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1975 Lighting Question


ojc123

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I've been watching the 1975 Queen Concert at Hammersmith Odeon on the BBC iPlayer.

 

I wasn't interested in lighting technology in 1975. (I was still under the utterly mistaken impression that I could be the next Jimmy Page.) I started lighting in the late 80s with a two preset desk with cardboard cut out programming. (I made our student techs do a show with the old desk recently to let them appreciate the power of modern lighting control.)

 

I wondered quite what control technology was used for this kind of show in those days. Can any of our more senior members enlighten me or point me to a resource?

 

I see from the Strand Archive that memory systems were available by that time and I assume that Queen would have had the latest kit.

 

I'm intending to show some of it to my student technicians to let them see how things have moved on and it would be nice to be able to discuss the control technology.

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Memory wasn't really an option back then. The memory controls that existed were not really that portable and didn't really do what we now take for granted. The US design feature of only recording changes to a state was spurred on by the lack of memory - more economic to reduce the memory requirement. The big manual desks of the time had lots of presets, then groups within the presets, and the first rock and roll type desks used pin patches to make up the groups. I don't know for certain about the queen gig, but Electrosonics Rockboard would have been a contender - but I don't think it was available in 75? I think maybe 78 from memory was when it first arrived. In 74, we were still excited by 3 channel thyristor disco controls doing sound to light.

 

A few people experimented with home-made add-ons. Piano keys controlling FU on all available presets so you could play the presets rather than using the faders. Pretty obvious thing nowadays, but flash buttons didn't exist for quite a while, so flashes had to be done on faders!

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some interesting computerised desks in the Strand archive, just to give you some idea. The DDM from circa 1972 for example was fully computerised, though hardly portable! I love reading about all this sort of thing.

 

I've got a book here dating from around 1930 showing alot of theatre and cinema lighting controls from long-defunct manufacturers, some are rather sophisticated even back then.

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The larger Strand pre set controls had quite sophisticated groupings which could be set up by the operator and be accessed by press switch and the like. Strand controls still used various means to achieve this. Don't run away with the idea that it went straight from the Grand Master to IDM. If you extend the notion of memory to include recording groups of ways that could be recalled at will quite a lot was available on the larger controls, esp forTV. But you had to pay. Paul is quite right about what excited most of us in 1975! It wasn't LP or C/AE MGP I was glad to have a Mini II. Just a thought - you might even by a bit of research be able to find out what the house control in the venue was at the time.
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some interesting computerised desks in the Strand archive, just to give you some idea. The DDM from circa 1972 for example was fully computerised, though hardly portable! I love reading about all this sort of thing.

 

I've got a book here dating from around 1930 showing alot of theatre and cinema lighting controls from long-defunct manufacturers, some are rather sophisticated even back then.

 

Out of interest Kevin, what book is that please?

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The concept of flashing in time with the music really was new. Thyristors changed far more than we give them credit for. Flashing with resistance dimmers meant sweat and a real workout. With a mini 2 you could flash but still quite restrictedly (is that a word?)After we had a Strand SP60/3 put in we had lots of fader possibilities but still not rock and roll. We went memory in 84, but still not flashy flashy properly - the memory control on it's own couldn't do flashy-flashy, but the add on effects wing could do basic chases and had 6 flash buttons. So you recorded a state on each of the six faders and could for the first time, flash them in time with the music. It took the change to GSX to give flash buttons their first proper outing with lots of subs and that was the 90s for me. The big rock and roll manual controls were things seen in pictures - toruing shows back then rarely toured controls of their own - and stadium size shows were rare!
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The development of the touring industry is an interesting topic with one innovation driving another which drove another and so on. In the beginning was the word and the word was a singer shouting through a Tannoy in front of acoustic instruments.

(three minutes in) and the rhythm section overpowered the vocalists who then started carting round kit by Charlie Watkins and Gene Clair. That allowed them to sell more tickets and play to bigger and bigger audiences who wouldn't fit in coffee bars no more and the ego-maniacal vocalists couldn't be seen without spotlights and on and on it went.

 

Rockboards were around but rare in 1970, the Who bought one with mechanical chases. Queen were bankrupt at the time of this concert and would have used pairs of par cans plugged into grelco's in the theatre dimmer circuits. Integrated circuits and processing were still very much in their infancy. The hire industry didn't exist as such until a few bands like Floyd, the Who, Genesis and others bought their own kit and "loaned" it out to mates. (Jimmy James and the Vagabonds used to borrow the Who's removal van in the 60's until they had it stolen with everything in it.) Theatrical lighting was very much a Queen thing and how rapidly it developed can be seen in these pictures.

 

I lived with four/five electronics graduates working at Mullards and spent time with the Marconi guys from 1968 to 1971. All of them loved playing with bits and the most common conversations started with; "You guys will never guess what else this does besides what it was designed for!" Thyristors first came into our flat with one of the lads who was working on circuitry for nuclear sub lighting control. He built a chromatone effect!

Every single aspect of our industry was burgeoning and changing with a creativity not seen since.

Charlie Watkins provided 400-800 watts of PA for the early Hyde Park gigs in 1968, by 1969 he had 1500W of slaves for the Stones and by 1971/2 we were using 3000W of them indoors on the combined Good Habit/Budgie PA. My nephew has a bass amp today the same nominal power as the Stones in the Park main PA. Bonkers, innit?

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Good points Kerry. For me a lot of it started with The Who's Quadrophenia tour in 1973 - 4 where I think they toured monitors for the first time as well as that special quadrophonic mixer. Did the Floyd tour the Azimuth Converter on their Atom Heart Mother tour??? Even then though I recall as a student working with quite well known acts that worked with 100 watts of PA and a back line of 100 watts each and one driver/roadie quite enough for the usual spaces they were booked into. IIRC Charlie Watkins only managed to put together the first wall of sound by linking up pretty well everything they had spare in the workshop at the time and hoping for the best. On Paul's point I don't think flash buttons, as opposed to blackout switches, were available on anything available as standard until the early eighties. We made a lot of non dim mains switchboards for flashing work using domestic components in the early seventies. What with that and the oil slide we did our best! Hands up anyone who made a mechanical strobe???http://www.blue-room.org.uk/public/style_emoticons/default/laugh.gif Edited by Junior8
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A guy from Cardiff (the Valleys?) called Jimmy Tuoher built the first quad stereo set up I knew for MC5 in about 1970-ish using a pair of WEM mixers bodged together with a joystick. He was the first guy I saw set up FoH in front of the band on top of a platform of tables. That was at Christmas 1972 at the Regent in Pontypridd.

 

I have no idea whether Floyd had an LX crew on AHM though by 1975 one of my local mates was with them blowing up the Rabbit of Caerbannog with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch for the Pythons who had run out of cash .... again! AHM had a choir and almost a full brass band on tour and Floyd also lost cash, not conducive to good humour with that lot, but they performed at Shepton Mallett in a marquee overnight, as everything onstage had over-run, with minimal LX.

 

In the early 60's the main guitar/keyboard/vocal amps were the El Pico, the Selmer Treble and Bass 50 which followed their valve amp 50, the Vox AC 30 and the incredible Watkins Dominator. Charlie also made some odd amps with Copicat echo chambers built on top. We used to make our own cabs with Goodman or Fane 10" and 12" speakers for PA use.

E2A, the old declaration applies, if you can remember those days accurately, you weren't there.

Edited by kerry davies
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Out of interest Kevin, what book is that please?

 

The Electrical Encyclopedia by S.G.Baxland-Stubbs, which runs to several volumes.

 

Very interesting read, lots of cinema and theatre installations shown in venues long since demolished, by Igranic, Strand, Holophane etc.

 

Includes liquid dimmers, mercury arc rectifiers and animated signage equipment.

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Thanks for all this.

 

I took an interest in sound from the early 70s and I'm familiar with the rapid development in sound from the mid 70s onwards. Most of the sound kit mentioned brings back memories. I had an HH MA100 with a pair of 2x12" Dual Concentric speakers as a PA and a Carlsbro guitar amp for many years. It was considered decent kit then and the PA was still in use for rehearsal well into the 90s and may even have made it into the 21st Century.

 

I only came into lighting in the late 80s. We still had resistive dimmers and an arcane 5A patching system which was baffling. We got given a MiniII and dimmers which gave good service for a few years. Then a Strand LX24 and ACT6 dimmers. I'm intrigued to learn how (relatively) late all the features we now take for granted were developed.

 

The boys were initially sceptical that they could run even a simple show with the Strand LX24 but got quite creative with their bits of cardboard and some mid show patching at the dimmers. They found it quite difficult to have to plan which colours had to go into each lantern because they'd always been able to just throw colour out from the LED PARcans when they wanted it. I still don't think they'd swap it for MagicQ and PCWing though.

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Well I recall assisting with the lighting for a band at an outdoor event in about 1980, the "master dimmer" consisted of adjusting the throttle of the steam engine driving the dynamo ! It worked well.

 

Some of the youngsters took a lot of convincing that this could be done. A pair of carbon arc follow spots. Loads of old Strand floods with 500 watt GLS lamps. All 110 volts DC.

 

 

 

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Well I recall assisting with the lighting for a band at an outdoor event in about 1980, the "master dimmer" consisted of adjusting the throttle of the steam engine driving the dynamo ! It worked well Some of the youngsters took a lot of convincing that this could be done. A pair of carbon arc follow spots. Loads of old Strand floods with 500 watt GLS lamps. All 110 volts DC.

Oh yes many years ago (1970-73)I belonged to an amateur radio club and someone built a generator using a lawnmower engine and a car dynamo, the voltage was solely controlled by the trigger action throttle. 10 to 30 volts was easily attainable and surprisingly constant bearing in mind the fluctuating nature of the load of transmitters.

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