These were the very first shows that Pink Floyd played in the U.S. They were originally scheduled in San Francisco the week before but had Visa problems and hence they appear on both last week’s poster and this one. Artist Bonnie MacLean used a medieval theme for this event that also featured Big Brother & The Holding Company and Richie Havens. The show was held at The Fillmore on Thursday night but it was moved to the larger Winterland for the Friday and Saturday crowds.
Two weeks before, The Floyd had released their first album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, in the U.S., having released the single, See Emily Play, in July where it climbed up to #136 in the Billboard charts. The album didn’t do much better, considered, “a bunch of English rubbish,” by Capital Records; under promoted it hit #131. Both the single and the album made it to #6 in the UK where Pink Floyd were much more popular. Pink Floyd had also started recording , “A Saucerful of Secrets,” in early October
Roger Waters reports that they “were third on the bill to Big Brother and the Holding Company and Richie Havens. When Big Brother went on I couldn’t believe it. I was expecting something way out and it was bluesy country rock. I was amazed. I expected them to be much more different. It was kind of chunka, chunka, chunka with Janis Joplin singing the blues. I was expecting something really extraordinary and mind-blowing and tripping. Compared to some of the things that English bands were doing at the time it was boring. For example the Who in a good mood or the Cream.”
Floyd found that they had been billed as ‘The Light Kings Of England’ but Winterland was enormous and the tiny lighting rig they had with them couldn’t possibly fill the space so they used the same lighting men as the other bands, in this case Glenn MacKay’s Headlights. Bands did not have their own lights in America; lighting crews were independent outfits contracted to ballrooms and clubs under their own name; the Fillmore East for example used the Joshua Light Show, who were often advertised on the posters as if they were an added attraction.
Sad Barrett completely self-destructed on this tour but fortunately Syd managed to play reasonably well in San Francisco, and initially the band was able to enjoy the easy-going Californian hippie scene. At that point any band from England was regarded as visiting royalty and the group and their road crew found themselves surrounded by enormously friendly Californian girls and plied with more pot than they had ever seen in their lives while non-smokers Nick Mason and Waters were introduced by Janis Joplin to Southern Comfort.