Revisiting Pink Floyd's iconic Games For May

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018 - 08:24

On 12 May 1967 Pink Floyd performed a legendary concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall which saw them cement a place in rock history, and on our blacklist.

Pink Floyd at QEH archive
Courtesy of Southbank Centre Archive

Since the opening of Royal Festival Hall in 1951 Southbank Centre’s stages have played host to a huge number of pioneering musical performances. Among these, just over half a century ago, was a gig which would not only test the boundaries of live music, but also test the patience of our bosses.

In early 1967, whilst in the midst of recording their debut album, Pink Floyd were approached by the promoter Christopher Hunt with an idea to take the band’s approach of incorporating light shows and film projections into their live sets and go one louder.

This psychedelic extravaganza was to be called Games for May, and our newly opened Queen Elizabeth Hall was to be it’s venue. From this original Barry Zaid designed gig poster, taken from our archive, we can see that Hunt didn’t hold back in his patter, billing the show as ‘space age relaxation for the climax of spring’ incorporating ‘electronic compositions, colour and image projections, girls’ and of course Pink Floyd.

Absent from Hunt’s promotional spiel however were the two aspects that would ensure the performance achieved such notoriety. The first was Pink Floyd’s pioneering use of quadrophonic sound. With the help of Abbey Road technician Bruce Speight, the band set up speakers in the four corners of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, for which the sound distribution was controlled by a single joystick. This allowed the operator to effectively move sound around the auditorium, making Pink Floyd’s Southbank Centre appearance the first ever surround sound gig.

The noisiest and prettiest display ever seen on the South Bank
Financial Times, 1967

The critics and the audience may’ve been suitably impressed, but the bosses here at Southbank Centre were somewhat less enamoured, thanks to the second aspect, the show’s elaborate finale. As a climax to their performance Pink Floyd cranked up a bubble machine and threw flowers flowers into the crowd. It was a big finish that left its mark in more ways than one, with the mixture of petals and water permanently marking a great number of the Hall’s plush new leather seats.

Nick Mason Pink Floyd. Image credit - Harry Grindrod

As a result Pink Floyd’s members were duly banned from Queen Elizabeth Hall. And we don’t do bans lightly; this one remained in place for 49 years, until 2016, when we finally relented and allowed Pink Floyd drummerNick Mason (left) to return to the scene of the crime for a photoshoot with Ferrari magazine.

Southbank Centre Archive contains an incredible arrange of images and artifacts spanning over six decades of our venues' history

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