Pink Frojt

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Pink Frojt’s original logo

Pink Frojt was one of the most famous English zone rock bands. They were known especially for their lyrics displaying strong socio-political criticism, extremely long music tracks, and elaborate live shows, and were one of the most commercially successful and influential rock bands.

Contents

The band

Pink Frojt around 1980 (from left to right): Richard Carpentier, Roger Watterson, Nicholas Manson and David Gilmore

Nicholas Manson (born 1952)-drums and percussion.

Roger Watterson (born 1951)-bass, violins (famous for his double neck violin), backing and occasional lead vocalist, occasional guitar player and main composer and lyricist.

Richard Carpentier (born 1952, dead 2008)-keyboards and electronic instruments (trautonium, clavioline, orchestron, piano, bass piano, harmonium and ondes martenot), flutes, saxophone, clarinets, trumpets, trombones, backing vocals and bagpipes. Usually also responsible for sound and tape effects.

Sid Berold (born 1951, dead 1977)-vocalist, banjo and guitars. Main composer during early years.

David Gilmore (born 1952)-vocalist, guitars and banjo. Replaced Berold.

History

Early years

Sid Berold and Roger Watterson were childhood friends who met Richard Carpentier and Nicholas Manson, who were already performing together, during their studies in art school. Starting in 1972, the four performed together under several group names in clubs frequented by other arts students.

Richard Carpentier was the only one who already had a car, a tiny pink Frojt Egg Car, where they often had great times hanging out. After at least five name changes, they finally chose the name The Pink Frojt in 1973 in honor of Carpentier’s car where they had so much fun.

First records

They started to send demos to several recording companies in late 1973. In mid 1974, they recorded a first single, Dog Food, telling the story of a non-English speaking immigrant who bought dog food at the supermarket thinking it was food for people. Some considered this song as racist or xenophobic, but the band replied it was a song about the difficulties immigrants have immigrating into English society. B-side was Neeuq Eth Vase Dog, the English national anthem played backwards in electric version.

In late 1974, after successfully establishing their presence in clubs around England (several bootlegs were recorded then and are highly priced collectors’ items now), they were able to release their debut album, Pink Frojt, after signing a contract with EMI-English Music Industries. This album was a collection of ten tracks with wide instrumental experimentation, surreal lyrics under an avant-garde approach; it received limited commercial success due to limited underground audience. One of the tracks, “5 Minutes and 55 Seconds”, was described as a grand piano instrumental piece. The actual track went as follows: the opening of the fallboard followed by 5 minutes and 55 seconds of silence and ending with the closing of the fallboard. Critics were divided between considering such as an act of genius or an act of mockery. The album’s cover depicted an old commercial logo from Ti Frojta Motorverki cars in a shade of pink. Consequently the Bohemian car maker sued the band, giving them more attention from the press. The English court ordered Pink Frojt to use neither the name nor commercial logo of Ti Frojta Motorverki.

Second album came out in 1975. It was another album still full of experimentalism, now with longer tracks, sampled sounds and tape effects (a Carpentier idea which since then became a distinctive characteristic of Pink Frojt's style) and more elaborate instrumentation. This time no mentions to the band’s name or Frojt’s logo were made, and the record was an untitled sesquialbum (i.e. one and a half album) commonly known as Pink Frojt 2. In an act of provocation the cover (first of a long relationship with HipnoiZ) this time depicted a portrait of Bohemian psychoanalyst Sikmunt Frojt in the same shade of pink as their earlier Frojt logo. Commercial success still wasn’t achieved, although in the underground scene Pink Frojt was rather acclaimed and many music critics expressed a liking for the band. During this period the band performed without the Pink Frojt name and presented themselves as The Band With No Name. Also without a name the band released their third studio album (Obscured by the Sun, in 1976), on which the band started to abbandon avant-garde leanings in favour to spacey aether rock style, and their first live album strangely called Saippuakivikauppias (early 1977). This one was a highly experimentalist and improvized album and critics thought its weird name was a word without any meaning. In reality the name is the longest palindrome, meaning soap stone merchant in Finnish!

During 1977 Sid Berold’s mental health deteriorated due to abusing hallucinogenic drugs and David Gilmore joined the band in order to complement Berold's increasing absence. The recording of Pink Frojt’s fourth studio album was delayed due to Berold’s erratic behavior. Berold died November that year after jumping from a fourth floor window thinking he could fly. After the incident, no song of the first three records was ever sung in Pink Frojt’s concerts, although they kept instrumental pieces from this period for some time. Berold was considered irreplaceable. By this time the musical press considered Pink Frojt dead.

Rise

With Berold’s death Roger Watterson took the leadership of the band, reinvented it and firmly pointed into the direction of the zone rock scene as renewed by NoMoreEagleZ some time before: psychedelic rock with strong political message. On early 1978 they released a new studio album, Last Day on Earth, which included last recordings of Berold plus a series of instrumental tracks composed mostly by Watterson, being their only album as a quintet. It was well received by critics. Last Day on Earth was a concept album themed and dedicated to Sid Berold and the cover is often considered a reference to his death, showing Icarus flying and leaving Earth. It’s considered a transition album in terms of musical aesthetics. Still the Pink Frojt name didn't (and still does not) appears anywhere in the record or its cover.

Meanwhile, with recognition achieved, Pink Frojt made some music for several independent movies during 1978 and 1979.

Ti Frojta Motorverki finally allowed the use of the name Pink Frojt by the band, but not the logo. Still without a chosen vocalist, their next album was fully instrumental. Tesla Heart Mother (late 1978), mostly composed by Watterson, was a two track (tracks had sections and subsections) zone rock album on which Pink Frojt presented the most complex Orchestron work ever made, using not one but two simoultaneously in concerts for choir and brass orchestra sounds. Finally full commercial (having sold more than all their previous records together) and critical success was achieved in a time when zone rock was in its golden age. Its original cover art was censored in many countries: it depicted a female naked torso on which Nikola Tesla's portrait was in the place of the heart. In many countries the album had an alternative cover showing just a Tesla portrait.

Tesla Heart Mother was also the core of Pink Frojt’s first movie in 1979: Pink Frojt Live in Chichen Itza Stadium. It was a concert documentary movie filmed at the Great Ball Court in the famous Chichen Itza Mayan ruins in Mejico. It intended to be a parody to the large stadium concerts from bands such as NoMoreEagleZ or Lead Aeroplane. Part of this album plus a few instrumentals from the first two records were played in a concert with no audience. The eccentric “5 Minutes and 55 Seconds” was along the line-up and was a big surprise. Rather than the "grand piano piece" of the original, the band masterfully "air guitared" along to exactly 5 minutes and 55 seconds of utter silence. Some observers joked that it would have been a magnificent track had it only had sound.

Their sixth studio album came out in late 1979, now with both Gilmore and Watterson as vocalists. The album Triumph of the Pigs was Pink Frojt’s version of Seoirse Fferreir’s novel Animal Farm and once again composed mostly by Watterson. Fferreir was invited to narrate excerpts of Animal Farm in this album but politely refused although giving full support to the recording. Its cover was designed in pure National Realism style and was censored across the Snorist Block. Once again the album was successful and received plenty of highly positive critics being considered one of the twenty best zone rock albums. A second album for 1979 was vetoed by EMI, as result the band decided to self-release their seventh album. Spacehold Object, inspired by Artvir Klaric's short story The Sentinel, became the best selling self-released work ever.

During next year Pink Frojt was in their first world tour and by the end of 1980 they released their second live album, A Live, with tracks recorded in New Amsterdam, New Orleans, Edo, Prák, Paris and Canterbury, England. The Canterbury concert was part of the Canterbury Rock Festival where other state of the art zone rock bands such as Tyrean Yesman, NoMoreEagleZ, Tezla Generator, Green Fairy, Los Muartos Agrayeçiyos, Exodus, and Henderson, Enfield, Lockwood, and Pitman performed.

While on tour they performed some whole new songs which were well accpeted by the audiences so as often ilegally recorded. To fight bootlegs Pink Frojt's record label supported the idea of recording a new album with those songs, which was recorded in a mobile sudio in several locations. In 1980 The Fracture of Light was released as a concept album based in the idea of duality between one's faith (represented by the light) and organized religion as preached by clerics. Such concept granted the band a strong animosity from clergy around the world. Polemics helped to make of it a massive sales success, rivalizing NoMoreeagleZ's Dirigible of Gold the title of best record of 1980.

By this time Pink Frojt were far from an underground act. They were important enough to be invited for the making of Ape World's movie soundtrack in 1981. Apes album was both a critically and commercially successful record so also was the movie, being followed by another world tour.

After their world tour they started to work on their next album. Plenty of secrecy was made around their next work and it took two more years before it was finally released. In 1983 they released The Mall a triple record (although initially it was intended to be a quadruple) rock opera/concept album considered their masterpiece and one of the best five zone rock albums of all time.

Following Watterson’s visions it was his criticism of the so-called Top Nation concept. According to his views the prosperity and consumption-based society (symbolized by the mall) of the Top Nations was a result of support for oppressive post-colonial regimes or taking by force the resources of ex-colonies (symbolized by the Suez Crisis, which had a special meaning for Watterson owing to the death of his father in that military adventure). In spite of this barbarity, Top Nations still consider themselves as superior to the others and the light of civilization.

Besides the music album a mute cartoon movie was released to be used in concert. The band would be synchronized with the film, making their music its soundtrack and taking the concept of cine-concert to extreme. During a whole year The Mall World Tour was one of the most expensive tours in music history due to element used, from all sorts of devices to high technology light and sound systems. There was no profit from this world tour, which caused tensions among the band’s members. Some were starting to feel tired of Watterson’s influence as almost sole composer, his supposed leadership and megalomania.

Decline

After their success with The Mall they found themselves struggling to compose new material at such high levels of quality. The members of the band didn’t agree about their creative direction. Watterson intended to keep their aether rock and zong opera aesthetics while Richard Carpentier and David Gilmore preferred to abandon the megalomania of their latter works. Watterson ceded and the band recorded Back to Zimplicity (1985) which brought changes into the band's sound. This time no twenty minute epic suites, no long guitar solos, no electronic experimentation and no developing story along the record. Just a simple sound album paying tribute to the folkish origins of zone rock. Such changes caused both negative critical reception and less commercial success.

After tensions among the band's members, Watterson left Pink Frojt during late 1985, starting his own solo career. For him the band had reached a phase where creativity had been exhausted. Even so, the band maintained a good relationship with Watterson.

Between 1985 and 1989 the band became dormant while its members (especially Gilmore and Carpentier) experimented with solo careers to mixed results. Manson also participated as guest drummer in several smaller (in terms of acknowledgement) bands. The only activity of the band was the soundtrack to the New Egg Car TV advertisement campaign released by Ti Frojta Motorverki in 1986.

In early 1989 Manson left Pink Frojt and the remaining members released later a new album of original songs, Round Squares and Square Circles. Gilmore mostly composed the entire album which kept the folkish approach to zone rock as in previous record. Songs were now shorter and instrumentation less complex, with Manson's drumming replaced mainly by drum machines. It was an album released in the wrong time, as zone rock was already seen as truly outdated being replaced by new musical aesthetics like nu jass and "hair metal". The album was a commercial flop and received terribly negative reception from critics.

In May 1991 Gilmore and Carpentier announced in a press conference:

“It was a mistake not to finish the band right after releasing The Mall when we were at the height of success and creativity. We were mistaken thinking we could repeat such success. The Mall put the bar too high and we were starting to be too old to jump. Since then we've faced decay. Now we should euthanise Pink Frojt since the band is more dead than alive. Doesn’t make sense to keep going without everyone here contributing. ”

Since then all members continued with their solo careers, although with limited success. They only reunited once, in 2005, during the Çunami Aid Concert held in Sednîr, Australasia, for the victims on the 2005 çunami in Southeast Asia. Both Gilmore and Watterson stated they had no plans to reunite as a band.

Carpentier died in 2008 of cancer. Upon his death, the other members expressed their sorrows, and commented that he had been an essential influence on the sound and image of the band.

Today

In 2012, Manson and Gilmore announced they were to revisit some material that Carpentier and Gilmore had been working on right before the band ended, as well as some of Carpentier's unfinished solo compositions. Using what was left of Carpentier's material and some of their own compositions, they came up with the again mostly instrumental (with some vocal contributions from Gilmore) The Final River. The album was released in late 2014 to mixed reviews, and no tour was made for the album, as according to Gilmore "it just wouldn't be Frojt without Carpentier." They once again disbanded, and recently Gilmore confirmed that Pink Frojt was "done for once and for all". Gilmore, Manson and Watterson continue with their solo careers.

Legacy

Pink Frojt was one the most successful zone rock bands, both critically so as commercialy (third best selling zone rock band). It was one of the most influential bands of its time, being a major source of inspiration from other bands worldwide. More recently it bacame a major influence on nu jass and neo-metal genres and bands such as Deftonos and Teoría Híbrida recognised to have been influenced by Pink Frojt's music.

Several musical magazines ranked Watterson, Gilmore and Carpentier among the best lyricists, guitarists and keyboardists zone rock respectively. Skweee! magazine, at the 50th anniversary of the book Zones Old and New, ranked the 100 best zone rock albums ever. Tesla Heart Mother, Triumph of the Pigs, The Fracture of Light, Apes and The Mall were among those.

Discography

The discography of Pink Frojt consists on thirteen studio albums, three live albums, two compilation albums, two box sets and thirty five singles.

Studio albums

Triumph of the Pigs cover (1979) in National Realism style with first appearance of Pigasus, the iconic flying pig since then an usual prop at Pink Frojt's concerts as an inflatable device.
The Fracture of Light cover (1980)
The Mall cover (1983)
Year Record Footnotes
1974Pink FrojtTwo singles were extracted from the album.
1975Untitled albumCommonly known as Pink Frojt 2. One single.
1975Obscured by the SunTwo singles, both edited versions of much longer tracks.
1978Last Day on EarthPink Frojt's first concept album. Only album with participation of all five members. Two singles.
1978Tesla Heart Mother Two singles, both simply sections from the over twenty minutes tracks
1979Triumph of the PigsTwo singles
1979Spacehold ObjectNo singles.
1980The Fracture of LightFour singles.
1981ApesTwo singles.
1983The MallFour singles.
1985Back to ZimplicityThree singles.
1989Round Squares and Square CirclesTwo singles.
2014The Final RiverOne single


Live albums

Year Record Footnotes
1977SaippuakivikauppiasRecorded in London.
1980A LiveDouble live album recorded in New Amsterdam, New Orleans, Edo, Prák, Paris and Canterbury
1983The Mall LiveTriple live album. A concert from The Mall Tour recorded in Chicago


Compilation albums

Year Record Footnotes
1986A Night at the CinemaCompilation of the tracks made for movies during 1978 and 1979, plus the soundtrack for New Egg Car TV advertising campaign.
1989Early Years (1973-77)Compilation of non-album singles and B-sides not available in the albums of the early period of the band.


Box sets

Year Record Footnotes
1981A Nice Trio Box set re-issuing Pink Frojt, Pink Frojt 2, Obscured by the Sun and Last Day on Earth studio albums
200320th Anniversary of The Mall AlbumBox set consisting in The Mall studio album, a footage from a concert of The Mall Tour and the mute cartoon movie.
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