By the way, this one’s pink
The Aspen Times
Ian Cattell heard “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” and liked it immediately.
“I remember that coming out distinctly. I was a big fan,” he said.
But soon after the album was released in late November 1979, he found reason to relate even more closely to the concept album and to the character Pink, who, among other difficulties, was subject to the heavy thumb of an overprotective mother. The local radio station in Cattell’s native upstate New York held a call-in contest; Cattell dialed and won himself a copy of “The Wall.” And then life imitated art.
“My mother went to pick it up for me,” Cattell said. “And she heard, ‘We don’t need no education’” — the defiant lyrics from “Another Brick in the Wall” — “and decided I didn’t need that album just then.”
Instead, his mother came home with a copy of REO Speedwagon’s “High Infidelity,” which became the best-selling album of 1981 but hasn’t endured quite as well as “The Wall.”
This case of oppression wasn’t especially severe.
“It wasn’t long before I got a copy of ‘The Wall,’ and I had to explain to my mom, best as I could, that it wasn’t anti-school,” Cattell said.
Still, it is the case that what gets pushed down ultimately comes out in some form. Cattell didn’t just become a fan of Pink Floyd — he has made a life of its music. Cattell comes to town as part of Brit Floyd, a hugely ambitious tribute band that plays a two-night stand beginning tonight at Belly Up. His membership in Brit Floyd, though, is only the latest chapter in the immersion.
“Now I eat and breathe Pink Floyd every day,” he said, a daily practice that has been going on for decades.
A fan of all prog-rock, Cattell studied bass at the Fredonia School of Music and became part of the music scene in upstate New York. In 1994, the manager of the Pink Floyd cover band Crazy Diamond invited Cattell into the group. Cattell filled out his Pink Floyd record collection and began doing the instrumental parts originated by Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s bassist.
A decade later, he was still playing Pink Floyd, now in a part-time local band, Childhood’s End, while he held down a day job as a technician with Apple Computer. Cattell got another invitation, this one representing a step up the tribute-band ladder. It was the Australian Pink Floyd Show, a touring group that played at major festivals and in massive venues, re-creating the live Pink Floyd experience, from the songs to the lasers. Cattell auditioned in England and got the gig, and his role expanded — not only was he handling the bass parts, but he also was singing all of Waters’ tunes and some of David Gilmore’s, as well.
Cattell has found this extensive investigation into the music worthwhile. He says he is a bigger Pink Floyd fan now, after playing it tirelessly for nearly two decades, than he was when he first was discovering the albums “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Division Bell.”
“It’s music that’s very emotional. It’s written about things that are timeless,” the 43-year-old said from his home near Allentown, Pa. He also found a complexity in the lyrics, both despair and relief. “There’s a dark piece like ‘The Wall,’ about how you can feel isolated, and ‘Dark Side of the Moon,’ about the pressures of everyday life — ‘Time,’ ‘Money’ — how they grind down your mental health. But even something as dark as ‘The Wall,’ there’s always hope. There’s always a way to bring down the wall. That’s something I like about Pink Floyd — it finds a way to be optimistic without being happy-go-lucky.”
Two and a half years ago, Damian Darlington, the longtime music director of the Australian Pink Floyd Show, sought to turn things up yet another notch and formed Brit Floyd, which was designed to delve deeper into the Pink Floyd catalog and re-create the original sights and sound even more vividly. With Cattell and Darlington fronting the band, it began playing more obscure and ambitious tunes, like the 23-minute “Echoes.” Brit Floyd has been playing some 120 dates a year at places such as Red Rocks and London’s Royal Albert Hall. Its Belly Up show in September was a sellout.
The current tour tries a new approach. Brit Floyd is playing one side each of the albums “Dark Side of the Moon,” “The Wall,” “Animals,” “The Division Bell” and “Wish You Were Here.” The most passionate fans might consider coming both nights, as the band alternates night to night which side of certain albums it plays.
Cattell thinks the idea of playing full sides of albums works well for Pink Floyd material — especially “Dark Side of the Moon,” which was released 40 years ago.
“It’s the quintessential concept album. Like a single piece of music — or two pieces of music, each side of the album,” he said. “When we went back to rehearsing ‘Dark Side,’ you got all these moments where you realize how great it is to put all the pieces together.”
Cattell’s musical life isn’t limited to Pink Floyd. He also plays in Vinyl Albums Live, which covers albums such as “Led Zeppelin IV” in their entirety. He also hauls a washtub bass to campfire sessions of Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley tunes. Cattell believes that playing someone else’s music, especially music that has gathered passionate fans, has a unique set of pressures.
“If you’re doing your own thing, you can’t play it wrong,” he said. But with material like Pink Floyd, “fans know every last nuance. So it’s rewarding when people say you got it right. But you have to live up to that, as well. There are some exacting standards set for us before we came to this music.”
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It might require a little extra preparation, but there’s no need to be afraid of colder months when going out fishing.