live incarnations, the song was more about religion as yet another potential cause of madness. At one point, it was given the working title of "Ecclesiastics" {my note: also "mortality sequence"}

As Rick Wright provided some ominous, droning organ chords and flourishes (reminiscent, perhaps, of the organ music often used in church services), tape loops played speeches and sermons by various people--most notably Malcolm Muggeridge, who hosted a well-known religious talk show on the BBC at the time). Recordings of these performances suggest that there were several different speakers used on these tapes, and while the first bits were clearly bible texts, as the song progressed these were overtaken by prayer, commentary, and talk show discussion.

From these, I cannot determine which translation is being used. But here is the text of Ephesians 5:15-20 from the New Revised Standard Version:Sadly, many of these tapes are inaudible or undecipherable on the available audience recordings. One of the clearest comes from the February 20, 1972 show at London's Rainbow Theatre. Near the beginning, a man states "...we read from St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians chapter 5, verses 15 to 33." He then goes on to read the text, of which can be deciphered "Be us careful then how you conduct yourselves...", "Let the Holy Spirit fill you", "Speak to one another, sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord..." and a few other phrases.
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The voice fades out around verse 19 or 20, so while verses 21 through 33 are mentioned, they were not actually heard in the context of the Floyd's performance.

During this reading, a second voice fades in and out with what seems to be a prayer: "Draw near to us in this time of worship... strengthen by thy spirit...".
Shortly thereafter is the passage known as the Lord's Prayer, taken from Matthew 6:9-13 (King James Version):
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

The lines of the familiar prayer echo on top of one another, until they are all but unrecognizable.
This is replaced by another voice reciting "...courageously carry the torch of progress into the glorious future ... how, in a macabre sort of way, funny that the form that insubordination takes...". This is clearly a sermon or speech of some kind, rather than a biblical passage. This is followed by yet another voice, saying, "I only wish I could show you the numbers of letters which I have received in support of the Holy Father's decision...".

I won't try to interpret all of this too completely, but it is easy to see how the selected scriptures, prayers, and sermons might fit the Floyd's intended statement that religion drives one mad. The passage from Ephesians sets a high standard of morality and conduct, eschewing alcohol and debauchery. Efforts to live up to such a standard could certainly drive one to madness. (Note also the phrase "making the most of the time", which could have been taken directly from the lyrics of "Time".) The prayers are familiar and recited by rote rather than by heartfelt communication with God, and thus become a great cacophony devoid of all meaning.

The sermon consists of flowery language (e.g. "carry the torch of progress into the glorious future") that sounds pretty but amounts to little, and during this it seems that the sermon itself is drowned out by the braying of sheep. The implication is that religious churchgoers are little more than sheep who will be led anywhere the authority figures want them to go (an idea Waters would explore again in Animals). This idea is reinforced by the statement that people have been writing in to support the Church's official position on one matter or another. Thus, religion is portrayed not as an instrument of independent thought, but rather as an institution that exists only to churn out generation after generation of mindless followers.
Weighty stuff indeed. It would be another half decade before Pink Floyd would start making such bold, pointed statements on record. In scrapping all of the religious text in favor of the 'death and dying' instrumental that would find its way to the Dark Side album, the band managed to keep the subject matter more universal, thus broadening the album's appeal.  Mike McInnis , link

more on this:
See also:
-all posts labeled "Pink Floyd" below this post


Not (Just) About Dogs...and hangovers: call to worship by Pastor Roger Waters.

holy heteroclite:: Praying with Pink Floyd

May 1, 2007 - Why can't church be more like Pink Floyd lyrics? (like it used to be when Jews and Psalms informed us) I know; at their worst, they are pure ..

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