Friday, February 26, 2010

The Committee

The Committee
Studio recording May 1968 * Unreleased

Produced by Pink Floyd


The Committee was the second film that Pink Floyd recorded music for; but unlike Tonite Let's All Make Love in London, they composed the majority of the score, along with some material from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Unfortunately, the film was never put on general release, though it was shown to the press and subsequently hired out to film societies. The group probably recorded nearly an album's worth of material for the film, but this as well was never released. A surviving audio clip of the film, 15½ minutes in length, has made its way to the bootleg circuit; it is edited to include some of the musical highlights from the film.

The first piece (1.02) on the available clip is very similar to Reaction in G, and is a rocking number highlighted by Dave's electric guitar. The second (1.14) is dominated by loud chords from Rick's organ. The next six or seven minutes of the clip is basically atmospheric music, providing a menacing feel to the dialogue of the movie (utilizing sinister keyboards and sound effects from Dave's guitar) but not the sort of thing that would be cut for an album.

Dave Gilmour: "... near the beginning we would have done pretty well anything anyone asked us to do with films. You could make long meandering things which wouldn't necessarily hold together on record."

The highlight of the audio clip is the very first version of a true Pink Floyd classic which would have six or seven different incarnations over the early years of the band and would stay in their repertoire until as late as 1977 — Careful with that Axe, Eugene. This version is 2.38 in length, and is very quiet compared to later versions, with understated guitar and scarcely audible percussion. The final section of the audio clip is a reprise of the first, Reaction in G-like tune, this time slower, and 3.30 in length.

Little is known about this rare film, though a short synopsis was included in the New Musical Express Guide to Rock Cinema: "A hitch-hiker (Paul Jones) beheads a thorough bore, then sews his head back on; a chilling fable exploring R. D. Laing's thesis that schizophrenia and crime are the only sane responses to a sick society." Unsurprisingly, the Floyd was chosen to write the score because of their facility to write sinister and mysterious-sounding music. And indeed, the film seems quite eerie, very bizarre, totally unsettling, and utterly psychotic, partially thanks to their contribution. The music is noticeably louder than the background music in most films, and so plays a larger part in the feel of the movie. Printed below, to give the reader a feel for the nature of the film, are several excerpts of dialogue between Paul Jones' character (the hitch-hiker) and a person who appears to be his psychiatrist. Paul Jones starts the dialogue.

"That's the point, isn't it, he couldn't tell you. I can tell you this: in that car there was nothing, see, nothing, just talk. It's fair to say, isn't it, that a man like that doesn't think. He doesn't really feel. He goes through the motions of being human because nobody told him different."
"(sarcastic) Look, you may be the best surgeon in town, but you're not making yourself very clear."
"(making an allowance) Okay, for all I know, he may be a very clever and successful person."
"Successful in whose terms?"
"In our terms."
"His terms don't matter?"
"(pause) Yes. In some sense they don't matter. (pause) I know that sounds awful, I probably don't even mean it. Maybe I've got the whole thing wrong. The only thing to do is to try to make things better."
"(aggressive) In whose terms?"
"Look, I'd like to explain to you about that guy. He's enclosed in himself; he goes on and on — I get the feeling that he just isn't concerned. Concerned with other people. I mean, everything else is a matter of taste, a matter of opinion. But if anyone can live on this earth and not care about other people—"
"So you cut his head off. The thing you really seem to hold against him is typified by what you did to
"(innocent) I did nothing to him, he's okay. I put it back on. The head, I mean."
"(incredulous) His head."
"(feeling patronized to) Yeah. I put the right head back on."

The 'psychiatrist' character starts the following dialogue segments.
"Now tell me what happened in the glade."
"I did something to myself. Like — entertainment, like amusement, like a daydream. There was nothing there. And I saw something. I saw — his head under the bonnet of the car. You can say what you like, but I saw the bird of paradise spread its wings!"

The psychiatrist begins the next section.
"Are you still suffocating?"
"Not now. Not just now. Put yourself in my shoes. Can you picture how it looks to me?"
"You know, that's the one thing I can't do."
"Why can't you put yourself in my shoes? Because it would mean eliminating me? In effect, killing me? Or are you afraid to see yourself?"
"And who am I?"
"You're the director. Of the Committee. You are the state. The trouble is, before the conversation even begins, everything has been said."
"What is the difference between your relation to yourself in the future and other people now?"
"I'm only the director of a Committee in the future. There is something that we're driving at, but I can't see what it is."

The dialogue below occurs during the piece that would, later in 1968, become Careful with that Axe, Eugene. The Paul Jones character begins the dialogue.
"What interests me about authority is the fakery. And what interests me about rejection of authority is also the fakery. I think the whole world is a madhouse. An extended madhouse."
"Is that a way of saying that you are mad?"
"As long as the dialogue goes on, there's a chance for rationality."
"Not everyone would agree with that."
"Let me ask you a question. Suppose we could get far away from human society. To observe it with detachment. What will it look like? A mould? A colony of bacteria going through the familiar phases? And if so, what would we do about it? Try to break the ghastly chain? With what means? You would have to understand the process. Or else just lash out, strike at something. It's obvious that my contact with society was not total. I may have cut my head off and put it back on again, but the wound didn't close up completely. Not completely. Some people think that the criminals and the mad are the real heroes. Why not, in a corrupt world? In a pointless and vicious society. But in a reasonable society, there are no criminals. So — one criminal act can turn a reasonable society into an unreasonable one."

The last being an attitude quite germane to some of the Floyd's work.

The Committee was directed by Peter Sykes, produced by Max Steuer, and starred Paul Jones (of the group Manfred Mann). It was made in association with Craytic Ltd.

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