Saturday, 23 July 2011

Shine on

Many years ago I lay in a tent and had what can only be called a psychedelic experience. The music of Pink Floyd was involved. I think there's probably a bye-law about that sort of thing.

I was in deepest Wales for a week-long Boys Brigade camp. I was only 11 years of age. This is beginning to paint me in a bad light, isn't it?

My elder brother - brother number 2, if you're interested - was a more senior BB officer and as such he'd been allowed to bring along one of those big stereo cassette players that were all the rage in the early '80s, together with a selection of tapes.

I'd been run out at cricket, which was hardly a surprise as I had failed to grasp the subtler principles of the game, namely the 'don't whack your wicket with your own bat' part. That is not a euphemism and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

Anyway, I decided to ignore the ongoing delights of cricket's honest warfare and lay myself down in a tent in the corner of the field. My brother's city-block sized stereo was there; I pressed 'Play' and Dark Side of the Moon greeted me.

I must have heard this album before at home. Despite what pop historians might tell you, punk rock did not sweep away everything that had gone before and there were still suburban households at the time that were no strangers to Pink Floyd, Genesis and the like. Brother number 1 was an unashamed Electric Light Orchestra fan. Johnny Rotten held no sway whatsoever.

But regardless, lying there in the rare warmth of a Welsh summer I did something different. I listened. And as I did, I let my gaze focus on the canvas of the tent above me. The sun was visible through the weft and weave of the fabric and there was this ever-changing inter-locking pattern of light and dark. I remember my breathing slowed. Before I'd even got past the end of the first track, I think I must have entered a higher state of consciousness.

I know. The only time I've ever heard that phrase before was from someone who knew a lot about ley lines and had an unhealthy obsession with silver jewellery.

In any case, this was heady stuff for an 11-year old. No substances were involved - well, nothing more than Spangles, but I don't think Timothy Leary would have recognised those as particularly counter-cultural.

I was reminded of this last night when a few of us went to Birmingham Planetarium for the Pink Floyd Fulldome Experience. A digital domed screen, some 10 metres across, with 360-degree sound and vision. They played Wish You Were Here last night; Dark Side comes later this year, along with The Wall. It was indeed psychedelic. And, not to put too fine a point on it, somewhat trippy. As the kaleidoscopes, bubbles and patterns swirled and rotated over my head, I thought back to myself 30 years ago.

As in 1981, no mind-altering stimulants were required. Well, not until later that night when a few cans of BrewDog Punk IPA headed my way. Even now, it's the nearest I'll ever get to punk rock.

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