How did Pink Floyd end up on stage with Frank Zappa? Recovering the events of 1969

“Frank Zappa is really one of those rare musicians who can play with us. What little he did on Amougies was terribly right. But he is an exception. Our music and the way we act on stage makes it difficult to improvise with us...”

The Story of Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd Playing Together (Actuel Rock Festival 1969)

Today, after so many years, the recording from the Actuel Rock festival in 1969 raises a number of sensitive questions among rock music fans ... And the thing is that on this recording you can clearly see how Pink Floyd play on the same stage with ... Frank Zappa! Yes, today it really seems strange, because their creative paths practically did not intersect. In the video, Zappa plays lead guitar during a 20-minute performance of Interstellar Overdrive, one of Syd Barrett's most memorable contributions to the Pink Floyd catalog... It happened in October 1969, at the Actuel Rock Open Air Festival. Among the performers were Pink Floyd, Yes, Ten Years After, Pretty Things, Keith Relf's Renaissance, Captain Beefheart and many bands that few people remember today ... But the oddity of this event was that the MC was invited ... Frank Zappa himself . Subsequently, he recalled:

"It was after The Mothers of Invention broke up and you know, I had some free time," Zappa said a few years later. “These people contacted me. They offered me $10,000 to host the festival. All expenses were paid, and I said, "Okay." So I went there and they didn't tell me that no one speaks English…”

Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa

But how did it happen? And where exactly did it all start? Ironically, even though the video shows Zappa on stage with Roger Waters, David Gilmour and the rest of Pink Floyd, Zappa himself had no memory of the jam session. It must have been one hell of a music festival...

Where did it all begin? Prerequisites

Frank Zappa on stage with Pink Floyd
Frank Zappa on stage with Pink Floyd

Legends of their craft - Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd rightfully hold the status of idols not only among their fans, but also among the music world as a whole. They worked tirelessly to create unique and triumphant music... But above all, they were all personalities. With that in mind, it seems only fitting that two such provocatively unique artists (Zappa and Floyd) could get together to jam at one of the first ever French rock festivals, The Actuel Rock Festival in 1969, and create such harmonious music... But not everything is so simple.

Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd

Sponsored by the Parisian fashion magazine Actuel and also by the record company BYG, the festival has been hailed as Europe's Woodstock! But due to the fact that the police still had not recovered from the riots in the capital in May of that year, the festival was moved to Belgium ... The event took place at the end of October 1969. An audience of nearly 20,000 was treated to performances by Pink Floyd, Ten Years After, Colosseum, Aynsley Dunbar, Caravan, Blossom Toes, Archie Shepp, Yes, The Pretty Things, Pharoah Sanders, The Soft Machine, Captain Beefheart and many more. … Zappa was there primarily as an MC and also as tour manager for Captain Beefheart, but as his first role was hampered by his inability to speak French, Zappa turned it down and instead became an occasional guitar player for everyone who wanted it, including Pink Floyd!

“I was supposed to be the presenter at the first big rock festival in France, but at the last minute this festival was moved from France to Belgium, right across the border, on the field ... They built a tent that was held by these huge beams: in fact they had 20,000 people in a big circus!”

Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa

Encouraged by his story, Zappa continues: “I think it was in November. The weather was really not very good, cold and damp, and it was in the middle of the field… All the participants, and all the people who wanted to see these actions, were persuaded to find this place in the onion field and come to this festival. They hired me to be the host and also the manager of Captain Beefheart and it was a nightmare because no one could speak English and I couldn't speak French or any other language…”

Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa

“So my function was really quite limited. I felt a bit like Linda McCartney, ”the musician joked. “I sat with several groups during the three days of the festival, but it was so terrible because all these European hippies brought their sleeping bags, which they laid out on the ground in this tent, and they practically slept through the entire festival, which lasted 24 hours a day. day!"

Magic on Stage

This harmonious bond of theirs, their undoubted chemistry and their strange symbiotic action, which is really striking in its unusualness - the performance of Zappa and Floyd is truly magical ... In a 1973 interview, Nick Mason said the following about Zappa:

“Frank Zappa is really one of those rare musicians who can play with us. What little he did on Amougies was terribly right. But he is an exception. Our music and the way we act on stage makes it difficult to improvise with us…”

At the same time, Zappa himself subsequently claimed that he did not remember this performance, stating that he "never performed with Pink Floyd."



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