Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Ron Geesin/Roger Waters—
Music From The Body


Released 1970 on Harvest
The Seth Man, November 2001ce
“Music From The Body” was the soundtrack for an independent film/documentary by Roy Battersby called “The Body,” a collaborative effort between the experimental multi-instrumentalist Ron Geesin and Pink Floyd bassist/vocalist Roger Waters recorded prior to Geesin’s involvement with Pink Floyd on “Atom Heart Mother.” For Roger Waters this would prove to be an enlightening project, providing him with insightful contributions to Pink Floyd in the direct centre of their 1968-1972 period where they reigned as an experimental group embracing innovative and unusual projects, instilling them with high production values and then operating them within the ever-expanding ‘pop format’ of the time, such as: soundtracks (“The Committee,” “More,” “Zabriskie Point,” “La Vallée”); television (the instrumental “Moonhead” for a British programme on the 1969 NASA lunar landing) or the experimental second disc of “Ummagumma.” They also pioneered and developed sound systems for both live performance (such as the early Quadraphonic Azimuth Coordinator) and studio recording. And Waters’ time spent with Geesin both here and on “Atom Heart Mother” would also influence much of own later songwriting contributions in Pink Floyd (specifically, the “Picnic” compilation rarity, “Embryo” and the better known “Breathe” off “Dark Side Of The Moon.”)

“The Body” is comprised mostly of instrumental vignettes that are organic, humourous and/or dark as they all float together with only an occasional vocal by Waters on four of his solo compositions. There is evidence of considerable effort behind the overdubbing and tape-slicing on the opening track “Our Song”, but there is only one instrument used and it’s a ragtime/music hall-type piano that enters as backing halfway into this tape-spliced behemoth of body sounds recorded and arranged into a rhythmically effective piece where all manner of sounds from slapping, clapping, nose blowing, a baby’s wordless vocal of glee, rude farts and even ruder attacks of diarrhea are set to a ridiculously bouncy, old-tymey rhythm. As evidenced by the constant rising, falling and degree of tape hiss clinging to the various sounds it roller coasters above, the sounds were collected from varying sources, and that only contributes more laughs to this guffaw-inducing oddball track. But after the initial poo-poo/fart joke weirdness, the album’s tone settles down to one far more solemn when superimposed breathing crossfades easily into the breaking of small waves and into the first of four Roger Waters compositions, “Sea Shell And Stone” that is every inch of its acoustic musing the cousin to Waters’ own “Grantchester Meadows” off “Ummagumma.” One further crossfade later its into the flurry of small, dark and strange instrumentals that lurk behind darkly hilarious titles like “Red Stuff Writhe,” “March Past Of The Embryos” and “More Than Seven Dwarfs (sic) In Penis-Land” as Ron Geesin’s arrangements land them all in the same territory as “Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict.” A dark cello and violin will begin a ghostly, half-assed concerto like a nightmarish instrumental outtake from ELO’s first album only to be suddenly followed by what sounds to be either a quickly picked Spanish guitar or just a tape of it being sped up. Then a chorus of disembodied voices on (I think) “More Than Seven Dwarfs In Penis-Land” start calling from a distant cave, chanting “Heard them...heard them...heard them” and ends that way, too. Side one’s first bundle of Geesin-isms are broken up with Waters’ acoustic “Chain Of Life.” Upon hearing it, you’ll quickly make a pyre of every Roger Waters solo album from “Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking” onward because not only is this a direct and simple song of life, but it’s also quietly moving. All shifts into instrumental mode for the rest of side one as all manner of chants, violin drones, more sped up guitar and outright fucked vocal freakery is either speeding down a capillary highway or setting the controls to the heart of the bladder.

Side two features what is the germ of the well-known Pink Floyd track, “Breathe” from “Dark Side Of The Moon” although here it’s entirely acoustic and with different lyrics of an ecological nature. The line “Mushrooming home in a crowd/I am alone” appears in the song used in the film to illustrate a rainy commuter rush in slow motion (an image that would re-emerge in Pink Floyd’s promotional clip for “Brain Damage”/“Eclipse” three years later) as Waters laments the “insane, inhumane games we play/Day by day.”

In keeping with the rest of the album, the next six tracks are all crossfaded together so it’s difficult to really know exactly when “Mrs. Throat Goes Walking” begins; but if that passage of comfy, echoed guitar effortlessness is “Bed-Time-Dream-Clime” it’s the most deeply chilled moment of the album. “Sea Shell And Soft Stone” reprise Waters’ first acoustic piece, here scored by Geesin with strings as a bittersweet and optimistic instrumental. Backed by Pink Floyd and unknown session singers, “Give Birth To A Smile” ends the album with an even far more triumphant a feeling of optimism: which along with the startling processional of weirdness, is what this bizarre collection of antiques and curios captures so well.


Note:
In the film “The Body” a different version is used for a scene comprised of one very slow pan across a line of people arranged by age assembled in a large studio: from the tiniest of crying infants to the most aged of souls. It’s a perspective-thrusting scene in a documentary filled with thought- and emotionally-provoking images, such as the scene which features a large dark room filled with the amount of food consumed by one human being in a lifetime, Vanessa Redgrave’s voice-over during a scene shot in a home of very mentally retarded children (“They’re here...but they’re far away...”) or cross-cutting a car production line with a footage of a live birth. It does have its moment of levity, however: such as showing a table set with the exact amount of chemical compounds that comprises one single human being. Or an unwitting toddler crawling over a Perspex surface in the dark shot from below, and you can see are his hands and kneecaps -- until he decides to let loose with an ever-widening puddle of urine then decides to quickly splash about in it. Life is great, when you look at it.