Pink Floyd’s Connection to the CIA and Ronald Reagan

We haven’t done a concert-related post in a while.We have featured the Beatles, Janis Joplin, The Dead, Hendrix and The Doors both at the Hilton, The Beach Boys, U2 in Georgetown, The Police in Adams Morgan, The Bee Gees and Springsteen. It’s time to highlight one of the best bands ever … Pink Floyd

The band was in the midst of their “Wish You Were Here Tour” and this was the first of two nights in the Washington area. They played at the Capital Centre on June 9th, 1975 and tickets were $7.50 or $8.50 for premium tickets (!).

Wish You Were Here photo (1975)
Wish You Were Here photo (1975)

The Washington Post published Larry Rohter’s review below the following day.

Extravagance is a byword in rock ‘n’ roll, but it is doubtful that there is anywhere a band with a vision more grandiose than Pink Floyd, who opened the first of two nights at the Capital Centre last night with a show that eve Cecil B. DeMille would have found hard to top.

Pink Floyd has always had a taste for the lavish spectacle, but in their early days, when they were only a cult band with a limited following in the United States, it was hard to indulge that inclination. But, they’ve had several gold albums in a row now, the most notable being “Dark Side of the Moon,” and there is no longer any need to exercise restraint.

The group has come up with a multimedia show that should be familiar to anyone who saw Stanley Kubrick’s “2001.” The gear used in this show, in which music frequently plays a secondary role, includes huge screens onto which are projected surrealistic montage tape loops (with special sound effects), totems and airplanes that glide from one end of the auditorium to the other. The combined effect, of course, is overwhelming.

The same cannot be said, though, of the music that preceded this visual feast. The first half of Pink Floyd’s two-hour show featured a great deal of new material that was ponderous and lacking in the passion usually associated with rock ‘n’ roll.

A number titled believe it or not, “Raving and Drooling, I Fell on His Neck With a Scream,” was typical of these new compositions, which find Pink Floyd moving with laughable clumsiness from the realm of outer space to the infinitely more complex world of the inner mind. Unsupported by spectacular visuals, this part of the concert received only a hesitantly approving response from the near sellout crowd of space-rock fans.

That the “Dark Side of the Moon” suite fared better is an indication of just how important spectacle is in Pink Floyd’s scheme, for the music wasn’t all that different from the first half of the show. Drones and repeating figures, supplied by bassist Roger Waters and synthesizer player Richard Wright, were the dominant features of Pink Floyd’s pieces–since these compositions have only briefly defined structures it is difficult to call them “songs”–and one quickly grew eager for music less dirge-like. Pink Floyd is a feast for the eyes, yes, but last night at least they were also a bane for the ears.

“Bane for the ears?” Interesting. So either A) the band had an off night or B) Larry subjectively and objectively has poor taste in music. I’m leaning heavily towards the former.

David Gilmour live in concert 1975
David Gilmour live in concert 1975

Take a look a the setlist from that night (thanks to setlists.fm).

Sheep
Dogs
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)
Have a Cigar (with Roy Harper)
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)
Speak to Me
Breathe
On the Run
Time
Breathe (Reprise)
The Great Gig in the Sky
Money
Us and Them
Any Colour You Like
Brain Damage
Eclipse

Encore:
Echoes

They don’t make bands like Pink Floyd any more. Sad.

In other new, June 9th, the day of that first show, also saw the release of the U.S. President’s Commission on CIA activities within the United States report (aka, the Rockefeller Commission). This was the first time that the Project MKULTRA program was brought to public attention.

For those that are not aware what that is, it was the code name for the CIA’s program for human experimentation attempting to exert mind control. A key component of this program experimented with the effects of LSD.

So, Pink Floyd plays near Washington the day MKULTRA is exposed in Congress? Irony, thy name is MKULTRA.

Swearing-in Ceremony of the Rockefeller Commission, 1975: Members included Nelson A. Rockefeller, Lyman L. Lemnitzer, Ronald Reagan, Edgar F. Shannon, Jr., David W. Belin, John T. Connor, C. Douglas Dillon, Erwin N. Griswold, and Lane Kirkland (Wikipedia)
Swearing-in Ceremony of the Rockefeller Commission, 1975: Members included Nelson A. Rockefeller, Lyman L. Lemnitzer, Ronald Reagan, Edgar F. Shannon, Jr., David W. Belin, John T. Connor, C. Douglas Dillon, Erwin N. Griswold, and Lane Kirkland (Wikipedia)

Yes, that is Ronald Reagan in the photo. This post just gets weirder. But not weird enough to say Reagan was at the Floyd concert. Or was he … ?

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • EdH

    Wonderful write-up! I saw Pink Floyd on their last tour, in 1994, for two nights at Texas Stadium in Dallas. Amazing.

    One thing I thought was strange in the Post’s story was the song title “Raving and Drooling, I Fell on His Neck With a Scream.” I’ve been listening to Pink Floyd for 20 years, and I’ve never heard of that title. I wonder if it got a new title after this concert?

    • TDC2

      I think it was the working title of Sheep.

  • EdH

    Or, maybe I could Google first, post later 😉

    http://www.ingsoc.com/waters/albums/animals/lyrics.html

  • Reblogged this on Pinkfloydiana.

  • I had seen PF at Merriweather Post in 1973, I still can’t hear anything. And that’s an outdoor venue, mind you. They were the first band I remember to use prerecorded FX at a live concert (in order to be able to recreate Dark Side). I think at that time any other band would have been booed for resorting to canned music at a live show. But then along came ABBA, Madonna and Milli Vanilli.