Archivo de la categoría: Curiosidades

Breaking Doors to the other Side in 1967

The Doors

With an intoxicating, genre-blending sound, provocative and uncompromising songs, and the mesmerizing power of singer Jim Morrison’s poetry and presence, The Doors had a transformative impact not only on popular music but on popular culture.

The Doors’ arrival on the rock scene in 1967 marked not only the start of a string of hit singles and albums that would become stone classics, but also of something much bigger – a new and deeper relationship between creators and audience. Refusing to be mere entertainers, the Los Angeles quartet relentlessly challenged, confronted and inspired their fans, leaping headfirst into the heart of darkness while other bands warbled about peace and love. Though they’ve had scores of imitators, there’s never been another band quite like them. And 50 years after their debut album, The Doors’ music and legacy are more influential than ever before.

Morrison’s mystical command of the frontman role may be the iconic heart of The Doors, but the group’s extraordinary power would hardly have been possible without the virtuosic keyboard tapestries of Ray Manzarek, the gritty, expressive fretwork of guitarist Robby Krieger and the supple, dynamically rich grooves of drummer John Densmore. From baroque art-rock to jazz-infused pop to gutbucket blues, the band’s instrumental triad could navigate any musical territory with aplomb – and all three contributed mightily as songwriters.

The group was born when Morrison and Manzarek – who’d met at UCLA’s film school – met again, unexpectedly, on the beach in Venice, CA, during the summer of 1965. Though he’d never intended to be a singer, Morrison was invited to join Manzarek’s group Rick and the Ravens on the strength of his poetry. Krieger and Densmore, who’d played together in the band Psychedelic Rangers, were recruited soon thereafter; though several bassists auditioned of the new collective, none could furnish the bottom end as effectively as Manzarek’s left hand. Taking their name from Aldous Huxley’s psychotropic monograph The Doors of Perception, the band signed to Elektra Records following a now-legendary gig at the Whisky-a-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip.

Their eponymous first album, released in January 1967, kicked off with “Break on Through (to the Other Side)” and also featured the chart smash “Light My Fire”, the scorching “Back Door Man” and the visionary masterpiece “The End”. The Doors arrived fully formed, capable of rocking the pop charts and the avant-garde with one staggering disc. Before ’67 was over, they’d issued the ambitious follow-up Strange Days, with such gems as “Love Me Two Times”, “People Are Strange” and “When the Music’s Over”.

Next came 1968’s Waiting for the Sun, boasting “Hello, I Love You”, “Love Street” and “Five to One”. Over the next few years they minded over new territory on such albums as 1969’s The Soft Parade (featuring “Touch Me” and “Tell All the People”), 1970’s Morrison Hotel (which includes “Roadhouse Blues”, “Peace Frog” and “Queen of the Highway”) and 1971’s L.A. Woman (boasting “Rider’s on the Storm”, “Love Her Madly” and the title track).

They released six studio albums in all, as well as a live album and a compilation, before Morrison’s death in 1971. Their electrifying achievements in the studio and onstage were unmatched in the annals of rock; and though Morrison’s death meant the end of an era, Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore collaborated on two more original Doors albums, Other Voices and Full Circle, and a set of tracks they composed to accompany Morrison’s 1969 recording of his poetry, released in 1978 as An American Prayer. They also pursued individual music projects, books, theatrical productions and other enterprises – and remain restlessly creative to this day.

In the decades since the Doors’ heyday, the foursome has loomed ever larger in the pantheon of rock – and they remain a touchstone of insurrectionary culture for writers, activists, visual artists and other creative communities. Their songs, featured in an ever-increasing number of films, TV shows, video games and remixes, always sound uncannily contemporary. No matter how the musical and cultural tides turn, The Doors will always be ready to help a new wave of listeners break on through to the other side.

The Doors were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993.

JIM MORRISON Singer for The Doors

At the center of The Doors’ mystique is the magnetic presence of singer-poet Jim Morrison, the leather-clad “Lizard King” who brought the riveting power of a shaman to the microphone.

Morrison was a film student at UCLA when he met keyboardist Ray Manzarek on Venice Beach in 1965. Upon hearing Morrison’s poetry, Manzarek immediately suggested they form a band; the singer took the group’s name from Aldous Huxley’s infamous psychedelic memoir, “The Doors of Perception.”

Constantly challenging censorship and conventional wisdom, Morrison’s lyrics delved into primal issues of sex, violence, freedom and the spirit. He outraged authority figures, braved intimidation and arrest, and followed the road of excess (as one of his muses, the poet William Blake, famously put it) toward the palace of wisdom.

Over the course of six extraordinary albums and countless boundary-smashing live performances, he inexorably changed the course of rock music – and died in 1971 at the age of 27. He was buried in Paris, and fans from around the world regularly make pilgrimages to his grave.

In 1978, the surviving members of the band – keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore – reunited to record the accompanying music for An American Prayer, a compilation of Morrison’s poetry readings. He remains the very template of the rock frontman, and his singing, poetry and Dionysian demeanor continue to inspire artists and audiences around the world.

RAY MANZAREKKeyboardist for The Doors

Ray Manzarek was the architect of The Doors’ intoxicating keyboard sound. Manzarek’s evocative playing fused rock, jazz, blues, bossa nova and an array of other styles into something utterly, dazzlingly new.

The group was born in 1965, when Jim Morrison and Chicago native Manzarek — both UCLA film students — met on Venice Beach. The singer’s poetry was a perfect fit for the classically trained keyboardist’s musical ideas, and eventually they decided to form a band. Though several bassists auditioned for the group, none could match the bass lines provided by Manzarek’s left hand. Signed to Elektra Records, The Doors released six studio albums, a live album and a compilation before Morrison’s untimely demise in 1971.

Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore released two albums as a trio under the Doors moniker, with Manzarek and Krieger handling vocals. Manzarek next formed the group Nite City, which invited comparisons to Mott the Hoople and Aerosmith; the quintet released its one album in 1977.

The surviving Doors reunited to create a musical backdrop for Morrison’s recorded poetry on the 1978 release An American Prayer. Manzarek produced and performed on five of the L.A. band X’s albums, including Los Angeles, which remains one of the high-water marks of the punk movement. The keyboardist authored several books, and recorded numerous solo albums. Ray lived with his wife of 45 years, Dorothy, in Napa, CA until his passing in May of 2013 following his ultimately fatal bout with bile duct cancer.

JOHN DENSMORE Drummer for The Doors

Drummer John Densmore was far more than merely the rhythmic engine of The Doors. Strongly influenced by jazz skinsmen like Elvin Jones and the supple grooves of the Brazilian wave, he brought a highly evolved sense of dynamics, structure and musicality to his beats.

Inexorably drawn to music from childhood, Los Angeles-born Densmore honed his sense of dynamics playing with his high school marching band. In the mid-’60s he joined guitarist Robby Krieger in a band called Psychedelic Rangers; shortly thereafter they hooked up with keyboardist Ray Manzarek and Morrison, and an explosive chapter in the development of rock ‘n’ roll began. A raft of paradigm-shifting recordings and epochal live performances would follow.

Morrison’s death in 1971 marked the end of an era, though the surviving trio recorded two more albums of songs and an instrumental backdrop for the late singer’s recorded poetry.

The versatile musician explored reggae and jazz in subsequent projects, wrote books and articles and became active in L.A.’s adventurous theater community. He earned an L.A. Weekly Theatre Award for the music he created for the Tim Robbins-directed stage production Methusalem. He also co-produced the play Rounds, which was given the NAACP award for theatre in 1987.

Densmore’s autobiography, Riders on the Storm: My Life With Jim Morrison and The Doors, was published in 1991 and was a New York Times bestseller. He’s written articles and essays for Rolling Stone, London Guardian, The Nation, and many nationally syndicated newspapers.

ROBBY KRIEGER Guitarist for The Doors

With a flair for wicked bottleneck slide, exploratory solos and gutbucket grooves, guitarist Robby Krieger brought a stinging, sinuous intensity to the sound of The Doors. But he was also a key songwriter in the band and penned some of their biggest hits – notably their mesmerizing #1 hit, “Light My Fire.”

Before picking up the guitar at age 17, the L.A. native studied trumpet and piano. The inspiration for switching to guitar came not from rock ‘n’ roll, but Spanish flamenco music. His first guitar hero, however, was jazz legend Wes Montgomery.

After Morrison’s death in 1971, Krieger, Manzarek and Densmore carried on as a trio. They released two more albums as the Doors before calling it quits in 1973, though they did reconvene a few years later to create music for poetry Morrison had recorded shortly before his death, released as the 1978 album An American Prayer.

Krieger went on to enjoy success as a jazz guitarist, recording a handful of records with the Robby Krieger Band in the 1970s and ’80s. Versions (1983) and No Habla(1986) amply demonstrate his versatility. “I think playing guitar is probably the one thing that gets better with age,” he says.Robby Krieger is listed among Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”


History of the album «The Doors» (1967)

«The Doors» is the first album of Americans united in the band of the same name. It was published by Elektra at the very beginning of 1967. Recognized as the best album of the group, and indeed collected a number of compositions that are rightfully considered masterpieces. On the initial release of the record – the label «Electra» with the image of a butterfly. Further re-releases of the album in this studio with the same catalog number EKS-47007 in the 1970s came out with red labels.

Creation of the group and the birth of its name

The group was formed after a sudden meeting between Jim Morrison and Ray on Venice Beach in Los Angeles in the summer of 1965. Having received a university education, Morrison lived as a representative of the «golden youth» and practically did not leave this beach. He knew Manzarek before – they studied at the film school of the University of California, and Morrison admitted to a former classmate that he composes songs.

Manzarek became curious, after which Morrison sang «Moonlight Drive» to him (this composition will become the main one in the group’s next album). Shocked Manzarek inspired Morrison to create a group.

He already had a similar musical experience – in «Rick & the Ravens» – two of his brothers played there – Rick and Jim. The band included drummer John Densmore of The Psychedelic Rangers (Psychedelic Hawks), whom Manzarek knew from teaching meditation training, and bassist Pat Sullivan was later added to the team. With this lineup, on September 2, 1965, they made a trial recording of 6 compositions on an acetate record at the World Pacific studio. Among them were «Moonlight Drive», «My Eyes Have Seen You», «Hello, I Love You», «Go Insane» (later known as «A Little Game» from the suite «Celebration of the Lizard»), «End of the Night» and «Summer’s Almost Gone». They only recorded three hours, but Morrison was impressed with his own voice on the recording. Only five copies were published, and one of them belonging to Morrison is preserved by Manzarek. For a long time the recording went in bootlegs, and then the studio decided to include it in the CD «The Doors’ box set» in 1997.

There were many attempts to promote this record, but – unsuccessful. After some time, disappointed with the result, the Manzarek brothers – Rick and Jim – left the group, predicting her imminent death. The new line-up included guitarist Robbie Krieger from the same band as Densmore. Sullivan also left the band after Manzarek started playing the bass part on Fender Rhodes keyboards.

It was then that the group began calling themselves «The Doors», a reference to Aldous Huxley’s novel The Doors of Perception (1954). And the author himself borrowed it from the lines of the English-speaking poet and artist William Blake. The idea is that when the «doors of perception» are clear, then all objects appear before consciousness in their original form: in infinity.

Special sound and first luck

The group had its own distinctive character and turned out to be quite noticeable among rock groups: they did not have a bass guitar at concert performances. Manzarek played bass parts with his left hand on the newly created Fender Rhodes Piano Bass module for the Fender Rhodes electric piano, while playing all other parts with his right hand. The debut album was recorded without a bassist, despite the fact that later they began to invite third-party musicians. A number of hits «The Doors» was the result of a joint work. Morrison or Krieger wrote the texts and the initial melody, then adjustments were made after a general discussion, the rhythm and melody changed, and sometimes even individual fragments of the composition: in particular, Manzarek with the organ prelude to “Light My Fire” was remembered.

By 1966, the group had finally become «their own», popular and recognized in the Whiskey a Go Go nightclub in the western part of Hollywood, on Sunset Boulevard. He was famous throughout California: The Byrds, Alice Cooper, Buffalo Springfield and Love periodically gave their concerts there. Then Frank Zappa and his «Mothers of Invention» entered into an agreement – it was after one of these club gigs. This famous club glorified Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding, there were Englishmen – «The Kinks», «The Who», «Cream», «Led Zeppelin», «Roxy Music» and «Oasis».

It was here that The Doors were noticed by the head of the Elektra studio, Jack Holtzman, who attended the concert on the advice of Arthur Lee from the Love group, who collaborated with the Elektra studio. Together with Elektra producer Paul A. Rothschild, he was pleasantly surprised by the level of The Doors, and on August 18, 1966, a contract was signed. It must be admitted that this turned out to be most welcome for the musicians: a couple of days later they were scandalously dismissed from the nightclub. During the last concert, while playing the long composition «The End», Morrison, under the influence of drugs, hoarsely read his own version of the familiar Greek myth about Oedipus, talking about the intricacies of the famous «Oedipus complex», and then cursed loudly and dirty in front of the audience.

Birth of The Doors (1967)

Less than a week later, the musicians recorded their first record in the studio. The recording was actually live, some compositions – literally from the initial take. The first song «Break on Through (To the Other Side)» and the final one – «The End» – were originally released in abbreviated form – for censorship reasons. In the opening composition, Morrison endlessly and monotonously said: “She gets high She gets high She gets high” (Which means: “She’s crazy …”), and in the final of the last song of the album, “fuck” was repeated in the same tedious and monotonous way. In subsequent editions, these moments were accurately reproduced, as they were intended. And before the band had to accept the requirements of censorship, although the musicians still performed «Girl we couldn’t get much higher» on the famous television show with Ed Sullivan.

«Alabama Song» is a composition created by renowned playwright Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weil for their joint opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. «Back Door Man» is a cover of Howlin’ Wolfe.

To sell the album, a film clip was made with the opening song, which was released as the single «Break On Through (To the Other Side)». At this stage, a serious foundation was laid for finalizing the video, shot specifically for the music. The next single «Light My Fire» broke records of popularity: it was published in the summer of 1967 and sold out in a million copies, remaining the leader of the Billboard for three whole weeks! After this precedent, the group began to be compared with the most popular representatives of the American counterculture – «The Byrds» and «Jefferson Airplane».

“Light My Fire” was then shortened for radio broadcast: if the original length of the song was 6:50, then in this version it is 2:52.

The gloomy mood of the album, the gloomy sexuality of leader Jim Morrison, his bohemian lifestyle impressed the Californian public. This rock album is recognized as one of the main ones that stood at the origins of the active protest movement of youth and the development of counterculture. In 1998, Q magazine ranked this album at number 93 on its list of the best of all music history. And «Rolling Stone» in 2003 ranked it at 42nd position among the 500 best.


The Legacy of Jim Morrison and the Doors

Nearly twenty-five years ago, in the middle of a season in which rock & roll was seeking to define itself as the binding force of a new youth community, the Doors became the house band for an American apocalypse that wasn’t even yet upon us. Indeed, the Los Angeles-based quartet’s stunning and rousing debut LP, The Doors, flew in the face of rock’s emerging positivist ethos and in effect helped form the basis for a schism that still persists in popular music. While groups like the Beatles or the many bands emerging from the Bay Area were earnestly touting a fusion of music, drugs and idealism that they hoped would reform — and redeem — a troubled age, the Doors had fashioned an album that looked at prospects of hedonism and violence, of revolt and chaos, and embraced those prospects unflinchingly. Clearly, the Doors — in particular the group’s thin, darkly handsome lead singer, Jim Morrison — understood a truth about their age that many other pop artists did not: namely, that these were dangerous times, and dangerous not only because youth culture was under fire for breaking away from established conventions and aspirations. On some level, Morrison realized that the danger was also internal – that the “love generation” was hardly without its own dark impulses. In fact, Morrison seemed to understand that any generation so intent on giving itself permission to go as far as it could was also giving itself a license for destruction, and he seemed to gain both delight and affirmation from that understanding.

Consequently, in those moments in the Doors’ experimental, Oedipal miniopera “The End,” when Morrison sang about wanting to kill his father and fuck his mother, he managed to take a somewhat silly notion of outrage and make it sound convincing, even somehow justified. More than the songs of Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones, Morrison’s lyrics signified a recognition that an older generation had betrayed its children, and that this betrayal called for a bitter pay-back. Little wonder, then, that the Doors’ music (“The End” in particular) became such a meaningful favorite among young Americans fighting in Vietnam, in a war in which children had been sent to kill or die for an older generation’s frightened ideals. Other groups were trying to prepare their audience for a world of hope and peace; the Doors, meanwhile, were making music for a ravenous and murderous time, and at the group’s best, the effect was thoroughly scary and thoroughly exhilarating.

Now, a generation later — at a time when, at home, antidrug and anti-obscenity sentiment has reached a fever pitch and when, abroad, the Doors’ music is once again among the favored choices of young Americans fighting in a war — Jim Morrison seems more heroic to many pop fans than ever before. A film like Oliver Stone’s Doors — which is the most ambitious, epic-minded movie yet produced about rock culture and its discontents — can even make it seem that the band, in a dark way, has won its argument with cultural history. But back in the late 1960s, it seemed rather different. To many observers, it appeared that the group had pretty much shot its vision on its first album. By the Doors’ second LP, Strange Days (October 1967), the music had lost much of its edginess — the sense of rapacity, of persistent momentum, that had made the previous album seem so undeniable — and in contrast to the atmosphere of aggression and dread that Morrison’s earlier lyrics had made palpable, the new songs tended too often to melodrama (“Strange Days”) or to flat-out pretension (“Horse Latitudes”). It was as if a musical vision that only a few months earlier had seemed shockingly original and urgent had turned merely morbid, even parodic.

In addition, Morrison himself was already deeply immersed in the patterns of drug and alcohol abuse and public misbehavior that would eventually prove so ruinous to him, his band, his friends and his family. Some of this behavior, of course, was simply expected of the new breed of rock hero: In the context of the late 1960s and its generational schisms, pop stars often made a point of flaunting their drug use or of flouting mainstream or authoritarian morality. Sometimes this impudence was merely showy or naive, though on certain other occasions — such as the December 1967 incident in which Morrison was arrested after publicly castigating police officers for their backstage brutality at a New Haven concert — these gestures of defiance helped embolden the rock audience’s emerging political sensibility. More often than not, though, Morrison’s unruliness wasn’t so much a display of countercultural bravado as it was a sign of the singer’s own raging hubris and out-of-control dissipation.

In other words, something far darker than artistic or political ambition fueled Jim Morrison’s appetite for disruption, and in March 1969, at an infamous concert in Miami, this sad truth came across with disastrous results. In the film version of this incident, Oliver Stone portrays the concert as part pageant and part travesty, and while it was perhaps a bit of both, most firsthand accounts have described the show as simply a pathetic, confusing mess. The Doors had been scheduled to perform at 10:00 p.m. but had been delayed for nearly an hour due to a dispute with the show’s promoters. By the time the group arrived onstage, Morrison was already inebriated, and he continued to hold up the performance while he solicited the audience for more to drink. A quarter-hour later, after the music had started, Morrison halted songs midway and wandered about the stage, berating the audience to commit revolution and to love him. At one point, he pulled on the front of his weatherworn leather pants and threatened to produce his penis for the crowd’s perusal. (Oddly enough, though more than twenty years have passed, and more than 10,000 people, including band members and police officers onstage, witnessed Morrison’s performance, it has never been clearly determined whether Morrison actually succeeded in exposing himself that night.) Finally, toward the end of the show, Morrison hounded audience members into swarming onstage with him, and the concert ended in an easy version of the chaos that the singer had long professed to aspire to.

At the time, the event seemed more embarrassing than outrageous, but within days the Miami Herald and some politically minded city and legal officials had inflated the pitiable debacle into a serious affront to Miami and the nation’s moral welfare; in addition, Morrison himself was sized up as the foul embodiment of youth’s supreme indecency. The Doors’ nationwide concert schedule ground to an immediate halt, and in effect the band’s touring days were finished. Interestingly, amid all the hoopla that would follow — the public debate, the shameful trial for obscenity — almost nobody saw Morrison’s gesture for what it truly was: the act of a man who had lost faith in his art and his relation to the world around him. On that fateful evening in Miami, Jim Morrison no longer knew what his audience wanted from him, or what he wanted from himself for that matter, and so he offered his most obvious totem of love and pride, as if it were the true source of his worth. The Doors’ lead singer – who only two years before had been one of rock’s smartest, scariest and sexiest heroes — was now a heart-rending alcoholic and clownish jerk. He needed help; he did not merit cheap veneration, and he certainly did not deserve the horrid, moralistic brand of jail-house punishment that the state of Florida hoped to impose on him.

Of course, Morrison never received — or at least never accepted — the help that might have saved him. By 1970 the Doors were a show-business enterprise with contracts and debts, and these obligations had been severely deepened by Morrison’s Miami antics. As a result, the band would produce five albums over the next two years, including two of the group’s most satisfying studio efforts, Morrison Hotel and L.A. Woman, surprisingly authoritative, blues-steeped works that showed Morrison settling into a new, lusty and dark-humored vocal style and lyrical sensibility. But if Morrison had finally grown comfortable with the idea of rock & roll for its own sake, he also realized that he no longer had much of consequence to say in that medium. In

March 1971, Morrison took a leave of absence from the Doors, and with his common-law wife, Pamela Courson, moved to Paris, ostensibly to distance himself from the physical and spiritual rigors of rock & roll and to regenerate his vocation as a modern poet. Perhaps in time he might have come to a compassionate understanding of what he and his generation had experienced in the last few years, as the idealism of the 1960s had finally given way to a deflating sense of fear and futility. (Certainly there were glimmers in Morrison’s last few interviews that he had begun to acquire some valuable insight about the reasons for and sources of his, and his culture’s, bouts of excess.) As it turned out, Morrison simply continued to drink in a desolating way, and according to some witnesses, he sometimes lapsed into depression over his inability to reinvoke his poetic muse, taking instead to writing suicide notes.

Finally, at five in the morning on July 4th, 1971, Pamela Courson found Morrison slumped in the bathtub of their Paris flat, a sweet, still grin on his face. At first, Courson thought he was playing a game with her. On this dark morning, though, Morrison was playing no game. His skin was cold to his wife’s touch. Jim Morrison had died of heart failure at age twenty-seven, smiling into the face of a slow-coming abyss that, long before, he had decided was the most beautiful and comforting certainty of his life.

INITIALLY, MORRISON’S DEATH SEEMED TO BE the end for the Doors. The year before, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin had died as well, also of causes brought on by alcohol or drugs. Now, Morrison’s death — which had been more clearly foreseeable — made plain that early fatalities were likely to be one of the more frequent costs of rock heroism, that today’s brightest prodigy might be tomorrow’s next likely flameout. Though the surviving Doors — keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger — went on to make two albums as a trio under the band’s name, they could never really rebound from Morrison’s death. If, in some ways, Morrison had turned out to be the band’s most troubling and limiting factor, he had also been the group’s central claim to an identity or purpose, and without him the Doors weren’t even a notable name.

Today, though, twenty years after Morrison’s death, the Doors enjoy a renewed popularity that shows no signs of abating — a popularity that might have proved far more elusive had Morrison survived and returned to the group. The roots for this renewal trace back to the middle and late 1970s and to the issues surrounding the advent of the punk movement. By 1976 many younger rock & roll fans and musicians began to feel that the pop world had lost touch with its sense of daring, that much of the music of the 1970s, and the work of the surviving mainstays of the 1960s, had grown too timid in content and too obsessed with privilege and distance. As punk rose, it brought with it a reevaluation of rock history, and as a result, some of the tougher-minded bands of the late 1960s — such as the Doors, the Velvet Underground, MC5 and the Stooges, all of which had explored some difficult and often unpopular themes during their short-lived careers — enjoyed a new currency that transformed them into some of American rock’s more enduring and pervasive influences.

The Doors’ revival was also helped along by Francis Coppola’s use of the band’s music in his film Apocalypse Now. Watching Coppola’s repellently beautiful immolation of the Vietnamese jungles by napalm, accompanied by Jim Morrison intoning “The End,” made it vividly plain that the best of the Doors’ music had all along been a brilliant and irrefutable soundtrack to one of the more notorious examples of modern-day hell. And finally, the Doors’ comeback owes a great debt to No One Here Gets Out Alive, Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman’s highly sensationalistic (and probably frighteningly accurate) account of Morrison’s life and death. The book’s chief theme (a theme that has also been appropriated and advanced by Oliver Stone) is that “Jim Morrison was a god,” a dark-tempered, visionary poet who was also a heroic example of the wisdom that can be found by living a life of relentless excess.

In other words, Jim Morrison has gradually been rehabilitated into one of the more indelible, widely revered heroes of the 1960s. In part, this has happened because several of the people involved in this reclamation have a stake in redeeming Morrison’s legacy and because they have found that there is still a considerable career to be made in perpetuating his and the Doors’ history. But perhaps it is more interesting to ask why Morrison’s revival has played so well and so consistently with the modern rock audience of the last decade or so. In other words, what does a contemporary rock audience find in Morrison, or need from him, that cannot be found in the musicians of its own generation? After all, we are told repeatedly that this is a more conservative era and that in particular, today’s youth is far more conservative than the youth of the 1960s. If that’s the case, why does such a large audience continue to revere an artist who appeared to be so radically hedonistic (even nihilistic) in his outlook?

The truth is, Jim Morrison is the ideal radical hero for a conservative era. Though he may have lived a life of defiance and rebellion, it was not a defiance rooted in any clear ideology or political vision, unlike, for example, the brand of rebellion that John Lennon would come to aspire to. Morrison’s defiance had deep personal sources – it derived from a childhood spent in a family with a militaristic and authoritarian disposition. Consequently, Morrison’s mode of insurrection was hardly insignificant or without merit; indeed, it was often wielded as a badge of hard-won courage, and that courage is partly what today’s audience recognizes and loves about him.

But Morrison’s defiance often took the form of outright disregard — an absence of concern for how his impulses and temper not only could offend uptight moralists but could damage the people who loved and depended on him the most. In short, Morrison committed his outrages and cultivated his hedonism in sometimes remarkably conscienceless ways, and unfortunately, this habit may also be part of what many rock fans admire or seek to emulate about him. In a time when some pop stars try to engage their audience in various humanitarian and political causes, and in a time when numerous role models and authority figures advise the young to make a virtue of restraint or abstinence, there are many fans who are unmoved by these admonitions. A few artists, such as Guns n’ Roses, are seen as living out this bravado for today’s defiant types, but none, of course, has lived it out quite as effectively as Jim Morrison, who was fond of telling his audience, “I don’t know about you, but I intend to have my kicks before the whole fucking shit house explodes.” It isn’t so much a radical message, since radicalism aims to change something beyond the domain of the self. In a sense, it’s simply a dark extension of the philosophy of self-regard that has become so identified with the Reagan-Bush era. But the costs of this bravado can be sizable, and it would be nice if the custodians of Morrison and the Doors’ history were more scrupulous about how they portray the nobility of his excesses or the fascination of his death. But then, the myth of a young poet and libertine — who sought to test the bounds of cultural freedom and personal license; and who suffered the misunderstanding not merely of established American culture, but of family, friends and rock culture as well; and who died because he just could not reach far enough or be loved deservedly enough — is probably too good, and too damn lucrative, for any biographer to resist romanticizing or exploiting.

After all, in some respects death is the perfect preserving element of Morrison’s legacy. It has the twofold advantage of having halted the singer’s decline before he might have gone on to even worse behavior or art and, to a large degree, of helping absolve him of the failures of his last few years. It’s almost as if, somewhere, somehow, a macabre deal were struck: If Morrison would simply have the good grace to die, then we would remember him as a young, fit, handsome poet; we would forgive him his acts of disregard and cruelty and drunkenness and recall him less as a stumblebum sociopath and more as a probing mystic-poet. Plus, there’s a certain vicarious satisfaction to be found in his end. If you like, you can admire the spirit of someone who lived life and pursued death to the fullest, without having to emulate that commitment yourself. Morrison has saved his less nervy (and smarter) fans the trouble of their own willful self-negation.

And so Jim Morrison died, and then, with the help of former friends, band members and biographers, pulled off the perfect comeback: one in which the singer and his band might never disappoint our renewed faith, because there would be no new music, no new art, no new statements to test their continued growth or our continuing perceptiveness. In short, it was a comeback in which Morrison would be eternally heroic, eternally loved and eternally marketable.

Of course, it’s probably a bit graceless to beat up too much on a dead man — especially one who already beat up on himself plenty during life. So, let’s allow Jim Morrison his posthumous victory: If, in some regards, he was perhaps just a bit too mean-spirited or selfish to be an easy hero of the 1960s, he has certainly proven to be in step with the temper of the last decade. Never mind that he threw away his greatest visions and potential in an endless swirl of drugs, alcohol, insecurity and unkindness, and never mind that he is dead. Never mind, because in the end, death has been this rock hero’s most redeeming and most rewarding friend.


When You Are Strange (Documentary)

Break On Through (To the Other Side) – The Doors

You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Tried to run
Tried to hide
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side, yeah

… We chased our pleasures here
Dug our treasures there
But can you still recall
The time we cried
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side

… Yeah
C’mon, yeah

… Everybody loves my baby
Everybody loves my baby
She get high
She get high
She get high
She get high, yeah

… I found an island in your arms
Country in your eyes
Arms that chain us
Eyes that lie
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side
Break on through, ow
Oh, yeah

… Made the scene
Week to week
Day to day
Hour to hour
The gate is straight
Deep and wide
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side
Break on through
Break on through
Break on through
Break on through
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Mare Nostrum

Mar MediterráneoMare nostrum

Los antiguos romanos lo llamaban Mare nostrum (nuestro mar), mientras que el nombre común actual proviene del latín mediterraneus, que significa “entre las tierras”, por lo que mar Mediterráneo significa “mar entre las tierras”. Esta masa de agua ha tenido un papel elemental en el desarrollo de las culturas orientales y occidentales, toda vez que fue navegado por griegos, fenicios, romanos, persas y turcos otomanos, solo por mencionar algunos. Es uno de los mares más destacados por su historia y su riqueza natural.


El mar Mediterráneo es un mar intercontinental, es decir, está situado entre Europa, Asia y África al norte, este y sur, respectivamente; separa y conecta dichos continentes. Baña las costas de Albania, Argelia, Grecia, Bosnia y Herzegovina, Croacia, Chipre, Egipto, Francia, Israel, Italia, Líbano, Libia, Malta, Mónaco, Marruecos, Eslovenia, Montenegro, España, Siria, Túnez, Turquía y  varias islas que pertenecen a estos países, como las Baleares, las Cícladas, Creta, Sicilia, Cerdeña, Córcega, etcétera. En total, baña más de 20 países. Al sur está conectado con el mar Rojo por el Canal de Suez.

Abarca un área, sin incluir al mar Negro, de aproximadamente 2.5 millones de km2 y tiene una longitud máxima de unos 3,860-3,900 kilómetros. Su anchura máxima es de 1,600 kilómetros entre las partes más alejadas, y divide Europa y África por tan solo 14 kilómetros. La profundidad media del mar es de 1,500 metros, si bien cerca del Cabo Matapan alcanza hasta 5,400 metros. Su área se divide en mares más pequeños, según la Organización Hidrográfica Internacional (IHO, por sus siglas en inglés): Adriático, Egeo, Jónico Tirreno, de Liguria, Balear y de Alborán. El estrecho de Gibraltar es un cuerpo de agua también contenido en el mar.

El Mediterráneo se conecta con el océano Atlántico, su fuente de renovación y reposición de agua, únicamente por el estrecho de Gibraltar, por lo que su cuenca es casi completamente cerrada. Sus aguas poseen una salinidad superior a la del Atlántico puesto que registra poco movimiento de mareas. La evaporación es muy alta, especialmente en la parte este, y esto contribuye a aumentar el nivel de salinidad que a 5 metros de profundidad es de aproximadamente 3.8 por ciento.

Este gran cuerpo de agua es un importante modificador de clima en la región ya que disipa el calor. De hecho, existe un tipo de clima con el mismo nombre.


La formación del Mediterráneo es resultado de los movimientos geológicos que han ocurrido a lo largo de millones de años. En la actualidad se localiza donde las placas Africana y Euroasiática se conectan; la fricción entre ambas provocó hace tiempo la aparición de varios volcanes y canteras de mármol. Sin embargo, es posible que se haya originado a partir de otros cuerpos de agua: el mar de Tetis,  o quizá Neotetis.

Anteriormente se creía que la cuenca del mar Mediterráneo era un remanente tectónico directo del mar de Tetis, el cual separaba Gondwana de Laurasia durante el Mesozoico y parte del Cretácico. En el Jurásico y el Cretácico tardío, las placas Africana y Eurosiática se acercaban poco a poco, lo que llevó a lo que hoy son África, Arabia e India hacia la parte superior y a cerrar el océano Tetis. La cuenca del océano Neotetis fue resultado de la convergencia entre las placas Africana y Euroasiática.

Hace unos 6 millones de años, el cuerpo de agua que hoy se llama Mediterráneo estaba formado, pero comenzó a cerrarse en su parte oeste debido al acercamiento de África hacia Europa. Esto provocó que el agua se evaporara durante la crisis de salinidad de Messina, por lo que la cuenca se secó casi completamente hasta que a finales del Mioceno volvió a llenarse con agua del Atlántico por el estrecho de Gibraltar gracias a la inundación Zancliense. Sin embargo, es posible que el ciclo de desecación e inundación se haya repetido durante los últimos 630,000 años.


El mar Mediterráneo exhibe un bello color azul profundo que es hogar de más de 10,000 especies acuáticas. Como sus aguas provienen del Atlántico, la biodiversidad está compuesta casi exclusivamente por especies propias de dicho océano. En el Mediterráneo existen al menos 19 especies de cetáceos, por ejemplo: el delfín de Risso (Grampus griseus), el delfín listado (Stenella coeruleoalba), el delfín nariz de botella (Tursiops truncatus), el zifio de Cuvier (Ziphius cavirostris), el calderón común (Globicephala melas), el cachalote (Physeter macrocephalus), la orca (Orcinus orca) y la falsa orca (Pseudorca crassidens), solo por mencionar algunos.

Otras especies marinas comunes son la foca monje del Mediterráneo (Monachus monachus), la tortuga caguama (Caretta caretta), las merluzas, el atún rojo (Thunnus thynnus), el mejillón mediterráneo (Mytilus galloprovincialis), las sardinas, el pez espada (Xiphias gladius), la tortuga laúd (Dermochelys coriacea) y la lubina (Dicentrarchus labrax).

En este mar se reconoce un amplio rango de ecosistemas y, debido a que es más cálido y más salado que el Atlántico, mantiene varias especies que no se encuentran en otros mares u océanos, como la foca monje del Mediterráneo que es la única especie de pinnípedo en tal zona. Bajo el nivel del mar se encuentran praderas marinas, arrecifes de coral, montañas y fosas. En la cuenca, sobre el nivel del mar, habitan coníferas de las familias Ceratonia, Cupressaceae y Brassicaceae, así como olivos y demás plantas capaces de sobrevivir en el ambiente rocoso.

En total, la biodiversidad del mar Mediterráneo representa un 9.8 por ciento de la biodiversidad marina del mundo. Curiosamente, el mar representa solo un 0.7 por ciento de la superficie marina de la Tierra.


La pesca ha sido una actividad económica históricamente importante para los habitantes de la cuenca mediterránea; el lado negativo es que la sobrepesca es un problema en muchas partes del mar. Según la Agencia Europea de Medio Ambiente (European Environment Agency), más del 65 por ciento de las poblaciones de especies de la región mediterránea están fuera de los límites biológicos de seguridad. Muchas pesquerías locales están desapareciendo debido a la escasez de presas. Aunado a lo anterior, la captura incidental cobra la vida de millones de especies marinas.

Posiblemente, el principal problema del Mediterráneo es la degradación de sus hábitats, ocasionada por las múltiples actividades humanas en las poblaciones cercanas y las compañías que dependen de sus aguas y lo que hay en ellas. Existe una fuerte contaminación en muchas áreas, causada en parte por la escorrentía y el vertido de sustancias químicas de las industrias.


El mar Mediterráneo: cuna de la civilización

La cuenca del Mediterráneo ha sido la cuna de la civilización mundial desde la aparición de los primeros asentamientos en Jericó en el año 9000 a. C. Conocido en inglés y en las lenguas romances como el mar situado «entre tierras», el Mediterráneo ha recibido y recibe numerosos nombres: mar Nuestro, para los romanos, mar Blanco (Akdeniz) para los turcos, Gran Mar (Yam Gadol) para los judíos, mar Medio (Mittelmeer) para los germanos y, de forma más imprecisa, Gran Verde para los antiguos egipcios.1 El mar Nuestro desempeñó un papel fundamental en la comunicación entre los pueblos circundantes y evitó conflictos entre aquellos pueblos de diferentes zonas de la cuenca que tenían, asimismo, intereses diferentes. No existe en el mundo otra cuenca similar. El mapa mundial ilustra el carácter único de la ubicación del mar Mediterráneo en el planeta: es suficientemente grande como para albergarnos a todos pero, al mismo tiempo, debido a su peculiar forma, con sus islas, bahías y estrechos, facilita la comunicación entre la población circundante. En apariencia, se trata de un mar cerrado, pero permite habilitar una serie de rutas principales de transporte entre las zonas oriental y occidental.

 El mar Mediterráneo es símbolo de creatividad, de búsqueda del sentido de la vida y de la sabiduría, así como de amor por el ser humano y la naturaleza. Este mar siempre ha sido un entorno capaz de engendrar a destacables personalidades que han realizado notables aportaciones al desarrollo histórico de la filosofía, el arte, la música, la literatura, la ciencia y la tecnología. La cuenca fue testigo de la expansión de gloriosas civilizaciones, de este a oeste, de norte a sur, desde Mesopotamia hasta Egipto, desde la península de Anatolia y Troya hasta Macedonia, desde las ciudades-estado griegas hasta la civilización fenicia, desde Cartago hasta Roma, desde Bagdad hasta Al-Ándalus, desde Bizancio hasta el Imperio Otomano y desde Alejandría hasta Bolonia, las cuales construyeron unos sólidos cimientos para las civilizaciones mundiales. No podemos imaginar la historia del mundo sin tener en cuenta a las civilizaciones egipcia, helénica, romana y otomana.


 Fundada en el año 300 a. C., la Antigua Biblioteca de Alejandría en Egipto fue una de las mayores y más importantes bibliotecas del Mundo Antiguo. Los primeros avances en el ámbito del desarrollo intelectual surgieron en el Mediterráneo oriental y se centraron principalmente en el campo de la filosofía. La población circundante del mar Mediterráneo había tenido innumerables oportunidades para conocer otras culturas y aprender sobre el mundo y su realidad, comenzando por el Período Helénico, lo que dio lugar al surgimiento de filósofos y científicos que realizaron grandes aportaciones al desarrollo intelectual. Entre ellos podemos citar a Tales de Mileto, Anaximandro, Anaxímenes, Pitágoras, Xenófanes, así como a Diógenes de Apolonia, Hipócrates, Sócrates, Platón y Aristóteles (siglos VI, V y IV a. C.).

 La Edad Media fue la Edad de Oro para la población musulmana en la región y, entre los años 622 y 750 d. C., la expansión del Estado islámico, que tuvo su origen en la península arábiga, se extendió a Oriente Medio, parte de Asia Menor, Persia, el Norte de África y la península ibérica. Durante siglos, Al-Ándalus, en la península ibérica, y Marruecos constituyeron centros culturales alternativos a Bagdad. Desde el siglo VIII al siglo XV, muchos filósofos influyeron notablemente en el desarrollo de la filosofía islámica en la región, entre ellos, Jabir ibn Hayyan, Al Farabi, Al Biruni, Ibn Sina, Al Qushayri, Al Ghazali, Al Baghdaadi, Ibn Rushd, Jalal ad-Din Rumi e Ibn Khaldun.

 Desde la Antigüedad hasta los períodos de la Edad Media y el Renacimiento, la cuenca del Mediterráneo desempeñó un papel fundamental en la filosofía, el arte y la ciencia. Sin embargo, a partir del siglo XVIII, cuando se desarrolló la posibilidad de realizar viajes marítimos a gran distancia y se crearon nuevas rutas comerciales, la región del Mediterráneo comenzó a perder importancia en favor de otras zonas de Europa y América del Norte. De este modo, se produjo un desplazamiento en el desarrollo de la filosofía, la ciencia, la tecnología y el arte modernos, tanto de sur a norte como de este a oeste.


 La lista de las universidades más antiguas del mundo varía en función de lo que entendamos por universidad. Si consideramos la universidad como una institución que concede títulos, todas las universidades más antiguas del mundo quedarán ubicadas en Europa, donde la expedición de certificados era una práctica extendida en la década de 1100. Las siguientes afirmaciones son reflejo de una visión reducida y eurocéntrica de la universidad: “la universidad es una institución europea” o “ninguna otra institución ha logrado extenderse por todo el mundo de la manera en que lo ha hecho la universidad europea tradicional”.2 En realidad, fue en los países de la región del Mediterráneo donde se fundaron las universidades más antiguas del mundo. En general, la lista de las universidades más antiguas no tiene en cuenta las civilizaciones antiguas de Grecia, Roma, China, la India o el mundo árabe, pero las instituciones educativas que estas crearon se ajustaban a la definición tradicional de universidad y, por tanto, deberían incluirse en dicha lista.

 Si elaboramos una lista de universidades basándonos en la definición reducida de las mismas como instituciones que conceden títulos, vemos que la universidad más antigua del mundo es la Universidad de Bolonia, fundada en 1088. De las 44 universidades más antiguas, 25 se fundaron en la cuenca del Mediterráneo, siendo la península itálica la región que abarca el mayor número de ellas, con 13 universidades.3 Ocho de las diez universidades más antiguas del mundo que han desempeñado su labor ininterrumpidamente hasta la actualidad se encuentran en el área mediterránea, lo que es un indicador del gran desarrollo intelectual que existía y aún existe en la región. Aunque las instituciones otomanas no estén incluidas en la lista, la Universidad de Estambul debería figurar en ella, puesto que fue creada en 1453 por el Sultán Mehmed el Conquistador. Otra institución importante, que constituye la primera institución de educación superior del Imperio Otomano, al margen de la educación religiosa, es la Universidad Técnica de Estambul, fundada en 1773.

 Si partimos de una definición más amplia de la universidad como “una institución de educación superior autónoma e independiente” y echamos un vistazo a las diez universidades más antiguas e importantes del mundo,4 obtendremos una lista diferente. Por definición, la universidad se desarrolló en un primer momento como una institución religiosa (madrasah) surgida en el mundo medieval islámico. La primera fue la Universidad de Al-Karaouine, creada en el año 859. El resto de universidades islámicas de la cuenca fueron la Universidad de Al-Azhar, fundada en Egipto en el año 972 y la de Nizamiyya, establecida en Irán en 1065. Otras universidades de la lista son las de Bolonia, París, Oxford, Montpellier, Cambridge, Salamanca y Padua, todas ellas muy influidas por la cuenca del Mediterráneo.

 A partir de 1500, se fundaron numerosas universidades por todo el mundo y surgieron numerosos tipos diferentes de instituciones de educación superior. La educación superior aún se encuentra en una fase de transición, debido a la presión de la globalización, pero resulta evidente que el papel de la universidad como institución sigue ganando importancia y que las expectativas de la sociedad con respecto a la universidad están experimentando una rápida transformación en el cambiante contexto actual. Puede que existan diferentes maneras de definir la universidad, pero lo que es seguro es que la universidad es un producto de la región del Mediterráneo.

 No disponemos de datos fiables relativos al número de universidades que existen en la cuenca del Mediterráneo o al número de universidades mediterráneas capaz de competir a nivel mundial, pero el rico legado histórico de esta región ha creado un excepcional entorno intelectual que ha propiciado, durante siglos, el surgimiento de múltiples filósofos, artistas, músicos y científicos de fama mundial.


 La población, los países, las culturas y las instituciones circundantes del mar Mediterráneo comparten una serie de valores y características comunes que han permitido desarrollar con éxito numerosos proyectos y, seguramente, continuarán haciéndolo. Las universidades mediterráneas, cuya principal ventaja radica en su amplia cultura intelectual y en la cohesión social existente entre su personal y sus estudiantes, pueden desempeñar un papel fundamental en las relaciones entre Oriente y Occidente, así como entre Norte y Sur. Una de las ventajas evidentes es la movilidad de estudiantes y docentes. Las estadísticas del Plan de Acción de la Comunidad Europea para la Movilidad de Estudiantes Universitarios (ERASMUS) muestran que, entre 1987 y 2011, más del 46% de la movilidad de estudiantes y docentes correspondía a países mediterráneos (ANEXO 01SM: Estudiantes salientes del programa Erasmus desde el curso 1987/1988 al 2010/2011). La movilidad ayudará a las universidades mediterráneas a ampliar sus horizontes y convertirse en instituciones de carácter mundial.

 Las redes universitarias constituyen otro factor importante y, para poder comprender el papel que estas pueden desempeñar en dicho proceso, resultará útil repasar brevemente las redes existentes en la región. La Comunidad de Universidades del Mediterráneo (CUM), es una de las redes universitarias más antiguas de la región del Mediterráneo. Su creación data de 1983, cuando tenía su sede en la Universidad de Bari. Dicha red está compuesta por más de 160 universidades de 12 Estados europeos y 9 Estados árabes. La CUM también ha establecido sólidos vínculos con organizaciones de carácter supranacional, como la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Educación, la Ciencia y la Cultura (UNESCO), la Unión Europea y el Consejo Europeo. El primer acuerdo de cooperación, firmado con la UNESCO el 7 de octubre de 1992, fue sucedido por otro firmado el 2 de agosto de 1997, que reconocía oficialmente a la CUM como organización no gubernamental. En su página web, podemos encontrar un mensaje muy ilustrativo: “múltiples voces, una sola cuenca”. En una misma región encontramos múltiples voces: la CUM queda lejos de ser la única red de universidades mediterráneas existente —de hecho, hay otras muchas—. Entre ellas están la Red Mediterránea de Escuelas de Ingeniería (RMEI), la Universidad Euromediterránea de Eslovenia, red creada por un grupo de universidades mediterráneas, la red de universidades mediterráneas Unión de Universidades del Mediterráneo, que es una de las Redes Universitarias del Banco Europeo de Inversiones, con sede en Roma y compuesta por 84 universidades miembros, y el Foro Euromediterráneo, integrado por unos 100 miembros.

 Dichas redes tienen misiones similares, pero hasta hace poco no existía una comunicación eficiente entre ellas. Hace unos diez años, la CUM y la RMEI decidieron hacer coincidir las fechas y universidades de celebración de sus reuniones. Se organizaron varias reuniones conjuntas en Rabat, Atenas y Esmirna. Asimismo, decidieron empezar a enviar recíprocamente representantes de una a las reuniones de la otra. Otro avance fue el incremento de la cooperación entre la Red de Universidades del Mar Negro, la CUM y la RMEI. Algunas universidades miembros de estas redes han desempeñado un papel importante a la hora de establecer relaciones entre estas tres organizaciones durante la última década. Lo más significativo es que, aunque es bueno contar con múltiples voces, estas redes (cada una de las cuales tiene entre 100 y 200 miembros) funciona de manera independiente. Ha llegado el momento de reflexionar sobre cómo lograr una colaboración entre todas estas redes y crear una organización coordinada más eficaz y eficiente, capaz de representar a las universidades mediterráneas en cualquier foro. Si las redes de universidades mediterráneas son capaces de organizarse por sí mismas para trabajar de manera conjunta, el impacto de dichas redes será mucho mayor, no solamente en la cuenca del Mediterráneo, sino también en el contexto europeo y mundial.

 A pesar de que históricamente han existido conflictos entre diversos grupos de la región, también han existido siempre aspiraciones y actitudes creativas e intelectuales comunes y, durante siglos, dichos grupos han trabajado juntos y aprendido mutuamente en ámbitos como el comercio, así como las artes y las ciencias. Los cambios globales experimentados en los últimos años, como el aumento de la movilidad y la comunicación internacional, pueden generar oportunidades y la necesidad de establecer una interacción y cooperación interculturales aún mayores entre las redes de universidades y dentro de ellas, con el fin de aumentar el intercambio de experiencias y recursos en la cuenca del Mediterráneo.


10 curiosidades sobre el mar Mediterráneo

El Mar Mediterráneo es una de las principales zonas de turismo del mundo, cada año millones de turistas disfrutan de su clima y visitan sus costas, conocidas pro sus magníficas playas y temperaturas agradables.

Este mar se considera uno de los principales mares del mundo, tanto por su dimensión, como por el papel clave que tuvo en el desarrollo de nombrosas civilizaciones, tanto occidentales como orientales, que pasaron a lo largo de la historia de la humanidad por esta masa de agua, tales como los egipcios, los fenicios, los griegos, los romanos o los persas, entre muchos otros.

En esta entrada profundizamos en este mar y os mostramos 10 curiosidades, con el objetivo de poder aproximaros más a el.

1. Un mar en situación exterma

El mar Mediterráneo está separado del Atlántico por el estrecho de Gibraltar, unos 14 km separan África de la Península Ibérica Pero hace más de 6 millones de años la cuenca del Mediterráneo no se encontraba de esta forma.

El Mar Mediterráneo se puede considerar descendiente del Mar Tetis, el primer mar que apareció hace unos 250 millones de años, antes de la aparicion del Océano Índico.

El periodo más difícil para el Mediterráneo fue hace 6 millones de años, las tierras, que más tarde formaron el estrecho de Gibraltar, se cerraron por el choque de las placas tectónicas, la placa Africana y la placa Euroasiática, y aislaron el Mar Mediterráneo. Este mar se fue evaporando para formar una profunda y seca cuenca, no había suficiente con la llegada de agua de los ríos Mediterráneos, y así fue como la cuenca del Mediterráneo se secó y quedó con una serie de cuencas pequeñas e hipersalinas. Este período se conoce hoy en día como la crisis del Mesiniáno, el cual llegó a su fin hace 5,33 millones de años con la apertura definitiva del estrecho de Gibraltar.

El estrecho se volvió a hundir y el Mar Mediterráneo renació con una cascada masiva del Océano Atlántico, que erosionó todavía más el estrecho de Gibraltar, haciéndolo más profundo y provocando una de las inundaciones más masivas de la historia geológica del planeta. Se cree que el Mediterráneo se volvió a llenar del todo en tan solo dos años.

2. Un mar con muchos nombres

Como este mar ha tenido un papel clave en el desarrollo e historia de diversas civilizaciones, tiene una gran diversidad de nombres. Los antiguos romanos lo denominaban «Mare nostrum», que quiere decir «mar nuestro» en latin.

Para algunos egipcios era «el Gran Verde»; en árabe se le llama «mar intermedio» («al-Baḥr al-Mutawāsiṭ”), y los turcos lo llaman «mar blanco» (“Ak Deniz”). En griego se le llama «Mesogeios Thalassa», que quiere decir «mar entre as tierras»

Finalmente, el nombre de Mar Mediterráneo proviene también del latín «Mar Medi Terraneum» y significa, igual que en griego, «mar en medio de las tierras».

3. Baña 21 países

El Mar Mediterráneo es un mar intercontinental, es decir, está situado entre Europa Asia y África. Sus aguas bañan las costas de 21 países, 69 ríos desenvocan en este mar y cuenta con diversos puertos importantes de gran actividad.

Este gran cuerpo de agua es un importante modificador del clima, ya que retiene el calor. De hecho, existe un tipo de clima que tiene su nombre: el Clima Mediterráneo. Este clima lo podemos encontrar, además de en toda la cuenca mediterránea, entre los 30º y 45º de latitud del Ecuador, partes del extremo de sur África, del oeste de Australia, de Chile, de California y Oregón.

4. Un mar salado

La cuenca del Mediterráneo se considera una cuenca semi cerrada porque su única conexión con el océano es el Estrecho de Gibraltar, que separa Europa de África, donde el punto mas estrecho es de 14,4 quilómetros. Este estrecho también era la única fuente de renovación y reposición de agua de manera natural, junto con las lluvias y los ríos.

El Mar Mediterráneo es un mar con fuerte salinidad, la cual a 5 metros de profundidad es de un 3,8%. Esta alta salinidad es debida a que pierde tres veces más agua por evaporación en comparación con el agua dulce que recibe de los 69 ríos que desembocan en él.

Actualmente hay otra conexión con un mar vecino, el Mar Rojo, mediante el canal de Suez construido por el hombre, y que tiene una enorme importancia para el abastecimiento europeo de petróleo y para el comercio mundial en general, ya que permite la comunicación marítima entre Europa y Asia sin tener que rodear continuamente África. Por otro lado este canal ha jugado un papel muy importante con las especies invasoras, ya que la mayoría de especies introducidas en el Mediterráneo provienen del Mar Rojo.

5. Representa un 1% de la superficie de los océanos

El Mar Mediterráneo es uno de los mas grandes del mundo, con unos 2.500.000Km2 aprox, una longitud máxima de 3.900 Km, un total de 46.000 Km de litoral y una anchura máxima de 1.600 Km en las partes más alejadas. Con todo esto, supone solo un 1% de la superficie oceánica total del planeta.

6. Profundidad máxima de más 5.000 metros

Tiene una profundidad media de 1,5 Km, concretamente 1.430 m, pero la costa mas profunda se encuentra en la Fosa de Matapan, en el mar Jónico y cerca de Grecia, con unos 5.121 m de profundidad. Las grandes planicies oceánicas se encuentran entre los 2.500 y los 3.000 m.

7. Mar formado por otros mares

El Mar Mediterráneo es tan grande que lo podemos dividir en otros mares más pequeños.

En total son 13 mares menores que forman el Mar Mediterráneo: El mar de Alborán, entre España y Marruecos, el mar Menor al sur-este de España, la lagúna de Nador al norte de Marruecos, la mar Balear entre la costa de la península ibérica y Cerdeña, el mar de Ligúria entre Córsega y Ligúria, El mar Tirreno, el mar Adriático, el mar Jónico, el mar Egeo entre Grecia y Turquía, el mar de Creta entre la isla de Creta y las islas Cíclades, el mar de Líbia entre los golfos de Sidra y Gabés, el mar de Silícia entre Turquía y Chipre y el mar Levantino.

8. Un mar muy fértil

Aún ocupando menos del 1% de la superficie oceánica del planeta, el Mar Mediterráneo es uno de los mares con más biodiversidad marina del planeta, posicionándose el cuarto de la lista, debajo de las aguas Australianas, las japonesas y las chinas, con más de 17.000 especies marinas descritas y un amplio rango de ecosistemas.

Posee zonas de elevada concentración de especies con imprtáncia ecológica, como por ejemplo el Estrecho de Gibraltar o el Mar de Alborán.

Se cree que mas de 2.000 millones de aves de 150 especies diferentes realizan cada año sus migraciones a lo largo de este mar.

Como sus aguas provienen también del Atlántico, la biodiversidad está compuesta por muchas de las especies de este océano. Hay catalogadas unas 10.000 especies animales, de las cuales 12 son cetáceos – delfines, ballenas – entre las cuales se incluyen los delfines Mulares (Tursiops truncatus), los Cachalotes (Physeter macrocephalus) y los Rorcuales (Balaenoptera physalus).

Pero también encontramos especies endémicas, es decir, que solo se encuentran en el Mar Mediterráneo, por el hecho de que es más cálido y salado que el Atlántico; como la Posidónia (Posidonia oceanica), una planta que forma los hábitats principales de muchos peces y anémonas, o el viejo marino, una foca que solo vive aquí (Monachus monachus) y es el único pinnípedo de la zona.

9. Nº1 de especies invasoras

Aún con su gran diversidad, aproximadamente un 4% de las especies que habitan este mar son especies invasoras; se han listado un total de 637 especies invasoras, de las cuales más de 200 son moluscos y 106 crustáceos.

Estas más de 600 especies conforman una gran diferencia con la segunda masa de agua con más invasoras de la lista, la zona europea del océano Atlántico, que cuenta con unas 245 especies invasoras. Los científicos creen que la gran mayoría de estas especies provienen del Mar Rojo, las cuales entraron en el Mediterráneo a través del Canal de Suez.

10. Un mar en amenaza

La pesca ha sido y es una actividad económica e históricamente importante para los habitantes de la cuenca del Mediterráneo, pero las nuevas tecnologías y la demanda de alimento han comportado que la sobrepesca sea un problema en muchas partes del mar.

Según la Agencia Europea del Medio Ambiente (European Enviroment Agency), más del 65% de las poblaciones de especies de la región están fuera de los límites biológicos de seguridad; muchas pesqueras locales desaparecen a causa de la escasez de presas. El Mediterráneo es, según el informe  SOFIA 2018 de la FAO, el mar más sobre explotado del mundo juntamente con el mar Negro, y el 62,2% de su estoc de pesca se encuentra en una situación de insostenibilidad.

El cambio climático está aumentando las temperaturas superficiales de las aguas, a un ritmo muy acelerado en concreto en el Mediterráneo, a la vez que aumenta su evaporación y a consecuencia su salinidad, con lo que afecta a todos los organismos que habitan este mar.

Por otro lado, las especies invasoras mencionadas anteriormente también son una amenaza, ya que compiten directamente con las especies autóctonas y provocan cambios y desequilibrios en la red trófica. El cambio climático también favorece la llegada de especies invasoras, naturales de aguas históricamente más calientes que las del Mediterráneo.

También existe una fuerte contaminación en muchas áreas costeras, causada en parte por la escorrentía y el vertido de substancias químicas industriales, el Mediterráneo es considerado el más contaminado por tener las tasas más elevadas de hidrocarburos y contaminantes del mundo.

Para acabar, la gran demanda de turismo también provoca problemas con la masiva edificación de las costas o la gran contaminación que provocan los cruceros entre otros.

Aun así, el principal problema del Mediterráneo es la degradación de sus hábitats, ocasionada por las múltiples actividades humanas en las poblaciones cercanas; la desaparición de las praderías de Posidonia oceánica, declarada patrimonio de la humanidad por la UNESCO, causa graves problemas a los ecosistemas naturales, ya que muchas especies se quedan sin hábitat donde resguardarse de las corrientes, donde reproducirse, o alimentarse y la mayoría no encuentran como adaptarse a estos cambios.


Salva el Mediterráneo

Nuestro mar está sobreexplotado, contaminado por vertidos y sofocado por un tráfico marítimo y turismo excesivos. ¡Protección para el Mediterráneo Ya!

El Mediterráneo, el Mare Nostrum, no sólo es la cuna de antiguas civilizaciones y uno de los lugares más concurridos del planeta, sino también una de las áreas más importantes para la biodiversidad marina en nuestro planeta. 

Aunque representa menos del 1% de la superficie de los océanos del planeta, este mar alberga 1 de cada 10 especies marinas, de las que el 28% son únicas. Entre otras destacan las poblaciones residentes de 8 especies de cetáceos, además de poblaciones de tortuga boba y verde, foca monje y más de 70 especies de tiburones y rayas. 


Pero también se trata de uno de los mares más amenazados y que sufren las mayores presiones por parte del ser humano. Los 200 millones de turistas anuales que visitan la costa mediterránea generan grandes presiones urbanísticas en la costa, contribuyen al incremento de la contaminación y de los vertidos de plásticos al mar e impiden que las tortugas marinas puedan hacer sus nidos en sus áreas habituales.

El Mediterráneo es el mar más contaminado del mundo y está considerado la sexta zona de mayor acumulación de residuos marinos, concentrando el 7% de los microplásticos del planeta. Esto es un grave problema para todo el ecosistema y para especies tan emblemáticas como tortugas o cetáceos que pueden al ingerir grandes trozos de plásticos.


Además, son vícitmas de  las llamadas redes fantasma, restos de redes y aparejos de pesca abandonados en las que se enredan distintas especies, lo que provocan la muerte. Globalmente el 45% de los mamíferos marinos, el 21% de las aves marinas y todas las especies de tortugas marinas se han visto afectadas por estos desechos marinos. La intensa actividad pesquera también produce un grave impacto en muchas especies: el 75% de las pesquerías evaluadas están sobreexplotadas. 


El Mediterráneo concentra el 25% del tráfico marítimo mundial, lo que supone graves daños para los mamíferos marinos (ruido, colisiones, molestias etc.) Un nivel de tráfico que se ha duplicado desde 2002. Este aumento ha disparado el número de pasajeros de cruceros en Mediterráneo de 8,7 a 30 millones en tan solo una década.  El turismo de lujo también está sofocando nuestros mares: más de la mitad de los superyates del mundo surcan las aguas del Mediterráneo cada verano con un incremento de las necesidades de infraestructuras en la costa.

Los resultados de todas estas presiones son realmente dramáticos. Desde ballenas que son golpeadas por barcos, tortugas que ingieren plástico y compiten con los turistas en sus playas de anidación, hasta tiburones amenazados por la sobrepesca. Como consecuencia las poblaciones de mamíferos marinos se han reducido en un 41% en los últimos 50 años. Más de la mitad de las especies de tiburones y rayas que se encuentran en el Mediterráneo están clasificadas como en peligro de extinción. Solo quedan unas 400 focas monje en el Mediterráneo.  


El mar Mediterráneo está sufriendo de manera muy directa el impacto del cambio climático y se calienta un 20% más rápido que la media mundial. Desde zonas más cálidas ya han aparecido al menos 1.000 especies invasoras que desplazan a las autóctonas y destruyen hábitats importantes.


Solo el 1.27% del Mediterráneo está protegido de una forma efectiva,  mientras que los acuerdos internacionales establecen un mínimo de un 10% y los principales científicos del mundo recomiendan que, al menos, el 30% del mar debería estar protegido a través de espacios marinos protegidos y otras medidas de conservación y gestión de los ecosistemas más vulnerables. 


Con nuestro trabajo demostramos que la protección de los mares es una solución posible y necesaria. Además de luchar contra la contaminación por plásticos y promover la pesca sostenible, desde WWF estamos impulsando la creación de una red de áreas protegidas donde las especies pueden encontrar refugio y recuperar sus poblaciones, donde actividades como la pesca sean sostenibles y donde el tráfico marino no cause daños a la fauna marina. Las Reservas Marinas de Tagomago, de las Islas Medas, de Tabarca, de Columbretes, el Parque Nacional de Cabrera, entre otros muchos casos demuestran que es posible.

El Mediterráneo nos está llamando y pidiendo ayuda urgente. Lo estamos asfixiando cada vez más. Tenemos que actuar ya.


La historia tras ‘Mediterráneo‘, la gran canción de Joan Manuel Serrat

Joan Manuel Serrat ha anunciado recientemente que se retira de los escenarios después de más de 50 años. Lo hará a lo grande, con El vicio de cantar 1965-2022, una última gira que le permita despedirse como él quiere y no de la forma precipitada en que la pandemia ha obligado a cancelar miles de conciertos y giras por todo el mundo.

Esta última gira tendrá comienzo en abril de 2022 en el Beacon Theatre de Nueva York, para después recalar en Sudamérica y finalmente regresar a España para la época estival, donde ofrecerá el primer concierto el 8 de junio en Murcia y el último el 23 de diciembre en el Palau Sant Jordi de Barcelona.

Pero aunque el próximo año sea la última oportunidad de poder disfrutar del cantautor catalán sobre los escenarios, su legado musical se reparte en 20 discos en castellano, 11 en catalán, ocho en directo y más de una veintena de álbumes recopilatorios; además de otros trabajos discográficos al que se le ha rendido homenaje a su figura.

‘Mediterráneo’, la canción insignia de Serrat

Son muchas las canciones de Serrat que han calado en la historia de la música popular en España y otros países de habla hispana, pero sin duda Mediterráneo es la gran canción de ‘el nen de Poble Sec’ (el niño de Poble Sec).

Este tema, incluido en el álbum con el mismo nombre publicado en 1971, fue elegida por votación popular como la mejor canción de la historia de la música popular en España en 2004 en el programa de televisión Nuestra mejor canción. Además, también fue elegida la mejor canción del pop español por la revista Rolling Stone en 2010 y en 2019 fue elegida como la mejor canción jamás cantada por votación popular en el programa de TVE con el mismo nombre.

Leyendas urbanas acerca de la historia de ‘Mediterráneo’

Existen varias leyendas urbanas que se han popularizado sobre la historia que hay detrás de esta canción. Una de ellas, cuenta que Serrat escribió Mediterráneo a finales de 1970, cuando se encerró en el Monasterio de Montserrat junto a otros intelectuales y artistas en señal de protesta contra del Proceso de Burgos.

Otras historias cuentan que Serrat había pensado llamar a esta canción Amo el mar o Hijo del Mediterráneo.

La historia real de ‘Mediterráneo’

El propio Serrat explicó durante una entrevista con El País dónde compuso Mediterráneo y qué le inspiró para hacerlo: el exilio y la añoranza a su tierra.

“Estaba en México, llevaba semanas en el interior. Soñaba, literalmente con él. Agarré el coche y me fui a un lago, aunque sólo fuera por hacerme a la idea del mar que yo añoraba. Es en esos casos cuando me doy cuenta de que para mí, el mar, y concretamente el Mediterráneo es una identidad: una identidad feliz«.

En muchas ocasiones los artistas terminan aborreciendo la canción que más fama les ha dado, algo que nunca va a pasar en el caso de Joan Manuel: «Jamás, jamás, renegaré de esta o de cualquier otra de mis canciones. Me sentiré eternamente agradecido, son ellas quienes me han hecho lo que soy. Así que siempre la cantaré por obligación, pero lo que es más importante, por gusto«.

«Quizá porque mi niñez sigue jugando en tu playa»

La primera frase de la canción nos sitúa donde empieza toda la historia de Mediterráneo: «Quizá porque mi niñez sigue jugando en tu playa».

De su niñez, Serrat explicó que tiene dos paisajes fundamentales; el mar y el campo. El campo del tiempo que pasó en Viana, Navarra, en casa de una amiga de su madre; y el mar de su ciudad. «El mar es la Barceloneta de mi niñez, con todo lo que representaba el recorrido desde la casa hasta la playa. Primero, trincar algo de comer en casa, bocadillo, toalla y bañador, la indumentaria que nosotros necesitábamos; colarte en el tranvía, colarte en los baños que entonces no eran públicos, para llegar a las instalaciones con piscinas y duchas», reveló en otra entrevista para El País.


Medio siglo de ‘Mediterráneo’, el álbum emblemático de Serrat

Joan Manuel Serrat, soñador de pelo largo, tal como se autorretrataba en su canción Señora, entra en un estudio de Milán para grabar un disco que va a llamarse Mediterráneo. El cantautor no ha entrado aún en la treintena. Lleva más de un lustro de éxitos resonantes, de giras, grabaciones con Edigsa y Zafiro y affaires como el eurovisivo. Ya reza como cantautor bilingüe, capaz de firmar discos magistrales en dos lenguas distintas, tal como sucede en los albores de 1970 con Serrat 4 y con el que se conoce como Disco Blanco, donde se cruzan prodigios como Mi niñez o Fiesta.

Cuando Serrat entra en el estudio milanés para grabar Mediterráneo no parece haber conciencia de perennidad, porque el estudio no permitía grandes alardes que pudieran plantear futuras ediciones especiales del disco con tomas alternativas. Había que grabar lo más rápido posible y dejar el estudio libre para el siguiente grupo o solista que lo requiriera.

Serrat trae diez canciones nuevas, terminadas de alumbrar en la Costa Brava, en su retiro de Calella de Palafrugell, entre las idas y venidas del mar Mediterráneo. Toda la filosofía serratiana va a estar concentrada en ese disco en el que va a ser su particular Blonde on blonde y como tal un disco infinito, inagotable, tan melancólico como hedonista, que cruza a Josep Pla con León Felipe. Mediterráneo terminará siendo el santo y seña, el libro de estilo de más de una generación, esa obra perfecta de la cultura española que hay que escuchar como se contemplan Las meninas de Velázquez o se disfruta El amor brujo de Falla. Absténganse negacionistas o revisionistas que dirán que Mediterráneo no es para tanto o que es disco sobrevalorado, esa etiqueta que cualquier pseudomoderno puede ponerle a Casablanca o a Cien años de soledad según con qué pie se levante por la mañana.

Serrat graba en Milán aquello de “Quizá porque mi niñez sigue jugando en tu playa…”. Y en esa evocación destellante del verso inaugural de la canción Mediterráneo, en el imponente arreglo calderoniano –de Juan Carlos Calderón– parece bullir el espíritu de toda una época. El mar como principio y final, impreso en el destino del marinero cantor que parece un poeta viejo y sabio en el modo de mascar las palabras y los acentos. Hasta en el modo de glosar el amor perdido en Lucía, un amor real, tan fugaz como eterno. “No hay nada más bello / que lo que nunca he tenido / nada más amado / que lo que perdí”. El libro amoroso de Serrat, carnal y verdadero, en una de sus páginas más gloriosas.

Mediterráneo podría razonarse como rutilante disco pop y no, desde luego, como disco de cantautor al uso, guitarra y voz y pare usted de contar. Gian Piero Reverberi, Antoni Ros Marbá y el citado Juan Carlos Calderón con su impronta jazzística forman el terceto de arreglistas de un disco que vibra y brilla en la instrumentación y está lleno de estampas poéticas que se fijan en la memoria del oyente. Canciones descomunales, bellamente nostálgicas como Aquellas pequeñas cosas, canción prodigiosamente minimalista, o Barquito de papel. Otras canciones funcionan a modo de manifiestos libérrimos como la pletórica Vagabundear. Serrat aúna épica y lírica, barroquismo y desnudez. Vencidos incorpora magistralmente a León Felipe en su nómina de poetas cantados. Pueblo blanco es una canción enorme, narración deslumbrante, fantasmagórica, llena de simbología. Mediterráneo es un disco de contrastes, pero a su vez muy conceptual, que puede pasar de la sensualidad de La mujer que yo quiero a Qué va a ser de ti, una canción ubicada entre la Anduriña de Juan y Junior y el She’s leaving home de los Beatles, y a la que David Broza convertiría en himno hebreo.

El Serrat de los setenta se despliega en Mediterráneo en toda su plenitud. Lo influye ya Latinoamérica, el impacto de todo un continente. Nos deja hasta un homenaje en tiempo de vals a su amigo Alberto Puig Palau, un hombre de muchas vidas en una sola, parte de ese fresco palpitante, sugeridor, que es Mediterráneo, donde la genista, la brea, la luna que araña el mar, el extraño arenal, el vuelo de palomas, el cometa de caña y de papel se quedan grabados dentro de nosotros, perseguidores eternos de esta obra maestra.

Un disco del que no supo verse su grandeza en su tiempo, por mucho que le acompañara el impacto popular desde su aparición a finales de 1971. Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, en su ensayo sobre el cantautor, afirmaba que ni temática ni poéticamente añadía algo nuevo al anterior Serrat. Olvidaba que musicalmente sí lo hacía. En la Cataluña de los puristas ortodoxos y lingüísticos, el Serrat en castellano era permanentemente ninguneado tal como abanderaba en los años setenta Jordi García Soler –que luego se desdijo– en ensayos como el titulado La Nova Cancó. Pero Mediterráneo ha podido con todo, disco de cabecera de roqueros, poperos, indies, flamencos, melódicos y cantautores. Desde su icónica portada y las fotos de Colita, que tanto contribuyera, cámara en mano, a la iconografía serratiana.

Cabe imaginar a Serrat en el estudio de Milán. El humo del tabaco, el sorbo de whisky, la complicidad con los músicos, la canción a medio terminar. Cabe pensar en esos músicos italianos que lo acompañaron, nunca acreditados, responsables de la poderosa orquestación. No puede olvidarse el nombre de Plinio Chiesa como ingeniero de sonido. El cantautor catalán venía de anunciar que se retiraba, que tomaba distancia con las apabullantes giras y con la agenda a la que lo sometía su mánager Lasso de la Vega. Y esto incluía un primer distanciamiento con su arreglista favorito Ricard Miralles.

Serrat para el reloj vertiginoso, mira el mar desde un hotelito de Calella y alumbra Mediterráneo, entre rojos atardeceres y noches en vela. De ese retiro terminaron por nacer unas canciones antológicas que siguen perdurando. Cincuenta años más tarde, los diez cortes del disco azul de Serrat, grabado tras su disco blanco, lucen con la vigencia del primer día y con la fuerza de las obras atemporales.


Mediterráneo de Joan Manuel Serrat

Quizá porque mi niñez
Sigue jugando en tu playa
Y escondido tras las cañas
Duerme mi primer amor
Llevo tu luz y tu olor
Por dondequiera que vaya
Y amontonado en tu arena
Guardo amor, juegos y penas

Yo, que en la piel tengo el sabor
Amargo del llanto eterno
Que han vertido en ti cien pueblos
De Algeciras a Estambul
Para que pintes de azul
Sus largas noches de invierno
A fuerza de desventuras
Tu alma es profunda y oscura

A tus atardeceres rojos
Se acostumbraron mis ojos
Como el recodo al camino
Soy cantor, soy embustero
Me gusta el juego y el vino
Tengo alma de marinero…

¿Qué le voy a hacer, si yo
Nací en el mediterráneo?
Nací en el mediterráneo

Y te acercas, y te vas
Después de besar mi aldea
Jugando con la marea
Te vas, pensando en volver
Eres como una mujer
Perfumadita de brea
Que se añora y que se quiere
Que se conoce y se teme

Rien à regretter

Edith Piaf: biographie de la Môme de la chanson française

La vie d’Edith Piaf fut brève et intense, le destin la rattrapant toujours lors de brefs instants de bonheur. La «Môme»n’aura jamais su se guérir des blessures de l’enfance et des désillusions de l’amour. Elle a dédié sa vie à son public, sa relation la plus fidèle et la plus sincère. Issue d’une famille d’artistes de rue, Edith Giovanna Gassion naît à Paris dans le quartier de Belleville, le 19 décembre 1915. Son père est contorsionniste dans un cirque itinérant. Sa mère est chanteuse. Edith ne connaît pas l’existence banale d’une enfant et mène une vie déstructurée. Elle fait face à la solitude et aux premières déceptions, lorsque sa mère l’abandonne pour gagner sa vie. Son père, soucieux du bien-être de sa fille, prend la décision de la protéger et la confie à sa grand-mère paternelle, patronne d’une maison close en Normandie, avant de partir au front.

À huit ans, Edith développe une maladie des yeux, la kératite. Elle devient aveugle, mais s’en sort miraculeusement. À la fin de la guerre, Edith et son père repartent sur les routes, où tous deux mènent une vie de Bohème. C’est en l’accompagnant lors de ses spectacles de rue que l’adolescente se découvre un talent pour la chanson. Elle dispose d’une voix unique qui va lui permettre d’atteindre le firmament des stars. À 15 ans, fatiguée de cette vie itinérante, Edith part vivre sa vie. Elle rencontre son premier amour Louis Dupont, qu’elle surnomme affectueusement «P’tit Louis». En 1933, une petite Marcelle naît de leur rencontre. Cependant, le bonheur est de courte durée. À deux ans, Marcelle meurt d’une méningite foudroyante.

Edith Piaf devient «La Môme»

Edith repart dans le Paris dépravé noyer son chagrin. Elle est souvent accompagnée de sa meilleure amie, Simone, dite «Momone». Les deux amies sont inséparables et font les quatre cent coups ensemble. Parallèlement à cette vie de débauche, Edith chante dans les rues de Pigalle et de Belleville où elle commence, grâce à son don, à gagner sa vie. C’est le plus grand des hasards qui met Louis Leplée sur sa route. Gérant du cabaret Le Gerny’s des Champ Élysées, il est le premier homme à lui faire confiance. Il l’engage dans son cabaret et la rebaptise «La Môme Piaf». Comme l’oiseau, Edith, malgré sa petite taille (1m47) dégage une force de caractère inégalable et une voix hors du commun. Elle est très vite repérée par le Paris artistique de l’époque. Jacques Canetti, l’un des producteurs les plus influents du moment, est immédiatement impressionné. Il la signe sur son label Polydor où elle enregistre son premier disque «Les mômes de la cloche».

Cependant, le destin la rattrape une nouvelle fois lorsque Louis Leplée est assassiné. Ce fait divers, relayé dans la presse de l’époque, ternit un temps la carrière d’Edith. Elle ressort profondément meurtrie de cet épisode mais se relève pourtant. Sa rencontre avec Raymond Asso lui redonne de nouveaux espoirs. Amoureux de Piaf, ce dernier insiste pour lui faire écouter «Mon légionnaire» sur une musique de Marguerite Monnot, qui sera l’amie d’Edith jusqu’à la fin de sa vie. Il devient son auteur attitré, son amant et son coach vocal. En  janvier 1937, Edith enregistre «Mon légionnaire». «La Môme» n’est plus, ce sont les premiers débuts d’Edith Piaf.

Premières chansons et premiers succès pour Piaf

À seulement 23 ans, Edith Piaf trouve son premier engagement. Sous les conseils de Raymond Asso, elle est formée pendant des mois pour devenirune grande artiste du Music Hall. Elle fait ses premiers pas sur la scène de l’ABC où elle connaît son premier triomphe. Très vite, elle passe en tête d’affiche à Bobino. Edith devient une star et se tourne vers de nouveaux horizons sans abandonner la chanson. Elle rencontre le comédien Paul Meurisse qui sera son amant pendant deux ans.

En 1944, Piaf est une artiste accomplie. Sa rencontre avec Yves Montandest une nouvelle étape dans sa carrière. Elle le prend sous son aile et fait de lui un artiste. Parallèlement, elle noue une relation amoureuse avec lui. À l’écran, on peut voir le couple dans le film»Etoiles de la lumière». Toute sa vie, la chanteuse ne cessera de mêler ses liaisons à sa vie artistique, aidant ses amants à accéder à la célébrité. Edith révèle également un talent pour l’écriture. A la fin de l’année 1945, elle écrit l’un de ses plus célèbres succès internationaux «La vie en rose».

Edith Piaf, entre musique et films

C’est auprès de Paul Meurisse qu’Edith Piaf a fait ses débuts au théâtre dans «Un bel indifférent», puis au cinéma dans «Montmartre sur scène». Sur ce dernier tournage, elle fait la rencontre de Henri Contet qu’elle prend comme nouveau pygmalion et qui sera un des auteurs majeurs de sa carrière. Son talent pour l’art dramatique lui vaudra de tourner dans une dizaine de films.Pendant l’occupation allemande, Piaf continue à chanter tout en faisant acte de résistance dans des textes aux messages cachés. Après la guerre, Edith Piaf continue d’apparaître sur grand écran, dans plusieurs films où elle joue son propre rôle, notamment dans «Paris chante toujours» de Pierre Montazel en 1952 ou dans «Boum sur Paris» de Maurice de Canonge, en 1954.

Marcel Cerdan, le grand amour d’Edith Piaf

Pourtant, Edith Piaf n’est pas comblée par le succès. Elle pense déjà étendre sa carrière à la conquête de nouveaux territoires. En 1947, elle lance la carrière des Compagnons de la chanson. Ensemble, ils chantent «Les trois cloches» et embarquent pour les États-Unis où ils connaissent un succès relatif. Pourtant, elle s’installe dans un cabaret huppé de Manhattan. Elle conquiert peu à peu le cœur des Américains. C’est d’ailleurs aux Etats-Unis que Piaf fera ses plus belles rencontres. Elle croise le chemin de Marlene Dietrich qui restera l’une de ses plus fidèles amies et de Marcel Cerdan, l’amour de sa vie. 

Le boxeur français est marié, mais la passion qu’il vit avec Edith n’a pas d’égal. Ce couple restera l’un des plus magiques et des plus tragiques du XXème siècle.Marcel Cerdan meurt dans un accident d’avion, le 27 octobre 1949,alors qu’il venait rejoindre Edith, à New York. La môme ne se remettra jamais de ce nouveau coup du destin. Elle surmonte l’épreuve dès le lendemain en montant sur scène et livre une interprétation poignante de «L’hymne à l’amour», qu’elle dédie à son amour perdu. Mais c’est une femme brisée par le chagrin qui naît ce soir là et le désespoir, mué en dépressions chroniques, ne la quittera plus jamais. 

Edith Piaf et l’incontournable titre «La foule»

Dès 1950, Piaf refait surface et chante à la salle Pleyel. Elle fait également bientôt la rencontre de Charles Aznavour. Ce dernier multiplie les casquettes. Il est son chauffeur, son secrétaire, mais aussi son confident. Il lui écrit quelques titres dont l’adaptation française de «Jezebel» et «Plus bleu que tes yeux». Piaf est encore une fois à l’origine d’une carrière prometteuse. En 1951, une nouvelle épreuve attend la chanteuse. Elle subit deux accidents de voitureet en ressort fragilisée. Elle est contrainte d’apaiser ses douleurs par dela morphine, qu’elle mélange avec de l’alcool. Cette consommation devient une dépendance et l’anéantira physiquement.

La fin de la vie d’Edith Piaf est à l’image de sa destinée, entre succès professionnels et désespoirs sentimentaux. Edith poursuit son rêve de princesse en épousant Jacques Pills, un chanteur français, mais le mariage, célébré à New York, sera de courte durée. En 1953, Edith Piaf commence à se reprendre en main et subit sa première cure de désintoxication. L’entourage cache l’état de la grande dame à la presse. La chanteuse reste même des mois sans sortir de chez elle.

C’est grâce au métier qu’Edith revient à la vie, notamment lors de sa rencontre avec son public à l’Olympia en 1955. Elle repart à l’assaut des États-Unis, jusqu’à la mythique salle du Carnegie Hall de New York, où elle est accueillie avec émotion. En 1957, elle fait une ultime cure de désintoxicationà New York qui la débarrasse de ses vieux démons. La même année, Edith Piaf signe l’un de ses plus grands tubes, «La foule», inspiré de «Que nadie sepa mi sufrir», un morceau d’Enrique Dizeo qu’elle avait rencontré lors de sa tournée en Argentine.

Edith Piaf et la naissance de «Milord»

Jusqu’à la fin de sa vie, Piaf sera professionnellement comblée. Elle vivra pour son public quitte à s’épuiser sur scène. À partir de ce moment, elle se fera plus discrète. C’est à ce moment-là que Georges Moustaki entre dans la vie d’Edith Piaf. Il lui fait écouter quelques unes de ses compositions mais, déstabilisé, joue de manière lamentable. Piaf persévère en lui proposant de venir la voir lors du récital qu’elle joue le soir même. Ils seront amants pendant plus d’un an et vivront une passion tumultueuse. Le parolier lui écrira plusieurs titres de son répertoire dont le célèbre «Milord», parue en 1959, sur une musique de Marguerite Monnot. Il quitte cependant Piaf peu après un accident de voiture qu’ils ont ensemble en 1958, qui la fragilise et qui aggrave les problèmes de santé de la chanteuse et sa dépendance à la morphine.

En 1963, la mort d’Edith Piaf

En 1961, elle revient néanmoins sur scène pour sauver la célèbre salle parisienne, l’Olympia, de la faillite. Elle y livre son dernier testament «Non, je ne regrette rien» et, épuisée, s’écroulera sur scène à de multiples reprises. À l’été 1961, elle rencontre le dernier homme de sa vie, Théo Sarapo, un jeune chanteur grec de 26 ans. Elle l’épouse l’année suivante. Edith Piaf décède le 10 octobre 1963 dans sa résidence du sud.Elle n’a que 47 ans, mais les excès et les souffrances de la vie lui en donnent 20 de plus. Toute son existence, Piaf aura vécu pour les autres, pour son public, pour ses amants. Une vie jonchée de tragédie, pour un nom qui restera à jamais gravé dans la musique française.


Edith Piaf, une vie pas toujours rose

Jusqu’à sa mort inattendue en 1963, Edith Piaf enchaîne les chansons à succès et s’affirme comme une icône de la scène française. Cette image la suit et la propulse au statut de légende voire mythe.

Encore aujourd’hui, ses chansons sont murmurées entre les générations, chantées à tue-tête dans les soirées, ou même utilisées comme référence au cinéma.

Enfance et mensonges

Édith Giovanna Gassion, plus connue sous le nom d’Édith Piaf, est née le 19 décembre 1915 à Paris. Au 72, rue de Belleville, dans le 20e arrondissement de Paris, lieu où elle serait née, se trouve une plaque apposée au mur en 1966. Très vite, une légende autour de sa naissance se crée. Édith Piaf aurait été «abandonnée à deux mois par sa mère, enlevée par une de ses grand-mères, frappée de cécité puis miraculeusement guérie…», explique au Point Robert Belleret, auteur de la biographie Piaf, un mythe français.

Le journaliste retrace dans son oeuvre, documents officiels à l’appui, la véritable enfance de la chanteuse. «À deux ans, elle vit dans le bordel que tient sa grand-mère paternelle. Elle fréquente très peu l’école : elle a une intelligence extrêmement vive, mais pas de culture.» Bien qu’elle n’ait jamais été aveugle, elle avait néanmoins «des problèmes aux yeux».

Elle a su entretenir son mythe et développer le mystère. Elle ne parlera jamais de son père «contorsionniste» et «il faut le dire, sale type». Elle taira aussi le reste de «sa famille où tout le monde, oncles, tantes, cousins, cousines, est acrobate, artiste, saltimbanque».

C’est pourtant en accompagnant son père sur la route des spectacles, qu’elle découvre son talent et sa passion pour le chant. Ces mystères, voire ces quelques mensonges, ont continué à l’âge adulte, pendant l’Occupation.

«Elle aurait pu se contenter de dire qu’elle avait été obligée d’aller chanter en Allemagne, qu’il s’agissait pour elle d’apporter un peu de réconfort aux prisonniers français. Mais non ! Elle invente un énorme canular en faisant croire que plus de 100 prisonniers se sont évadés grâce à elle – prisonniers dont on n’a évidemment pas trace, et qui ne se sont jamais manifestés», raconte Robert Belleret.

«La Môme Piaf» avant Édith

Dans les années 1930, Édith Piaf quitte sa vie itinérante pour se lancer dans une carrière solo à l’âge de 15 ans. Elle commence par chanter dans les rues, toujours accompagnée de sa meilleure amie Simone Berteaut, dit «Momone». Elle se produit dans les rues de Pigalle et de Belleville. 

Puis, par hasard, elle rencontre le gérant d’un cabaret. Louis Leplée, directeur de Le Gerny’s des Champ Élysées, l’engage et la rebaptise. Son premier nom de scène est «La Môme Piaf». Sa voix transperce l’univers artistique de Paris, elle commence à se faire un nom et être repéré ici et là.

Jacques Canetti, un producteur très réputé à l’époque, est envouté par sa voix. Après l’avoir fait signer dans son label Polydor, Édith Piaf enregistre son premier disque en 1936, Les mômes de la cloche.

Mais tout bascule lorsque Louis Leplée est assassiné. Les soupçons pèsent sur les artistes qui ont travaillé avec lui. Fautes de preuves, l’affaire est classée. Mais Édith Piaf et sa carrière sont entachées par cette histoire.

Elle se relève en faisant la connaissance de Raymond Asso. Il devient son auteur attitré, ainsi que son amant. Début 1937, elle enregistre Mon Légionnaire. Un titre qui marque le début de sa carrière en tant qu’Édith Piaf, et non plus la Môme.


Chanteuse et actrice internationale

Elle se produit sur scène, ses chansons passent à la radio, elle connait un véritable triomphe. Elle s’essaye aussi au cinéma et rencontre finalement Yves Montand. L’actrice en tombe amoureuse alors qu’elle joue à ses côtés dans Étoile sans lumière (1946). Elle le prend sous son aile et le propulse sur le devant de la scène.

Elle a fait ses débuts au cinéma dans le film Montmartre sur Seine, sorti en 1941. Cet autre talent lui vaudra de tourner dans une dizaine de films.  Après la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, on la retrouve aussi au cinéma interprétant son propre rôle. C’est notamment le cas dans Paris chante toujours de Pierre Montazel en 1952 ou dans Boum sur Paris de Maurice de Canonge, en 1954.

En parallèle de ses nombreuses casquettes, Édith Piaf se met aussi à composer. Fin 1945, elle écrit ce qui sera l’un de ses plus grand succès international, La Vie en Rose.

Elle connaît également un léger succès aux États-Unis grâce au groupe les Compagnons de la chanson, qu’elle lance dans les années 1940. E,, 1947, ils chantent Les trois cloches, et se retrouvent en tournée à New York. Prévu pour une semaine, les Compagnons de la chanson restent quatre mois à l’affiche.

C’est à cette période qu’elle fera ses plus belles rencontres, sa fidèle amie Marlene Dietrich et l’amour de sa vie, Marcel Cerdan. De cette histoire d’amour naît l’iconique chanson Hymne à l’amour. 

Edith Piaf et Marcel Cerdan

Toute sa vie, la chanteuse a mêlé sa vie privée et sa vie professionnelle, sa vie d’artiste et sa vie amoureuse, aidant certains de ses amants à accéder à la célébrité. La chanteuse a aussi vécu une succession de drames personnels.

De sa première histoire d’amour avec Louis Dupont, qu’elle surnomme «Ptit Louis», naît une petite fille en 1933. Mais à seulement deux ans, Marcelle meurt d’une méningite foudroyante. 

Au cours de sa vie de parisienne et de chanteuse, Édith Piaf aura plusieurs amants comme Raymond Asso mais aussi Yves Montand et Georges Moustaki. Mais c’est à New York qu’elle rencontre l’homme qui a marqué sa vie, Marcel Cerdan.

Le français est un boxer, et surtout déjà marié. Ce qui ne les empêche pas de vivre une histoire passionnelle et magique, mais aussi dramatique. Les deux amants se rencontrent un soir d’été en 1946,  dans un restaurant parisien. Leur relation débute en octobre1947, mais prend brutalement fin quelques mois plus tard. Le 27 octobre 1949, Marcel Cerdan meurt dans un accident d’avion, alors qu’il venait la rejoindre à New York.

Très marquée par cette perte, elle aura du mal à s’en remettre. Elle est mariée à Jacques Pills, un chanteur français, entre 1952 et 1956.

À la fin de sa vie, Édith Piaf rencontre Théo Sarapo. Elle épouse le jeune chanteur grec, de 20 ans son cadet, en 1962.

La mort d’une icône

Les dernières années de sa vie, Edith Piaf est rongée par la dépression, l’alcool et sa dépendance à la morphine. Elle fait ses premiers adieux sur scène au Carnegie Hall (New York) puis en 1961 à l’Olympia (Paris). Elle y chante son très connu tire Non je ne regrette rien.

Avec son second mari, Théo Sarapo, elle part vivre dans le Sud de la France, d’abord à Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, puis dans le quartier de Plascassier, à Grasse. Elle donne son dernier concert, très affaiblie, à Lille en mars 1963, quelques mois avant sa mort.

Édit Piaf décède le 10 octobre 1963, à la suite d’une rupture d’anévrisme. Comme elle souhaitait être enterrée à Paris, son corps a été transportée illégalement de Grasse vers la capitale, sans la nuit du 10 au 11 octobre. Le lendemain, un médecin vient à son domicile parisien pour constater le décès. Dans l’annonce officielle publiée à cette époque, Édith Piaf serait morte le 11 octobre à 7h du matin.

Ses obsèques ont lieu le 14 octobre. La veille, 100 000 personnes seraient venues se recueillir devant son domicile. Malgré une courte vie, l’univers musical lui doit des titres intemporels ainsi que la découverte de nombreux artistes comme Charles Aznavour, Yves Montand ou encore Georges Moustaki.

En 2007, Olivier Dahan réalise un film autobiographique sur la chanteuse, intitulé La Môme. C’est Marion Cotillard qui a la lourde tâche d’interpréter l’icône française. Pour ce rôle, elle remporte l’Oscar de la Meilleure actrice. Le film remporte aussi quatre BAFTA, cinq César et un Golden Globe.

Aujourd’hui, de plus en plus de voix s’élèvent pour faire entrer Édith Piaf au Panthéon. Après Simone Veil et Joséphine Baker, sera-t-elle la prochaine femme à y reposer, au côté des 75 hommes et 6 femmes.


Édith Piaf : l’histoire de la chanson mythique «Non, je ne regrette rien»

Ce n’est pas dans une salle de spectacle mais à la télévision que les Français ont entendu pour la première fois Edith Piaf chanter : Non, je ne regrette rienLe 2 décembre 1960, en exclusivité pour l’émission Cinq colonnes à la une, elle apparaît petite et frêle dans son éternelle robe noire. Dès qu’elle entonne le premier couplet, l’artiste est métamorphosée, comme transcendée. «Quand je chante, expliqua-t-elle alors, je ne m’appartiens plus. Je ne suis plus là. C’est un état second». 

Un coup de foudre musical

Cette chanson, l’artiste l’a enregistrée trois semaines auparavant le 10 novembre 1960 après un réel coup de foudre artistique. «Quand Michel Vaucaire (le parolier) et Charles Dumont (le compositeur) m’ont apporté la première fois Non, je ne regrette rien, ça a été comme une sorte de révélation en moi, c’est-à-dire que j’ai senti qu’il fallait que j’efface tout, que je recommence tout, que je me renouvelle tout à fait», confiait-elle. Charles Dumont avait alors 31 ans et ne croyait guère en ses chances, Édith Piaf lui ayant déjà refusé plusieurs titres. «J’étais dans de graves difficultés financières. J’ai écrit cette chanson dans la colère«, racontait-il en 2013. C’est le parolier Michel Vaucaire, l’époux de la chanteuse Cora Vaucaire, qui insistera pour présenter cette chanson à Edith Piaf.

La chanson de la renaissance

Rendez-vous est pris le 20 octobre 1960. La secrétaire d’Edith Piaf appelle pour annuler, la chanteuse ne se sentant pas bien, mais les deux hommes ne reçoivent pas le message et se présentent à 17 heures à l’adresse de Piaf, 67 boulevard Lannes à Paris. La secrétaire s’apprête à les éconduire quand ils entendent la voix de Piaf crier : «Fais-les entrer puisqu’ils sont là.»  Elle les accueille en robe de chambre, chaussons aux pieds. Charles Dumont se met au piano et joue. Elle lui demande alors de recommencer, une fois, deux fois, trois fois… Le musicien se souvient : «A la suite de la troisième fois, elle m’a dit : ‘Ecoutez jeune homme, vous cassez pas la tête, ne vous faites plus de mauvais sang. Cette chanson, elle vous suivra toute votre vie, ce sera un succès mondial et grâce à elle, je vais faire ma rentrée à l’Olympia‘».  Il explique aussi qu’elle avait une méthode très particulière: «Quand une chanson lui plaisait, elle la faisait écouter à tous ses amis. J’ai vu défiler tout le monde. J’ai commencé à cinq heures jusqu’à deux heures du matin (…) Je rentre me coucher, le téléphone sonne et elle me dit : ‘Vous pouvez pas revenir me jouer la chanson?’ Je me suis relevé et je suis revenu boulevard Lannes !».

Un retour sur scène triomphal 

Victime de graves problèmes de santé et d’addictions, la chanteuse avait quitté la scène un an auparavant, exténuée. Avec Non, je ne regrette rien, elle fait son grand retour et sauve l’Olympia, alors au bord de la faillite. Le 29 décembre 1960, le Tout-Paris s’y presse, ravi de la retrouver. Le journaliste et écrivain Jacques Pessis raconte : «Elle entre sur scène, avance vers le micro et il va y avoir 16 minutes d’applaudissements debout. Du jamais vu dans l’histoire du music-hall». Edith Piaf chante les nouveaux titres composés pour elle par Charles Dumont parmi lesquels Non, je ne regrette rien et fait un triomphe. Pour Jacques Pessis, «Piaf avait le sens des chansons, des paroles et des musiques qui touchaient le public parce qu’elle est née dans la rue, elle y a grandi. Elle a tout de suite compris que dans cette chanson, il y avait une idée, une mélodie qu’elle pouvait chanter. C’est pour ça qu’elle se l’est totalement appropriée». Elle restera en tête du hit-parade de l’époque, la bourse aux vedettes, pendant 48 semaines. C’est l’une des chansons d’Edith Piaf les plus connues dans le monde avec La vie en rose. 

L’hymne de la Légion 

On a parfois dit et écrit que la môme Piaf avait dédié Non, je ne regrette rien à la Légion Etrangère. Le journaliste Jacques Pessis veut rectifier : «C’est la Légion qui s’est emparée de cette chanson pour en faire un hymne parce qu’elle correspondait à ce que pensent les soldats, ils ne regrettent jamais rien dans les combats.» 

On ne compte plus le nombre d’artistes qui ont un jour repris cette chanson mythique : Dalida, Johnny Halliday, Mireille Mathieu, Nicolas Peyrac, Patricia Kaas, Tina Arena… et, bien-sûr, Charles Dumont !

La môme Piaf la chantera jusqu’à la fin de sa vie en 1963. Et Jacques Pessis de conclure : «Piaf n’a jamais rien regretté et surtout pas son retour à la scène en 1960 alors que tout le monde pensait qu’elle ne pourrait pas sortir de son lit. Grâce aux trois ans qui ont suivi sur scène, elle a prolongé sa vie, elle ne vivait que pour la scène.»

La chanteuse s’éteindra le 10 octobre 1963, à l’âge de 47 ans. 


Édith Piaf, non, elle n’a rien regretté

Composée en 1956, Non, je ne regrette rien est une chanson dont les paroles sont signées Michel Vaucaire et la musique Charles Dumont. Elle a été enregistrée pour la première fois par Édith Piaf le 10 novembre 1960. À l’époque, Piaf souffrait déjà de polyarthrite. Entre crises de nerfs, colères terribles et souffrances innommables, l’artiste de Belleville – surnommée la môme par Louis Leplée, gérant d’un cabaret sur les Champs-Élysées, qui l’avait repérée dans la rue) – avait perdu le goût de vivre… et de chanter. Sa vie avait été jalonnée de misère et de drames personnels (décès de sa fille Marcelle, accident de voiture, mort de son amant Marcel Cerdan…).Mais également de succès et de bonheurs.

Dans cette chanson qui lui tombait comme un gant, l’interprète se souvient de son passé, du bien comme du mal, et affirme, en faisant table rase de tout et en s’octroyant un nouveau départ, «car ma vie, car mes joies, aujourd’hui, ça commence avec toi». Ce «toi» était déjà ou allait être Théo Lamboukas, le dernier homme de sa vie qu’elle surnommera Théo Sarapo («je t’aime» en grec).

Charles Dumont, son compositeur le plus célèbre et à qui elle doit ce tube, dira que Piaf était «une artiste unique, une voix et une présence scénique sans égales mais, au quotidien, elle n’était pas une extraterrestre, juste un être humain avec ses bons et ses mauvais jours. Elle n’était pas facile, mais je n’ai jamais connu un être exceptionnel qui soit facile.»
D’ailleurs Dumont raconte comment, ce 5 octobre 1960, alors jeune compositeur âgé de 31 ans, il s’est décidé à lui présenter une de ses nouvelles compositions. Comme Piaf lui a déjà refusé deux de ses chansons, c’est à contrecœur qu’il arrive à son domicile. Très fatiguée et malade, Édith Piaf accepte de le recevoir, ainsi que Michel Vaucaire qui a écrit les paroles. Charles Dumont se met au piano et joue une première fois Non, je ne regrette rien.

Mais reprenons le récit de Charles Dumont pour comprendre ce tube éternel et magique.
«Sur un ton peu aimable, Piaf me demande de recommencer. À la deuxième écoute, elle m’interroge le plus sérieusement du monde :
– «C’est vraiment vous qui avez écrit cette chanson ?»
– Oui, oui madame, répond Charles Dumont, furieux.
– «Vous ne voulez pas me la rejouer une troisième fois?»
La troisième fois, elle a changé d’attitude dans les trois minutes que dure la chanson. Elle me regardait d’une autre manière. Elle a changé de ton et elle m’a dit : «Ne vous faites plus de souci, jeune homme, cette chanson va faire le tour du monde et c’est avec elle que je commencerai mon prochain tour de chant».»

Non, je ne regrette rien a donné à Édith Piaf la force de remonter sur scène. L’icône légendaire va la chanter pour la première fois le 29 décembre 1960, en ouverture de son récital à l’Olympia. Ce soir-là, il y aura 22 rappels.
Pour cette battante qui vivait ses chansons et pour la chanson, ce tube sera «à l’origine de sa résurrection au début des années 60 et du sauvetage de l’Olympia».


Non, je ne regrette rien – Édith Piaf

Avec mes souvenirs
J’ai allumé le feu
Mes chagrins, mes plaisirs
Je n’ai plus besoin d’eux
Balayé les amours
Avec leurs trémolos
Balayé pour toujours
Je repars à zéro

Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu’on m’a fait
Ni le mal
Tout ça m’est bien égal
Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
C’est payé, balayé, oublié
Je me fous du passé

Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu’on m’a fait
Ni le mal
Tout ça m’est bien égal
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Despertar entre Cádiz y Málaga

La Sierra de Cádiz: entre castillos árabes y pueblos blancos

El sueño de Washington Irving, el autor estadounidense que en el siglo XIX idealizó una Andalucía secreta y romántica en sus Cuentos de la Alhambra, se materializa en una comarca que parece haberse detenido en el tiempo: la de la Sierra de Cádiz. Situada al norte de la provincia que lleva su nombre, comprende una franja horizontal que arranca en Arcos de la Frontera, acoge el Parque Natural de Grazalema y se prolonga hacia el este para limitar, casi sin darnos cuenta con la serranía de Ronda, ya en la provincia de Málaga.

Asimismo, la región acoge un entorno natural con un altísimo valor ecológico. La sierra de Grazalema es conocida por su variedad botánica, en especial por ser el reino de una especie de abeto endémico: el pinsapo.

Desde este lugar es sencillo comenzar la famosa Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos. Una escapada a esta comarca se puede plantear, en definitiva, como ruta “panorámica” en coche a través de sus pueblos encalados y de aroma arabesco, sin renunciar a conocer su encanto natural a pie, a través de los múltiples itinerarios que por derecho propio forman parte de las mejores caminos de senderismo de Cádiz.

Pueblos de la Sierra de Cádiz. Qué ver en una escapada

Los pueblos de comarca de la Sierra de Cádiz tienen un denominador común: un pasado fronterizo entre el mundo cristiano y el musulmán, de ahí que muchos de sus nombres acaban con la coletilla “de la Frontera”. El contexto en el que surgieron, por tanto, también ha terminado por configurar la estampa que ahora nos resulta encantadora: localidades fortificadas enclavadas sobre un monte y con casas encaladas según la tradición morisca. La Sierra de Cádiz se compone de 19 pueblos, todos con este aroma pintoresco.

Arcos de la Frontera

Con casi 31.000 habitantes, Arcos de la Frontera es la localidad más relevante de la zona. Situado sobre un escarpado barranco sobre el río Guadalete, la leyenda asegura que un hijo de Noé lo fundó, aunque lo más probable es que su origen sea íbero. En época árabe, Arcos se configuró tal y como nos ha llegado, con sus callejones blancos y laberínticos, que ascienden hasta el castillo.

El corazón de esta localidad lo constituye la plaza del Cabildo. Esta plaza lleva al mirador de la Peña Nueva, desde donde se contempla una impresionante estampa de la cuenca del Guadalete que, si se presencia especialmente al atardecer, llega a sobrecoger. En la plaza del Cabildo se encuentra un castillo árabe del siglo XI que fue reconstruido por los cristianos tras la Reconquista. En un lado está la iglesia de Santa María de la Asunción, cuyo edificio original data del siglo XIII, construido sobre una mezquita árabe, y del que se suceden varios estilos como el gótico tardío, el mudéjar o el neoclásico.

El Bosque

A escasos 27 kilómetros al este de Arcos se sitúa la localidad de El Bosque. Con unos 2.100 habitantes, se trata de la puerta de entrada al Parque Natural de la Sierra de Grazalema. El blanco de sus calles contrasta ahora más si cabe con la frondosidad del entorno. Situado en una pequeña vaguada en el centro de un gran bosque de pinos, también pueden verse encinas, álamos y quejigos. El pueblo es atravesado por el río Majaceite, donde se pescan truchas, especialidad gastronómica de la zona.


Ya en plena sierra de Grazalema aparece enclavado en el fondo de un valle un pueblo que tal vez se sienta antes por el olor que por su visión. Dicho aroma no es otro que el del cuero. De fama internacional por los productos realizados con este material, por todas las calles del centro de Ubrique aparecen talleres y tiendas donde se venden bolsos y zapatos de enorme calidad. Pueblo de gran belleza y enorme tranquilidad, también es conocido por ser la cuna del torero ya retirado Jesulín de Ubrique.


Situado en el centro del Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema, este pueblo de tan solo 2.000 habitantes es uno de los más idílicos de la zona. Enamora con sus casas impecablemente encaladas, sus tejados árabes y las ventanas enrejadas con hierro forjado, que en primavera se decoran con todos los colores que ofrecen las flores que cuelgan de ellas.

Con una industria textil que otrora llenó de riquezas al pueblo, Grazalema es la localidad con mayor índice de lluvias de España. Este aspecto condiciona la estructura del pueblo, desde el empedrado de sus calles, concebido para que discurran sin problemas las precipitaciones, los portones de las casas, las techumbres de teja o las farolas. Todos estos elementos hacen único este lugar del que parten algunas de las mejores rutas senderistas de la zona.

Zahara de la Sierra y Olvera

Tal vez el tramo más espectacular de un recorrido en coche (o en bicicleta) por la comarca de la Sierra de Cádiz sea el que conecta Grazalema con Zahara de la Sierra. La escarpada carretera pasa por el puerto de las Palomas, situado a 1.331 metros de altitud y lleno de impresionantes curvas.

Igualmente impresionante es el aspecto agreste que ofrece Zahara, rodeando una vertiginosa hendidura a los pies de la sierra. Declarada Conjunto Histórico-Artístico en 1983, esta villa concentra lo mejor de un típico pueblo blanco. Sus rincones con altas palmeras invitan a la exploración, como la ascensión a la torre del Homenaje del castillo del siglo XII. Dicho castillo fue tomado por los nazaríes en 1481 en un ataque nocturno que provocó que los Reyes Católicos lanzaran la última fase de la conquista de Granada.

Abandonando por el noreste el Parque Natural de Grazalema, nos topamos con Olvera, antiguo refugio de bandoleros y hoy localidad pujante por el auge de sus cooperativas agrícolas, especialmente de aceite. De esta localidad parte una vía verde muy frecuentada por los cicloturistas.

Setenil de las Bodegas, integrado en la montaña

Setenil de Bodegas, englobada dentro de la Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos gaditanos es tan genuina que se distingue fácilmente del conjunto de villas blancas de la Sierra de Cádiz. Su singularidad radica en que está integrada en la roca, sus casas a veces sobresalen del corazón de piedra de la colina, otras se introducen en lo más profundo, e, incluso, se encaraman sobre ella. Recorrer esta población es realizar un ejercicio constante debido a unos desniveles y escaleras que van regalando bonitas perspectivas de la población.

Las dos calles más conocidas e inmortalizadas por los viajeros que acuden a Setenil son la de Cuevas de Sol (la razón de su nombre es obvia, recibe mucha luz del astro) y Cuevas de la Sombra. No te conformes con hacer la foto, siéntate en alguna terraza y disfruta del ambiente, y de las tapas del pueblo, antes de seguir caminando por el núcleo urbano.

En tu recorrido hallarás algunos hitos a los que merece la pena prestar atención, como el aljibe y la torre del Homenaje que pertenece a una antigua fortaleza medieval del siglo XII –y a la que se puede subir para admirar las vistas de la sierra–. Igual de curiosa es la casa Consistorial, que es del siglo XVI y tiene un bellísimo artesonado mudéjar; y la casa de la Damita de Setenil, donde se exhibe una Venus con más de 5.000 años que certifica la larga vida de las cuevas. En exponentes religiosos no se pueden dejar de mencionar la iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación y las ermitas de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, y de San Sebastián.

Nuestra recomendación es que no persigas monumentos sino que te dejes llevar por la intuición hasta llegar a calles tan bonitas como Jabonería y Cabrerizas, que te regalarán rincones muy auténticos.

Senderos de la Sierra de Cádiz

Desde el punto de vista ecológico, la zona de la Sierra de Cádiz, en particular el Parque Natural de Grazalema, tiene dos peculiaridades: se trata del lugar de la Península con mayor régimen de lluvias y crece el famoso pinsapo, un precioso árbol de la familia de los pinos que no aparece en ningún otro lugar peninsular. Estos dos motivos son más que suficientes para hacer algunas de las rutas senderistas.

Para visitar los bellos caminos de la zona, en especial el Pinsapar, se requiere de un permiso que se puede obtener gratis en el centro de visitantes de El Bosque, y pedirlo al menos con una semana de antelación en temporada alta.

Ruta del Pinsapar

Se trata de una de las rutas más conocidas. El recorrido de 14 kilómetros va de Grazalema a Benamahoma y se invierten unas seis horas en realizarse. El inicio de esta pista está señalado junto a la carretera CA531, a unos 40 minutos a pie desde Grazalema.

Ruta de El Torreón

Con 1.654 metros de alto, el Torreón es el pico más alto de Cádiz. La ruta más habitual para coronarlo es comenzar desde una senda que arranca a 100 metros al este del mojón del kilómetro 40 de la carretera entre Grazalema (a unos 8 kilómetros de esta localidad) y Benamahoma. Tras 2,5 horas de caminata se alcanza cumbre. En un día despejado se puede alcanzar a ver Gibraltar, Sierra Nevada e incluso las montañas del Rif de Marruecos.

Sendero Salto del Cabrero

Fuera del Parque Natural la ruta tal vez más destacada sea el sendero Salto del Cabrero. Discurre entre Grazalema y Benaocaz, por la vía del Boyar y a través de la parte oeste de la sierra del Endrinal. Se emplean unas cinco horas en una ruta que arranca en el sendero los Charcones, en la parte alta del pueblo de Grazalema hacia el puerto del Boyar. Desde ahí ya se toma el sendero del Cabrero, que discurre cuesta abajo. Durante este camino hasta Benaocaz hay que estar atento por si se localiza alguna orquídea salvaje de la zona, en cuyo caso lo mejor es inmortalizar el momento con una buena foto y dejar a la planta en su entorno.

Actividades deportivas y turismo activo en la sierra de Cádiz

La sierra de Cádiz, con sus montes moteados de pueblecitos blancos, también brindan al amante del deporte y la aventura un buen número de actividades emocionantes. Lo idóneo es realizarlas con agencias que tengan personal especializado para evitar situaciones peligrosas. No es un entorno montañoso muy conocido en el mundo activo a nivel nacional pero te sorprenderá conocer la cantidad de deportes que permite realizar.

Uno de nuestros deportes favoritos es el barranquismo, que se puede practicar en lugares como la Garganta Verde, en Zahara de la Sierra. Quienes prefieran las vías ferratas no quedarán decepcionados después de hacer la de Benaoján (ya en territorio malagueño). Y los aficionados a la espeleología disfrutarán en las grutas de Villaluenga del Rosario, Benaocaz, Zahara de la Sierra y Grazalema. En esta sierra, una de las cavidades más conocidas y accesibles es la ‘cueva del Susto’.

Aunque, a priori, puede sorprender la práctica de kayak entre montañas, tiene fácil explicación ya que hay lugares como el pantano de Zahara de la Sierra, el pantano de Grazalema o el embalse de los Hurones que se prestan a ello. Y la perspectiva desde el agua es absolutamente impresionante.

Para ver la sierra desde las alturas, nada mejor que el parapente, tanto si eres un experto como si quieres iniciarte haciendo un vuelo en biplaza, tu lugar es el pueblo de Algodonales donde encontrarás unas excelentes condiciones para volar.

Para los viajeros más tranquilos y que les guste admirar el paisaje con calma les recomendamos una ruta senderista por el Pinsapar, entre un sorprendente bosque de pinsapos. Y a quien le guste montar en bicicleta que se anime a recorrer los parques naturales de los Alcornocales o de la sierra de Grazalema, y la vía verde de la Sierra desde Puerto Serrano a Olvera.

Por último, una actividad muy divertida con la que complementar tu viaje a la Sierra de Cádiz es el paintball. Es un juego que requiere de ciertas habilidades y que está en auge. Lo puedes practicar en Olvera, El Bosque y Villaluenga del Rosario.


19 Pueblos Blancos de Cádiz

ajo el potente sol andaluz, los pueblos blancos se esparcen por la geografía el sur de España. Las calles empinadas, angostas, de muros encalados y rebosantes de flores parecen una postal. Esa es la realidad que te deslumbra a poco de adentrarte en Andalucía.

Tanto en la costa como en el interior, estos pueblos blancos hacen gala de la herencia árabe que ayudó a forjarlos. A veces como enclave productivo, otras veces como cruce de caminos o a partir de atalayas defensivas. En otras ocasiones, nacidos sobre restos más antiguos o en siglos más cercanos pero siguiendo las líneas heredadas. Siempre el blanco bajo el sol.

Alcalá del Valle

Enclavada en un valle entre Málaga y Cádiz, conserva la arquitectura popular que ofrece un claro testimonio de su origen árabe, con sus calles de casas encaladas y de balcones repletos de flores. La villa actual fue fundada en el siglo XV por los musulmanes residentes en Setenil de las Bodegas.

En tu visita debes ver los Dólmenes del Tomillo, conjunto megalítico con un menhir único en la provincia, en medio de un hermoso entorno. Otros puntos a visitar es la iglesia barroca de Santa María del Valle, el Cortijo de la Cacería (del siglo XVI) y la ermita del Cristo de la Misericordia. Y no puede dejarlo sin probar el agua fresca de la Fuente Grande.


Situada entre los parques naturales de la Sierra de Grazalema y Los Alcornocales, ha sido poblada desde el Neolítico como lo demuestra el yacimiento arqueológico de la Cueva de la Dehesilla.

Gracias a su emplazamiento es ideal para tomarla como punto de parida para actividades de ocio al aire libre: senderismo por el Tajo del Ágila, pesca en el río Majaceite o el piragüismoo en el Embalce de Guadalcacín II.

en esta pequeña población se encuentran varios de los talleres donde se producen las piezas más finas para las grandes marcas como Chanel, Vuitton o Tous. Puedes visitarlos (pregunta por el taller Rovi) y llevarte a casa una buena pieza por mucho menor dinero (sin logotipo, claro).

A la sobra de la Sierra de Lijar se encuentra este encantador pueblo blanco con calles bordeadas de naranjos. Sus 12 fuentes aseguran el murmullo y el frescor del agua.


A los yacimientos prehistóricos de Cueva Santa, Chamusquina Castillejo y el Cerro de la Botinera, se suman monumentos como la Iglesia de Santa Ana de estilo barroco tardío. A corta distancia se encuentra la pedanía de La Muela desde donde se puede ascender a la Sierra de Lijar para observar el vuelo de los buitres leonados.

Un detalle para los amantes del vértigo: en Algodonales hay varias empresas que se dedican a los deportes aéreos.

Arcos de la Frontera

Puerta de entrada a la Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos, Arcos está considerado uno de los pueblos más bonitos de España. Existen huellas de sus primeros pobladores prehistóricos y romanos en el yacimiento de la Sierra de Aznar, pero la ciudad rezuma herencia musulmana.

Estrechísimas y empinadas calles, antiguos arcos, nos llevan al casco antiguo declarado Conjunto Histórico. Se conservan allí joyas monumentales como el Castillo de los Duques (del siglo XV), la Puerta de Matrera (siglos X a XIV) y los restos del recinto amurallado, sus palacios y casas señoriales, así como la Basílica de Santa María, y numerosos conventos y templos.


Otro pueblo que ha sido distinguido como Conjutno Histórico por la belleza de su casco de estrechas y laberínticas callejuelas, especialmente en el Barrio Nazarí.

Se conserva el empedrado antiguo, muchas casas populares centenarias donde abundan las flores. Y también, casas señoriales dieciochescas de amplio portones y frescos patios.

Aunque su fundación fue árabe, hay numerosos restos prehistóricos en la zona como la Sima de la Veredilla y las Cuevas de la Manga.



Ubicado a orillas del lago junto al que ha crecido desde hace más de 30.000 años, Bornos está declarado Conjunto Histórico. Aquí vivero iberos y romanos, y sete paso se observa en los restos del yacimiento de Carissa Aurelia a escasos kilometros del centro del pueblo.

Aquí debemos visitar su castillo, las casas señoriales de la Cilla (s. XVII-XVIII) y de los Ordóñez (s.XVIII) y el Colegio y Hospital de la Sangre, así como la iglesia de Santo Domingo Guzmán, el convento del Corpus Christi y el monasterio de los Jerónimos, ambos del siglo XVI.

El Bosque

En plena Sierra de Albarracín, junto al río Majaceite, entre valles, se encuentra el retiro señorial de los Duques de Arcos de la Frontera. El Bosque es ejemplo de calles blancas salpicas de fuentes y flores.

En cuanto a su arquitectura destacamos la iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, el palacio Ducal, la ermita del Calvario y la plaza de toros. Visitas especiales son la del Jardín botánico «El Castillejo» con ejemplares reptesentantes de los principales ecosistemas de la Sierra de Grazalema y a las ruinas del castillo de Tavizna, a sólo 5 kilómetros del pueblo.

El Bosque está enclavado entre frondosos bosques de una comarca atravesada por manantiales de aguas con propiedades medicinales. Un lugar ideal para practicar además el turismo activo: caminatas, rutas a caballo, vuelos en parapente o en aladelta, por ejemplo.


Encontramos restos que nos cuentan la historia de sus primeros pobladores hace más de 3.000 años: el yacimiento de Esperilla. De l época romana y muy cerca del pueblo, encontramos la antigua ciudad romana de Carissa Surelia, sobre los restos de un asentamiento íbero anterior. Allí se encuentra un museo arqueológico de sitio con grandes piezas de obra funeraria íbero-romana.

En su patrimonio monumental destacamos el Castillo de Fatetar (s.XIII-XV) que conserva parte de las antiguas murallas, la Torre del Homenaje y los aljibes. Junto a él, la ermita de Santiago donde se encuentra el patrón de la localidad: el Cristo de la Antigua.

El Gastor

Se la conoce como «el balcón de los pueblos blancos» por las magníficas panorámicas de los pueblos vecinos desde su punto mas alto. El Gastor ha sido poblado desde la prehistoria, y a su alrededor se encuentra monumentos metalíticos que lo prueban.

El pueblo se ubica sobre un cerro y muy cerca del nacimiento del río Guadalete. Es un claro ejemplo de las tradicionales villas serranas. Hablando de turismo activo, hay un par de cuevas para los amantes de la espeleología: la de Fariña y la del Susto. Y en el embalse Zahara-El Gastor se practican deportes náuticos, que se suman a las oportunidades de practicar senderismo en el Tajo de Algarín y las Grajas.


En el mismísimo corazón de la Sierra de Grazalema, se ubica este pueblo blanco de excepción. osa de un microclima propio con el índice pluviométrico más alto de la península ibérica. En los alrededores se encuentra el Dolmen de la Giganta, pero la ciudad nace de la antigua ciudad romana de Lacíbula.

En su casco antiguo protegido como Conjunto Histórico (foto inicio), encontramos todos los elementos tradicionaless de la arquitectura árabe blanca combinada con ejemplos de arquitectura señorial. A visitar la iglesia barroca de Nuestra Señora de la Aurora, la de San José o la de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación, o las ermitas del Calvario o de Los Ángeles.

Famosa por el trabajo textil de sus mantas artesanales, podemos encontrarlas en las tiendas y en el Museo de Artesanía Textil de Grazalema.



La Hippa o Hippa Nova romana se ubica a los pies de un gro risco coronado por su impresionante castillo. Ha sido declarada Conjunto Histórico y su casco urbano muestra una bella combinación de arquitectura popular con raíces andalusíes y su patrimonio monumental con sus palacios señoriales.

El Barrio de la Villa se encuentra sobre el primitivo casco, con trazado laberíntico donde encontramos iglesia como la de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios y el castillo. Estea antigua fortaleza musulmana del siglo XII, aun conserva parte de sus muros, torreones y la Torre del Homenaje.

En Olvera (foto de inicio) se encuentra el Museo Frontera de los Castillos, en un bello edificio de la antigua Casa de la Cilla, lugar de visita imprescindible para comprender el importante papel que jugó la serranía gaditana como frontera en el reino nazarí.

Prado del Rey

Tenemos que buscar el origen de esta localidad en la ciudad romana de Iptuci, yacimiento arqueológico digno de visitar. Igualmente, hay pruebas de población humana en esta zona desde los tiempos del Neolítico. La época de mayor esplendor fue la romana en especial en los siglos I y II d.C, pero ya los fenicios explotaban las salinas existentes en los alrededores.

Digno de visitar en Prado del Rey es el antiguo Pósito de Labradores, cuya estructura se mantiene intacta. Y luego, un recreo gastronómico con los platos típicos de la localidad: la alboromía de garbanzos y pimientos torrijas con miel y una copa de mosto de Pajarete.

Puerto Serrano

Al llegar nos reciben las tradicionales casas serranas rodeadas de naranjos. Puerto Serrano reúne una gran cantidad de yacimientos arqueológicos que confirman la presencia humana desde el Paleolítico, luego en tiempos romanos y durante la población hispano-musulmana. Entre estos sitios, merecen destacarse Fuente de Ramos y Almendral o el antiguo asentamiento romano de Cerro Castelar y Marciagos, a corta distancia del centro urbano.

Estamos en un rincón de la sierra gaditana ideal para practicar senderismo, cicloturismo, rutas caballo especialmente por el antiguo trazado ferroviario de Jerez-Almargen que posee 35 kilómetros transitables entre Puerto Serrano y Olvera.

Setenil de las Bodegas

Esta localidad se encuentra ubicada en un corte profundo de la sierra. Esta localización le da una singularidad y belleza que la hacen única. Las casas se adaptan al terreno y algunas se encuentran literalmente bajo la roca o en el interior de la montaña.

Calles y terrazas acomodadas a los quiebros del terreno con lugares tan especiales como las calles de la Cueva de la Sombra y de las Cuevas del Sol, donde descansar y observar la peculiaridad del pueblo tomando una cervecita fresca en sus terrazas.

Su ubicación actual es de origen medieval y en la «Villa» se asentaba el antiguo poblado almohada. El castillo que domina el pueblo es una fortaleza medieval de los siglos XIV y XV que conserva la Torre del Homenaje y un aljibe.

Torre Alháquime

Su nombre ya lo dice, estamos en una pieza clave en la frontera entre el Reino de Granada y castellano. De la época nazarí conserva los restos de la muralla medieval que rodea el casco histórico, allí se encuentra el Arco de la Villa.

Piérdete por sus calles angostas y laberínticas, muros blancos y plazas donde explota el color de las flores. Un lugar ideal para practicar slow travel. Detente y sigue el ritmo lento de la sierra.



Donde se unen los parques naturales de Grazalema y de los Alcornocales, se ubica la localidad de Ubrique. Una garantía de entorno natural de primera categoría y muchas opciones para el turismo activo: rutas de senderismo, de BTT, pesca, caza o avistamiento de aves.

Declarada Conjunto Histórico, Ubrique tiene origen romano y por aquí pasa una calzada romana que une Ubrique con el pueblo blanco de Beanocaz del que te hemos hablado en la primera entrega. Además, el yacimiento de Ocuri incluye un monumento funerario muy interesante y escaso en la península de tipo columbario.

De la época musulmana quedan los restos de la Fortaleza de Cardela o Castillo de Fátima que data del siglo XII. Ya en el casco histórico de Ubrique, podemos reconocer su trazado medieval con calles angostas, preciosos rincones y plazas con fuentes como la barroca Fuente Pública o la andalusí de los Nueve Caños.


Bajamos hacia los prados fértiles para llegarnos hasta Villamartín, un caserío con larga historia. Su ubicación le destacó desde siempre como cruce de caminos de la zona. Testigos de la historia son los dólmenes de Alberite y el yacimiento de Torrevieja.

En el casco del pueblo tenemos ejemplos de su patrimonio monumental como el Castillo de Matrera, la iglesia de Nuestra Señora de las Virtudes o el Convento de San Francisco y ejemplos de casas señoriales como el Palacio de los Ríos.

Villaluenga del Rosario

A los pies de un impresionante macizo rocoso encontramos a Villaluenga, el pueblo más alto de la provincia de Cádiz (859 m.s.n.m). Ya en tiempos prehistóricos el hombre vivía por aquí aprovechando las cuevas del terreno. Una muestra de ello es el yacimiento de las Cuevas de la Manga.

Las calles de su trazado van adaptándose a los desniveles del terreno, con subidas empinadas, escaleras y los edificios integrándose con la roca: las iglesias de San Miguel y del Salvador, las ermitas de San Gregorio y del Calvario, la Fuente del Acueducto y más.

Encontramos aquí la plaza de toros más antigua de la provincia ya que data del siglo XVIII y es única: no es redonda sino poligonal con un graderío realizado en la propia piedra del lugar.

Zahara de la Sierra

El Parque Natural de Grazalema abraza a este pintoresco rincón andaluz. La fundación de la actual Zahara (foto de inicio) se debe a los árabes y su trazado es un gran ejemplo del entramado urbano andalusi. Encontramos el castillo del sigo XIII con su Torre del Homenaje y los restos de la villa medieval con brios segmentos de la antigua muralla.

Las calles van subiendo (y bajando) por la sierra sobre la que se recuesta Zahara por lo que no es raro encontrar tramos muy empinados o con escaleras. En tu paseo debes pasar por el Puente de los Palominos, o detenerte a ver la Torre del reloj y disfrutar del tiempo lento en la florida plaza central.


Grazalema: pueblos blancos y bosques milenarios en las sierras de Cádiz

El pinsapar, un bosque relicto de hace miles de años, es el principal atractivo de esta comarca situada a muy poca distancia del Estrecho de Gibraltar.

El pinsapo es una de las reliquias vegetales más raras y escasas del mundo. Esta conífera de gran porte (puede superar los 30 metros de altura) y de silueta elegante tiene sus últimos refugios en torno al Estrecho de Gibraltar: en las dos orillas. Del lado marroquí, el pinsapar se reduce a pequeñas manchas en el sorprendente Parque Nacional de Talassemtane, uno de los lugares más bonitos e intensos del norte del país alauita. Y en la orilla norte, se le puede encontrar, de manera natural, en el recientemente creado parque Nacional de la Sierra de Las Nieves, en Sierra Bermeja y en Grazalema. El pinsapo es un árbol exigente. Demanda grandes cantidades de agua durante todo el año, algo que podría considerarse poco coherente si hablamos del sur de las provincias de Cádiz y Málaga. El pinsapar es una auténtica esponja que requiere de buenas precipitaciones durante todo el año y que, como otras coníferas, tiene la capacidad de ordeñar las nubes gracias a sus hojas en forma de pequeñas agujas apretujadas. Una verdadera red que atrapa el agua y lo precipita hacia el suelo creando verdaderos vergeles en las sierras atlánticas y mediterráneas de Andalucía Occidental. El Pinsapo es la especie emblema de la Sierra de Grazalema, un lugar único de las serranías gaditanas dónde llueve casi más que en la lejana Galicia.

El Parque Natural de Grazalema se encuentra a 121 kilómetros de Sevilla, a 112 kilómetros de Cádiz y a apenas 85 kilómetros del Aeropuerto de Jerez. Así que da perfectamente para una escapada de puente o para un fin de semana. ¿Dónde alojarse? La propia localidad de Grazalema no es mala opción: aquí hay varias casas rurales y alojamientos familiares. Otras opciones a escasa distancia del parque natural son Zahara de la Sierra (con varios alojamientos rurales y un hotel) y el pueblo de Ubrique. Esta zona de las sierras de Cádiz da para mucho y lo mejor es hacer kilómetros por las carreteras de montaña e ir conectando los diferentes puntos de interés y senderos para ir descubriendo los tesoros que guarda la montaña. Pequeños pueblos; grandes bosques; dehesas; encinares; castillos; yacimientos arqueológicos…

El Pinsapar; la joya de la corona.- Lo primero que tienes que tener en cuenta antes de internarte en este bosque mágico es que para realizar la travesía del Pinsapar hay que inscribirse en el Centro de Interpretación que se encuentra en la localidad de El Bosque (Federico García Lorca, 1; Tel: (+34) 956 709 733) o, más conveniente por el escaso número de permisos diarios que se reservan, hacerlo previamente a través de correo electrónico ( El sendero lineal del Pinsapar tiene una longitud de 11,2 kilómetros y un desnivel máximo de unos 300 metros de subida (saliendo desde Benamahoma) y otros 900 de bajada hasta el parking de Las Canteras. El camino transcurre por la cara norte del Pico Torreón, que con sus 1.648 metros sobre el nivel del mar es la cima de la provincia de Cádiz. Aquí podemos ver al Pinsapar en todo su esplendor (unas 400 hectáreas de extensión); y también viejos pozos de nieve, fuentes, acequias y canalizaciones.

Benamahoma y el agua.- El pequeño pueblo de Benamahoma es una de las localidades que se encuentran en pleno parque. Y también un ejemplo de la importancia del agua en la comarca: desde el punto de vista natural y cultural. El Río Majaceite atraviesa esta parte de Grazalema y corre hacia el oeste para alimentar las vegas de El Bosque y Ubrique (en el Embalse de Los Hurones). Desde aquí parte el Sendero del Majaceite que baja junto al cauce hasta el vecino pueblo de El Río pasando por la Cascada Honda de Benamahoma. Pero antes de echarte a caminar puedes visitar el Ecomuseo del Agua del Molino de Benamahoma (Nacimiento, 37) un viejo batán industrial (máquinas movidas por el agua) que pone de manifiesto la importancia de los cauces para la economía local más allá de su aprovechamiento agrícola y ganadero.

El Castillo de Zahara de La Sierra.- Zahara de la Sierra está, por méritos propios, en el listado de pueblos más bonitos de España. Este pueblo blanco se abraza literalmente a un peñasco impresionante que sirve de fortaleza natural y mirador. Sólo por pasear por sus callejuelas y asomarse a sus miradores merece la pena la visita (con lugares bastante notables como la Iglesia de Santa María de la Mesa –con un retablo barroco muy bonito-). Pero el punto fuerte del pueblo es su antiguo castillo y recinto amurallado. La Puerta de la Villa da paso a la antigua Zahara, que en tiempos anteriores a la conquista cristiana estaba mayoritariamente encerrada por las murallas (lo puedes ver en el Centro de Interpretación de la Villa Medieval –El Fuerte, 15-). Murallas adentro podrás ver restos de la Iglesia Mayor (previamente mezquita), rastros de las antiguas casas, las murallas y la soberbia Torre del Homenaje, que corona la zona más alta del peñasco ofreciendo vistas brutales. Aprovecha que estás por aquí para visitar la Garganta Verde (CA-9104), una verdadera trinchera excavado por el Arroyo de los Ballesteros dónde puedes ver al mítico buitre leonado (hay que solicitar permiso a través del correo o en el teléfono (+34) 956 709 733).

La A-374 entre Grazalema y Ubrique.- La carretera de las maravillas. Esta ruta de 26 kilómetros recorre uno de los parajes más bonitos de toda la sierra. Casi siempre a los pies de peñas llenas de cuevas (como la de Las Dos Puertas muy cerca de Grazalema) en un ambiente que alterna grandes manchas de encinar y alcornocal con prados siempre verdes. Una ruta para ir haciendo paradas para conocer verdaderas joyas naturales como el Chaparro de las Ánimas, un enorme alcornoque singular que está íntimamente ligado a la historia del pueblo de Grazalema: el corcho de este árbol se dedicaba a la compra de aceite para las lamparillas de ánimas de la iglesia. También hay pequeños pueblos (Villaluenga del Rosario y Benaocaz) y algunos restos arqueológicos interesantes como la vieja calzada romana que atravesaba estas sierras desde Ubrique. Si te gusta andar no dejes de subir al Saltadero desde el Paraje del Cintillo, uno de los rincones más hermosos de la ruta. El camino no es largo y las vistas merecen la pena.

Ubrique: mucho más que la capital del cuero.-  Ubrique es uno de los famosos pueblos blancos de Cádiz y es conocido en Andalucía por la calidad de sus cueros que es la materia prima con la que se elaboran buena parte de los artículos de marroquinería de alta gama de Europa (aquí fabrican grandes marcas de la industria del lujo y varias empresas independientes). Una fama que no es nueva ya que las tenerías y los artesanos locales son famosos, por lo menos, desde principios del siglo XVI, aunque es probable que la tradición venga de tiempos de musulmanes o más atrás. El pueblo es muy bonito (hay que verlo desde arriba en la subida a la Cruz del Tajo). Y sólo por eso merece la visita, pero el cuero es un aliciente más. Y no es de extrañar que la punta de lanza del turismo cultural del pueblo sea un museo dedicado a la principal industria local que lleva el nombre rimbombante de Manos y Magia en la Piel (Herrera Oria, 10), que ocupa un antiguo convento de Capuchinos del siglo XVII. Muy cerca de aquí se encuentra El Rodezno, una zona bañada por las aguas que bajan desde Grazalema en la que funcionaron las tenerías del pueblo hasta casi antes de ayer.

Pero hay mucho más que ver en Ubrique. Dentro del pueblo hay que dejarse perder por sus callejuelas para ir descubriendo sus edificios más notables: la extraña San Juan de Letrán (San Juan, 9), una vieja iglesia de planta octogonal que alberga el Museo de Historia de Ubrique; la Ermita de San Antonio (La Torre, 60), construida sobre una vieja fortificación nazarí; la Casa del Dintel (San Juan, 6), un palacete del siglo XVI o la Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de la O (Francisco Fatou, sn), una sencilla basílica del XVIII. Mención aparte merece la antigua Ocuri, la población romana que dio origen a Ubrique y que puede visitarse en lo alto de un cerro muy cerca del pueblo actual. Subir por la calzada romana es toda una experiencia y lo que te encuentras arriba merece mucho la pena de ver incluyendo el sorprendente Mausoleo, uno de los edificios romanos mejor conservados de España.



La llamada «Ruta de los pueblos blancos» es una ruta turística que comprende gran parte de los pueblos de la comarca de la Sierra de la provincia de Cádiz. Su nombre viene del blanco de las fachadas de las casa de los pueblos, pintadas con cal para repeler la calor.

Es una de las rutas más conocidas de Andalucía, en ella el viajero recorre más de 20 municipios de las provincias de Cádiz y Málaga. Pueblos que tienen como denominador común esas casas con fachadas de blanca cal tan características en gran parte de la comunidad andaluza.

La Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos nos llevará a conocer y disfrutar del rico y diverso patrimonio histórico, cultural y natural que guardan en su interior todas y cada una de las localidades que conforman esta oferta turística. Iglesias de diferentes estilos arquitectónicos, yacimientos arqueológicos de distintas épocas, castillos, cuevas prehistóricas, museos… y espacios naturales tan importantes como el Parque Natural de los Alcornocales o el Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema son sólo alguna de las joyas que podremos encontrar en nuestro recorrido.

Pueblos incluidos en la Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos

Alcalá del Valle | Algar | Algodonales | Arcos de la Frontera | Benaocaz | Bornos | El Bosque | El Gastor | Espera | Grazalema | Olvera | Prado del Rey | Puerto Serrano | Setenil de las Bodegas | Torre Alháquime Ubrique | Villaluenga del Rosario | Villamartín | Zahara de la Sierra

Otros municipios en la provincia de Málaga que igualmente nos sorprenderán por su situación, historia y monumentos son; RondaMontejaqueJimera de LíbarAtajateBenadalidGaucín, Cortes de la Frontera Casares.

Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos Ruta Central

Comenzamos nuestro recorrido en pleno corazón del Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema, en Zahara de la Sierra. Presidida por su castillo nazarí, está declarada Conjunto Histórico-Artístico. A continuación se encuentra Grazalema, pueblo de origen romano, sus alrededores son un paraíso para los amantes de la naturaleza, el senderismo y los deportes de montaña.

A través de una sinuosa carretera que nos ofrece unas vistas espectaculares, entre pinsapos y miradores, llegamos a Villaluenga del Rosario. Estamos en el pueblo más alto de la provincia de Cádiz, con calles empinadas y casas encaladas.

Benaocaz aparece tras seguir descendiendo por la carretera, pasando por un antiguo tramo de la calzada romana. Con maravillosos paisajes de fondo, nos llevaremos una grata impresión al divisar Ubrique. En las cercanías encontramos la antigua Ciudad Romana de Ocuri, en lo alto del Salto de la Mora. Llegar al casco antiguo de Ubrique supone un pequeño esfuerzo que es recomendable para poder disfrutar de sus balcones naturales y contemplar una panorámica admirable.

Hacia el norte espera El Bosque, zona truchera para los amantes de la pesca, posee el Premio Nacional de Embellecimiento. Tras recorrer Benamahoma, puerta de entrada al Pinsapar, la última parada nos lleva a Prado del Rey, situado entre la sierra y la campiña, entre olivos y viñedos, a sólo cuatro kilómetros nos encontramos los restos de la ciudad romana de Iptuci.

Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos Ruta Norte

Entre las sierras gaditanas y el río Guadalete se sitúa Puerto Serrano, inicio de nuestro recorrido. Pueblo blanco con casas encaladas, en él se respira tranquilidad y sosiego. Tras visitar Algodonales, con su Iglesia de Santa Ana, continuamos camino hacia El Gastor. Conocido como «Balcón de los Pueblos Blancos», desde su punto más alto se contemplan unas vistas maravillosas. De gran interés resulta la visita al Dolmen del Gigante.

La siguiente parada es Setenil de las Bodegas, con su original entramado urbano y la disposición de sus casas, excavadas en la montaña, que tienen como tejado las propias rocas.

Alcalá del Valle, refugio de moriscos, eclesiásticos y franciscanos, aprovecha las riquezas de su patrimonio monumental y natural para acoger a los que llegan en busca de descanso y calma.

Continuando por Torre Alháquime llegaremos a la última parada de esta ruta, Olvera. Declarada Conjunto Histórico-Artístico, el principal monumento de Olvera es la propia ciudad, sus casas encaladas y calles estrechas, dirigidas todas hacia la silueta imponente de su Iglesia de la Encarnación y su Castillo árabe en lo más alto del cerro. El Peñón de Zaframagón, situado en la zona más occidental del término, declarado Reserva Natural, alberga la mayor colonia de buitres leonados de Andalucía.

Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos Ruta Levante

Iniciamos esta ruta en Cortes de la Frontera, no podemos irnos sin visitar las ruinas de la ciudad romana de Saeponta, los de la Torre del Paso, la Ermita Mozárabe la Casita de Piedra y el imponente parque de La Sauceda.

Tras recorrer Algatocín con un núcleo urbano que conserva el sabor de su pasado morisco.  La siguiente parada nos lleva a Benadalid, con sus calles estrechas y tortuosas que nos trae reminiscencias árabes. Atajate con su paisaje de contrastes nos conduce a Jimera de Líbar, un lugar para descansar, un pueblo donde se respira la tranquilidad.

Benaoján se caracteriza por su relieve accidentado, las casas parecen escalar la montaña, salpicando de blanco el verde del campo. De gran importancia son las dos formaciones geológicas, el Sistema Hundidero-Gato, con sus cuevas y lagos y la Cueva de la Pileta, con pinturas prehistóricas y declarada Monumento Nacional de Arte Rupestre.

Y para finalizar, Ronda. Una de las ciudades más antiguas de España. La Cueva de la Pileta es uno de los mejores exponentes del arte rupestre del Paleolítico andaluz. Su espectacular tajo, de más de 200 metros de profundidad, divide la ciudad en dos partes unidas por un puente de piedra. Los baños árabes, el Palacio del Rey Moro, la Plaza de Toros, la Fuente de los Ocho Caños y el Mirador del Tajo son algunas de las maravillas que nos ofrece Ronda.

Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos Ruta Occidental

Puerta de entrada de los Pueblos Blancos, Arcos de la Frontera se encuentra enclavado en la cima de una roca, completamente bordeado por el río Guadalete. El conjunto urbano, por su belleza y originalidad, constituye uno de los más singulares de España, declarado Monumento Histórico-Artístico Nacional. Arcos de la Frontera tiene sabor a pueblo hecho de cal y sol, de rejas y flores.

Tras visitar Algar, bello pueblo de origen árabe, seguimos camino hacia Espera. En lo alto de una peña se encuentra el Castillo de Fatetar con su ermita adosada, donde podemos contemplar unas maravillosas vistas. Bornos es un pueblo blanco, con campos salpicados de huertas, se sitúa a orillas del pantano que lleva su nombre. Saliendo de Bornos tenemos la posibilidad de visitar la ciudad ibero-romana de Carissa Aurelia.

Villamartín nos ofrece gran variedad de paisajes entre el blanco de sus casas, el verde de la campiña y el azul del cielo y el agua. Resalta entre sus casas la torre de la Iglesia de Santa María de las Virtudes. Sin olvidar el Campo Dolménico de Alberite.


La Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos de Málaga

La famosa Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos de Andalucía comprende una serie de localidades ubicadas en terreno de las comarcas de Sierra de Cádiz y Serranía de Ronda. El eminente carácter serrano de estos lugares se refleja con facilidad en sus costumbres y tradiciones. Esto embellece el paisaje de la misma manera que lo hacen los conjuntos de fachadas encaladas, los tejados rojizos de sus casas, el trazado estrecho y empinado de sus calles. Los arquillos y pasadizos que aderezan la trama urbana en algunos de sus rincones son otro de los tesoros de esta Ruta por los Pueblos Blancos de Málaga.

La Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos de Málaga es, sin duda, una de las más famosas rutas de arquitectura popular andaluza. También es un recorrido por una tierra con historia que ha sido testigo de numerosos episodios y conflictos que han dejado su huella en forma de castillos y otros restos arqueológicos.

Pese a que los pueblos blancos andaluces comprenda localidades de las provincias de Cádiz y Málaga, nos centraremos en aquellos pueblos blancos de Málaga que, tomando como centro Ronda, quedan ubicados en tierras malagueñas.


Ronda es una de las localidades con mayor proyección turística de Málaga. Un bello lugar marcado por la presencia del impactante tajo del río Guadalevín que cuenta con atractivos de la talla de su famoso puente, sus baños árabes o su plaza de toros. Es considerada como una de las más antiguas y monumentales de España.

Tanto por sus monumentos como por su historia y cultura, Ronda se alza como indiscutible centro de los pueblos blancos malagueños. Es un destino imprescindible en el que merece la pena invertir varios días de visita.


Ubicado en terreno del Parque Natural de la Sierra de Grazalema, Benaoján es un pequeño pueblo muy apreciado por toda clase de amantes del turismo rural y los deportes de aventura. En sus alrededores encontramos interesantes lugares como las Cuevas del Gato y de La Pileta. En el interior de esta última se conserva una serie de pinturas rupestres que evidencian una temprana presencia humana en el lugar. Componen un importante conjunto artístico de estilo paleolítico.


De origen musulmán, Montejaque es un pueblo situado también en terreno de la Sierra de Grazalema y cuyo nombre significa “Montaña Perdida”. Se trata de un lugar de notable riqueza histórica donde es posible visitar monumentos de la talla de la iglesia de Santiago el Mayor. En sus alrededores se alza el Hacho, un monte que con sus 1.075 metros de altitud da cobijo a la localidad y domina desde su cima todo el paisaje circundante.

Jimera de Líbar

Jimera de Líbar es otro núcleo de origen musulmán que llegó a albergar una importante fortaleza de la que actualmente no queda vestigio alguno. No obstante, su nombre en lengua árabe fue Inz Almaraz, cuyo significado es “castillo de la mujer”. Los alrededores del lugar, sobre los que destaca la presencia del pico Martín Gil, son un escenario para la práctica de toda clase de deportes de naturaleza.


Esta localidad malagueña de nuestra Ruta por los Pueblos Blancos de Málaga es  una de las de menor población de la provincia. Esto garantiza una relativa paz y tranquilidad en sus calles.

Atajate es actualmente famosa por la producción de mosto, último vestigio de una importante industria vinícola que vivió siglos de esplendor. Posteriormente vivió su declive debido a una fuerte plaga de filoxera que afectó a la región a finales del siglo XIX.


La siguiente parada en la Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos de Málaga es Benadalid. Cuenta con varios atractivos patrimoniales como su castillo árabe. De posible origen romano, este monumento cuenta con planta cuadrada y torres cilíndricas. En la actualidad es empleado como cementerio local.

Otros lugares de Benadalid que merecen una visita son la iglesia de San Isidoro y la cruz del Humilladero. Su construcción está ligada a dos hermanos portugueses que se asentaron aquí. Fueron los posibles responsables de la generalización del apellido Fernández en el pueblo.


Algatocín es un lugar de notable belleza cuyo perfil escalonado se adapta a la perfección al relieve del terreno. Sobre éste se asienta dando lugar a una trama urbana irregular y paisajísticamente atractiva. Entre sus puntos de interés destacan la iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario y el mirador del Genil. Ofrece excelentes vistas de un paisaje serrano de frondosa vegetación dominado por alcornoques, castaños y otras especies autóctonas.


Ubicado en el centro de un variado y rico entorno natural, Gaucín es una pequeña localidad de trazado morisco que tuvo su particular relevancia histórica en años de la reconquista. Su castillo fue considerado como un importante punto estratégico cuya toma supuso la muerte de Guzmán “el Bueno”, Señor de Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

En la actualidad, el Castillo del Águila es su principal atracción patrimonial. Su emplazamiento en la cima de un cerro a 688 metros de altitud es a su vez el destino de una de las excursiones más populares del lugar.


La Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos de Málaga termina en Casares, un lugar declarado como Monumento Histórico Artístico. Casares cuenta con importantes muestras patrimoniales como la Iglesia de la Encarnación, su castillo árabe y la ermita de San Sebastián.  Los restos de la ermita de la Vera o los baños de La Hedionda, cuyas aguas sulfurosas fueron utilizadas como fuente de salud en época romana.

Casares es, además, el lugar de nacimiento del político y escritor Blas Infante, conocido como el “Padre de la Patria Andaluza” y cuya casa natal permanece todavía en pie. Por la disposición de sus casas y sus calles en cuesta, Casares se ha ganado el sobrenombre de “Pueblo Colgante”.

La Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos de Málaga constituye, en definitiva, una de las mejores oportunidades para conocer la cultura serrana y popular de una provincia rica y variada que cuenta con un interior sorprendente.

Pese a que en esta ocasión nos centremos en las tierras de la Serranía de Ronda, conviene recordar que los pueblos blancos son una realidad muy extendida por toda la geografía andaluza. En Málaga, sin ir más lejos, pueden admirarse otros ejemplos como Mijas; o Cómpeta, Comares y Frigiliana, en la comarca de La Axarquía.


Pink sunRise-Sunset in August 1967

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd, British rock band at the forefront of 1960s psychedelia who later popularized the concept album for mass rock audiences in the 1970s. The principal members were lead guitarist Syd Barrett (original name Roger Keith Barrett; b. January 6, 1946, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England—d. July 7, 2006, Cambridge), bassist Roger Waters (b. September 6, 1943, Great Bookham, Surrey), drummer Nick Mason (b. January 27, 1945, Birmingham, West Midlands), keyboard player Rick Wright (in full Richard Wright; b. July 28, 1945, London—d. September 15, 2008, London), and guitarist David Gilmour (b. March 6, 1944, Cambridge).

Formed in 1965, the band went through several name changes before combining the first names of a pair of Carolina bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Their initial direction came from vocalist-guitarist-songwriter Barrett, whose mixture of bluesmusic hall styles, Lewis Carroll references, and dissonant psychedelia established the band as a cornerstone of the British underground scene. They signed with EMI and early in 1967 had their first British hit with the controversial “Arnold Layne,” a song about a transvestite. This was followed by their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, a lush, experimental record that has since become a rock classic. Their sound was becoming increasingly adventurous, incorporating sound effects, spacy guitar and keyboards, and extended improvisation such as “Interstellar Overdrive.”

By 1968 Barrett, who had overused LSD and was struggling with schizophrenia, was replaced by guitarist Gilmour. Without Barrett’s striking lyrics, the band moved away from the singles market to concentrate on live work, continuing its innovations in sound and lighting but with varying degrees of success. After recording a series of motion-picture soundtrack albums, they entered the American charts with Atom Heart Mother (1970) and Meddle (1971). Making records that were song-based but thematic in approach and that included long instrumental passages, the band did much to popularize the concept album. They hit the commercial jackpot with Dark Side of the Moon (1973). A bleak treatise on death and emotional breakdown underlined by Waters’s dark songwriting, it sent Pink Floyd soaring into the megastar bracket and remained in the American pop charts for more than a decade. The follow-up, Wish You Were Here (1975), included “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” a song for Barrett, and, though it went to number one in both the United States and Britain, it was considered anticlimactic and pompous by many critics.

By the release of Animals (1977), it was clear that Waters had become the band’s dominant influence, and there was increasing internal conflict within Pink Floyd. Their sense of alienation (from both one another and contemporary society) was profoundly illustrated by the tour for 1979’s best-selling album The Wall, for which a real brick wall was built between the group and the audience during performance. After the appropriately named The Final Cut (1983), Pink Floyd became inactive, and legal wrangles ensued over ownership of the band’s name. Waters, who dismissed Wright after The Wall and took over most of the songwriting, was even more firmly in control. As a result the band split, but, much to Waters’s chagrin, Gilmour, Mason, and Wright reunited, continuing as Pink Floyd. In the late 1980s Wright, Gilmour, and Mason released two albums, including the ponderous A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and The Division Bell (1994), while Waters pursued a solo career. Waters reunited with his former bandmates for a single performance at the Live 8 benefit concert in 2005. Gilmour and Mason later used recordings made with Wright (who died in 2008) to create what they said was the final Pink Floyd album, The Endless River (2014). Pink Floyd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.


The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

The title of Pink Floyd’s debut album is taken from a chapter in Syd Barrett‘s favorite children’s book, The Wind in the Willows, and the lyrical imagery of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is indeed full of colorful, childlike, distinctly British whimsy, albeit filtered through the perceptive lens of LSD. Barrett‘s catchy, melodic acid pop songs are balanced with longer, more experimental pieces showcasing the group’s instrumental freak-outs, often using themes of space travel as metaphors for hallucinogenic experiences — «Astronomy Domine» is a poppier number in this vein, but tracks like «Interstellar Overdrive» are some of the earliest forays into what has been tagged space rock. But even though Barrett‘s lyrics and melodies are mostly playful and humorous, the band’s music doesn’t always bear out those sentiments — in addition to Rick Wright‘s eerie organ work, dissonance, chromaticism, weird noises, and vocal sound effects are all employed at various instances, giving the impression of chaos and confusion lurking beneath the bright surface. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn successfully captures both sides of psychedelic experimentation — the pleasures of expanding one’s mind and perception, and an underlying threat of mental disorder and even lunacy; this duality makes Piper all the more compelling in light of Barrett‘s subsequent breakdown, and ranks it as one of the best psychedelic albums of all time.


Why Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd still remains captivating: ‘The Piper At The Gates of Dawn’ review

Pink Floyd is typically thought as the transatlantic progressive rock powerhouse of the mid 70s – run on Roger Waters’ political commentary and David Gilmour’s sincerity. However, Floyd purists would probably have a fondness for the band’s original incarnation: Syd Barrett being principal songwriter, Richard Wright second in command, and Roger Waters just a bassist and multi-instrumentalist. 

When making their debut, Pink Floyd were students of psychedelic rock. They created a name for themselves in the underground scene with their entrancing live shows at the UFO club in London, and breaking through to the mainstream with terrific singles like ‘Arnold Layne’ and ‘See Emily Play’. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn proves to be the definitive statement of a band who were unknowingly reaching the end of a short chapter in their storied career. 

‘Astronomy Domine’ is a stunning opener. This track is one which typical Pink Floyd fans would find the most digestible given its space-rock atmosphere. Barrett’s poetry is exceptional, with lines like “the sound resounds/Around the icy waters underground” providing the lyrics with fluid grace. The band does a superb job in selling the song with the last leg being particularly impressive –  the harmonizing vocals accompanied by the increasingly intense instrumental work helps the song swell into a fulfilling conclusion, leaving the track worthy of its astral chant title. 

‘Lucifer Sam’, however, is a hilarious change of pace. This is the start of many instances where Barrett displays his whimsy and in this case, he releases his inner Ray Davies (of The Kinks fame). A Batman-esc riff propels Barrett’s musing over his “siam cat” and its poppiness makes this a standout. 

‘Flaming’ is gorgeously ethereal. Its lyrics can be read as a child’s inner monologue whilst playing hide and seek or a description of an idyllic drug trip. Verses such as “lazing in the foggy dew/Sitting on a unicorn” with refrains like “yippee! You can’t see me/But I can you” create a divergence in interpretation. Waters’ usage of the slide whistle and wind-up toys helps to cultivate a celestial and delicate air. 

The hypnotic track in ‘Chapter 24’ was inspired by the 24th chapter of I Ching, an ancient Chinese divination manual and book of wisdom. Here Barrett seeks to interpret its meaning and the song’s structure is perhaps the most accessible on the whole project. The song unfolds gracefully in its tranquil beauty.

However, the listener gets transported back into Barrett’s whimsical mind with ‘The Gnome’. Norman Smith’s production does well in portraying the intimacy of the song, with the acoustic guitar and vocals foregrounded only giving way to Wright’s celesta at the chorus. You can really get a sense of Barrett playing the role of storyteller, as if around a campfire, to a small group of obedient children. 

‘Bike’ is an eerie closer. Barrett’s poetic meter is expertly off-kilter and the instrumental is slightly clownish in an aesthetic which, tied together with a forthright song structure, provides this song with a perverse innocence. 

Nonetheless, the album does falter in the middle. The instrumental ‘Pow R. Toc H.’ is not terrible in isolation or following the greatness of the first four tracks. However, its close proximity to the disappointing recording of ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ renders it forgettable.

Speaking of ‘Interstellar Overdrive’, the live staple for Pink Floyd up to this point does not deliver in the studio. Its beginning and end are pleasant but the six-minute stretch in between sounds more like mindless noodling. You would have to be very under the influence to develop some appreciation for this composition. It would take several listens for an established Floyd fan to accept that Waters did, in fact, write ‘Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk’. It is definitely a song that very few would entertain more than once. 

Nevertheless, Pipers definitely makes it into Pink Floyd’s top five albums – top three depending on my mood. It is exemplary of Syd Barrett’s supreme talent as a songwriter and lyricist. Pink Floyd would never be as funny, innocent or poetic as this ever again. Barrett proves to be one of the high profile casualties of 1960s excesses, and it is with good reason that his work left an impression on seminal artists like David Bowie. It is no accident that it took several years for the band to find their feet after Syd’s departure

Pink Floyd were never known for their hooks and choruses so this project generally would be an intriguing listen for the common Floyd fan. Pipers does have shades of their musical trademarks (such as extensive instrumental bridges and an atmospheric sound) but all in the constraints of 60s psychedelic rock. It’s as much an LP as it is a legitimate historical document of British psychedelia – it contains all of its brilliance, madness and ugliness. It’s Pink Floyd at their most British and it’s a project that no real fan should miss out on. 


The Piper At the Gates of Dawn

The Piper At the Gates of Dawn is the legendary debut album by Pink Floyd and the only album during their Syd Barrett-led era. This era began during the summer of 1965, when Barrett joined the established band which included his childhood friend Roger Waters and unilaterally began to call this band “The Pink Floyd Sound”, after a couple of obscure blues men he had in his record collection. By 1966, the band became part of London’s “underground” scene, gained some high connections, and played some high profile gigs attended by celebrities. In early 1967, the band signed with EMI and their debut album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios with producer Norman Smith. The sessions had their share of turmoil as Barrett was unresponsive to direction and constructive criticism.

The sessions for The Piper At the Gates of Dawn came during the middle of a turbulent, exciting, and productive year for Pink Floyd, which also saw the release and charting of three non-album singles. “See Emily Play” was the highest charting on these early singles as the follow-up to “Arnold Layne”, a controversial song as it depicted a transvestite whose primary pastime was stealing women’s clothes and undergarments from washing lines and many English radio stations refused to play the song.

The Piper At the Gates of Dawn is the legendary debut album by Pink Floyd and the only album during their Syd Barrett-led era. This era began during the summer of 1965, when Barrett joined the established band which included his childhood friend Roger Waters and unilaterally began to call this band “The Pink Floyd Sound”, after a couple of obscure blues men he had in his record collection. By 1966, the band became part of London’s “underground” scene, gained some high connections, and played some high profile gigs attended by celebrities. In early 1967, the band signed with EMI and their debut album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios with producer Norman Smith. The sessions had their share of turmoil as Barrett was unresponsive to direction and constructive criticism.

The sessions for The Piper At the Gates of Dawn came during the middle of a turbulent, exciting, and productive year for Pink Floyd, which also saw the release and charting of three non-album singles. “See Emily Play” was the highest charting on these early singles as the follow-up to “Arnold Layne”, a controversial song as it depicted a transvestite whose primary pastime was stealing women’s clothes and undergarments from washing lines and many English radio stations refused to play the song.

The album begins with “Astronomy Domine”, the ultimate space odyssey song with wild tremolo effects and a chanting vocal duet between Barrett and keyboardist Richard Wright. There is an extended instrumental section after first verse sequence before the song returns for the concluding sequence. the riff-driven “Lucifer Sam” follows with a cool, mid-sixties British groove, making the song a lot less psychedelic than those on the rest of the album.

“Matilda Mother” begins with some interplay between Waters’ bass and Wright’s organ, who plays a big role in the song by also taking on lead vocals. There are also some fine harmonies during the verses and a slow carousel-like sequence through the end. “Flaming” is another melody-driven song but with wild sound effects throughout as well as a bright acoustic guitar, overdubbed in the third and fourth verses and an odd, yet melodic middle break. “Pow R. Toc H.” is the first of two instrumentals on the album, with the heart of the song driven mainly by a blues riff (one of the few moments where Waters bass is well represented). This is a great early art piece by Pink Floyd, though there are times when the sound effects are just a tad overwhelming. According to drummer Nick Mason, the band members were present at Abbey Road when they watched The Beatles recording “Lovely Rita” for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and decided to try voice effects and noises similar for “Pow R. Toc H.”

Barrett wrote eight of the album’s eleven songs along with contributing to two instrumentals which were credited to the whole band. Waters was credited with one composition, “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk”. This closer of the first side is a more frenzied piece than anything else on the album, with Mason really shines on this track with a style of over-the-top drumming which should make Keith Moon proud. Rumor has it that the band insisted in contract negotiations that “Interstellar Overdrive” remain in experimental form on the debut album. The song, which became the the unofficial theme song of the underground event “the fourteen hour technicolor dream”, was the first recorded by the band in January. This instrumental starts strong, with a strong and catchy main riff, but within a minute and a half the song begins to deteriorate into a psychedelic collage of sound effects, which goes on for about seven minutes and may have be just a bit much for any sober listener.

Barrett takes over the rest of the album, with some fine and interesting compositions. “The Gnome” is an upbeat, acoustic folk song with some exaggerated vocals by Barrett and some excellent bass by Waters. “Chapter 24” is perhaps the first deeply philosophical song by a band that would make their reputation exploring such matters. Barrett’s melody floats above the transcending musical motif with the middle part dissolving with a Middle-Eastern sounding organ. The song was inspired by by text from chapter 24 of the ancient Chinese script I Ching (The Book of Changes).

“The Scarecrow” is built on a series of percussive effects by Mason and organ flights by Wright. These at first sound disparate, but are soon held together by layered vocals in concert with tightly strummed electric guitars. An acoustic montage is later overdubbed over the whole ensemble in the outro.

“Bike” is the most brilliant and chilling song on the album, and perhaps the quintessential Syd Barrett song. Lyrically, the song is metered like a 10-year-old’s boasting rant about disparate subjects during the verse and a melancholy chorus about a “girl who fits in with my world”. Knowing of Barrett’s eventual mental demise, the song has turned out to be extremely profound. Musically, the song is driven by good piano and effects by Wright throughout and rock driven rock verses with softer, melodic choruses through the song proper, which lasts less than two minutes. The song and album concludes with a psychedelic reprise of sound collages.

After the release of the album in August 1967, Pink Floyd continued to perform in London, drawing ever larger crowds. But Barrett’s mental state continued to deteriorate and soon he got to the point where he could not perform onstage. Aside from a few more single tracks and one song on the next album, A Saucerful of Secrets, Barrett would not perform with the band again, making The Piper At the Gates of Dawn, a truly unique work.


Chapter 24 by Pink Floyd

A movement is accomplished in six stages
And the seventh brings return
The seven is the number of the young light
It forms when darkness is increased by one
Change returns success
Going and coming without error
Action brings good fortune

The time is with the month of winter solstice
When the change is due to come
Thunder in the other course of heaven
Things cannot be destroyed once and for all
Change returns success
Going and coming without error
Action brings good fortune
Sunset, sunrise

A movement is accomplished in six stages
And the seventh brings return
The seven is the number of the young light
It forms when darkness is increased by one
Change returns success
Going and coming without error
Action brings good fortune
Sunset, sunrise, sunrise, sunset

From 2019 to 2049 – Back to the Future

FUTURISTIC  Blade Runner

THE view of the future offered by Ridley Scott’s muddled yet mesmerizing »Blade Runner» is as intricately detailed as anything a science-fiction film has yet envisioned. The year is 2019, the place Los Angeles, the landscape garish but bleak. The city is a canyon bounded by industrial towers, some of which belch fire. Advertising billboards, which are everywhere, now feature lifelike electronic people who are the size of giants. The police cruise both horizontally and vertically on their patrol routes, but there is seldom anyone to arrest, because the place is much emptier than it used to be. In an age of space travel, anyone with the wherewithal has presumably gone away. Only the dregs remain.

»Blade Runner» begins with a stunning shot of this futuristic city, accompanied by the rumbling of Vangelis’s eerie, highly effective score. It proceeds to tell the story of Rick Deckard and his battle with the replicants, a story based on Philip K. Dick’s novel »Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?» In brief: replicants are manmade creatures that possess all human attributes except feelings. They have been built to serve as slaves in Earth colonies that are Off World, i.e., elsewhere. Whenever the replicants rebel, the job of eliminating them is given to a special, skilled hunter. This expert is called a blade runner.

Rick Deckard is the best of the blade runners, now retired. He is as hard-boiled as any film noir detective, with much the same world view. So when he is told, at the beginning of »Blade Runner,» that an especially dangerous group of replicants is on the loose, and is offered the job of hunting them, he can’t say no. Even in the murkiest reaches of science-fiction lore, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

»Blade Runner,» which opens today at the Criterion Center and other theaters, follows Deckard’s love affair with a beautiful replicant named Rachael, who is special assistant to the high-level industrialist who created her. It also follows Deckard’s tracking down of the runaways, most notably their white-haired, demoniclooking leader, Batty (Rutger Hauer). These events involve quite a bit of plot, but they’re nothing in the movie’s excessively busy overall scheme. »Blade Runner» is crammed to the gills with much more information than it can hold.

Science-fiction devotees may find »Blade Runner» a wonderfully meticulous movie and marvel at the comprehensiveness of its vision. Even those without a taste for gadgetry cannot fail to appreciate the degree of effort that has gone into constructing a film so ambitious and idiosyncratic. The special effects are by Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer, and they are superb. So is Laurence G. Paull’s production design. But »Blade Runner» is a film that special effects could have easily run away with, and run away with it they have.

And it’s also a mess, at least as far as its narrative is concerned. Almost nothing is explained coherently, and the plot has great lapses, from the changeable nature of one key character to the frequent disappearances of another. The story lurches along awkwardly, helped not at all by some ponderous stabs at developing Deckard’s character. As an old-fashioned detective cruising his way through the space age, Deckard is both tedious and outre.

At several points in the story, Deckard is called on to wonder whether Rachael has feelings. This seems peculiar, because the icy, poised Rachael, played by Sean Young as a 1940’s heroine with spaceage trimmings, seems a lot more expressive than Deckard, who is played by Harrison Ford. Mr. Ford is, for a movie so darkly fanciful, rather a colorless hero; he fades too easily into the bleak background. And he is often upstaged by Rutger Hauer, who in this film and in »Night Hawks» appears to be specializing in fiendish roles. Mr. Hauer is properly cold-blooded here, but there is something almost humorous behind his nastiness. In any case, he is by far the most animated performer in a film intentionally populated by automatons.

Mr. Scott, who made his mark in »Alien» by showing a creature bursting forth from the body of one of its victims, tries hard to hit the same note here. One scene takes place in an eyeball factory. Two others show Deckard in vicious, sadistic fights with women. One of these fights features strange calisthenics and unearthly shrieks.

The end of the film is both gruesome and sentimental. Mr. Scott can’t have it both ways, any more than he can expect overdecoration to carry a film that has neither strong characters nor a strong story. That hasn’t stopped him from trying, even if it perhaps should have.


Blade Runner’s chillingly prescient vision of the future

Can corporations become so powerful that they dictate the way we feel? Can machines get mad – like, really mad – at their makers? Can people learn to love machines?

These are a few of the questions raised by Ridley Scott’s influential sci-fi neo-noir film “Blade Runner” (1982), which imagines a corporation whose product tests the limits of the machine-man divide.

Looking back at the original theatrical release of “Blade Runner” – just as its sequel, “Blade Runner 2049” opens in theaters – I’m struck by the original’s ambivalence about technology and its chillingly prescient vision of corporate attempts to control human feelings.

From machine killer to machine lover

Even though the film was tepidly received at the time of its release, its detractors agreed that its imagining of Los Angeles in 2019 was wonderfully atmospheric and artfully disconcerting. Looming over a dingy, rain-soaked City of Angels is Tyrell Corporation, whose namesake, Dr. Tyrell (Joe Turkel), announces, “Commerce is our goal here at Tyrell. More human than human is our motto.”

Tyrell creates robots called replicants, which are difficult to differentiate from humans. They are designed to be worker-slaves – with designations like “combat model” or “pleasure model” – and to expire after four years.

Batty (Rutger Hauer) and Pris (Darryl Hannah) are two members of a small cohort of rebelling replicants who escape their enslavement and hope to extend their lives beyond the four years allotted them by their makers. These replicant models even possess fake memories, which Tyrell implanted as a way to buffer the machine’s anxieties. Instead, the memories create a longing for an unattainable future. The machines want to be treated like people, too.

Deckard (Harrison Ford), a policeman (and maybe a replicant too), is tasked with eliminating the escaped machines. During his search, he meets a special replicant who lacks the corporate safeguard of a four-year lifespan: the beautiful Rachael (Sean Young), who shoots and kills one of her own in order to save Deckard. This opens the door for Deckard to acknowledge growing feelings towards a machine who has developed the will to live and love beyond the existence imagined for her by Tyrell Corp.

The greatest challenge to Deckard comes from combat model Batty, who has demonstrably more passion for existence than the affectless Deckard.

The film’s climax is a duel to the death between Deckard and Batty, in which Batty ends up not just sparing but saving Deckard. As Deckard watches Batty expire, he envies the replicant’s lust for life at the very moment it escapes him. Batty seems more human than the humans in this world, but Tyrell’s motto is both clue and trap.

Deckard’s end-of-film decision to escape with Rachael defies the rules of the corporation and of society. But it’s also an acknowledgment of the successful, seamless integration of machine and human life.

“Blade Runner” imagines a world in which human machines are created to serve people, but Deckard’s interactions with these replicants reveals the thinness of the line: He goes from being on assignment as a machine killer to falling in love with a machine.

A world succumbing to machines

Today, the relationship between corporations, machines and humans defines modern life in ways that Ridley Scott – even in his wildest and most dystopic imagination – couldn’t have forecast in 1982.

In “Blade Runner,” implanted memories are propped up by coveted (but fake) family photos. Yet a world in which memory is fragile and malleable seems all too possible and familiar. Recent studies have shown that people’s memories are increasingly susceptible to being warped by social media misinformation, whether it’s stories of fake terrorist attacks or Muslims celebrating after 9/11. When this misinformation spreads on social media networks, it can create and reinforce false collective memories, fomenting a crisis of reality that can skew election results or whip up small town hysteria.

Meanwhile, Facebook has studied how it can manipulate the way its users feel – and yet over a billion people a day log on to willingly participate in its massive data collection efforts.

Our entrancement with technology might seem less dramatic than the full-blown love affair that Scott imagined, but it’s no less all-consuming. We often prioritize our smartphones over human social interactions, with millennials checking their phones over 150 times a day. In fact, even as people increasingly feel that they cannot live without their smartphones, many say that the devices are ruining their relationships.

And at a time when we’re faced with the likelihood of being unable to differentiate between what’s real and what’s fake – a world of Twitter bots and doctored photographs, trolling and faux-outrage, mechanical pets and plastic surgery – we might be well served by recalling Deckard’s first conversation upon arriving at Tyrell Corp. Spotting an owl, Deckard asks, “It’s artificial?” Rachael replies, not skipping a beat, “Of course it is.”

In “Blade Runner,” reality no longer really matters.

How much longer will it matter to us?



In 1982, Blade Runner floored audiences with its technodystopian depiction of the future. Almost 40 years on, some of these projections seem eerily accurate

“Early in the 21st Century, THE TYRELL CORPORATION advanced robot evolution into the NEXUS phase – a being virtually identical to a human known as a Replicant. … After a bloody mutiny by a NEXUS 6 combat team in an Off-World colony, Replicants were declared illegal on earth – under penalty of death…This was not called execution. It was called retirement.”
– opening text of “Blade Runner” (1982)

Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic film, Blade Runner, takes us into a dystopian future that humankind has brought on itself through the rapid, unrestrained and ultimately chaotic development of new technologies.

First and foremost, this sci-fi noir film explores the dangers, uncertainties and moral and ethical ambiguities surrounding the creation of advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The interactions between humans and the advanced androids, known as Replicants, portray a world in which the line between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ people is inextricably blurred.

In doing so, Blade Runner questions what it fundamentally means to be human, following four Replicants who have returned to Earth to meet their maker.

Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is then tasked with tracking down and eliminating the rogue AIs, who are asserting their right to live in a society that doesn’t recognise them as real people.

What is startling to remember is that the film was set in 2019. So today, well past that date, can the dark predictions of Blade Runner provoke a reflection and even a deeper understanding of our relationship with technology? How successful is art and film at predicting our future?


The Replicants of Blade Runner, as the name suggests, are essentially AI systems given advanced bioengineered bodies designed to replicate the physical abilities and intellectual capacities of humans. They’re put in dangerous scenarios without the need to risk actual human lives.

Despite many advances in this technology, these highly intelligent androids are far from existing in our world. The technology today, three years after the setting of Blade Runner, is still far from creating actual Artificially Intelligent beings.

Beings like this – sometimes called general AI – are beyond the scope of our modern AI systems and technologies available today.

AI, as we know it, consists of technologies like machine learning algorithms, natural language processing and computer vision technologies. This can work in surprising and sophisticated ways by identifying patterns and correlations to predict outcomes.

But AI is very far from understanding humans or having its own thoughts and feelings. The robots we interact with are more likely to be the cute but inert Paro aged care seal or the somewhat creepy Boston Dynamic dancing dog.

While technologists might still mull over the existence of potentially dangerous ‘almost humans’ that are nearly impossible to distinguish from ‘real’ humans, experts in the field are more concerned about the hidden black box workings of manipulative and prejudiced algorithms that are making decisions about our jobs, money and freedom.

Experts are concerned too over the digital platforms sitting in moats of data that give them the ability to manipulate what we buy or how we vote.


Although Replicants may still only exist in the realms of fantasy, Blade Runner still prompts relevant questions about human-computer interactions and the ethics of AI.

In the world of Blade Runner, Replicants are simply tools that are to be used for the benefit of their owners. So, killing a Replicant isn’t referred to as execution like “real” people – they are “retired”. And yet, the design of the Replicants intrinsically, yet also paradoxically, challenges their status as mere non-human tools and property.

Replicants are purposefully designed to be “virtually identical” to humans. They look like humans, speak like humans and without investigation from a Blade Runner, are indistinguishable from humans.

And this idea goes strictly against ethical design for AI or robotic systems.

Many contemporary scholars of AI or robot ethics see something inherently deceptive about this mimicry, which both insults the human interacting with the robot and may also degrade the robot’s innate humanity.

What does it mean if, on deciding that a robot which strongly resembles a human is non-human, a human engages in cruel or vicious treatment of that robot? In the real world, it’s been suggested that one of the new ‘laws of robotics’ should require a robot to always identify itself as a robot, ultimately responsible to the humans who deployed it.


These questions are interesting in understanding our relationships with technology and what it is to be human. But the questions prompted by the Replicants and their relationship with Blade Runner also have real and current applications.

Should the chatbots we interact with dealing with banking, telco and airline providers identify themselves as artificial? What about Alexa? Google’s AI system, Duplex, was met with controversy after demonstrating it could book a restaurant because many felt that the deception involved in this practice was inherently wrong.

In Blade Runner, Deckard’s relationship with Rachael also reflects this concern, raising questions about whether AI should mimic human affection and emotion in their language.

The ethical and moral standing of a robot is questioned in many films, and in literature and art. And often sci-fi films like Blade Runner depict robots with genuine thoughts, feelings and emotions as well as the deeply human desire to fight for their own survival.

Although humanoid robots are not likely in the foreseeable future, we do need laws to deal with the consequences of the hidden black box algorithms that are increasingly informing government and private sector decisions. For humans, there are many laws and regulations that exist for our own protection – so should we have the same laws for robots?


Baby, the Rain Must Fall

The visionary sci-fi movie “Blade Runner” has its own look, and a place in film history.

Ridley Scott, the director of the futuristic thriller “Blade Runner,” sets up the action with a crawl announcing that the time is early in the twenty-first century, and that a blade runner is a police officer who “retires”—i.e., kills—“replicants,” the powerful humanoids manufactured by genetic engineers, if they rebel against their drudgery in the space colonies and show up on Earth. A title informs us that we’re in Los Angeles in the year 2019, and then Scott plunges us into a hellish, claustrophobic city that has become a cross between Newark and old Singapore. The skies are polluted, and there’s a continual drenching rainfall. The air is so rotten that it’s dark outside, yet when we’re inside, the brightest lights are on the outside, from the giant searchlights scanning the city and shining in. A huge, squat pyramidal skyscraper (the new architecture appears to be Mayan and Egyptian in inspiration) houses the offices of the Tyrell Corporation, which produces those marvels of energy the replicants, who are faster and stronger than human beings, and even at the top, in the penthouse of Tyrell himself, there’s dust hanging in the smoky air. (You may find yourself idly wondering why this bigwig inventor can’t produce a humble little replicant to do some dusting.)

The congested-megalopolis sets are extraordinary, and they’re lovingly, perhaps obsessively, detailed; this is the future as a black market, made up of scrambled sordid aspects of the past—Chinatown, the Casbah, and Times Square, with an enormous, mesmerizing ad for Coca-Cola, and Art Deco neon signs everywhere, in a blur of languages. “Blade Runner,” which cost thirty million dollars, has its own look, and a visionary sci-fi movie that has its own look can’t be ignored—it has its place in film history. But we’re always aware of the sets as sets, partly because although the impasto of decay is fascinating, what we see doesn’t mean anything to us. (It’s 2019 back lot.) Ridley Scott isn’t great on mise en scène—we’re never sure exactly what part of the city we’re in, or where it is in relation to the scene before and the scene after. (Scott seems to be trapped in his own alleyways, without a map.) And we’re not caught up in the pulpy suspense plot, which involves the hero, Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner forced to come back to hunt down four murderous replicants who have blended into the swarming street life. (The term “blade runner” actually comes from the title of a William Burroughs novel, which has no connection with the movie.) It’s a very strange tenderloin that Ridley Scott and his associates have concocted; except for Deckard and stray Hari Krishna-ites and porcupine-headed punks, there are few Caucasians (and not many blacks, either). The population seems to be almost entirely ethnic—poor, hustling Asians and assorted foreigners, who are made to seem not quite degenerate, perhaps, but oddly subhuman. They’re all selling, dealing, struggling to get along; they never look up—they’re intent on what they’re involved in, like slot-machine zealots in Vegas. You know that Deckard is a breed apart, because he’s the only one you see who reads a newspaper. Nothing much is explained (except in that opening crawl), but we get the vague impression that the more prosperous, clean-cut types have gone off-world to some Scarsdale in space.

Here we are—only forty years from now—in a horrible electronic slum, and “Blade Runner” never asks, “How did this happen?” The picture treats this grimy, retrograde future as a given—a foregone conclusion, which we’re not meant to question. The presumption is that man is now fully realized as a spoiler of the earth. The sci-fi movies of the past were often utopian or cautionary; this film seems indifferent, blasé, and maybe, like some of the people in the audience, a little pleased by this view of a medieval future—satisfied in a slightly vengeful way. There’s a subject, though, lurking around the comic-strip edges: What does it mean to be human? Tracking down the replicants, who are assumed not to have any feelings, Deckard finds not only that they suffer and passionately want to live but that they are capable of acts of generosity. They have become far more human than the scavenging people left on Earth. Maybe Scott and the scriptwriters (Hampton Fancher and David Peoples), who adapted the 1968 novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” by the late Philip K. Dick, shied away from this subject because it has sticky, neo-Fascist aspects. But this underlying idea is the only promising one in the movie, and it has a strong visual base: when a manufactured person looks just like a person born of woman—when even the eyes don’t tell you which is which—how do you define the difference?

Scott’s creepy, oppressive vision requires some sort of overriding idea—something besides spoofy gimmicks, such as having Deckard narrate the movie in the loner-in-the-big-city manner of a Hammett or Chandler private eye. This voice-over, which is said to have been a late addition, sounds ludicrous, and it breaks the visual hold of the material. The dialogue isn’t well handled, either. Scott doesn’t seem to have a grasp of how to use words as part of the way a movie moves. “Blade Runner” is a suspenseless thriller; it appears to be a victim of its own imaginative use of hardware and miniatures and mattes. At some point, Scott and the others must have decided that the story was unimportant; maybe the booming, lewd and sultry score by Chariots-for-Hire Vangelis that seems to come out of the smoke convinced them that the audience would be moved even if vital parts of the story were trimmed. Vangelis gives the picture so much film noir overload that he fights Scott’s imagery; he chomps on it, stomps on it, and drowns it.

“Blade Runner” doesn’t engage you directly; it forces passivity on you. It sets you down in this lopsided maze of a city, with its post-human feeling, and keeps you persuaded that something bad is about to happen. Some of the scenes seem to have six subtexts but no text, and no context, either. There are suggestions of Nicolas Roeg in the odd, premonitory atmosphere, but Roeg gives promise of something perversely sexual. With Scott, it’s just something unpleasant or ugly. The dizzying architectural angles (we always seem to be looking down from perilous heights) and the buglike police cars that lift off in the street and rise straight up in the canyons between the tall buildings and drop down again give us a teasing kind of vertigo. Scott goes much further, though. He uses way-off-kilter angles that produce not nausea, exactly, but a queasiness that prepares us for the feelings of nausea that Deckard is then seen to have. And, perhaps because of the what-is-a-human-being remnant in the story, the picture keeps Deckard—and us—fixated on eyes. (The characters’ perambulations include a visit to the eyemaker who supplies the Tyrell genetic engineers with human eyes, and he turns out to be a wizened old Chinese gent—as if eyemaking were an ancient art. Maybe Tyrell picks up some used elbows in Saigon. His methods of operation for creating replicant slaves out of living cell tissue seem as haphazard as bodywork on wrecked cars.) In Nicolas Roeg’s films, the characters are drained, and they’re left soft and androgynous in an inviting way; Scott squashes his characters, and the dread that he sets up leads you to expect some release, and you know it’s not the release you want.

All we’ve got to hang on to is Deckard, and the moviemakers seem to have decided that his characterization was complete when they signed Harrison Ford for the role. Deckard’s bachelor pad is part of a 1924 Frank Lloyd Wright house with a Mayan motif. Apart from that, the only things we learn about him are that he has inexplicably latched on to private-eye lingo, that he was married, and that he’s tired of killing replicants—it has begun to sicken him. (The piano in his apartment has dozens of family pictures on it, but they’re curiously old-fashioned photos—they seem to go back to the nineteenth century—and we have no idea what happened to all those people.) The film’s visual scale makes the sloppy bit of plot about Deckard going from one oddball place to another as he tracks down the four replicants—two men, two women—seem sort of pitiable. But his encounters with the replicant women are sensationally, violently effective. As Zhora, who has found employment as an artificial-snake charmer, Joanna Cassidy has some of the fine torrid sluttiness she had in “The Late Show.” (Nobody is less like a humanoid than Joanna Cassidy; her Zhora wasn’t manufactured as an adult—she was formed by bitter experience, and that’s what gives her a screen presence.) And, in the one really shocking and magical sequence, Daryl Hannah, as the straw-haired, acrobatic Pris, does a punk variation on Olympia, the doll automaton of “The Tales of Hoffmann.”

The two male replicants give the movie problems. Leon (Brion James, who brings a sweaty wariness and suggestions of depth to the role) has found a factory job at the Tyrell Corporation itself, and his new employers, suspecting that he may be a renegade replicant, give him a highly sophisticated test. It checks his emotional responses by detecting the contractions of the pupils of his eyes as he attempts to deal with questions about his early life. But this replicant-detector test comes at the beginning of the picture, before we have registered that replicants have no early life. And it seems utterly pointless, since surely the Tyrell Corporation has photographic records of the models it has produced—and, in fact, when the police order Deckard to find and retire the four he is shown perfectly clear pictures of them. It might have been much cannier to save any testing until later in the movie, when Deckard has doubts about a very beautiful dark-eyed woman—Tyrell’s assistant, Rachael, played by Sean Young. Rachael, who has the eyes of an old Murine ad, seems more of a zombie than anyone else in the movie, because the director tries to pose her the way von Sternberg posed Dietrich, but she saves Deckard’s life, and even plays his piano. (She smokes, too, but then the whole atmosphere is smoking.) Rachael wears vamped-up versions of the mannish padded-shoulder suits and the sleek, stiff hairdos and ultra-glossy lipstick of career girls in forties movies; her shoulder comes into a room a long time before she does. And if Deckard had felt compelled to test her responses it could have been the occasion for some nifty repartee; she might have been spirited and touching. Her role is limply written, though; she’s cool at first, but she spends most of her screen time looking mysteriously afflicted—wet-eyed with yearning—and she never gets to deliver a zinger. I don’t think she even has a chance to laugh. The moviemakers haven’t learned that wonderful, simple trick of bringing a character close to the audience by giving him a joke or having him overreact to one. The people we’re watching are so remote from us they might be shadows of people who aren’t there.

The only character who gets to display a large range of emotions is the fourth of the killer replicants, and their leader—Roy Batty (the Crazed King?), played by the tall, blue-eyed blond Dutch actor Rutger Hauer, whose hair is lemon-white here. Hauer (who was Albert Speer in “Inside the Third Reich” on television last May) stares all the time; he also smiles ominously, hoo-hoos like a mad owl and howls like a wolf, and, at moments, appears to see himself as the god Pan, and as Christ crucified. He seems a shoo-in for this year’s Klaus Kinski Scenery-Chewing Award. As a humanoid in a homicidal rage because replicants are built to last only four years, he stalks through the movie like an evil Aryan superman; he brings the wrong kind of intensity to the role—an effete, self-aware irony so overscaled it’s Wagnerian. His gaga performance is an unconscious burlesque that apparently passes for great acting with the director, especially when Hauer turns noble sufferer and poses like a big hunk of sculpture. (It’s a wonder he doesn’t rust out in all that rain.) This sequence is particularly funny because there’s poor Harrison Ford, with the fingers of one hand broken, reduced to hanging on to bits of the cornice of a tall building by his one good hand—by then you’ve probably forgotten that he is Harrison Ford, the fellow who charms audiences by his boundless good humor—while the saucer-eyed Hauer rants and carries on. Ford is like Harold Lloyd stuck by mistake in the climax of “Duel in the Sun.”

Ridley Scott may not notice that when Hauer is onscreen the camera seems stalled and time breaks down, because the whole movie gives you a feeling of not getting anywhere. Deckard’s mission seems of no particular consequence. Whom is he trying to save? Those sewer-rat people in the city? They’re presented as so dehumanized that their life or death hardly matters. Deckard feels no more connection with them than Ridley Scott does. They’re just part of the film’s bluish-gray, heavy-metal chic—inertia made glamorous. Lead zeppelins could float in this smoggy air. And maybe in the moviemakers’ heads, too. Why is Deckard engaged in this urgent hunt? The replicants are due to expire anyway. All the moviemakers’ thinking must have gone into the sets. Apparently, the replicants have a motive for returning to Earth: they’re trying to reach Tyrell—they hope he can extend their life span. So if the police want to catch them, all they need to do is wait for them to show up at Tyrell’s place. And why hasn’t Deckard, the ace blade runner, figured out that if the replicants can’t have their lives extended they may want revenge for their slave existence, and that all he’s doing is protecting Tyrell? You can dope out how the story might have been presented, with Deckard as the patsy who does Tyrell’s dirty work; as it is, you can’t clear up why Tyrell isn’t better guarded—and why the movie doesn’t pull the plot strands together.

“Blade Runner” is musty even while you’re looking at it (and noting its relationship to Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” and to von Sternberg’s lighting techniques, and maybe to Polanski’s “Chinatown” and “Fellini’s Roma,” and so on). There are some remarkable images—for example, when the camera plays over the iron grillwork of the famous Bradbury Building in Los Angeles the iron looks tortured into shape. These images are part of the sequences about a lonely, sickly young toymaker, Sebastian (William Sanderson), who lives in the deserted building. Sebastian has used the same techniques employed in producing replicants to make living toy companions for himself, and since the first appearance of these toys has some charm, we wait to see them in action again. When the innocent, friendly Sebastian is in danger, we expect the toys to come to his aid or be upset or, later, try to take reprisals for what happens to their creator, or at least grieve. We assume that moviemakers wouldn’t go to all the trouble of devising a whole batch of toy figures only to forget about them. But this movie loses track of the few expectations it sets up, and the formlessness adds to a viewer’s demoralization—the film itself seems part of the atmosphere of decay. “Blade Runner” has nothing to give the audience—not even a second of sorrow for Sebastian. It hasn’t been thought out in human terms. If anybody comes around with a test to detect humanoids, maybe Ridley Scott and his associates should hide. With all the smoke in this movie, you feel as if everyone connected with it needs to have his flue cleaned.


Are we living in a Blade Runner world?

The 1982 sci-fi film imagined a dystopian metropolis in November 2019. But, now we’ve caught up, to what extent did it really predict our present reality, asks David Barnett.

The city stretches as far as the eye can see; the lights in the packed-together buildings shine – unlike the stars which are invisible in the smog-filled night sky… Flames belch from gigantic industrial towers. A vehicle flies into the scene, then out again, heading towards two monstrous pyramids.

An increasingly anxious man undergoes a verbal test conducted by his supervisor at the Tyrell Corporation, housed in the vast ziggurats. It doesn’t end well. We cut to another flying car, negotiating the narrow avenues of the city, framed against a digital hoarding, storeys-tall, featuring an Asian woman advertising snack foods. A booming voice cheerfully tells the unseen but presumably multitudinous denizens of this strange future world that a new life awaits them in the off-world colonies.

Except, of course, it isn’t the future, not any more. This is Blade Runner, the 1982 movie directed by Ridley Scott: (very loosely) based on Philip K Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and telling the story of Rick Deckard, a cop who works for the LAPD, tracking down and ‘retiring’ replicants – genetically-engineered, almost-human artificial people whose presence on Earth is illegal, following a replicant revolt on one of Earth’s off-world colonies.

This may sound far-flung from our own reality, but as the opening credits tell us, the film is set in Los Angeles, November 2019. In that sense, Blade Runner is no longer science fiction. It’s a contemporary thriller. The question is: in the 37 years between Blade Runner’s release and its setting – our present – how close have we come to the future presented in the movie?

On one hand, there are parts of its vision of 2019 that feel jarringly old-fashioned. There is no internet, and when we first meet Deckard he’s reading an actual newspaper, sheltering from the rain by the window of a shop that is selling bulky old cathode-ray television sets. Meanwhile when Deckard performs the Voight-Kampff test – an examination designed to distinguish replicants from humans via their emotional responses to verbal questioning  – on Sean Young’s Rachael, the assistant of Eldon Tyrell, the boss of the company that makes replicants, she is smoking! A cigarette! In an office!

The world of Blade Runner is one in which the fictional Tyrell conglomerate dominates alongside other, real-life corporations, that feature on some of the film’s massive neon advertising hoardings – tempting fate as to whether the businesses active in 1982 would still be going in 2019. Coca-Cola was a fairly safe bet, but PanAm, whose logo we glimpse in the opening scene, wasn’t; the airline went out of business in 1991.

On the other hand, we are still catching up with much of its technology, of course – though some elements are now not far beyond the bounds of possibility. A German company, Lilium, announced last month that the flying car it is developing could be in use as a taxi service by the year 2025. We don’t have artificial humans, but we have been making huge strides in gene-editing, causing concern in some quarters. And we don’t need the Voight-Kampff test yet, but how many times have you been asked to mark all the traffic lights on a grid picture to prove you’re not a robot, and gain access to a website?

What the film gets right

However, beyond particular components, Blade Runner arguably gets something much more fundamental right, which is the world’s socio-political outlook in 2019 – and that isn’t particularly welcome, according to Michi Trota, who is a media critic and the non-fiction editor of the science-fiction periodical, Uncanny Magazine.

“It’s disappointing, to say the least, that what Blade Runner ‘predicted’ accurately is a dystopian landscape shaped by corporate influence and interests, mass industrialisation’s detrimental effect on the environment, the police state, and the whims of the rich and powerful resulting in chaos and violence, suffered by the socially marginalised.”

In the movie the replicants have a fail-safe programmed into them – a lifespan of just four years – to prevent a further revolution. Trota believes there is “something prescient in the replicants’ frustration and rage at their shortened lifespans, resulting from corporate greed and indifference, that’s echoed in the current state of US healthcare and globalised exploitation of workers.” She adds: “I’d have vastly preferred the flying cars instead.”

As for the devastating effects of pollution and climate change evident in Blade Runner, as well as its 2017 sequel Blade Runner 2049, “the environmental collapse the film so vividly depicts is not too far off from where we are today,” says science-fiction writer and software developer Matthew Kressel, pointing to the infamous 2013 picture of the Beijing smog that looks like a cut frame from the film. “And we’re currently undergoing the greatest mass extinction since the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. In addition, the film’s depiction of haves and have-nots, those who are able to live comfortable lives, while the rest live in squalor, is remarkably parallel to the immense disparity in wealth between the world’s richest and poorest today. In that sense, the film is quite accurate.”

Accurate about where, though? Blade Runner’s Los Angeles is a cultural melange, with heavy Eastern influences, and a street-level argot called Cityspeak that is a mish-mash of Japanese, Spanish, German, Korean, among other languages. Trota, who is Filipino-American, says the film is an example of “how pervasive the use of ‘exotic Asian pastiche’ is in science-fiction stories that seem to have no problem with taking the surface bits of non-European cultures to ‘spice things up’, while neglecting to include any significant characters of colour in those stories”.

As in Kressel’s comment above, Beijing has been a frequent reference point when discussing Blade Runner’s metropolis – and that’s where award-winning science-fiction author Mary Robinette Kowal has just returned from. Is the Chinese megacity more representative of the Blade Runner aesthetic than present-day LA, I wonder? “The smog was no joke, so in that respect, yes,” says Kowal. “But in the parts of Beijing that I was in, I saw a significant overlap of the old and the new. Each seemed equally celebrated. Aside from the air quality, it was a clean, modern city, interwoven with historic areas.”

What’s the point of sci-fi?

Is the question of whether Blade Runner in 1982 correctly predicted the world of 2019 even a valid one, though? Is it science fiction’s job to be predictive, or to just entertain? Or, perhaps, something more?

Kowal says she is less interested in the genre’s literally predictive qualities than in the opportunities it offers as “a playground for thought experiments. It allows us to tip our world to the side and look at the interconnected tissues and then draw logical chains of causality into the future. The best SF remains relevant, not because of the technology in it, but because of the questions it forces us to ask. Blade Runner, for instance, is asking about the morality of creating sentient life for the purpose of enslaving it.”

Trota agrees science fiction’s real potency lies in the wider philosophical issues it explores. “It can often be about the future, it can be ‘predictive’ but those predictions are also very much reflective of our grappling with present day issues, as well as our past. If there’s any ‘job’ that science fiction – and fantasy – has, to paraphrase authors Ijeoma Oluo and NK Jemisin, it’s to help us imagine entirely new ways of being, to move beyond reflexively recreating our past so we can envision other ways of living outside the systems, oppressions, and societal defaults we’ve internalised and normalised.”

Kowal’s latest novels, The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, envisage an alternate-history US, where a woman mathematician and pilot leads humanity’s mission to colonise other worlds, as an apocalyptic climate change bears down on the Earth. The author says that Blade Runner “shaped a lot of our ideas of what ‘the future’ looks like… If we think of broad strokes, I think it did surprisingly well. Pollution, talking to our computers, corporations running the country, and the ethical questions of who is considered a person. If we talk about specifics? Flying cars exist but are always going to be a terrible idea, so I’m fine with not having those in the mainstream.”

If not necessarily predictive, science fiction can also prove to have a symbiotic relationship with the present. Kowal says, “So many people in STEM fields cite science-fiction films or books as their inspiration for an invention. Did Star Trek invent the flip phone, or cause it to come into being? Did 1984 predict the Big Brother state or prevent it from being pervasive?”

And it can also provide a warning for us to mend our ways. Nobody, surely, would want to live in the November 2019 depicted by Blade Runner, would they? Don’t be too sure, says Kressel.

“In a way, Blade Runner can be thought of as the ultimate cautionary tale,” he says. “Has there ever been a vision so totally bleak, one that shows how environmental degradation, dehumanisation and personal estrangement are so harmful to the future of the world?

“And yet, if anything, Blade Runner just shows the failure of the premise that cautionary tales actually work. Instead, we have fetishised Blade Runner’s dystopian vision. Look at most art depicting the future across literature, film, visual art, and in almost all of them you will find echoes of Blade Runner’s bleak dystopia.

“Blade Runner made dystopias ‘cool’, and so here we are, careening toward environmental collapse one burned hectare of rainforest at a time. If anything, I think we should be looking at why we failed to heed its warning.”


Blade Runner 2049: The Mysteries Deepen

The good news about life on Earth, thirty-two years from now, is that people still listen to Frank Sinatra. In “Blade Runner 2049,” the land is the color of a corpse, and the skies are no better. The only tree is sapless and dead, and the only farmer is harvesting weevils for protein. The Voice, however, is unimpaired. True, Sinatra is no more than a hologram, crooning to a couple of folks in the shell of a Las Vegas hot spot, and yet, when he sings the words “Set ’em up, Joe,” you soften and melt as if it were 1954 and he were singing them to Doris Day, hushing a crowded room, in “Young at Heart.”

By a nice twist, there is a Joe around. He’s with the L.A.P.D., and he’s officially called KD6.3-7 (Ryan Gosling), or K, for short, but somebody suggests Joe, and it lends him a little flavor. He needs a real name, not least because it makes him sound like a real person—shades of Pinocchio, who longed to be a real boy. In fact, K is a Blade Runner: a synthetic human known as a replicant, physically redoubtable and emotionally dry, whose job is to find and to “retire” (a ghoulish euphemism) any early-model replicants who are still out there. They have “open-ended lifespans,” and immortality, as ever, is not to be trusted. Such is the premise of Denis Villeneuve’s ambitious sequel to Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner,” which came out in 1982 and was set, with startling powers of premonition, in 2019. It starred Harrison Ford as Deckard, a cop who hunted down rogue replicants across Los Angeles—a joyless Babel, blitzed by neon glare and lashed by the whip of dirty rain. That was the future back then. How’s it looking now?

Well, the rain hasn’t stopped. Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink; most of it is contaminated, and when K takes a shower it’s over in a two-second blast. The director of photography, Roger Deakins, delights in drowning our senses: enemies clash by night in a frothing torrent, at the foot of a dam, and, in one telling image, K’s boss, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), is barely visible through a window, such is the deluge streaming across the panes. “It is my job to keep order,” she says, and that order is coming adrift. K has been sent out of town to confront a hulking replicant named Sapper Morton. (He is played by Dave Bautista, who gets better and more solid, if that is possible, with every film.) What K discovers, buried on Morton’s property, is a box of bones, and what the bones reveal is unthinkable: a secret that could undermine the near-fascistic system, upheld by Joshi, whereby replicants do the bidding of humanity. If replicants were to rise up or—perish the thought—to reproduce, there might be no way to contain them.

Not that the film is a hymn to revolution. It runs for nearly three hours, and it looms as large as an epic, with a score, by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, that feels at times like an onslaught of monumental thuds. Yet the bastions of power—the corporate ziggurats of L.A., cliff-high and elephant gray, which viewers of the first film will recall with awe—remain in place, unbreached, and the hordes at ground level seethe not with a lust for liberation but with a busy trade in high-tech assistance and lowly sexual favors. Moreover, the plot is a small and coiled affair, involving a missing child, and the mood is as inward as anything in the annals of Philip Marlowe, with a dose of Marlowe’s glum self-bullying, as K investigates not only historical crimes but his own potential presence in the labyrinth of the past. The movie doesn’t seem slow, but its clues are minuscule—a single piano key depressed beside its neighbors, a serial number visible only under a microscope—and the action sequences flare up against a backdrop of inaction and an existential dread of getting stuck. The result is at once consuming and confounding, a private puzzle cached inside a blockbuster.

One coup, for Villeneuve, is the return of Harrison Ford, as Deckard. The surprise was sprung in a trailer, months ago, raising expectations that the new movie might clear up the conundrum that has plagued the brains of “Blade Runner” fans since 1982: Is Deckard himself a replicant? I am pleased to report that I still can’t decide. Undying he may or may not be, but he is certainly aging, with a halting gait and a bottle of Johnnie Walker close at hand. He lives alone with—guess what—a shaggy dog, pouring whiskey onto the floor for the mutt to lap at. Ford is splendidly grizzled and gruff, giving the film a necessary rasp, and he even shakes up Ryan Gosling. I happen to like Gosling in hangdog mode, when he yields to the pressure of sentiment, as in “Blue Valentine” (2010), but many of his worshippers prefer the cool constraint that he showed in “Drive” (2011), and that is mostly what we get here. K is an android, after all, who can walk away from a bloody fight without a squeak of complaint, and one purpose of the film is to probe that calm façade. Hence the two scenes in which, after a mission, he is interrogated not by a superior but by a computer that stares at him, with an unblinking lens, and performs a “Post-Trauma Baseline Test.” K must respond to certain words and phrases: “Cells,” “Interlinked,” “A Tall White Fountain Played.” The first time he takes the test, he passes. Later in the film, he fails.

What the hell is going on here, and what does it tell us about the relation of “Blade Runner 2049” to the original? Decode the test, and you realize that the computer is quoting verse:

Cells interlinked within cells interlinked
Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct
Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.

The lines come from Nabokov’s “Pale Fire,” a novel that wraps a poem inside a commentary. The mixture is rich in murder and madness, and you can go crazy, too, piecing together the components of the book; what matters is that each gorges on the other, and so it is with the two parts of “Blade Runner.” The second film doesn’t explicate the first so much as compound its mystery, and, in some respects, I envy those who don’t have to wrestle with the comparison. Younger viewers who’ve never seen Scott’s movie will be granted a delicious jolt as the fully formed dystopia rises out of nowhere to greet their virginal gaze. They can relish the spectacle of K’s police car in flight, while we veterans get a kick out of the newfangled drone that detaches from its roof and, at K’s casual command, goes sniffing around like a gundog. And, if the newbies thrill to Sylvia Hoeks as a Terminator-style replicant, assigned to track the hero in his quest, try not to ruin their fun by mentioning Rutger Hauer, who, shouldering a similar role in 1982, brought us the poetry of implacability. The new film’s idea of an arch-villain is Jared Leto, who has milky orbs for eyes, and who gives the impression, as in last year’s “Suicide Squad,” of an actor straining a little too hard, with dialogue to match: “You do not know what pain is. You will learn.”

Despite all the overlaps, this is not a simulacrum of a Ridley Scott film. It is unmistakably a Denis Villeneuve film, inviting us to tumble, tense with anticipation, into his doomy clutches. “Prisoners” (2013) was as welcoming as a dungeon, and, in “Blade Runner 2049,” the light is no longer, as Nabokov had it, “dreadfully distinct / Against the dark,” for the darkness has overcome it. San Diego is a waste dump, and Las Vegas lurks in a tangerine dream of radioactive smog. And yet, within the gloom, what miracles unfold. Brace yourself for the delivery of a new replicant, not born as a baby but slithering out from a plastic sheath as an instant adult, slimy with fabricated vernix and quaking at the shock of being alive. Suddenly, the lofty questions that swarm around artificial intelligence—Could the feelings familiar to mankind abound within the man-made? Could an operating system grow a soul?—reach a breathtaking consummation, and become flesh.

More wondrous still is Ana de Armas, who plays Joi, a digital program that in turn plays K’s live-in girlfriend. It is no coincidence that Villeneuve’s best films, “Sicario” (2015) and “Arrival” (2016), feature a woman at their center, and, whenever Joi appears, the movie’s imaginative heart begins to race. Upon request, she manifests herself in K’s apartment, switching outfits in a shimmer—a vision that smacks of servility, except that it’s he who seems beholden to her. Gosling looks happiest in these scenes, perhaps because happiness, albeit of the simulated sort, hovers within K’s grasp. And what a simulation: at one point, Joi uses an Emanator, which allows her to escape her virtual self and to experience mortal sensations—the prick of rain on her skin, naturally, and a tangible embrace. Has science fiction, you want to ask, ever conjured a moment quite as romantic as this? And how can it possibly last? It can’t; K gets a voice mail that overrides Joi and freezes her, inches short of a kiss. Love is deleted, and the Blade Runner gets back to work. The future, unlike Heaven, can’t wait. 


Blade Runner 2049 – and why eyes are so important in this vision of the future

Even a brief glimpse of Blade Runner 2049 takes you straight into Deckard’s world. Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece gets the colour palette just right, perfectly capturing the tone of the original.

Achieving the look and feel of the original Blade Runner (1982) is essential because appearances, vision and eyes are key to both the experience and the story.

Blade Runner was ahead of the AI curve when it made sci-fi arguments about identity and philosophy a mainstream concern. Is Deckard a replicant? Do androids have souls? What makes us human?

In the original, seeking answers was all about looking at the eyes. The film’s Voight-Kampff “empathy test”, used by the Blade Runners to identify replicants, now has its own special place in popular culture. The striking image of a glorious blue iris reflecting fire and light has become a cinematic icon; and Rutger Hauer’s emotional final lines when his character, Roy Batty, succumbs to death are a sublime moment in film history:

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Time to die.

And now Blade Runner 2049 appears primed to expand the exploration of eyes and identity with mind-bending visuals. In the neon flashes and noirish glimmers, Jared Leto’s character, Niander Wallace, muses on the act of creating replicants like a blind god. His white irises have a sinister and mysterious beauty, but they also belie any sense of limitation caused by his lack of sight – even though he can’t see, he has the “vision” to create or end life.

David Bowie was actually Villeneuve’s first choice for the Niander Wallace role. Seen as an influence upon Blade Runner “in many ways”, the late singer was also well-known for his distinctive mismatched eyes that gave him an otherworldly persona – an affect Leto created in his own way with “custom made contact lenses that turned his eyes totally opaque”.

Eye spy

Cinema has often used eyes as a visual code for character and morality. Traditionally, damaged eyes tend to represent “baddies” and corruption – suggesting an off-kilter world seen in a dark and dangerous way. The vicious scar Donald Pleasence has around his right eye as a highly memorable Ernst Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (1967) helps to make him an enduring Bond villain.

The Oscar winning Chinatown (1974), meanwhile, is full of cracked lenses, broken glasses and other means of distorting vision – ending with the disturbing shot of Faye Dunaway, as Evelyn Mulwray, with her eye socket blown apart by a bullet.

And as Carl Fogarty in A History of Violence (2005), Ed Harris relishes showing his scar tissue to the camera as he recalls his eye being ripped out with barbed wire.

Cinema also has its fair share of “old crones” with cataracts setting curses (Drag Me to Hell); blind priests who have forsaken their faith (Father Spiletto in The Omen), and “mutants” with unusual eyes spying on unwitting victims (The Hills Have Eyes).

Computers and robots add a different twist to this psychopathology. The calm red lens of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); Yul Brenner’s blank metallic eyes in Westworld (1973), and the persistent red dot shining out of Arnie’s silver skull in the original Terminator (1984) all project fear through a sense of the uncanny.

If the thought of a non-human consciousness glimpsed through the eye as a “window to the soul” is consistently unnerving, it is because instead of a human connection there is something else there entirely: the terror and wonder of the unknown.

By contrast, heroes are more likely to benefit from enhanced vision. Christopher Reeve’s Superman (1978) famously has X-ray eyes, while Keanu Reeve’s “Neo” in The Matrix (1999) realises his destiny as “The One” only when he can visualise the code world and see how to change its rules from within.

New look

But our changing perception of eyes and how we see them is also visible onscreen. We now have popular blind superheroes like Daredevil, on film (2003) and TV (2015 onwards), and anti-heroes like Elliot in Mr Robot (2015 onwards) who “sees differently” due to a strange combination of dissociative identity disorder and next-level hacker skills. Rami Malek’s starring eyes, somewhere between the unblinking focus of a screen addict and the wide-eyed paranoia of a drug addict, add a mesmeric quality to his performance of Mr Robot’s complex persona.

Back in Deckard’s increasingly toxic world, it looks like Niander Wallace is set to become an iconic cinematic villain in a film already seen by some as a masterpiece. His cloudy eyes feel well suited to the shadowy undertones of Blade Runner 2049, while his ability to create artificial intelligence offer a dark vision of the future. However bleak an outlook Blade Runner 2049 might visualise, films that look as good as this make it hard to take your eyes off the screen – and offer a glimpse of our future.



Blade Runner 2049, like the original, is about what it means to be human. But the ethical implications of cloning could prophesize an ethically fraught future

In this fictional future, bio-engineered humans are known as replicants. Blade Runners “retire” or kill these replicants when they become a threat to society. In both films, we are left wondering what difference there is between a human and a replicant. In the original, rogue replicant Roy Batty – played by Rutger Hauer –comes across as more human than the humans when he delivers his famous “Tears in the Rain” speech.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.


The films raise fundamental questions about personal identity: who are we? What defines the existence of a person from one moment to the next?

Thematically, there is the suggestion that the biological mass, the body, is not what matters, but the mind. In the original, bioengineered Roy seems as human as Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard – as human as someone could be.

In 2049, the idea is extended further still. Officer K – played by Ryan Gosling – has a girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas) – she is a creation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) but seems as real as the other characters.

In the Blade Runner films, it is the psychological life, the mental states including dispositions, character and memories that matter, not whether one is a natural human or a bioengineered replicant, or even AI. This implies that AI, if it were to become conscious and have the same mental states as us, should be treated as one of us.

These issues of moral status already face us today.

Scientists in the US and Japan are creating pig-human chimeras using a procedure called blastocyst complementation. A pig embryo is taken and gene editing knocks out the genes for an organ, for example the liver.

In the future, a human skin cell could be taken from a person needing a liver transplant. This would be cloned to produce induced pluripotent stem cells of that person and would then be injected into the early pig embryo. The result would be a pig-human chimera where all the cells in the body are a mixture of pig and human, except the liver. The liver would be human and could then be extracted to save the life of a sick person.

The problem is that it is difficult to predict how human or pig the chimeric organs, including the brain, would be. It is possible the brain could be quite human, but the appearance be pig-like.

How such an animal ought to be treated, and whether it is ethical to take its liver, will depend on its mental states. It could be closer to human than to pig. It will, however, be extremely difficult to assess its psychological capabilities and mental states since it would not have direct language.

The pig-human chimera would be a kind of organ replicant. How it should be treated will depend not on its species membership, or what it looks like, but on what kind of mental states it has.


Another issue raised in both films is the unjust treatment of the replicants because they are biologically different, though their mental lives turn out to be very similar to ours. In many ways, they are better than us, more humane.

Our biological origins are irrelevant to our moral status and how we ought to be treated.

I coined the term “clonism” – which describes the poor treatment of clones of existing people compared with non-clones. Clonism is what occurs in Nobel prize winning author, Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, Never Let Me Go. This issue arose in debates around in vitro fertilisation before the 1978 birth of the world’s first IVF baby.

People worried that “test tube” babies would be discriminated against, teased or treated as socially inferior. They haven’t been and nor of course should they be – the process of conception is irrelevant to their moral status and rights.

This will come up if people are genetically selected or even born as the result of gene editing. What was science fiction in 1982 is fast becoming a reality. The prospect of bioengineering human beings using gene editing is with us.

One possible use would be to prevent catastrophic genetic disease in cases where couples have a sole remaining embryo during IVF. But the possibilities could extend to endowing humans with unprecedented abilities as genes could be transferred or introduced from any part of the animal or plant kingdom.


The moral of the Blade Runner films is that what matters is the quality of mental life, not its biological origins, or even whether it is “original.” In the future, new life forms will exist with mental lives, some of these will be biological in origin and others will arise from AI.

These lives ought to be respected and treated according to psychological properties, not according to physical appearance or the origin of their “hardware.”

In the years since 1982 when Blade Runner was first made, cloning of human beings either by nuclear transfer or embryo splitting has become possible. Genetic selection using whole genome analysis of every gene in the genome is on the horizon.

Gene editing is being done on human embryos and artificial intelligence is increasing exponentially in power. Yet a failure of philosophical understanding of identity and moral status pervades our discussion of these life changing advances in science. Our scientific powers have inordinately increased in the last 35 years but our moral insight has progressed very little.


e C h O e S

’70s Pink Floyd Songs That We Will Always Remember

Their Glory Years

The 1970s was a glorious era in rock but Pink Floyd rose up and became one of prog-rock’s titans with a string of classic hits that reaffirmed their status as rockstars. Founder and frontman Syd Barrett left in 1968 due to his deteriorating mental health and his unreliability during live performances. Roger Waters stepped up and took on the role of primary lyricist. He was also mostly responsible for coming up with their iconic concept albums.

5. Echoes (Meddle, 1971)

The highlight of their sixth album Meddle, the song takes up the entire side two and clocks in at 23 minutes & 31 seconds. From the structure and texture to Gilmour’s stunning solo, Echoes evolved from some of their live performances. Its working title was Return To The Sun Of Nothing and if you think the song seems deep, that’s because it is. Waters wanted to describe “The potential that human beings have for recognizing each other’s humanity and responding to it, with empathy rather than antipathy.”

4. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Wish You Were Here, 1975)

A tribute to Syd Barrett, it’s slow and dramatic. And it perfectly conveyed Waters’ distress at seeing Barrett’s state when he wandered into their recording studio. Separated in two parts, the epic track bookends their ninth album Wish You Were Here. It’s one of the most arresting and emotive pieces in Pink Floyd’s catalog. Not surprisingly, this was also difficult to record.

3. Money (The Dark Side Of The Moon, 1973)

In the early ’70s, Pink Floyd were at their creative peak and Money is one of the proofs. From the unusual time signature to the guitar riffs and bass line, it’s as glorious as it can get. Throw in some extended guitar solos by Gilmour and we just couldn’t ask for more. In an interview with Guitar World, Gilmour revealed: “I just wanted to make a dramatic effect with the three solos. The first solo is ADT’d – Artificially Double Tracked. I think I did the first two solos on a Fender Stratocaster, but the last one was done on a different guitar – a Lewis, which was made by some guy in Vancouver. It had a whole two octaves on the neck, which meant I could get up to notes that I couldn’t play on a Stratocaster.”

2. Wish You Were Here (Wish You Were Here, 1975)

Pink Floyd can go from dreamy to fiery but for one of their most hauntingly beautiful pieces, it’s both emotive and poignant. According to Waters, this is another song inspired by Barrett whose battle with his mental health was well-known. Even with plenty of masterpieces on their catalog, this is actually one of the few times when both Waters and Gilmour wrote a song together. Gilmour called it one of their best songs “because of its resonance and the emotional weight it carries.”

1. Comfortably Numb (The Wall, 1979)

This rock anthem perfectly defines Pink Floyd’s sound. It’s one of their most popular and enduring songs. A lot of people mistakenly believed it’s about drugs but Waters has repeatedly denied that and even explained what it’s about. Speaking to Guitar World about his iconic solo, Gilmour said: “I just went out into the studio and banged out 5 or 6 solos. From there I just followed my usual procedure, which is to listen back to each solo and mark out bar lines, saying which bits are good.”


Looking back at Pink Floyd’s ambitious experiment, ‘Meddle‘ 50 years later

By 1971, Pink Floyd were one of the biggest bands in the world and drowning in touring commitments. They were restricted to only snippets of studio time as they tried to write and record Meddle. The story goes that, while messing around in the Abbey Road studio, Pink Floyd happened upon one note that would form a 23-minute song and define their output as one of the finest prog-rock bands of all time. ‘Echoes’ was the song, and it is just one part of why Meddle is one of the band’s best records.

With limited time and resources, the band’s experimental edge came to slice through the muck and deliver an LP worthy of their high praise. 50 years later, and it appears as though Meddle’s presence in the pantheon of The Floyd is ever-growing, with countless generations resisting the album to witness what accurate, precise and potent musical experimentation is.

No clue and no direction are usually two facets one would like to keep away from the art of making music. But, in the case of Pink Floyd and backed by the talents of the musicians at hand, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason composed a series of novel sound experiments that would eventually turn into ‘Echoes’. This 23-minute opus would define the entire album. The record is considered a transitional moment for the group, after they had left Syd Barrett’s style behind and before Roger Waters took over lyrical duties, Meddleis blissful in its envelopment of the listener.

The band used several experimental methods to start creating the album. One such method was to ask each band member to play on a track without any knowledge of what the rest of the group had played or would play. The bandmates were also asked to experiment with tempo, with simple directions like “first two minutes romantic, next two up-tempo” being the only notes. The early experiments, titled Nothings, was soon developed into Son of Nothings, which, in turn, was followed by Return of the Son of Nothings as the working title of the LP, before they became a single side of the record, ‘Echoes’.

These experiments would not cease on the flipside of the album. ‘one of These Days’, the album opener, would feature Mason maliciously saying into the mic: “One of these days I’m going to cut you into little pieces.” It drawls on as the bassline builds to an unfathomable climax. It, alongside ‘Echoes’, has become a signature favourite for Floyd’s fans. But the rest of the album is potent and powerful, providing a sincere reflection of Pink Floyd in their expressive pomp.

Simply put, this album was the moment when Pink Floyd moved out of the traditional rock sphere and towards forging a new genre in prog-rock. Initially, the group had been expanding the psyche-rock sound but now jumped out of the realm of rock and towards a new and progressive musical style.

Using everyday objects and brand new techniques, the group were very much on the path towards greatness. In fact, it was the first step towards their most beautiful records, and without Meddle, many of them would not have been made at all. This album is the foundation stone for all of that work, and everybody else’s within the prog-rock arena.


Classics Revisited: Pink Floyd – ‘Meddle’

Anytime I happen to listen to Meddle, or hear any of its strange and – quite frankly, confusing – array of tracks, I appreciate more and more the circumstantial limbo that this weird and beautiful album found itself conceived within (hear me out – the context is important, and slightly intriguing) – and how this ultimately birthed what is now considered one of Pink Floyd’s greatest achievements.

It’s no secret that Pink Floyd were going through a rough, and creatively inconsistent patch following the nervous breakdown and departure of founding member, frontman, and writer Syd Barrett in 1968. With new talent in the form of David Gilmour, who would later fuel Floyd’s more accessible and famous sound, they were yet to release a palpable, consistent third album – and so the group were let loose upon Abbey Road studios in early 1971, collaborating properly as a band for the first time. And in the improvisational revelry, in the search for an elusive, mysterious sound, unfolded Meddle, released in October of 1971.

I say all of this because Meddle as an album – to me at least – makes no sense. The album comprises an eclectic side A of five contrasting tracks, and a side B of only one song – the epic, mesmerising, 23-minute-long Echoes, somewhere between prog-rock and post-rock: art-rock and soundscape. Ranging from the intensity of the opening track One of These Days, to the melodic, lackadaisical central songs – music akin to floating on the clouds – and eventually, back to Echoes, which shatters the peace and resonates with a fervid grandeur that’ll somehow make you wish the 23 minutes (and 33 seconds) would never end.

In fact, it’s really not fair of me to group the central four tracks together so haphazardly. The soothing A Pillow of Winds, calms us down from the intensity: a more accessible track which slows the pace of the album down – followed by the beautiful Fearless, famously finishing with a rendition of the Liverpool anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone. After that we have the bluesy San Tropez, a track I can only describe positively and using the words ‘little ditty’; and 5th comes the only weakness of the album, a simple song called Seamus (About a dog of the same name): a joke track Gilmour included, meant as a small respite, but which ultimately fell short and failed to provide any real substance to the creatively dense Meddle (Gilmour later said of the song: “I guess it wasn’t really as funny to everyone else [as] it was to us»). Finally Echoes hits – powerful, grand and a little terrifying. All I’ll say is it’s really a must-listen track.

Yet, despite all of this perplexity, Floyd manages to tie each estranged and mystifying track into something more powerful than the sum of its parts – and in doing so, produces what can only be considered as a classic – an essential album which paved the way for a multitude of avant-garde genres and artists (admittedly Echoes does this almost all by itself), and showed the world the true potential of the group.

Meddle – sonically and contextually – falls between a classically Pink Floyd sound, and something entirely different. Echoes itself could be considered a standalone achievement, but the rest of the album brings together the remaining enigmatic tracks which act as a lead up to the grand finale, and should be enjoyed almost (but not quite) as much. This album will forever hold a special place for me as it was one of the cornerstone albums I listened to in school, which would pave the way for my own passion for experimental and strange music, a love which I hold to this day.


Echoes by Pink Floyd

Overhead the albatross
Hangs motionless upon the air
And deep beneath the rolling waves
In labyrinths of coral caves
The echo of a distant time
Comes willowing across the sand
And everything is green and submarine

And no one showed us to the land
And no one knows the where’s or why’s
But something stirs and something tries
And starts to climb toward the light

Strangers passing in the street
By chance, two separate glances meet
And I am you and what I see is me
And do I take you by the hand
And lead you through the land
And help me understand the best I can?

And no one calls us to move on
And no one forces down our eyes
No one speaks and no one tries
No one flies around the sun

Cloudless everyday
You fall upon my waking eyes
Inviting and inciting me to rise
And through the window in the wall
Come streaming in on sunlight wings
A million bright ambassadors of morning

And no one sings me lullabies
And no one makes me close my eyes
So I throw the windows wide
And call to you across the sky

Us + Them (The Bright Side of the World)

The Meaning Behind the Band Name: Pink Floyd

The seeds of the band known today as Pink Floyd were first sewn in the mid-1960s. The band, which formed formally in 1965, has gone on to make some of the most impactful and beloved albums of all time (The Dark Side of the Moon, anyone?).

But what about their name? What about the moniker Pink Floyd? What does it mean? Who is Floyd and why is he pink?

Humble Rock Beginnings

The English rock band was formed in London in 1965. The group quickly rose to popularity for its inventive, psychedelic style that featured long experimental guitar solos and longer songs. Mixed with philosophical lyrics, the band was both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Founded by Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright, the band had several names before landing on the one we now know today. The band released its first album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn in 1967. Guitarist David Gilmour joined that same year and Barrett left in 1968, suffering from mental illness and drug use.

The band released The Dark Side of the Moon in 1973, Wish You Were Here in 1975, Animals in 1977, and The Wall in 1979. What a remarkable run of music.

Different Names

Waters and Mason met in school in London. They first played together in a group called the Sigma 6. Waters played lead guitar, Mason drummed and Wright was on rhythm guitar. Later, during those formative years, Sigma 6 went through some other name changes, including Meggadeaths, the Abdabs, and the Screaming Abdabs. Also: Leonard’s Lodgers and the Spectrum Five. Finally, they landed on the name the Tea Set.

1965: Pink Floyd

That year, Barrett, now in the group, took over on lead guitar. The group then rebranded itself in late 1965, first referring to themselves as the Pink Floyd Sound. Later it was The Pink Floyd and after that, it was shortened simply to Pink Floyd.

According to lore, Barrett came up with the name in the spur of the moment when he found out there was another band called the Tea Set, which was slated to perform at one of their gigs. The name Pink Floyd comes from the given names of two prominent blues musicians, who Barrett loved: Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.


Today, the band is revered. And like other bands who have names that seemingly make little sense on the face of it, Pink Floyd is both odd and mysterious and ubiquitous and taken at face value. Say the name to any music fan and they’re likely to light up before spewing their favorite album and song titles from the progressive rock group.


What Makes Pink Floyd Such a Unique Band?

Pink Floyd’s music not only established a genre but managed to remain timeless. It embodied an era and captured an emotion that no other band could. Pink Floyd sought to encapsulate something that no one could or will likely ever replicate.

Despite this, it can be easy for the band to be judged on face value solely for its music. Sadly, that means it just gets thrown in with other great bands of its decade. But the real beauty of Pink Floyd doesn’t show on the surface. It exists behind the notes and words that the band uses. Here’s how that makes Pink Floyd such a unique band.

The Band is Authentic with Their Message

There’s  only so many themes that a band can write their music about. Eventually, they run the risk of sounding like their predecessors. 

Whether it’s a desire to target mass appeal or a lack of creative direction, most bands start to adhere to a basic cookie-cutter formula.

But not Pink Floyd. The band never sought to hide behind a comfortable domain for the sake of commercial success. They have remained true to their message by expressing it as authentically as they can through their music.

They use their music to spread their convictions and philosophical perspectives to the world. And not for the sake of vanity or monetary benefit but because it’s the right thing to do. 

You don’t have to look any further than albums like ‘Wish You Were Here’. It explores the band’s disillusionment with the music industry, the loss of a band member, and a feeling of creative stagnation between band members.

Many bands would be willing to keep their two worlds separate for the sake of maintaining their image. But for Pink Floyd, these worlds are one and the same. And they can’t help but speak out about them. 

Dense, Rich Arrangements

Rock bands tend to have a fairly simple lineup. All it takes is a few guitars, a bass, a drum kit, and a vocalist. That’s nothing too impressive. But being able to create the grand sound that Pink Floyd does, certainly is. 

You can pick any album out of Pink Floyd’s extensive discography and find fully-fledged song arrangements that sound open but populated. 

It’s a unique space opera experience with distant keyboard synths, a steady centering bass, reverberating drum sounds, intimate acoustic guitar scrapes, yearning vocals, and time stretching guitar solos—all in one track. 

The fact that the band was able to create such soundscapes with a few instruments is incredible in its own right. But more so for giving the listener that sounds so center stage. 

It’s a feeling of seeing someone drift away while lingering on to their memory. Nothing else has ever come quite like it before. 

They Pioneered Their Genre

For an artist, it takes a lot to be established in a genre. It takes even more to be established in a genre that is yet to exist. But Pink Floyd made it happen all the same. This is what earned them their spotlight and cemented their place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

To date, Pink Floyd is credited with the conception of two very important genres; psychedelic space rock and blues-based early progressive rock. This has not only birthed an entire sphere of music, but it has also given inspiration to many artists such as the likes of David Bowie and Radiohead.

This is what set them apart from bands that existed in their time. They didn’t just choose a sound and work within its creative confines. The sound chose them, and it empowered their approach to build it according to their own path. Not something that’s all too commonly seen. 

Surreal Live Performances

It’s one thing to have strong musical appeal and meaningful messages. It’s another to provide an experience that is rarely found elsewhere. Yet Pink Floyd has done it all the time over the course of their long standing career. 

Ask any Pink Floyd fan, and they’ll tell you that their live performances are a step above the rest. The band does this by adding sensory elements to supplement their music. You’ll find things like lasers, lights, on-stage sets, and dioramas, providing you a unique experience. 

Audience engagement is a big part of what makes Pink Floyd’s shows stand out. Many of their concerts have gone down in rock history as unmissable experiences that have built the reputation of being magical. 

Some notable examples include using a giant cardboard representation of a cardboard wall for The Wall’s live performance or using an inflatable pig to represent capitalist imagery. All of which makes the price of admission more than worth it. 

Albums That Revolve Around a Theme

Pink Floyd is arguably among the first to cement the idea of what an album truly represents. Up until then, albums were just considered to be a basic collection of different tracks that fed the same musical style. But that changed when Pink Floyd showed up. 

Rather than using albums as a packaging method for songs, the band used it to drive a single idea that resonated through each track. By doing this, Pink Floyd managed to convey strong themes and messages through their work. 

Albums like The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon stand tall as exemplary works of art that transcend their musical shell. If you wanted to listen to any of these albums, you wouldn’t just listen to a few tracks. The optimum experience would be to finish an album in one sitting from start to finish.  

Almost any Pink Floyd album could stand on its own legs with its themes alone. The Wall presented the pressure of success and feeling distanced. Animals was a retelling of Orwellian societal politics. Dark Side of the Moon was a window into the experience of being driven mad with isolation.  

They’re Comfortable Being Themselve

In the music industry, there are a host of expectations and burdens that plague artists. Sometimes it’s the pressure from the production side of things; other times, it’s the fans. But it almost always results in an artist playing by the rules to avoid anyone’s ire. 

It takes an exceptional quality of transparency to understand that things are not ideal and yet accept them. Somehow, Pink Floyd managed to do it. That’s what has carried the band through countless lineup changes, personal spats, legal troubles, and outside criticism. 

Pink Floyd aren’t reluctant to express their genuine thoughts and stand up against what bothers them. Through a large body of their work, they have leveled their frustration at themselves, their fans, the music industry, and humanity in general. Not once have they felt half heated or regretful of what they want to express. That’s what makes the music stand the test of time. 

Guitar Solos with Depth

Guitar solos are to rock music what a fish is to water; inseparable. What sets Pink Floyd a cut above the rest is its ability to add a lot of depth to its instrumentation. That means featuring guitar solos that sound out of this world. 

There are usually three guitar players that come to mind when you think of a characteristic Pink Floyd solo: Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, and David Gilmour. And each of them have been able to inject their personality into the band with their soloing approaches. 

Above all, the most memorable solos usually tend to be associated with David Gilmour. His ability to use a basic pentatonic scale to extract and instill emotion really can’t be understated. 

On albums like The Dark Side of the Moon, Gilmour created solos that feel like they extend to the far reaches of space before being dissipated; a feeling that adds to the album’s idea of empty space and isolation. 

Their Evolution through the Years

Very few bands ever get to experience playing long enough to see stylistic evolution. Luckily, Pink Floyd has been around since 1965. That puts it at a good half-century of making, playing, and releasing music to the public. 

What’s important to notice is not how long they’ve been active. but how they’ve evolved over this time. 

Each era of Pink Floyd has had a front runner. And each one of these front runners has contributed something unique to the band. 

The Syd Barrett era shaped it by adding the guitarist’s imaginative touch to each song’s narrative. Roger Waters added to this by adding conceptual elements to the band’s albums. Finally, David Gilmour set the stage for sparse guitar arrangements with meaningful song wording. 

But instead of laying waste to an old approach, the band build its foundation on it. You’re able to track the final sound of the band based solely on its evolutionary path.

Profound lyrics 

Pink Floyd has always been lauded for its ability to be profound yet irreverent with its wording and imagery. Nowhere does it hit home as much as with the band’s lyrics. 

A lot of the band’s lyrics read out like poetic passages. And the messages they convey are some of the most relatable and relevant experiences. 

Here’s a section from The Final Cut about showcasing insecurities:

“And if I show you my dark side

Will you still hold me tonight?

And if I open my heart to you

And show you my weak side

What would you do?

Would you sell your story to Rolling Stone?

Would you take the children away

And leave me alone?

And smile in reassurance

As you whisper down the phone?

Would you send me packing?

Or would you take me home? 

These lyrics speak to the uncertainty of human nature. They ask the question of laying your true self bare while not knowing the outcome that follows it. 

At times, their lyrics get away from the philosophical and enter the real world. Here’s another piece from Have a Cigar:

“The band is just fantastic, that is really what I think,

Oh, by the way, which one’s Pink?”

This one is based on a real interaction that the band has with a producer. It shows the band’s disdain for the music industry that focuses on success rather than the music or the artist itself. Case in point, the producer in these lyrics shows his ignorance by assuming that Pink Floyd is the name of a person in the band.

They Function at Their Own Pace

Over the years, Pink Floyd has gotten both critical acclaim and criticism in the same vein. But the band’s vision has always seemed to follow its own time and space. A quality that has really made it feel otherworldly. 

Look no further than the 60s, where Pink Floyd saw its conception. You either had slow singer-songwriter artists or upbeat rock bands making headway. Setting yourself up as a down tempo progressive rock band with heavy lyrical themes and electronic elements seems so impossible.

But conventional industry success could never predict that the band would make it anyway by following their own unique approach. And it stood corrected. 

They Capture the Human Experience

Above all, what really makes Pink Floyd unique is how it’s captured a haunting feeling of nihilism and futility of the human experience. 

Balancing these perspectives takes more than just a little awareness. Few others would be able to tread that line carefully. 

Works like ‘The Wall’ paint a bleak picture of pain and agony in the larger search for acceptance. Despite achieving fame and popularity, Pink Floyd’s feelings of uncertainty, self-loathing, and dissidence are ever-present. And they are captured in their most purest form. 

From an outsider’s perspective, it’s hard to imagine how such a feeling of disdain could be channeled to make such beautiful art. But there it is. Floyd is able to take some out of the most agonizing human experiences and present them in a way that doesn’t rub anyone the wrong way. 


The Story of Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon

How did an album about mental illness, mortality and the need for human empathy become one of the most classic, iconic albums of all time staying on the US Billboard Charts for 741 weeks (14 years)?

With their album “Meddle” and the side-long masterpiece “Echoes”, Pink Floyd had established themselves as an anonymous super-group in an age of flamboyant rockers like Led Zeppelin and The Who. After the departure of Syd Barrett, Roger Waters had increasingly asserted the helm as musical director and “The Dark Side of the Moon” was the first album for which he dictated all the themes and wrote all the lyrics.

Written in a direct way, Waters reflected, “Its driven by emotion. There’s nothing plastic about it, nothing contrived” and called it “an expression of political, philosophical, humanitarian empathy that was desperate to get out.”

The album was recorded at Abbey Road where the band liked to play cricket matches against the staff and was engineered by Alan Parsons. The band pushed the limits of 16-track analogue studio technology and used keyboards, sequencers and sound effects which were groundbreaking at the time.

The sonics on the album are just as important as the lyrics and each reinforce the other as David Gilmour explained, “Roger and Nick tend to make the tapes or effects like the heartbeat on the LP… The heartbeat alludes to the human condition and sets the mood for the music, which describes the emotions experienced during a lifetime. Amid the chaos there is beauty and hope for mankind. The effects are purely to help the listener understand what the whole thing is about.”

Waters described the urgent message behind the album: “This is not a rehearsal. As far as we know – and I know there are some Hindus that would disagree with this – you only get one shot, and you’ve got to make choices based on whatever moral, philosophical or political position you may adopt…If ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ is anything, it is an exhortation to join the flow of the river of natural history in a way that’s positive…”


The making of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon: lyrically bleak, musically bonkers and, somehow, the 4th best-selling album of all time

Almost 50 years since its release, Pink Floyd‘s groundbreaking eighth album, Dark Side Of The Moon, remains a monumental achievement in the history of rock music. Despite never reaching number one in the UK, and spending just one week at the summit in the US, it has since notched up 937 weeks (that’s 18 years) in the Billboard 200 Albums chart, and sold more than 45m copies worldwide. It was also recently voted the best rock album of all time by Classic Rock readers, and it’s fair to say those guys know their shakes when it comes to quality music.

The album’s story starts in a poky studio in west London in 1971, when the band embarked upon 12 days in a rehearsal room at Decca Studios in Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead, London. They were working on a suite of music under the title Eclipse – which would, in due course, evolve into Dark Side Of The Moon.

«It began in a little rehearsal room in London,» said David Gilmour of the album’s early days. «We had quite a few pieces of music, some of which were left over from previous things.»

«I think we had already started improvising around some pieces at Broadhurst Gardens,» confirms Roger Waters. «After I had written a couple of the lyrics for the songs, I suddenly thought, I know what would be good: to make a whole record about the different pressures that apply in modern life.»

The album slowly began to take shape. By the time 1972 rolled around, rehearsals had moved to the Rolling Stones’ rehearsal facility; a disused Victorian warehouse at 47 Bermondsey Street, South London. A grand enough setting for a creative project which would eventually come to eclipse Floyd’s previous output in terms of both its scale and ambition. «We started with the idea of what the album was going to be about: the stresses and strains on our lives,» says Nick Mason.

«We were there for a little while, writing pieces of music and jamming,» adds Gilmour. «It was a very dark room.»

Two weeks later, Pink Floyd began a 16-date UK tour at The Dome, Brighton, which included the first live performance of Eclipse, now renamed Dark Side Of The Moon – A Piece For Assorted Lunatics. Naturally, the band decided their new material required an ambitious, demanding new stage set up to match. However, it was a move their technical teams weren’t quite ready for yet. The performance was cut short midway through Money due to tech problems. 

«In those days we didn’t understand how to separate power sufficiently between sound and lights,» explains former Floyd roadie Mick Kluczynski. «It was the very first show any band had done with a lighting rig that was powerful enough to make a difference. So we had this wonderful situation where the fans were actually inside the auditorium, and we had [sound engineers] Bill Kelsey and Dave Martin at either side of the stage screaming at each other in front of the crowd, having an argument.»

«A pulsating bass beat, pre-recorded, pounded around the hall’s speaker system. A voice declared Chapter five, verses 15 to 17 from the Book Of Athenians,» wrote former NME journalist Tony Stewart at the time. «The organ built up; suddenly it soared, like a jumbo jet leaving Heathrow; the lights, just behind the equipment, rose like an elevator. Floyd were on stage playing a medium-paced piece… The Floyd inventiveness had returned, and it astounded the capacity house… The number broke down thirty minutes through.»

Not to be deterred, Floyd continued on their tour well into February, playing Dark Side Of The Moon in a nascent stage of completion by this point. «The actual song, Eclipse, wasn’t performed live until Bristol Colston Hall, on February 5,» says Waters. «I can remember one afternoon rolling up and saying: “I’ve written an ending.” Which was what’s now called Eclipse, or Dark Side. So that’s when we started performing the piece called Eclipse. It probably did have Brain Damage, but it didn’t have ‘All that you touch, all that you see, all that you taste.’

«It was a hell of a good way to develop a record,» says Mason. «You really get familiar with it; you learn the pieces you like and what you don’t like. And it’s quite interesting for the audience to hear a piece developed. If people saw it four times it would have been very different each time.»

However, as February drew to a close, work on the recording of DSOTM was derailed by the obligation to record Obscured By Clouds, the soundtrack to the film La Vallée, followed by sporadic touring. The sessions eventually resumed at Abbey Road studios in May. Working titles for existing songs included Travel (eventually Breathe), Religion (The Great Gig In The Sky) and Lunatic (Brain Damage). 

«Recording was lengthy but not fraught, not agonised over at all,» says Mason of the sessions. «We were working really well as a band.»

«I was definitely less dominant than I later became,» agrees Waters. «We were pulling together pretty cohesively. Dave sang Breathe much better than I could have. His voice suited the song. I don’t remember any ego problems about who sang what at that point. There was a balance.»

This balance, and the ease the band felt with one another, was reflected in the finished product. A harmonious record which flowed from beginning to end, it captured a rare snapshot of a band working at the peak of their creativity. Though it was a complex body of work, much of its success came from its deceptive lyrical simplicity. «Roger tried, definitely, in his lyrics, to make them very simple, straightforward, and easy to understand,» says Gilmour. «Partly because people read things into other lyrics that weren’t there.»

From this basis, the songs started to take shape. First up was Us And Them. «Rick [Wright] wrote the chord sequence for Us And Them and I used it as a vehicle,» says Waters. «The first verse is about going to war, how on the front line we don’t get much chance to communicate with one another, because someone else has decided that we shouldn’t. The second verse is about civil liberties, racism and colour prejudice. The last verse is about passing a tramp in the street and not helping.»

Next up was Money. «I knew there had to be a song about money in the piece, and I thought the tune could be about money,» says Waters. «Having decided that, it was extremely easy to make up a seven-beat intro that went well with it.»

«Roger and I constructed the tape loop for Money in our home studios and then took it to Abbey Road,» remembers Mason. «I had drilled holes in old pennies and then threaded them onto strings; they gave one sound on the loop of seven. Roger had recorded coins swirling around in the mixing bowl Judy [his first wife] used for her pottery. The tearing paper effect was created very simply in front of a microphone, and the faithful sound library supplied the cash registers.»

«Mason was always the guiding light in matters to do with the overall atmosphere,» remembers DSOTM engineer Alan Parsons. «He was very good on sound effects and psychedelia and mind-expanding experiences.»

Next, the band turned their attention to Time. The music was credited to the whole band but with lyrics by Waters. «Alan Parsons was a very good engineer,» remembers Gilmour. «He had one or two production ideas that were very good. In a clock shop in Hampstead he had recorded the ticking clocks and made these tapes up to offer us an idea, which was great.»

«Those big, grand keyboard chords are mine,» said Rick Wright at the time. «Dave used to complain I’d write in these hard keys and weird major and minor sevenths, which is difficult to play on a guitar.»

The band had just began work on The Great Gig In The Sky as the middle of the year loomed into view, and recording was again soon derailed because of touring, holidays and other commitments which kept the band occupied for much of the year.

Sporadic sessions were held in Abbey Road during October, during the first of which Dick Parry, an old friend of the band’s from Cambridge, overdubbed sax solos to Money and Us And Them. Later in the month a quartet of female session vocalists – Doris Troy, Lesley Duncan, Liza Strike and Barry St John – were brought in to embellish Us And ThemBrain Damage and Eclipse

«They weren’t very friendly,» said Duncan looking back. «They were cold, rather clinical. They didn’t emanate any kind of warmth… They just said what they wanted and we did it… There were no smiles. We were all quite relieved to get out.»

Still, with their help, the finished album was starting to take shape. Waters completed work on The Great Gig In The Sky – a sensitive contemplation of death that ends up in a place you’d never expect given the pretty keyboards that Richard Wright brings to the tune’s first minute. «Are you afraid of dying?» Waters asked. «The fear of death is a major part of many lives, and as the record was at least partially about that. That question was asked, but not specifically to fit into this song.»

Of course, one of TGGITS‘ most memorable moments was provided by a third party. «When I arrived they explained the concept of the album to me and played me Rick Wright’s chord sequence,» says vocalist Clare Torry. «They said: ‘We want some singing on it,’ but didn’t know what they wanted. So I suggested going out into the studio and trying a few things. I started off using words, but they said: ‘Oh no, we don’t want any words.’ So the only thing I could think of was to make myself sound like an instrument, a guitar or whatever, and not to think like a vocalist. I did that and they loved it.

«I did three or four takes very quickly, it was left totally up to me, and they said: ‘Thank you very much.’ In fact, other than Dave Gilmour, I had the impression that they were infinitely bored with the whole thing, and when I left I remember thinking to myself: ‘That will never see the light of day.’ If I’d known then what I know now I would have done something about organising copyright or publishing; I would be a wealthy woman now. The session fee in 1973 was fifteen pounds, but as it was Sunday I charged a double fee of thirty pounds. Which I invested wisely, of course.»

(In 2004, Torry sued Pink Floyd, arguing that her contribution to The Great Gig in the Sky constituted co-authorship. The band and record company EMI settled out of court, and the song is now credited to both Wright and Torry.)

It was 1973 by the time the final round of recording sessions began in Abbey Road Studio 2 in late January, focusing on Brain DamageEclipse and the instrumental Any Colour You Like. “It was – ‘We’ve got nothing in this space… What can we do? We’ll have a jam.’” Remembers Mason. «And that’s what Any Colour You Like was – it’s just two chords. It starts off with the synth, which sets the mood. And you have this extraordinary guitar solo from Dave.»

«I wrote Brain Damage at home,» says Waters. «The grass [mentioned in the lyric] was the square in between the River Cam and King’s College chapel [in Cambridge]. The lunatic was Syd [Barrett], really. He was obviously in my mind.»

The most innovative addition to DSOTM came as the sessions were ending, when Roger Waters hit on the idea of posing questions to Abbey Road staffers, Floyd crew members and other studio visitors. Their answers were recorded, and then edited and woven into the tracks at various points throughout the album. «We did about twenty people,» says Waters. «The interviewees all had cards with questions printed on them like: ‘Have you ever been violent?’, ‘When was the last time you thumped someone?’ and ‘Were you in the right?’ and so on.»

«Roger wanted to use things in the songs to get responses from people,» says Gilmour. «We interviewed quite a few people that way, mostly roadies and roadies’ girlfriends, and Gerry [O’Driscoll], the Irish doorman. We also had Paul and Linda McCartney interviewed, but they’re much too good at being evasive for their answers to be usable.

«Gerry the doorman said: ‘There is no da’k side o’ de moon, really, it’s all da’k.’ And stuff like that, when you put it into a context on the record, suddenly developed its own much more powerful meaning.»

The final Abbey Road session was held in Studio 2 on February 1st, 1973. «We’d finished mixing all the tracks, but until the very last day we’d never heard them as the continuous piece we’d been imagining for more than a year,» says Gilmour. «We had to literally snip bits of tape, cut in the linking passages and stick the ends back together. Finally, you sit back and listen all the way through at enormous volume. I can remember it. It was really exciting.»

The Dark Side Of The Moon was released in the US on March 17 and in the UK on the 24th. Four days later it hit No.1 in the US Billboard chart. In the UK it peaked at No.2. «We’d cracked it,» says Waters. «We’d won the pools. What are you supposed to do after that?»

Sadly, the album marked the start of a creative struggle within the band which would come to plague their work and eventually end in their acrimonious demise. 

«Dark Side Of The Moon was the last willing collaboration,» says Waters. «After that, everything with the band was like drawing teeth; ten years of hanging on to the married name and not having the courage to get divorced, to let go. Ten years of bloody hell. It was all just terrible. Awful. Terrible.»


The Meaning of Pink Floyd’s «Dark Side of the Moon»

Pink Floyd and Dark Side of the Moon Background

In early 1973, British experimental rock band Pink Floyd released their 8th album, Dark Side of the Moon, arguably the greatest rock album ever created. Since its release, it has become a cornerstone to 20th-century culture and provided great inspiration to artists within and outside of music. Its success encouraged other musicians to explore more progressive styles of music, and it raised the bar for recorded sound for future albums.

The hard work that Pink Floyd put into this album paid off financially as Dark Side of the Moon became one of the best-selling albums of all time. After its release, it went to number one on the Billboard chart for one week, but it ended up staying on the Billboard charts for a consecutive 741 weeks (or just over 14 years). This feat would make the album one of the top 25 best-selling albums ever.

Dark Side of the Moon has endured through the years because it is such a well-written and thought-out concept album. A concept album is an album where all (or most) of the songs on that album revolve around a story or a theme. This is a contrast to most studio albums which just lay out a series of songs that are often unconnected or unrelated with the exception of the fact that they are on the same album.

Knowing that Dark Side of the Moon is a concept album has given rise to a number of theories about what the album’s concept is, and or, what the meaning of the album is. The band has given partial explanations to some of the songs and the album as a whole, but for the most part, they have left it up to listeners to decide for themselves.

What Is Dark Side of the Moon About?

So what is the meaning of Dark Side of the Moon?

Dark Side of the Moon is a concept album that discusses the philosophical and physical ideas that can lead to a person’s insanity, and ultimately, an unfulfilled life.

The album is a cautionary tale in two parts; the first half describes living a life that goes unfulfilled. This part of the album consists of the following tracks:

  • «Speak To Me/Breathe»
  • «On The Run»
  • «Time/Breathe Reprise»
  • «Great Gig In The Sky»

The second half of the album consists of individual songs about different ideas and concepts that are detrimental to society and can lead to madness. These songs are:

  • «Money»
  • «Us and Them»
  • «A Color You Like»
  • «Brain Damage»
  • «Eclipse»

The philosophical ideas in the second half of the album are a sort of madness in their own right. They are also the root causes to the problem mentioned in the first half of the album that focuses on living an unfulfilled life.

What Does the Album Title Mean?

As one of the voices at the end of the album states:

«There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark.»

What is the title of the album referring to? What is the dark side of the moon a metaphor for?

It’s a metaphor for darkness—the darkness (or different ideas) that can destroy all of the positive emotions and ideas that are a part of humanity. In effect, the darkness represents insanity. But like in reality, the light portrayed by the moon is really an illusion. So it would appear that the album, which seems to take the dark side of the moon concept to heart, is suggesting is that everyone on some level is insane or will have to deal with madness.

Dark Side of the Moon seems to specifically suggest that there are two types of insanity. The first type of insanity mentioned on the album suggests people go insane by riding the tide. Or specifically speaking, people are insane for doing what they’re told all of the time and just accepting life for what it is.

The second type of insanity mentioned on the album suggests that the people that don’t ride the tide realize that the people riding the tide are insane. In turn, their efforts to try to convince people not to ride the tide or their resistance to the tide itself causes them to go insane.

Below is an in-depth look at the nine tracks that make up Dark Side of the Moon.

«Speak to Me» Lyrics

I’ve been mad for fucking years, absolutely years, been over the edge for yonks, been working me buns off for bands…

I’ve always been mad, I know I’ve been mad, like the
most of us…very hard to explain why you’re mad, even if you’re not mad…

«Breathe» Lyrics

Breathe, breathe in the air.
Don’t be afraid to care.
Leave but don’t leave me.
Look around and choose your own ground.

Long you live and high you fly
And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be.

Run, rabbit, run.
Dig that hole, forget the sun,
And when at last the work is done
Don’t sit down it’s time to dig another one.

For long you live and high you fly
But only if you ride the tide
And balanced on the biggest wave
You race towards an early grave.

«Speak to Me» Analysis

«Speak to Me» kicks off the album. The voices that are speaking are clearly discussing the issue of insanity. More interesting than the voices though are the sounds in the background. The bass drum is beating a pulse that resembles the beating of a human heart. Slowly the cash registers from Money and the clocks from Time enter the song along with other ambient effects that are used in other songs on the album.

The heart beat will return prominently at the end of the album. The heart beat is a metaphor for life and all the songs that occur in between the heart beats are acting as the substance, or what’s inside, of life.

«Breathe» Analysis

The lyrics in «Breathe» seem to imply two different lifestyles which are the follower (or the rabbit) and the chooser.

The chooser will be able to live a long life, but because they aren’t riding the tide they will only see what they choose to see. In this context, the song is implying that choosing can be limiting. They are also limited by their physical experiences as the lyrics suggest touching and seeing is all life is to them. To many humans this may be true, but for many there is more to life than what can be touched or seen.

If you ride the tide you will see new things because you are just going with the flow. The rabbits in the song suggests that if a person’s life philosophy is to ride the tide then you will live a short life. However, a draw back to this ride the tide mentality can be you expend their life being a laborer (or digging holes) or getting stuck doing mundane tasks over and over again.

«On the Run» Lyrics

Voice at the beginning: Is a recording of a voice at an airport listing various travel related information.

Two thirds of the way through the song another voice says: Live for today, gone tomorrow, that’s me, Hahaha!


«On the Run» Analysis

«On the Run» is mostly instrumental, with the exception of a few voices and a recording that lists flights from an airport scattered throughout the song. Either way, the passage of time is a key element to this track.

The other key element is the anxiety-driven pulse and the stressful ambient sounds that come in and out of the song. As the follow-up to «Breathe,» the anxiety of «On the Run» seems to be a metaphor for the anxiety and stress that can be congruent with a person’s life.

«Time» Lyrics

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I’d something more to say.

«Breathe Reprise» Lyrics

Home, home again.
I like to be here when I can.
When I come home cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire.
Far away across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells.

«Time» Analysis

This is a song about wasting your life doing nothing or about wasting your life doing boring and little things. A lot of people miss the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest. The idea of regret for not taking advantage of living your life is one of the tragedies of human nature that is explored thoroughly in this song.

The first verse talks about wasting your youth, which leads into the first chorus that discusses not having anyone to show you the way. This first section ends with the person in the song realizing he has been missing out on life, that he was supposed to find his own way, not be shown a way. This is a real-life revelation for a lot of people in the world.

The second verse discusses this person who has woken up and is now looking to catch up with his/her lost time. However, the physical aspects of getting older are catching up. In the final chorus, the person realizes he wasted too much of his life and is disappointed with his/her life. The person the song is speaking about presumably dies having said little when the potential to say more was always there.

Anxiety and stress, like the previous song, are underlying themes in this song, too, as the clocks, in the beginning, have a jarring effect on the listener. The jarring clocks could mean the song is meant to metaphorically wake people up that are not living their lives, or it can be continuing the anxiety and stress-driven themes from «On the Run.»

«Breathe Reprise» Analysis

Time transitions nicely into a reprise of the first song, «Breathe.» This rendition of Breathe talks about relief and finding a way to deal with all of the stress put forth in the previous songs, «On the Run» and «Time.»

The two methods of relief that are specifically discussed are home, mentioned in the lines, «home… home again, I like to be here when I can,» and religion with the lines, «The tolling of the iron bell calls the faithful to their knees to hear the softly spoken magic spells.»

«Great Gig in the Sky» Lyrics

Recorded voice:

And I am not frightened of dying, any time will do, I
don’t mind. Why should I be frightened of dying?
There’s no reason for it, you’ve gotta go sometime.

If you can hear this whispering you are dying.

I never said I was frightened of dying.


Ahhhh Ahhhh Ahhhhh….. for a long time.

«Great Gig in the Sky» Analysis

Another mostly instrumental song, «Great Gig in the Sky» has some recorded voices and a lady singer that wails on the song’s two-chord refrain. The voices in «Great Gig in the Sky» talk about death and not being afraid of dying, which is ultimately what this song is about—death.

People are either afraid of dying, or they’re not, and that would appear to be the message trying to be conveyed in this song. The first person to speak on this song says he is not afraid of dying, and it sounds convincing. In the second half of the song, a lady says, «I was never frightened of dying.» This is said very quietly and with less confidence than the person who said it at the beginning of the song.

The two interviews show the contrasting views on death between people. The dialogue transitions to the wailing, which at times sounds powerful and beautiful (not afraid of dying), and other times it sounds fearful and anxiety driven (afraid of dying). Or simply put: you are, or you are not afraid of dying. Both ideas seem to be conveyed by the dialogue and the wailing vocals.

The end of this song ends the physical life/living section of the album. The next half of the album focuses on ideas or the madness that can drive a person to live an unfulfilled life. Living an unfulfilled life is a type of insanity and the thorough exploration of what an unfulfilled life is on the first half of the album ties itself nicely with the second half of the album that explores insanity in a more philosophical way.

«Money» Lyrics

Money, get away.
Get a good job with good pay and you’re okay.
Money, it’s a gas.
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.
New car, caviar, four star daydream,
Think I’ll buy me a football team.

Money, get back.
I’m all right Jack keep your hands off of my stack.
Money, it’s a hit.
Don’t give me that do goody good bullshit.
I’m in the high-fidelity first class traveling set
And I think I need a Lear jet.

Money, it’s a crime.
Share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pie.
Money, so they say
Is the root of all evil today.
But if you ask for a raise it’s no surprise that they’re
giving none away. Away. Away. Away….

Voices at the End:

Huh I was in the right!
Yes, absolutely in the right!
I certainly was in the right!
You was definitely in the right. That geezer was cruising for a bruising.
Why does anyone do anything?
I don’t know, I was really drunk at the time!

I was just telling him, he couldn’t get into number two. He was asking
why he wasn’t coming up on freely, after I was yelling and
screaming and telling him why he wasn’t coming up on freely.
It came as a heavy blow, but we sorted the matter out

«Money» Analysis

The second half of the album begins with «Money.» At this point in listening to all of the songs on the album there are no clear breaks, each song fades into one another except in between «Great Gig in the Sky» and «Money.» The break here happens out of necessity due to records in 1973 needing to be flipped over, and if you were listening to this on vinyl this is where you would flip the record.

Pink Floyd takes advantage of the limits of technology during this time period (or the necessary pause in the album) to change how they are going to continue discussing the topic of insanity and living an unfulfilled life. The first half of the album takes a more hands-on and personal experience with the subject matter, while the second half of the album explores the subject matter in more philosophical type of setting.

Continuing on with individual songs, «Money» is about greed and the illusion of a life well lived that comes with having an excess of wealth.

The first verse of the song focuses on the excesses of money, consumerism, and peoples desire to grab and horde as much cash or wealth as possible.

The second verse continues with the subject of the desire to grab more money, while also introducing the lengths people will go to in order to protect the money and possessions they have acquired.

The third and final verse focuses on the negative philosophical issues that money brings to a society, which include the ideas that ordinary people will never be able to increase their stash of money to match the wealthy, and the idea that money is the root of all evil.

The cash registers and money sounds that are used to underscore the whole song sound mechanical and lifeless. The mechanical money sounds are like a metaphor for the way people mechanically work the same job day in and day out for 40 plus years. People, of course, work harder, motivated by earning more money, but a lot of people ultimately waste their lives with this mentality. So the idea with the song «Money» is that the concept of wealth is one of the illusions or ideas that can be the cause of a person wasting their life, or it can be used to ruin the lives of others.

As «Money» fades out, a spoken voice dialogue describing a fight begins. This is a segue into «Us and Them,» which deals with conflict. Its inclusion on «Money» instead of «Us and Them» suggests that money is also a cause of conflict.

«Us and Them» Lyrics

Us, and them
And after all we’re only ordinary men.
Me, and you.
God only knows it’s not what we would choose to do.
Forward he cried from the rear
and the front rank died.
And the general sat and the lines on the map
moved from side to side.
Black and blue
And who knows which is which and who is who.
Up and down.
But in the end it’s only round and round.
Haven’t you heard it’s a battle of words
The poster bearer cried.
Listen son, said the man with the gun
There’s room for you inside.

I mean, they’re not gonna kill ya, so if you give ‘em a quick short,
sharp, shock, they won’t do it again. Dig it? I mean he get off
lightly, ‘cos I would’ve given him a thrashing – I only hit him once!
It was only a difference of opinion, but really…I mean good manners
don’t cost nothing do they, eh?

Down and out
It can’t be helped but there’s a lot of it about.
With, without.
And who’ll deny it’s what the fighting’s all about?
Out of the way, it’s a busy day
I’ve got things on my mind.
For the want of the price of tea and a slice
The old man died.

«Us and Them» Analysis

«Us and Them» is a song about conflict and fighting. Underlying the idea of a fight/conflict is the idea that fighting is usually between two choices or two sides, or philosophically speaking, what can be called a black and white type of mentality. The song seems to mock the black or white mentality that exists in society and states that there can be more than two choices.

The first verse and chorus talk about conflict from the viewpoint of a war. So this part of the song explores the physical side of conflict. The first verse also notes how the idea of conflict goes against the ideas of God and religion. Again, like in «Money,» it’s the people in power (the General) who are safe, while the ordinary working-class people get killed serving that higher power.

The second verse and chorus talk about conflict from a philosophical point of view or a verbal point of view. This verse, more than any other verse, mocks the idea of a black and white mentality with the lines, «Black and blue…And who knows which is which and who is who.» This line is effectively saying that it’s pointless to remove the degrees of separation between different people and different ideas. Life is too complicated to be dumbed down to black and blue. The ending idea of this section is that there can be a way to work things out and include everybody, which is described with the line, «There’s room for you inside.»

A spoken word segment makes up the next part of the song. The people talking here are discussing a fight one of the people speaking got into, which ties nicely into the conflict theme.

The final verse talks about what conflict in society is (generally speaking) about. According to «Us and Them,» conflict is about being with or without. This can include being with or without possessions, resources, etc. From this broader point of view, it lumps a song like «Money» into a subcategory of conflict.

The final chorus talks about how most people seem to avoid or ignore anything that is related to conflict, whether it be the physical acts of conflict or the philosophical ideas or arguments that lead to conflict. The price for ignoring conflicts appears to be heavy as another image of a common person dies in the song with the line, «For the want of the price of tea and a slice…The old man died.» Conflict can cut lives short, denying people the opportunity to live a fulfilling life.

«Any Color You Like» Lyrics


«Any Color You Like» Analysis

«Any Color You Like» is the final instrumental track on Dark Side of the Moon. This is the only purely instrumental song on the album as there is no singing and no voices. The title and its position within the order of the album give the strongest clues as to what this song is about.

Fading in after the conclusion of «Us and Them,» and with a title like «Any Color You Like,» the song would appear to be a sarcastic remark suggesting the lack of choices that are available to a person during the course of their life. The underscoring idea of «Us and Them» is related to the dangers of a black and white mentality, and «Any Color You Like» seems to carry that idea over into this song.

«Brain Damage» Lyrics

The lunatic is on the grass.
The lunatic is on the grass.
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs.
Got to keep the loonies on the path.

The lunatic is in the hall.
The lunatics are in my hall.
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
And every day the paper boy brings more.

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

The lunatic is in my head.
The lunatic is in my head
You raise the blade, you make the change
You re-arrange me ‘til I’m sane.
You lock the door
And throw away the key
There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.

And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear.
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

I can’t think of anything to say except…
I think it’s marvelous! Hahaha!

«Brain Damage» Analysis

«Brain Damage» is about losing your mind and going insane.

The first verse talks about insanity that is caused by happening what’s outside your head, with the line,«The lunatic is in the grass.» This would be the type of insanity that people see in the physical world, it’s a type of tangible insanity.

The second verse continues in this vain, but brings the insanity into a more personal area with the lines, «The lunatic is in my hall.» The lyrics have moved insanity from the outer and wider world in the first verse to the private home of the person in the second verse. This type of insanity is a bit more personal and it sounds a lot more disconcerting.

The first chorus talks about finally having a mental breakdown, potentially much earlier than a person should have a breakdown. After the mental breakdown, the final line of the chorus says, «I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.» The dark side of the moon mentioned in this song is a place for insanity and ideas that are destructive. Of course since the moon is always dark, its also suggesting everyone to a certain point is mad.

The final verse now moves insanity to its most personal location, inside your head with the line, «The lunatic is in my head.» The verse suggests that the person who is losing his mind will pay any price in order to make him/her sane again, and subsequently they will isolate themselves in order to stop any further destruction of themselves or others.

The final chorus again elaborates on having a mental breakdown. With the line, «And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes… I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon,» it would appear that the madness was caused by not being able to align your views with the views of everyone else, or most likely society in general. Ultimately that line in the song seems to suggest that people go crazy by resisting what they are told to do all of the time.

However, the previous songs in the album, «Money,» «Us and Them,» and «Any Color You Like» discuss the ideas that everyone in society go along with that are insane. From a larger perspective, it seems you are insane by following the ideas discussed in «Money,» «Us and Them,» and «Any Color You Like,» or you go insane by resisting them like in «Brain Damage.»

«Eclipse» Lyrics

All that you touch
All that you see
All that you taste
All you feel.
All that you love
All that you hate
All you distrust
All you save.
All that you give
All that you deal
All that you buy,
beg, borrow or steal.
All you create
All you destroy
All that you do
All that you say.
All that you eat
And everyone you meet
All that you slight
And everyone you fight.
All that is now
All that is gone
All that’s to come
and everything under the sun is in tune
but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.

There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.

«Eclipse» Lyrics

If there is one word to describe the song «Eclipse,» it would have to be the word all. It’s used twenty times in the song, and the word you would be a close second as it’s used eighteen times.

With «Eclipse» being the final song on the album, it uses many universal messages to describe the human experience the words all, and you serve to underscore the point that this song, this album, is about every human living on Earth. Musically, it’s an epic song with lots of background harmonies and a massive soundscape to give listeners not only a musical climax to the album but a universal sound that ties the previous thematic ideas under one idea.

The key to «Eclipse» is the final few lines, «All that’s to come and everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.» This line begins by suggesting this song could go on forever (All that’s to come), and metaphorically speaking, all of these basic human experiences are represented by the sun. They are mostly positive human experiences, and they are frequently associated with living a life that is, for the most part, enjoyable. But the album ends with the sun being eclipsed by the moon.

The darkness caused by the moon, or the moon itself, is basically a symbolic representation of all the dangerous ideas that are destructive to humanity. These dangerous ideas can block out the sun or halt the living of a fulfilling life. The previous songs on the album build to this point. There is hope in the sun, but there will always be a dark side of the moon, which is a symbolic representation of the banes of humanity.


Behind the music: The cultural impact and sound revolution of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’

The 1970s classic still holds much relevance in progressive rock music and pop culture. We revisit the sound and the making of one of the most memorable albums in the history of rock.

The Dark Side of the Moon is a powerful and beautifully mixed album released in March 1973; it is also British band Pink Floyd’s eighth studio album. 

“I’ve been mad for fucking years, absolutely years, been over the edge for yonks,” says Pink Floyd’s production and tour manager at the time, Chris Adamson, on the first track, Speak to Me, setting the tone for the entire album.

The band’s drummer, Nick Mason, is credited as the writer of the song, which in the radio cut version is combined with Breathe (In the Air), and dubbed Speak to Me/Breathe; the two songs transition into each other, Breathe as an intro to Speak to Me.  

The album takes listeners across various emotions and stages of human life, beginning and ending with a heartbeat. The themes revolve around conflict, morality, greed, time and mental illness. The album was conceptualised through live performances on Floyd’s extensive 1972 tour of Britain and built on experimentation, psychedelic instrumentals and empathy.

A groundbreaking album

The Dark Side of the Moon has paved the way for much of the alternative or experimental rock sounds we enjoy today. From Tame Impala and Radiohead, to Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree, all have been influenced by the British band, with vocalist and guitarist David Gilmour, Roger Waters on bass and vocals, Mason on drums and percussion and Richard Wright on the organ, piano and electronic piano. 

The almost 47-year-old album also features Dick Parry on the commercial successful Money and Us and Them, playing the saxophone. 

In an interview with online music publication Louder Sound, Gilmour says he regards the album as a watershed moment for the band, that “obviously it was the breakthrough moment and was terrific, and we suddenly moved up from the medium-time to the mega-time”.

That move was partly because of the sound and partly owing to the powerful lyrics by Waters. In a 2003 documentary about the making of the album, Gilmour says: “The big move forward for The Dark Side of the Moon was Roger’s coming of age lyrically.”

As a creative force for Pink Floyd, Waters’s writing showed an existential and intense view of the world. He managed to centre the album on loosely connected themes that are relatable – greed, mental health, death and the exhaustion that comes from travel. 

It’s also the first Floyd album on which Waters was the sole lyricist. Gilmour has always contributed to the band’s songwriting process along with former frontman, the late Syd Barrett – who was also the lead guitarist in the 60s and a co-founder, but was ousted in 1968 due to his excessive LSD use. Much of the mental health references on the album were inspired by what Barrett was going through. 

In 1971, the band started to rehearse in a small studio in west London, working under the title Eclipse (the title of the last track of the album) which would eventually develop on stage into The Dark Side of the Moon.

The following year the band started to rehearse at the Rolling Stones’ old Victorian warehouse in South London as well as at the famous Abbey Road Studios.

The psychedelic sounds of The Dark Side of the Moon definitely had influences on counterculture at the time. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame credits Pink Floyd with carving out new spaces in the industry: “Pink Floyd were the architects of two major music movements – psychedelic space-rock and blues-based progressive rock – and became known for their biting political, social and emotional commentary”; a great balance of new sounds – mainly developed through live performances during their 16-date UK tour – and hard topics that weren’t explored much in their time.

The album’s success was extensive. From breaking charting records by being on the Billboard 200 for more than 950 weeks to becoming one of the biggest bestselling albums of all times and 15-times platinum, it was nothing short of gargantuan. 

The album cover and its presence in pop culture 

The prism artwork for the album cover is an iconic and elegant design. One of the most recognisable album covers in music, it became a signature logo for the band. 

It was designed by the late graphic designer Storm Thorgerson and his team at Hipgnosis (a design company that was just as experimental as the album they designed for). 

The triangle with rainbow-coloured light coming through was inspired by a picture Thorgerson saw in a textbook. The design was unanimously approved by all band members. The artwork has a space-like feel to it, almost representing the out-of-the-world sonic output of the album itself – the light through the prism shines right through the physical album cover. The multicoloured lighting in the band’s shows is also represented on the cover. A perfect link between album art, music and production of their live shows. 

In 2017, the Victoria and Albert Museum paid tribute to the album and Pink Floyd by hosting an exhibition that honoured the groundbreaking originality of their live concerts – how they pioneered psychedelic light shows, with special effects and elaborate stage constructions. The exhibition also showed original designs and photographs of the band. The elaborate, surreal exhibition showed just how impactful their work was and how the legacy of the band is heavily linked to the success of The Dark Side of The Moon – a project as culturally impactful as anything seen in alternative rock music and contemporary pop culture. 


Us and Them by Pink Floyd

This began as a piano piece Rick Wright came up with while working on the soundtrack to the 1970 movie Zabriskie Point. It didn’t make the soundtrack, but they worked with it at the Dark Side of the Moon sessions and it eventually became this song. The director of Zabriskie Point, Michelangelo Antonioni, rejected the song for being «beautiful, but too sad… it makes me think of church.»

Zabriskie Point was one of the first soundtracks Pink Floyd worked on. They put a lot of work into it, but the director ended up using only 3 of their songs. Floyd also worked on soundtracks for the movies MoreThe Valley, and Tonight Let’s All Make Love In London.

The band refereed to this as «The Violence Sequence» because they worked on it for a very violent scene in the movie.

Dave Gilmour sings lead, but this song was written by Roger Waters and Pink Floyd keyboard player Rick Wright. Some of Wright’s other songwriting credits include «Breathe,» «Great Big Gid In The Sky,» and «One Of These Days,» but by the late ’70s Waters ended up doing most of the writing himself, and he wrote all the songs on their 1983 album The Final Cut. Talking about Wright’s compositions, Waters said in a 2003 interview with Uncut: «He would write odd bits. He secreted them away and put them on those solo albums he made and were never heard. He never shared them. It was unbelievably stupid. I never understood why he did that. I’m sure there were two or three decent chord sequences. If he’d given them to me, I would have been very, very happy to make something with them.»

One of Pink Floyd’s first uses of female backup singers. They brought in Liza Strike, Leslie Duncan and Doris Troy to sing harmonies. Troy had a hit on her own with «Just One Look.»

Like other songs on the album, this contains the ramblings of random voices. Roger Waters made flashcards with questions on them and recorded different people around the studio answering them. He showed one to a weird roadie for another band named Roger The Hat, who got the question «When was the last time you thumped somebody.» His answer made it onto this song, which is the part about giving someone a «short, sharp shock.»

Along with «Money,» this was one of 2 songs on the album to use a sax, which was played by Dick Parry.

The engineer for the album was Alan Parsons, who also worked on The Beatles’ Abbey Road album. Some of the production techniques on this are similar to the suite of songs at the end of that album, especially «Sun King.» Parsons went on to form his own band called The Alan Parsons Project, which had a hit in 1982 with «Eye In The Sky

Pink Floyd’s record company was originally hesitant to release this track because it was felt that the signature melody line was extremely depressing. >>

In the Dark Side of the Rainbow theory (that Dark Side of the Moon acts as a soundtrack to The Wizard Of Oz), the line, «And who knows which is which and who is who,» occurs after the Wicked Witch of the West appears and she is first seen with Dorothy and Glinda, the good witch on the opposite side of the screen. >>

When this was recorded, Rick Wright played the song’s jazz-influenced grand piano to what he thought was the rest of the band playing in the next studio. In fact they weren’t present and it was a recording made earlier. What started as a prank became, according to Alan Parsons in Mojo magazine, «one of the best things Rick ever did.»


Us and Them by Pink Floyd

Us (us, us, us, us) and them (them, them, them, them)
And after all we’re only ordinary men
And you (you, you, you)
God only knows
It’s not what we would choose (choose, choose) to do (to do, to do)
Forward he cried from the rear
And the front rank died
And the general sat
And the lines on the map
Moved from side to side
Black (black, black, black)
And blue (blue, blue)
And who knows which is which and who is who
Up (up, up, up, up)
And down (down, down, down, down)
And in the end it’s only round ‘n round (round, round, round)
Haven’t you heard it’s a battle of words
The poster bearer cried
«Listen son», said the man with the gun
There’s room for you inside

«I mean, they’re not gonna kill ya
So if you give ‘em a quick short, sharp, shock
They won’t do it again. Dig it?
I mean he get off lightly, ‘cause I would’ve given him a thrashing
I only hit him once! It was only a difference of opinion, but really
I mean good manners don’t cost nothing do they, eh?»

Down (down, down, down, down)
And out (out, out, out, out)
It can’t be helped that there’s a lot of it about
With (with, with, with), without
And who’ll deny it’s what the fighting’s all about?
Out of the way
It’s a busy day
I’ve got things on my mind
For the want of the price
Of tea and a slice
The old man died

There was a first time


Manchestercity and metropolitan borough in the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester urban county, northwestern England. Most of the city, including the historic core, is in the historic county of Lancashire, but it includes an area south of the River Mersey in the historic county of Cheshire. Manchester is the nucleus of the largest metropolitan area in the north of England, and it remains an important regional city, but it has lost the extraordinary vitality and unique influence that put it at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution.

Manchester was an urban prototype: in many respects it could claim to be the first of the new generation of huge industrial cities created in the Western world during the past 250 years. In 1717 it was merely a market town of 10,000 people, but by 1851 its textile (chiefly cotton) industries had so prospered that it had become a manufacturing and commercial city of more than 300,000 inhabitants, already spilling out its suburbs and absorbing its industrial satellites. By the beginning of the 20th century, salients of urban growth linked Manchester to the ring of cotton-manufacturing towns—BoltonRochdale, and Oldham, for example—that almost surround the city, and a new form of urban development, a conurbation, or metropolitan area, was evolving. By 1911 it had a population of 2,350,000. In the following years, however, the pace of growth slowed dramatically. If the 19th century was Manchester’s golden age, when it was indisputably Britain’s second city, the 20th century was marked by increasing industrial problems associated with the decline of the textile trades (the result of foreign competition and technological obsolescence). Area city, 45 square miles (116 square km); Greater Manchester metropolitan county, 493 square miles (1,276 square km). Pop. (2001) city, 392,419; Greater Manchester metropolitan county, 2,482,328; (2011) city, 503,127; Greater Manchester metropolitan county, 2,682,528.

Physical and human geography

The landscape

The city site

Manchester occupies a featureless plain made up of river gravels and the glacially transported debris known as drift. It lies at a height of 133 feet (40 metres) above sea level, enclosed by the slopes of the Pennine range on the east and the upland spur of Rossendale on the north. Much of the plain is underlain by coal measures; mining was once widespread but had ceased by the end of the 20th century. Within this physical unit, known as the Manchester embayment, the city’s metropolitan area evolved. Manchester, the central city, is situated on the east bank of the River Irwell and has an elongated north-south extent, the result of late 19th- and early 20th-century territorial expansion. In 1930 the city extended its boundaries far to the south beyond the River Mersey, to annex 9 square miles (23 square km) of the northern portion of the former administrative county of Cheshire. Two large metropolitan boroughs adjoin the city of Manchester on the west and southwest: Salford and Trafford. Together these three administrative units form the chief concentration of commercial employment. From this core, suburbs have spread far to the west and south, chiefly within the unitary authority of Cheshire East. To the north and east of Manchester, smaller industrial towns and villages, mixed with suburban development, merge into one another and extend as a continuous urban area to the foot of the encircling upland. Close to the upland margin lies a ring of large towns, which were traditionally the major centres of the cotton-spinning industry—Bolton, Bury, and Rochdale to the north and Oldham, Ashton-under-Lyne, and Stockport to the east.

The urban structure of metropolitan Manchester is determined largely by its industrial zones. By far the most important of these is the one bisecting it from east to west. This contains most of the heavier industry—petrochemicals on the Ship Canal near Irlam, electrical engineering in Trafford Park and Salford, and machine tools and metal fabrication in eastern Manchester. Industry in the south is confined to a few compact, largely planned factory estates, notably at Altrincham and Wythenshawe. North and east of Manchester, ribbons of long-established industry follow every railway, river valley, and abandoned canal. The electrochemical industries of the Irwell valley, the dyestuffs of the Irk, and, everywhere, the old textile mills (many converted to new industrial uses) are the dominant features.


Manchester’s climate is most kindly described as mild, moist, and misty. The temperate climate is without extremes: winters are mild, with a January mean temperature in the high 30s °F (about 4 °C), and summers are cool, with a July mean temperature in the high 50s °F (about 15 °C). Occasional high-pressure systems produce cold, clear spells in winter or hot droughts in summer, but these rarely persist. Winds from the west and south prevail, and these bathe the city in frequent gentle rain derived from the almost constant succession of Atlantic weather systems. The annual rainfall, 32 inches (818 mm), is not notably high by the standards of western Britain, but it occurs on no less than half of the days in an average year. There is little reliable seasonal variation, but the months of March through May offer the best chance of prolonged dry spells.

The wet Atlantic air banked against the Pennine slopes to the east of the city produces extreme cloudiness; on about 70 percent of the days of the year, the afternoon sky is at least half covered by cloud. This limits sunshine, which was further reduced by air pollution during the decades of the city’s industrial prosperity. Up to about 1960 the city centre recorded the abnormally low total of only 970 sunshine hours annually. Foul fogs were another problem of the man-made industrial climate. Manchester then had an average of 55 days of serious fog in a typical year, and the death rate from respiratory diseases surged following these fog episodes. But the city’s peculiarly sunless and fog-bound winter climate was transformed by effective air-pollution control. Annual hours of bright sunshine have risen to about 1,300, and serious fogs have been reduced to about 20 days each year. This has been a major factor in reducing the incidence of two formerly endemic diseases, bronchitis and tuberculosis, which had given the city an unenviably high death rate.

Architecture and the face of the city

Manchester’s extraordinary 19th-century wealth left a permanent record in an architectural variety and virtuosity that makes the city centre an outdoor museum of styles from Greek classical to early tall steel-framed structures. Commercial firms vied to commission the best architects to design offices and warehouses of ornate splendour, and the public buildings were intended to outshine London’s. Thus, banks occupied Greek temples or turreted Gothic castles, and warehouses were given the facades of Venetian palaces. The offices of the Ship Canal Company were given a Grecian colonnade perched high above street level, and the Town Hall, designed by Alfred Waterhouse, is regarded as perhaps the ultimate in Victorian Gothic fantasies.

Conserving this priceless architectural heritage has presented great problems. Many of the buildings are protected landmarks but are unsuited to modern commercial needs, though some imaginative conversions have taken place. The Royal Exchange, once the hub of the textile trade, contains as the old trading floor the largest room in Europe; it now houses a freestanding theatre-in-the-round. The old Central Station, a huge glazed train shed, has been converted into an exhibition centre. A complex of buildings at Castlefield, including the world’s oldest railway station, has been developed as a regional museum of science and industry.

A wave of office redevelopment in the 1960s and ’70s added many steel-and-glass structures to the Manchester skyline. One of the earliest is Manchester’s tallest building, the Co-operative Insurance Society tower, at 400 feet (122 metres).

As new shopping centres began to develop in outlying areas, the level of retail trade in the city centre suffered. This led to the development of a large enclosed shopping precinct, the Arndale Centre, which contains a significant proportion of the total retail activity in the city centre. As it grew, however, older shopping streets suffered by the shift of businesses, so that parts of the city core have a run-down, half-abandoned appearance; but this is part of the process by which the Victorian central business district is reshaping itself to meet modern needs.

The people

Greater Manchester is one of the world’s most compact and crowded metropolitan areas. The overcrowded conditions explain the chief demographic trend of recent years, that of population loss by out-migration. Manchester city itself lost almost one-third of its population to migration between 1961 and 1981, one of the highest rates of migrational loss among all British cities. Natural increase is below the national average, for the migration is chiefly of young families of child-bearing age, leaving an older population in the core cities. Thus overall population decline is serious. This trend is also widespread in the other old industrial towns of the conurbation.

Much of this migration is to suburban areas, though there is also an interregional loss of population to more prosperous areas of Britain, and the “dormitory” districts of the fringes (and especially the geographic and historic county of Cheshire to the south) are growing strongly. Thus, the metropolitan area is decentralizing quickly, and its overall population trend is more favourable than those of its major constituent cities. Total metropolitan population has been virtually stable since 1961, with the low rate of natural increase being entirely offset by net out-migration.

Increasingly, families living in decaying substandard housing have been rehoused. Manchester has exported population to overspill estates at Middleton and Hyde, and Salford families have moved to Worsley. All of these are large schemes, involving population transfers of at least 10,000, and all lie within the metropolitan area. There also has been movement to the New Town project at Warrington, a major development point on the Ship Canal, 18 miles (29 km) west of Manchester. Within the city there has been massive redevelopment. The Hulme scheme of the early 1970s involved the rehousing of a population of almost 60,000.

Like many British cities, Manchester experimented in the 1960s with high-rise housing to accommodate families from the slum clearance zones. In the past, row houses had been the traditional housing form in low-income areas of the inner city, and the new high-rise schemes proved to be a social failure—some were demolished within a decade of construction. The emphasis of city planning was shifted from total clearance and replacement of old housing to its conservation and improvement through Housing Action Areas. Thus, old housing is given new life, and the community is kept together: where new dwellings are built, they are the modern equivalent of the traditional row houses.

The out-migration has been partly counterbalanced by in-migration from Commonwealth countries, particularly from the West Indies and the Indian subcontinent. Manchester itself has a multiracial immigrant community, which is chiefly concentrated in the Moss Side area. Some of the textile towns, too, have attracted Commonwealth immigrants, chiefly Indian and Pakistani textile workers. The metropolitan area as a whole has been one of the main magnets to Commonwealth immigrants in Britain.

The economy of Manchester


There has long been a contrast between the economies of the core city (Manchester itself, together with the industrial areas of Salford and Stretford) and the textile towns that form the northern and eastern margins of the urban cluster. Until the 1960s the latter had narrowly based economies largely dependent on the textile trade, which still provided more than half the employment of women. The former, however, had an economy of greater diversity: manufacturing was varied (including printing and the production of engineering and electrical products, chemicals, and clothing), and a broad range of service activities gave stability to the economy. This old pattern of contrast was breaking down in the late 20th century, as the core city lost factory employment at a rapid rate and became increasingly dependent on services while the peripheral towns acquired greater industrial diversity and thus a securer (and locally expanding) manufacturing base.

The entire metropolitan area of Greater Manchester has undergone major economic changes. The textile industry has been reduced to a mere vestige of the enormous manufacture that once underpinned the economy of the city. It continues to decline, despite diversification from cotton to man-made fibres and resultant close links with the chemical industry. The surviving mills have been reequipped for high productivity, but this, too, has had the effect of reducing labour demand. The clothing industry has declined with the textile industry but has remained a significant employer of women, chiefly in many small workshops in the inner city. Much more serious has been the sharp contraction of more modern industries that until the 1970s had served as replacements for the old industries. The decline in engineering, one of the main sources of jobs for men, is especially serious. Within the chemical industry the main growth has been in the production of fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals, with research laboratories located in parkland at Alderley, on the southern fringe. The paper and printing industry is stable, reflecting Manchester’s status as the second centre, after Greater London, of newspaper production in England.

Manchester’s economy has been moving from an industrial to a postindustrial nature. Services have become the chief employers, with the “thinking” rather than the manual services undergoing expansion. Some services, such as transport and distribution, are declining, but the professions, finance and banking, administration, and general personal services are growing with explosive force. Most of these growth points require well-qualified workers: the declining demand for manual skills and the shift to mental skills have caused selective unemployment, which is clearly a persistent social problem.

The conversion of Manchester into a service city is not an entirely new trend, since the city has been the regional capital of northwestern England for two centuries. The process, however, has been quickened by the rapid decline of industry in the inner city. Clearance of the slum tracts and their subsequent redevelopment have removed entire urban districts that once housed many hundreds of small firms. Nearly half of the employment once available in manufacturing in the inner areas has disappeared. In these districts a disadvantaged and ethnically mixed community experiences unemployment rates that are at least twice the city average.

Part of this loss of factory work in the inner city has been the result of the movement of firms to the fringe of the urban area, not only to planned industrial estates but also to the cotton mills left empty by the decline of the textile trades. Hundreds of mills have been converted to other uses, thereby providing the cheap factory-floor space necessary to young and struggling firms, so that the textile towns have in some degree replaced the inner city as an industrial nursery in which it is possible for new firms to become established.

Trade and transportation

Apart from its massive volume of retail and wholesale trade, Manchester has a number of distinctions as a regional service centre. It houses a branch of the Bank of England and the Northern Stock Exchange, the headquarters of the Co-operative Wholesale Society, and one of the major provincial crown courts. Its airport at Ringway, 10 miles (16 km) south of the city, is the leading British terminal outside London in the volume of international traffic handled and in the diversity of both its European and its transatlantic services. Ringway is owned by the city and is the country’s second airfreight terminal.

From 1894 to 1986 Manchester was a seaport, with a group of docks at the head of the 37-mile (60-km) Ship Canal. The growth in the size of shipping, together with changes in the pattern of maritime trade, led to a slow decline in the use of the waterway, and by the mid-1980s the upper parts had been closed to traffic. The lower reaches of the canal remained open and busy, serving the needs of bankside industries, especially the huge oil-refining and chemicals complex at Ellesmere Port. New industrial and commercial uses for the derelict terminal docks have been developed.

Public transport in Greater Manchester is coordinated by a Passenger Transport Executive, and it relies heavily on an integrated system of bus routes. The system faces private competition, however, especially from flexible minibus services. The city is also served by a dense network of commuter rail services.

Administration and social conditions


Although the metropolitan area of Greater Manchester is a single cohesive socioeconomic unit, its local government has been fragmented for much of its history. The dominant unit is the metropolitan borough of Manchester, which carries the financial burden of supplying central facilities (major museums and libraries and the airport) for the area as a whole. There are nine other metropolitan boroughs, each independent and able to develop its own social, educational, and planning policies.

The Local Government Act of 1972 (in effect from 1974) created a metropolitan county of Greater Manchester, divided into metropolitan boroughs, including the city of Manchester. The county administered a number of general services (e.g., strategic planning, transport, and recreation), while the boroughs handled the main range of services (e.g., education, housing, and most personal and household services). The metropolitan county of Greater Manchester lost its administrative powers in 1986, however. Some of the general services that it had provided were taken over by specialist successor authorities, but many of its administrative powers passed to the city of Manchester and the other individual metropolitan boroughs, which are in effect now unitary authorities.

Education and social services

Of all Manchester’s pioneer cultural achievements, none has prospered more than the Victoria University of Manchester. After its foundation in 1851 at a site in Quay Street, the college received a charter in 1872 and began growth on its present site in 1873. By 1880 it had combined with member colleges in both Leeds and Liverpool to form a federal institution. Since becoming a separate body again in 1903, the university has grown to become one of the largest in Britain. The faculty of technology has become autonomous as an Institute of Science and Technology, and, with the establishment of the University of Salford in 1967 and the growth of a large polytechnic, there are now four institutions of higher learning in and near the city.

The city provides the complete range of social and welfare services within the British system, but its special strength lies in health services and medical education. The Victoria University of Manchester has the largest medical school in western Europe; it is linked to three large groups of teaching hospitals that provide specialist treatment. One of the most distinguished of these is the Christie Hospital, a major centre for cancer research.

Cultural life

The cultural life of Manchester suffered some losses during the 20th century. For example, its prestigious newspaper, The Guardian, has (in the Mancunian view) fled to London and dropped the city’s name from its title. However, the Lowry, an architecturally innovative centre for the visual and performing arts, opened in 2000 and signaled the city’s cultural revival at the beginning of the 21st century. Music maintains its strength. The Hallé concerts reached their centenary in 1958, and the orchestra continues to maintain its international reputation.

The city has a large number of private, public, and specialized libraries. The municipal library, with more than 25 branches, has its headquarters at St. Peter’s Square. Manchester also houses the notable John Ryland University Library (now part of the Victoria University of Manchester library) and Chetham’s Library, one of the first free public libraries in Europe.

Among the galleries and museums, the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Manchester City Art Gallery are particularly well known. The latter contains a fine collection of paintings, sculpture, silver, and pottery and is supplemented by several branch galleries. The Manchester Museum has special exhibits of Egyptian and Japanese objects, as well as natural history collections and an aquarium. The Museum of Science and Industry highlights Manchester’s industrial heritage.

There are two major football (soccer) clubs. And, at the grounds of the Old Trafford Cricket Club, test matches are played against overseas cricket teams visiting Great Britain. Manchester also has an active pop music scene, which revolved around Factory Records in the 1980s and has given rise to several influential rock bands, including Joy Division, the Smiths, and Oasis.


Early settlement and medieval growth

Early in the Roman conquest of Britain, a fort was established (AD 78–86) on a low sandstone plateau at the confluence of the Rivers Medlock and Irwell. In its first form, the fort was a simple field fortification of shallow ditches, earth banks, and timber palisades. By the early 3rd century, it had been rebuilt in stone and contained a number of buildings; excavations have uncovered evidence of substantial activity. A vicus (Latin: “row of houses”) of merchants and craftsmen had grown outside the walls, along the well-made road to York. But Roman occupation left no permanent imprint, except to give the modern city its name, derived from Mamucium (“Place of the Breastlike Hill”). There is no evidence of occupation after the 4th century, and the site seems to have lain empty for 500 years. In 919 the West Saxon king Edward the Elder sent a force to repair the Roman site as a defense against the Norsemen, and some traces of this reoccupation have been discovered. By then, however, the growth of Manchester had recommenced almost a mile from the fort, at the junction of the Rivers Irk and Irwell near the present cathedral.

The Norman barony of Manchester was one of the largest landholdings in Lancashire, and its lords built a fortified hall close to the church. During the 13th century, Manchester began its transition from village to town, and sometime before 1301 a charter was granted. Although Manchester was acquiring regional importance, it was subordinate to its near neighbour, Salford, which was the capital manor of the hundred (district) and which had an earlier borough charter. The full development of the medieval borough followed the establishment in 1421 of a college of priests to take charge of the church. Part of the college survives as Chetham’s Hospital, while a free church school set up in 1506 became the Manchester Grammar School in 1515, founded by Hugh Oldham, bishop of Exeter.

Evolution of the modern city

By the 16th century Manchester was a flourishing market borough important in the wool trade, exporting cloth to Europe via London. By 1620 a new industrial era had begun with the weaving of fustian, a cloth with a linen warp but a cotton weft. This was the origin of the cotton industry that was to transform southern Lancashire after 1770. As the trade grew, Manchester expanded and “improvements” were added, including the fine square and church of St. Ann (1712).

From the 1760s onward, growth quickened with the onset of the Industrial Revolution. The first canal, bringing cheap coal from Worsley, reached the town in 1762; later extended, it linked Manchester with the Mersey and Liverpool by 1776 and so served the import-export needs of the cotton industry. Manchester’s first cotton mill was built in the early 1780s. By 1800 Manchester was said to be “steam mill mad,” and by 1830 there were 99 cotton-spinning mills. The world’s first modern railway, the Liverpool and Manchester, was opened in 1830, and by the 1850s the greater part of the present railway system of the city was complete. Despite its growth to a population of more than 70,000 by 1801, the town had no system of government and was still managed, like a village, by a manorial court leet (a court held semiannually by the lord of the manor or his steward to conduct local government). A police force was established in 1792, but not until 1838 did a charter of incorporation set up an elected council and a system of local government.

Manchester’s economic history during the second half of the 19th century was one of growth and diversification. The city became less important as a cotton-manufacturing centre than as the commercial and financial nucleus of the trade; on the floor of the Royal Exchange, the yarn and cloth of the entire industry was bought and sold. From an early textile-machinery industry, many specialized types of engineering developed. Products included steam engines and locomotives, armaments, machine tools, and, later, those of electrical engineering. The opening of the 37-mile Manchester Ship Canal (1894) linked Manchester, via the Mersey estuary at Eastham, to the Irish Sea and the world markets beyond. By 1910 Manchester had become the fourth port of the country, and alongside the docks, at Trafford Park, the first (and still the largest) industrial estate in Britain was developed. New industries also took sites there, with a prominent role played by such American companies as Westinghouse and Ford, the latter moving to Essex in 1929. At its height, more than 50,000 workers were accommodated within factories of the estate, though that number later declined.

The Manchester of the 19th century was a city of enormous vitality not only in its economic growth but also in its political, cultural, and intellectual life. The Manchester Guardian became Britain’s leading provincial newspaper, achieving international influence, while the Hallé Orchestra was its equal in the world of music. Owens College (now known as Victoria University of Manchester) became the nucleus of the first and largest of the great English civic universities, while the academic success of the Manchester Grammar School made it something of a model in the development of selective secondary education in England. Politically, Victorian Manchester often led the nation: in the agitation for parliamentary reform and for free trade, its influence was crucial. The Peterloo Massacre of 1819 arose from a peaceful political assembly, held on fields near the city, to demand parliamentary reform. In the period 1842–44 the German social philosopher Friedrich Engels lived in Manchester, and his influential book Condition of the Working Class in England (1845) was based on his experiences there. Among its other intellectual achievements were John Dalton’s development of the atomic theory as the foundation of modern chemistry and the work of the “Manchester school” in the application of economic principles to the problems of commerce, industry, and government.

There was a price to be paid for this precocious growth. In its urban fabric, inner Manchester remained essentially a 19th-century city, and by the late 20th century it faced massive redevelopment problems. An industrial collar of obsolescent factory zones encircled the city centre, and huge areas of old slum housing survived with little renewal into the 1960s. Manchester, then, is a city in transition: its face is being transformed by redevelopment, and its dependence on the insecure base of the textile industries is declining with the growth of a much broader economic structure.


20 Top Facts About Manchester You Never Knew

1. Manchester was named after breasts

When the Romans first arrived in Manchester in AD79, they built a fort on the banks of the River Medlock. The settlement was between two hills, that in their opinion looked a bit like breasts.

They named the place ‘Mamucium’, which translated as “breast shaped hills”. Much later in history when The Normans arrived to establish a new settlement, they kept part of the original name but added Chester at the end, denoting that it was a site of a Roman fort. The city from that point forward became know as Manchester.

However, these facts are at odds with the infamous Mark Kennedy’s Afflecks Palace mosaic in the city’s Northern Quarter that states that on the sixth day, God created Manchester!

2. Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution

Manchester is where the Industrial Revolution first started and it is the world’s first proper industrial city.

At the beginning of the 18th century, Manchester was a picturesque market town, with a population spread across only a small number of streets. Demand for cotton and coal changed all that and rapidly transformed the place into the world’s first industrial city.

The opening of the Bridgewater Canal in 1761 to transport coal from the mines in Worsley to Manchester marks the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

The invention of steam powered engines and the growing demand for cotton, rocketed Manchester to the forefront of the global textile industry.

Manchester grew at an astounding rate, and the booming economy attracted migrants from all over the UK. Manchester was given city status in 1853.

3. Cottonopolis

In the 19th century Manchester was nicknamed “Cottonopolis”.

The advent of the world’s first steam-driven textile mills spurred many cotton mills to start opening around the city. By 1853, there were a total of 108 mills in Manchester.

The hills that surround Manchester are green for a reason. The ever so damp climate provided the area with the optimum conditions for processing cotton. The moist atmosphere prevented the cotton fibres from splitting and the nearby rivers and waterways powered the mills and factories.

80% of the world’s cotton would be manufactured in the city and then transported via the world’s first railway to the docks in Liverpool for distribution across the globe.

By 1894, the Victorians had built a canal to transport textiles and other goods to Liverpool. The Manchester Ship Canal is a wide, 36-mile long river navigation. At the time of its completion, it was the largest navigation canal in the world, and made Manchester one of the largest ports in Britain.

If you ever go to Australia and are looking for any kind of textile such as bed sheets, you will be sent to the ‘Manchester Department’ of the store. This is all because the textiles would arrive in Australia by ship and all the boxes had ‘Manchester’ printed on them.

4. Curry Mile

Manchester’s Curry Mile in Rusholme hosts the largest concentration of Indian restaurants outside of the Asian continent.

The famous Curry Mile however is only actually about half a mile long!

You’ll find a huge selection of Indian restaurants where you can get a tasty curry at all times of the night and day. It also has a great selection of Middle Eastern restaurants too, so there is plenty of choice if you are after something spicy.

5. Splitting the Atom

Manchester is famous for its universities. Many famous scientists studied and worked there and many students went on to do great things.

Physics and chemistry are areas that put the city on the scientific map. John Dalton worked and lived in the city as did James Chadwick and JJ Thompson.

In 1917, Ernest Rutherford who was teaching at the University of Manchester split the atom for the first time.

This significant breakthrough has revolutionised the world in many ways, enabling the development of nuclear power and techniques such radiotherapy to treat cancer.

Born in New Zealand, he was Chair of Physics at the University, and in 1908 won the Nobel prize for Chemistry.

Another famous scientist, James Joule was born in neighbouring City of Salford in Greater Manchester and lived south of the city in Sale.

Also talking of science, The University of Manchester is the place where graphene was discovered in 2004. A material 200 times stronger than steel and lighter than paper, it’s a game changer for the future as its uses are so wide-ranging.

6. First Public Library

Chetham’s library, near Victoria Station was the world’s first free library. It was opened to the public in Manchester in 1653.

It has been in use ever since and holds 100,000 books including 60,000 that were published before 1851.

7. The Midland Hotel

The Midland Hotel is one of the most famous hotels in Manchester. It’s located opposite St Peters Square, near to Central Library and Manchester Central Exhibition Centre.

There are many reasons why The Midland hotel is famous, but being the birthplace of Rolls Royce is the one you’ll hear the most often.

The hotel is where Mr Rolls a car salesman and Mr Royce an engineer, first met in 1904. It was at The Midland that they agreed to found their automotive company, Rolls-Royce.

They launched the Silver Ghost in 1907, which was their first car. Rolls Royce Merlin engines also powered the legendary RAF Spitfire planes that helped win the Battle of Britain and defeat the Nazis in World War II.

Rumour has it that The Midland Hotel was one of Adolf Hilter’s favourite English buildings. In fact, he was so enamoured with the beauty of the building that it has been claimed he planned to set it up as a Third Reich HQ in the city and ordered the Luftwaffe to avoid bombing it during The Blitz. Whether this is actually true is very difficult to verify, but has been widely discussed.

8. The First Computer Programme

‘Baby’, the world’s first electronic stored computer programme was built and designed at the University of Manchester.

The Manchester ‘Baby’ was also called the Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM). It was built by Frederic C. Williams, Tom Kilburn, and Geoff Tootill, and ran its first program on 21 June 1948.

It was not intended to be a practical computing engine, but a testbed for the Williams tube, the first truly random-access memory. Described as ‘small and primitive’ 50 years after its creation, it was the first working machine to contain all the elements essential for a modern electronic computer.

As soon as the Baby had demonstrated the success of its design, a new project was started at the university to develop it into a full-scale operational machine, the Manchester Mark 1.

The Mark 1 quickly became the prototype for the world’s first commercially available general-purpose computer, the Ferranti Mark 1.

Baby weighs about 500kg and is on display at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry.

9. Socialist Politics

Manchester is a bustling centre for capitalism, but it was once the scene of bread and labour riots with working and non-titled classes demanding a greater political recognition. One such gathering ended with the brutal Peterloo massacre of 1819 which resulted in the death of 18 people.

The economic school of Manchester Capitalism was developed in Manchester and was known as ‘Manchester Liberalism’. From 1838 onwards, Manchester was the centre of the Anti-Corn Law League.

Manchester has a notable place in the history of Marxism and left-wing politics too. It was the subject of Friedrich Engels‘ book, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844.

Engels spent much of his life in and around Manchester and when the co-author of his Communist Manifesto Karl Marx visited, they often met up at Chetham’s Public Library.

The books Marx was reading at the time are still available in the library, and you can still see the seat in the window where the German philosophers, Engels and Marx would meet up.

10. Nobel Prize Winners

After Oxford and Cambridge, Manchester has some of the best universities in the country. The University of Manchester has an impressive 25 Nobel laureates amongst its staff and alumni.

These include: Joseph John Thomson, Ernest Rutherford, James Chadwick, Arthur Harden, John Cockcroft, William Bragg, Niels Bohr, Archibald V Hill and Alexander Todd.

11. The World’s First Passenger Railway (and Railway Accident)

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened in 1830. It was the first railway built primarily to transport passengers and to be powered exclusively by steam.

The first station was situated on Liverpool Road, which is now forms part of the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.

Unfortunately, the opening day of the railway was marred with disaster. On 15 September 1830 the MP for Liverpool and former Cabinet minister, William Huskisson, alighted from his steam locomotive carriage and became the first person ever to die in a railway accident.

Huskisson was attending the opening of the Manchester and Liverpool railway, along with a number of other high-profile dignitaries.  When his train had stopped for water, Huskisson decided to go to greet the Duke of Wellington, who was sat in another carriage. As he climbed up into the duke’s carriage he lost his balance and fell straight into the path of Stephenson’s Rocket, which was travelling down the adjacent track.

12. Madchester Rave On

Music is a very important part of Mancunian culture.

Manchester is home to some of the biggest bands the world has ever seen. Amongst them you can find OasisThe SmithsThe Chemical BrothersThe ChameleonsA Certain Ratio10ccSimply RedHermans Hermits and Take That.

The Bee Gees Gib brothers also grew up in Manchester, having moved from the Isle of Man at an early age and rock legend Lemmy from Motorhead started his career in Manchester in the early 60s, playing in bands while living in Stockport, Prestwich, Wythenshawe, and Cheetham Hill.

[See local artist, Sue Willis’s Madchester Music Map to see all the other famous Manchester bands.]

Salford, Manchester’s neighbouring city and Greater Manchester borough has also spawned some world class bands too including The HolliesHappy MondaysJoy Division and New Order. [VIDEO: Watch the Salford Music Map video to see all the other famous Salford bands.]

Manchester is also famous for it’s buzzing nightlife, and has seen many legendary nightclubs open and close over the years including The HaciendaThe Twisted WheelThe BoardwalkSankys SoapDiscotheque RoyaleThe Banshee and Jilly’s Rockworld to name but a few.

13. Captain America Movie Was Filmed in Manchester

The filming of 2011’s Marvel’s comic book adaptation Captain America: The First Avenger took place in Manchester.  Much of the film was shot in the UK around Dale Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.   It was chosen as the buildings closely resembled 1940s New York City.  Some parts of the movie were also filmed in Stanley Dock in Liverpool.

Manchester has also been used in the filming of Peaky BlindersQueer as Folk Shameless, The Royale Family, Cold Feet, Life on Mars, Snatch, Sherlock Holmes, 24 Hour Party PeopleThe 51st State and the Netflix TV series, The Crown.

14. The Suffragette Movement Started in Manchester

The Women’s Social and Political Union was founded in 1903, in Manchester, by Emmeline Pankhurst.

Emmeline was a famous political activist responsible for suffragette movement that helped give British females the right to voteShe was recently listed as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century.

15. Coronation Street

Manchester is home to Coronation Street, the world’s longest running TV soap opera.

Coronation Street has been on the box since 1960. It follows the regular daily lives of people in the fictional town of Weatherfield and is set in Manchester. It has starred huge names including Liz Dawn and William Roache and has been praised for its realistic storylines.

Any road, the set is located at ITVs Trafford Wharf Studios in MediaCityUK.

16. Birthplace of the Football League

Manchester is the birthplace of the world’s first professional football league.

As well as being the home of two world-famous Premiere Football teams, Manchester United and Manchester City, the original Football League was created at Manchester’s Royal Hotel, Piccadilly in 1888.

17. Never Mind The Buzzcocks

Following an invitation from the Bolton based Manchester band Buzzcocks, on the 4th of June 1976, London punk band The Sex Pistols performed at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall. This legendary concert has gone down in music history as one of the most important British gigs ever.

Tickets were sold for 50p and only 42 people went to that show (although many more ‘claim’ to have been there). The venue wasn’t even at a third of capacity, yet the impact of the show inspired many in the audience who then went on to make their own mark on the music history.

Amongst the people that went to that gig that night, were members of bands like The Smiths, Magazine, Joy Division and the The Fall. Also in the audience were some other famous names from the music industry including Tony Wilson, future owner of Manchester nightclub, The Hacienda and Factory Records.

18. Alan Turing, Who Cracked The Enigma Code, Used to Work in Manchester

Alan Turing, is considered the father of modern computing.

He taught at The University of Manchester, but he is most famously known for decrypting the German Enigma code. According to Prime Minister, Winston Churchill this breakthrough shortened WWII by 2 years and helped the Allies win the war.

Turing was a gay man and in 1952, he was arrested for being homosexual which was illegal at the time. His criminal record prevented him working for the government. At the age of 41, just a  few years later, he sadly took his own life by cyanide poisoning.

In May 2012, a bill was put before the Houses of Lords and almost 60 years later in 2013, Turing received a Royal Pardon from Queen Elizabeth II.

A statue of him with the Newton apple is located in Sackville Gardens near Manchester’s Gay Village.

Alan Turing will feature on the Bank of England’s new £50 note due to enter circulation in 2021

19. The New Union Pub is One of the Oldest Gay Venues in the World

Canal Street in Manchester is the site of Manchester’s famous gay village. The pedestrianised street, which runs along the side of the Rochdale Canal, is lined with gay bars and restaurants. At both day and night the street is popular with visitors, including many LGBT tourists from all over the world.

Manchester is one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the world and has been for many decades.

The New Union Pub was the first gay venue on Canal Street where it hosted drag shows during WWII, over a decade before Alan Turing was prosecuted.

20. Media City UK

What was once the long disused docklands of Salford Quays, has now been transformed into a world-class business, cultural and residential hub. Home to the BBC and ITVMedia City UK is now a thriving creative centre for digital marketing, business, media and broadcasting.

The 200-acres development situated on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal is also a base for the University of Salford. The land Media City occupies was originally part of the Port of Manchester and Manchester Docks. This is where goods including cotton and textiles were loaded onto ships for distribution around the world. The location therefore holds an important place in Manchester and Salford’s industrial past.

The area attracts businesses from all over the world and by focusing on broadcasting, digital media, innovation and creative design, Manchester has established a solid bedrock where it can serve the modern demands of the UK and the world for future generations.

Manchester has always been at the forefront of innovation, but is digital media and technology Manchester’s replacement for cotton? We certainly think so.


No Love Dying

Gregory Porter

Known for his warm baritone vocals, Gregory Porter rose to acclaim in the 2010s with his earthy, cross-pollinated brand of jazz, soul, and gospel. A gifted singer of standards as well as more contemporary soul material, Porter has earned favorable comparisons to his idols Nat King Cole, Donny Hathaway, and Stevie Wonder. He announced his arrival by picking up a Grammy nomination for his 2010 debut, Water. After signing to Blue Note, he gained even wider notice for his third album, 2013’s Liquid Spirit, which hit number two on the jazz charts, and won the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Although his original songs are his main focus, Porter often returns to his roots, such as on his 2017 tribute album Nat King Cole & Me.

Born in Los Angeles in 1971, Porter grew up in Bakersfield, California, where his mother was a minister. It was through his mother’s record collection that he fell under the spell of Cole, learning early on how to imitate him. Along with singing, he was also a gifted athlete, and left high school with a football scholarship to San Diego State University. However, after an injury to his shoulder derailed his sports career, he moved to Brooklyn where he worked days as a chef while performing in local jazz clubs. It was during this period that he met saxophonist, composer, and pianist Kamau Kenyatta.

Kenyatta quickly became Porter’s mentor, introducing him to flutist Hubert Laws. Laws then featured Porter on a track on his 1998 album, Hubert Laws Remembers the Unforgettable Nat King Cole. Laws’ sister, Eloise Laws, also heard Porter during the sessions and cast him as one of the leads in the musical It Ain’t Nothing But the Blues, which eventually enjoyed a run on Broadway. In 2010, Porter released his debut album, Water, on Motéma Music. Well-received, it picked up a Grammy nod for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Be Good followed two years later and further showcased Porter’s growing confidence.

In September of 2013, Porter issued his third album and Blue Note debut, Liquid Spirit. Produced by Brian Bacchus, the album was a huge success, landing at number two on the Billboard Top Jazz Albums chart, and scooping up the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. It also became the one of the most streamed jazz albums of all time, with over 20 million streams. His second effort for Blue Note, Take Me to the Alley, was released in early 2016, and featured Porter’s own version of “Holding On,” a track he co-wrote and previously recorded with electronic act Disclosure. Also in 2016, Porter delivered the concert album Live in Berlin.

The following year he released an album that paid tribute to the artist who had been most influential on his own music. Nat King Cole & Me featured Porter’s versions of some of Cole’s most treasured classics, including “Smile” and “Mona Lisa.” The concert album One Night Only: Live at the Royal Albert Hall arrived in 2018.


Jazz legend Gregory Porter on the art of the protest song Fighting to be heard

“Songs about romantic love are important but there’s also the love song for mankind,” Gregory Porter explains. “I’m not trying to beat anybody over the head with my thoughts. The protest in my music is subtle because I want people to take the song in and consider the ideas. But I hope songs about social change will come to the fore and get more of a spotlight.”

You might not expect such fighting words from a Grammy award-winner and million-album-selling artist, but Gregory Porter’s career has been one long battle to be heard. Born in Bakersfield, California he honed his craft over decades with little-to-no recognition in dark basement jazz clubs before recording his debut, the platinum Liquid Spirit at the ripe old age of 38.

He’s since performed at Glastonbury, guest-vocalled on Disclosure’s massive hit ‘Holding On’ and burst way beyond the small soul jazz scene which birthed him. Despite the widespread acclaim, there’s a burning social critique bubbling under the surface on many of his most powerful tracks, which is present too on his new second album Take Me to the Alley.

“If we’re true to ourselves as artists, we write about conditions that are around us. If things aren’t right, that’s something we have to talk about,” Porter says. One track that stood out on Liquid Spirit, ‘1960 What’ came from a really personal place, Porter explains. “My mother had just passed and I was reconnecting with her story growing up in the South,” he recalls. “I was listening to lots of Nina Simone, lots of soul music, deep blues and thinking about the LA riots, which had happened a few years before, and this recurring story of injustice. Similar things have happened at different points in our history. Whether it’s Martin Luther King, Rodney King or the shooting of any young person, it’s that feeling of injustice that sparks emotion – when people feel their rights aren’t being respected.”

The refrain in the chorus, ‘1960, what? 1960, who?’ refers to the numerous Civil Rights Leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers, and other figures whose tragic deaths lit the touch-paper for the many incidents of social unrest during the turbulent ‘60s. “I don’t say ‘1970, what?’ or ‘1980, what?’ but the timelessness of the song is implied, for when it happens in the next ten years,” Porter explains. “I hope it doesn’t, but it probably will. It’s a recurring story if we don’t learn from history.”

First aired in Harlem jazz clubs long before Porter’s record deal and the major mobilisation following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York and the growth of the Black Lives Matter Movement, the song feels all the more poignant with each episode of injustice and reaction that hits the headlines.

Porter’s latest album Take Me To The Alley once again demonstrates his awesome voice, which always has a huge impact across the emotional spectrum, from agony to ecstasy. But when Porter chooses to speak out on society, like on the softly-spoken title track, he takes his lead from the greats of soul and jazz history. He looks back to Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone or John Coltrane, who stood at movements for change in their day.

“When you think about the best protest music, whether it’s Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On?’ or Bob Marley, it’s beautiful music which carries a deeper meaning to the people you’re singing about,” Porter says. “It’s not always overt: there are great protest songs where it actually took us a while to know they were protest songs. But a good protest song expresses the feeling of a situation to those people being subjected to certain conditions. Great hip hop, as an example, carries interesting self reflection and, almost like CNN or the BBC, reports and broadcasts what’s really happening on the streets, with the aspiration that hope will be coming their way.”


Gregory Porter – «Music was a vent for the pain and frustration I had about losing the biggest, most important, person in my life.»

A POWERFUL baritone with a winning smile, there is no stopping Gregory Porter.

A fateful shoulder injury turned Porter from a sports star to a singing sensation as a Grammy-award winning jazz musician.

The Californian first discovered his voice in church where his mother Ruth was a minister, growing up with seven siblings and with a father who he rarely saw. 

Always framed by his trademark peaked cap with ear flaps, the 44-year-old Porter is swinging his way round the country ahead of the release of his new record Take Me To The Alley.

The Guide: You have risen to prominence slightly later in life than many artists, how do you feel this has affected your music?

Gregory Porter: For me it has been helpful. My talent does not rely on the smoothness around my eyes or my youthful sound. I think for me, musically, it took me some time to season. I have been able to go through some life experiences which probably inform my performances and my recording. I am where I am supposed to be at the right time. Would I liked to have been here when I was 25? Sure, but I am here now and I am happy.

Do you ever reflect on what could have been with regard to your sports career?

I have to say I do not think about what could of been because I think everything happens for a reason. Though it did take me a long time to get to the place where I am now, and who knows where I will be in the future. Everything does happen for a reason, the shoulder injury lead me to this place and gave me a deeper understanding of humility, which is something that features in my music. I do not reflect much on the injury, but I do think about American football. Though I love to watch, I realise I will not force my son to play because it really is a dangerous game. I will let him decide what sports he wants to play. If he wants to be a great tennis or golf player I will not frown at that and I will appreciate that.

How much did your musical talent develop while you were rehabbing the injury?

It was more when I was rehabbing from the passing of my mother. The long period of mourning I was in was eased by music, by her encouraging me on her deathbed. It was a much deeper emotional experience in losing my mother which created an avenue or a vent for the pain and frustration I had about losing the biggest, most important, person in my life. It was an emotional watershed moment and really in a way helped me think inward in terms of my songwriting and realise the personal is universal sometimes and I was not the only one going through pain, or the only one going through joy, so to express those human emotions in music came from this deep experience.

How much did winning the Grammy for Liquid Spirit mean to you?

It was a very important moment in my career and it felt wonderful being honoured by my peers. In a way it was encouragement for the way I write and perform the songs, and in using the influences from my childhood and infusing that with my approach for jazz.

How much did your large family upbringing, with seven siblings, influence you?

It was very important. Finding a way to be different and to stick out in a way to be recognised by your mother, so I was known to do things my mother liked – singing, cooking and foot massages. These were things she enjoyed and encouraged. I had so many brothers and sisters competing for attention, not love, she loved us all, but attention. But also just bouncing ideas, thoughts and experiences off your brothers and sisters is available. 

How important was your relationship with your mother to you personally and your music?

In a way much of my lyrics are a synthesis of her thoughts or maybe sometimes her sermon. Some of the things she said go through me as poetry. As I go through my music and listen to the songs, I hear a lot of her, I cannot get away from it. I think the point I decided to embrace that, as opposed to running away from it, was when my success started. Even with my voice, when I started to embrace the fact and idea my voice was nurtured in church and I started to sing like I had for years in spiritual pursuit it helped my own personal music.

You father was absent, how did that affect you?

The understanding of the loss and absence of something you desired is very important in music. You do it with lost love, this is central to songwriting and my songwriting. The understanding of something you did not have has been very important to me, so I am thankful to him for the genetics of my voice and after sometime I could positively look at it as giving me a story and a message to sing about.

Who are some of the artists who have left the biggest impact on you?

Both known and unknown artists have affected me, from little known blues artists to the great stars like Nat King Cole, Bill Weathers, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, and female singers like Carmen McCray and Abbey Lincoln. Storytellers. But in particular male singers who have had some experience in their childhood singing in church in this emotive style.

What sort of things are you exploring on Take Me To The Alley?

Mutual respect, the ups and downs of love, I have a protest song with Fan the Flames, and even the title track has some politics in there as well.

Jazz is often considered quite a niche genre, why do you think that is?

It is because of the vast umbrella that it sits up under. A person can listen to the most extreme expression of jazz and think that is the entirety of the music. Sometimes it takes great understanding and study, and even study of personality, to understand some of the music that is under the umbrella of jazz. But there is music which is accessible as well. Herbie Hancock has proven instrumental in being on both ends of that spectrum with the experimental forward-thinking music and harmonies that expand the mind as well as being on the funky, danceable music, all being under the jazz label. To say you think you know exactly what jazz is upon one listen is an impossibility, it takes years and thought to full understand it. 

What is the story behind your famous hat?

It is just my thing. It is mine.


Gregory Porter: The only reason I am here today is because of what my mother told me as she was dying

«So, are you going to have one?” High noon at a sun-dappled circular corner table at The Standard hotel in London and Gregory Porter has just ordered his preferred tipple, an Old Fashioned. If you know anything about who Gregory Porter is (a Grammy-winning jazz singer) and what he does (sell hundreds of thousands of albums on a scale not seen since Michael Bublé slid across a stage in a brushed velvet tux), the order is about as apt as Patrick Bateman calling for a Bloody Mary – or Taylor Swift for an American Dream.

Before Porter single-handedly reignited contemporary jazz with his dapper duds, a hat to remember and a voice that sounds like a cartoon lion gargling honey and dosed on CBD gummies, jazz was something fiftysomething geography dons listened to over a glass of vinegarised sherry. Not so now, as jazz has got its groove back, with Porter’s music (and his whole cosmic, cuddly vibe) adored by Spanish millennials and South Korean boomers alike. Despite having numerous dates from his European tour postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, we caught up with Porter to talk about how he flipped the jazz scene, soul-searching and all things ski-ba-bop-ba-dop-bop… You dig?

How’s the fame game treating you?
You know, very well, actually. I’m OK with [fame]. It’s just, you know, people trying to get close to me in some kind of way. I get the laughs, the tears. Women, mothers, lovers – these people come up to me and tell me very intimate things: “Oh, my father was dying and we had your record on” or “Your voice is what I heard when I was having my baby…” I’m like, “Oh, well, I’m glad I was in the room!” You know? They just want a little piece of that moment again and I’m happy to oblige.

You like a cocktail, I see. Have you ever tried to stop drinking?
[Laughs.] Not so much, no. I like a good gin and tonic actually, that’s my go-to. I like all the small-batch stuff, the various aromatics you can blend and mix. I like my drinks fully loaded, if you know what I mean? I dig a cold beer too. Sometimes when it’s hot you can’t beat a bit of effervescence. But all those nonalcoholic drinks? Maybe sometime. Who knows? There seems to be a lot of ways to replace the bottle. The question is, why would I try to replace it?

So as well as a new album out, All Rise, you have a podcast, The Hang? I heard the episode with Jeff Goldblum, who is also a jazz fan…
Yeah. Jeff and I met in Los Angeles airport a few years ago now. He ran right up to me, being all “Jeff”, and he was like, “I’m a big fan! I want to play with you!” He has those moments when he can seem a little possessed, right? He tells me my voice has compassion and vulnerability… I’m just thinking, “I’m talking to the damn ‘Fly’, man,” you know what I mean? I am continually shocked at where my music gets to and where it is heard. It’s a gift for me and still blows my mind.

Where did you grow up?
A place called Bakersfield, California; it’s no jazz mecca. It’s got a music vibe, sure, but not so much a live-performance vibe. The biggest names that came from there are some of the old country artists and Korn, the metal band. I went to high school with those guys. I beat them in a talent show in our junior year. They came out and killed their song; it was cool. But afterwards, as the curtain was closing, one of them jumped out and gave the judges the middle finger, so they got disqualified. They were always real rock’n’roll, real raggedy.

You usually gig 200 days a year. What do you do on rare days off in a foreign city?
Vintage shopping is a big thing for me. I love my brand-new Paul Smith suits, for sure, but it was my mother who turned me on to vintage, or what we called thrift stores back then. All my classmates, none of the kids could understand how we were dressed so smartly, because it was all tailored but secondhand, you know? We’d go into school wearing these high-waisted trousers with square-cut pockets on the side. We had those shoes – we’d call them “pilgrim” shoes – but they were the monk straps. Beautiful objects. Thing is, my mother was all about helping people. She was a nurse and a minister. I have a song called “Take Me To The Alley” and it’s about feeding and helping those people down and out on the street, how my mother would help them. She wouldn’t let us get attached to any of those clothes she bought us; she’d see a little boy who came from some Southern town with nothing to his name, go home and give all our fine clothes to him.

That’s quite a lesson to learn.
Yeah. I mean, I am not going to pretend we enjoyed that lesson at the time, but it’s stayed with me and now, of course, I am so glad she imparted that message of charity to us. Boy, my brother rebelled against it; I was more of a mama’s boy. I have a son now and I try to do the same. I get in his face and I make sure he gets bored of me. It’s funny, a critic said of my music the other day that I was too positive, that my music was too full of hope, too uplifting… They said, “Don’t you have any Leonard Cohen darkness in you? Some Bob Dylan hatred?” I actually consider myself and my music a push-back on some of the negative energy of racism, bigotry and so on out there. But have I experienced darkness? Damn right. I’ve experienced a motherfucker pissing in a beer bottle and throwing it out of a car window at my mother’s house. I’ve seen all the darkness I need to see. I just chose to channel that into something brighter for the listeners.

Was Bakersfield a tough neighbourhood to grow up in as a young black man?
They used to do all kinds of things to our house. We actually lived in a good neighbourhood, Christmas Tree Lane, one of the smartest streets in Bakersfield. My mother had bought us a house. We were one of only two black families in the area – we still know the other family, in fact. I mean, this is California, not Mississippi, but there was still racism there. People cutting down trees, burning crosses – it happened. But then I guess some of those old folks died, along with their views. Most of them anyway, although then along came Donald Trump…

We’ve had our own issues of racism here in the UK, not least concerning the treatment in the media of Meghan Markle.
There could be 101 reasons why Prince Harry and Meghan wanted to leave the UK, not least after the treatment of his mother by the press. Maybe he just wants to protect his wife and child, you know? But, no, they all have to jump on her and insist she is the reason. I am just not sure we needed the full ticktock on it; the cameras following them to Grandma’s house – excuse me, Her Majesty The Queen’s house – a 24/7 news report on cars driving back and forth. My feeling is they had talked it all through, it was arranged and then they were being stalled. So, guess what, they took it to Twitter! But, well, I don’t think we’ll ever really know and, to be honest, it’s their business, right?

This is the Heroes issue. Who were your musical heroes growing up?
My mother’s house was always filled with music. We had one of those big wooden consoles – would probably cost a fortune now, but most households had one. The turntable was one end, the eight-track was the other. My mother’s thing was gospel music – that really was the sound that resonated throughout the house. Also, she had her classic albums – Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald. The only reason I am here today is because of my mother and what she told me as she was dying. I had never really believed a singing career was possible before, but as she was in hospital, almost her last words to me were to encourage me to be a professional singer. That was the spark that lit the belief.

When did you realise that you were better than average?
Well, that’s a tough one, but I remember when someone I really respected first gave me the nod, you know? There was this real cool cat, a drummer, I used to play with. He was like a Ginger Baker type: sharp clothes, shirts just perfect, hat to one side, always got a few chains around his neck. He’s a crazy cat, drumming away, taking hits of extracurricular substances in between hitting the snare, without even missing a beat. There was this song we used to play together and I remember he turned to me and was like, “You’re going to outgrow these small clubs. You about to blow up!” When I first started, another sign was all the tourists that flocked into the tiny clubs we were doing in New York City. It gave me a feeling there was a global appetite for jazz, the like of which I hadn’t noticed before. Japanese, Russian, French, they kept asking me, “Hey, when you coming over to see us?”

What was your experience of those first tours outside America?
Look, I don’t want this to sound like the beginning of a romantic drama or anything, but that first time we toured? That very first night? I met my wife, Victoria. I thought, “Wow, jazz. If I can get girls like this…” She loved jazz, which helped. We got out there and found an audience. There are people in all parts of the world, in drink-sodden, smoke-filled clubs making jazz music, man. I never forget going to Russia for the first time and playing an old bomb shelter. There was this young 19-year-old trumpeter… If you look hard enough, the scene is right there, right under your nose.

Where did that voice of yours come from?
You know, that’s a good question and one I hadn’t really asked myself until recently. My father was never around; he was close to us in LA, but never there as such, you know what I mean? The thing I always thought he gave me, the thing he never had, was that gene that said, “Let me go look after my children.” You know what he said to me once when I reached out to him? “I will forget more than you could ever learn.” I could slam my fist on the table when I think about that. It’s hard even now talking about it. It’s been a thing I’ve had to wrestle with my whole life, his absence. Yet someone asked me recently, “Where did you get your singing voice?” And I always thought it was my mother – she was a singer. But at her funeral, people came up to me and told me something I never knew: “Boy, could your daddy tear the house down.” He was a fine singer and they say I got my voice from him. So in the end I guess he did give me something significant. And I’m gonna take it and wrap his memory up in that.


Jazz singer Gregory Porter is an ex-lineman with a blues-infused soul

“I came to writing my own music not because of some love story or from some broken heart,” said jazz singer Gregory Porter. “It was my father. I had a pain in my chest about him not showing enough interest in my life as a child.”

orter — 6-feet-5 and 255 pounds — earned a San Diego State athletic scholarship in football as a lineman. But shortly after his January 1990 enrollment, he suffered a career-ending rotator cuff injury. After moving from Bakersfield, California, to the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, New York, to work as a chef at his brother’s restaurant, he began to moonlight as a crooner in the clubs, cafes and restaurants of Brooklyn and Harlem, New York. “So when I started to exorcise this pain in my heart … it came out as melody and lyric about him, and our relationship.” Four albums and two Grammys later, his velvety voice remains a funky fusion of jazz, blues, soul and gospel.

From those tiny club stages, Porter began a journey to become a male African-American jazz singer — whom BBC calls a “worryingly rare breed.” Porter signed with the Motema label and released Water in 2010. Porter’s baritone voice and mindful songwriting have placed him in the highest of ranks. He was awarded his first Grammy for 2012’s Liquid Spirit, and earned his latest Grammy for his 2016 Take Me To The Alley in the best jazz vocal album category. His voice has the rasp of Sam Cooke, but also the liquid butter sound of his favorite artist Nat “King” Cole. This is mixed with the soulful lyrics that greet you with a dose of realism and the careful arrangements of Donny Hathaway.

Porter, along with his seven siblings, was raised by his minister mother, Ruth, while his father, Rufus, a Memphis, Tennessee, native, was not there for them. Raising her children in the church and instilling in them those Christian and gospel roots, Porter’s mother remains an inspirational source in his life. She died of cancer when Porter was just 21.

“I remember standing in my apartment in San Diego, boo-hooing,” he said in 2016. “But it turned out great. I think my mother saw the positive side of my injury before I did … [she] said, ‘Now you have more flexibility to explore music, focus on your studies, and see what happens’ … I think I ended up in the right place.”

How old were when you began singing?

I was 5. There were eight kids — we were basically a choir. So there was a lot of music in the house. It always just felt like the right thing, my thing. Also, you find a way to stick out with eight kids and it was just my thing.

How did you develop your sound?

That gospel migration that came from the South. My mother was from Shreveport, Louisiana, and my father from Memphis, Tennessee. Some of those roots came to central California that I was exposed to in church. Very old roots. I was singing with a lot of older singers, 80-year-old singers, when I was a little kid. So I was probably getting something from … music from the turn of the century or the ’20s, stylistically. So, yeah. I picked up a lot from them. When it came time to do my jazz, the one thing that set me apart was I had this country, gospel, blues background. At the moment I started to utilize that in my singing was when success started to happen. It was a different sound. A more grounded, rooted sound that I was bringing into my jazz.

How did you get into in the storytelling aspect of your songwriting?

I wanted to make music that struck me the way listening to Nat Cole’s music or Sammy Davis Jr.’s music struck me. The story is most important. I realized that when writing from a personal experience, writing about grounded soulful things, I was most effective at communicating in song. I started dealing with my relationships, I started dealing with what I feel about love, and the country and … things I feel about … race, mutual respect and justice. All these things come out in my writing.

I started dealing with what I feel about love and the country and … things I feel about … race, mutual respect and justice. All these things come out in my writing.

How does your music relate to your spirituality?

I’m not trying to beat anybody over the head with spirituality … I’m trying to stretch out and touch … everybody … But my spirituality, it can’t help but find its way into the music. That’s the way that it is.

Where is your favorite place to write your music?

Planes, trains. In cars. When I’m in motion. Something about moving past people, buildings and environments, it sparks some desire for me to write. It causes me to consider where I’ve been, and in a way, where I’m going.

Do you write on your laptop, iPad — or old-school pen and paper?

All of those. I’ve even had somebody turn their camera on and just tape me for 15 seconds, and then have them send it to my email. I don’t want to miss … you know what I mean? “Our Love,” I wrote while walking around the Tower of London. “Be Good,” I wrote on my bike on my way home from getting dinner. That’s the way I write — I don’t write. I don’t sit down at a table and say, ‘OKnow it’s time to write a song.’ I can’t do it like that. However I capture it is how it happens. It has to get captured.

What’s been the hardest part of your journey?

It’s all a blessing … to be able to have this career. The difficulty is in the consequence of love. I begin to hate time and distance because it keeps me away from my loved ones, my family, my favorite coffee shop, my son, my dear friends. If you commit to doing 300 days on the road, then somebody’s going to suffer in terms of your friendships. I think the disconnection that I may have with my closest friends is the toughest thing. It’s like constant small heartaches — engaging people and then releasing them.

Where were you when you learned of your most recent Grammy nomination?

For some reason, they come out late at night on the East Coast. I always just remember being woken up in New York. Somebody jumping on my head and saying, ‘You got nominated!’ But this time, I was just cooking in the kitchen. I wasn’t aware of when the nominations were being announced and my wife is pretty good, she’s like, ‘Yeah, hey, you.’ She came into the kitchen and told me. I was like, ‘All right. That’s great. I’ll take that.’

Something about moving past people, buildings, and environments, it sparks some desire for me to write.

You recently did a collaboration with Kem on “Holding On.” How was that experience for you?

Great. I was a fan, and he’s an artist with a unique musical character, and so, it was a really good fit. He has a strong point of view, and when he co-produced “Holding On,” it was me, but it was with the essence of Kem. It’s still doing very well.

What’s been the most simple part of your journey?

The simplest, or the most beautifulest, is really just engaging different cultures all over the world. Whether it’s Australia, Mexico, Indonesia … when I get there, people know my name, shake my hand, and welcome me. It’s based on not some status, or some shiny suit I’m wearing. It’s based on some words I said that opened their heart. So, that’s really cool, and that makes me feel probably most proud of the music. I go so many places around the world, and it’s like there’s somebody there that knows me for some positive reason. They scream out of a car, ‘Gregory, I love you!’ That’s not negative. That feels good. I ain’t lie about that.


Gregory Porter is just a regular dude who paints fences — and wins Grammys

Grammy-winning jazz singer Gregory Porter had a to-do list before hitting the road: Paint the fence and chop down some trees.

«The way I stay grounded is by cleaning out my gutters and reorganizing the garage, changing diapers,» he said last week from Bakersfield, Calif., a day before his tour started. «I’m just a regular dude.»

There were other issues to deal with, including his organist missing the first two nights of the tour because of COVID symptoms. The singer takes COVID precautions seriously, especially after one of his brothers died of the coronavirus in 2020.

«If science and cities tell us we have to shutter again, I’m OK with that,» he said. «I’m all for keeping people safe.»

When Porter comes to St. Paul’s Fitzgerald Theater on Sunday, he will be cognizant of the racial reckoning in the Twin Cities with the deaths of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Winston Smith and Amir Locke at the hands of police.

«I’m conscious of current and past trauma in areas I’ve been to,» he explained. «This is entertainment but it’s much more than just entertainment; there’s a deeper thing that happens.»

Porter recalled a 2015 concert in Israel where he was confronted by a boycott over alleged Israeli human rights violations, which he wasn’t aware of when he signed the contract.

«There was so much pressure and political energy that I had to speak with my mother in the sky before I approached the stage,» said Porter, who began singing at a Bakersfield church where his late mother was a minister. «So I talked about brotherhood, and sang songs about offending the least one and looking out for your brother as a point of political differences.»

Porter, 49, is touring behind «Still Rising — The Collection,» last fall’s retrospective of 34 songs that connects the dots in a stellar career that has seen him collaborate with everyone from opera diva Renee Fleming and pop experimentalist Moby to the late crooner Nat King Cole and early rocker Buddy Holly (via technology). Many of those duets are on the double album.

«The record is a good example of respecting music by not respecting genre,» said Porter, who has won a pair of Grammys for jazz vocal albums.

«I approach things like a jazz singer. I feel like a jazz singer in my body and in my voice, but sometimes because it’s jazz, the gospel, the blues, the soul, that comes out as well. Music associated with Black American music. They are cousins; one has been built off another, one has influenced another. I don’t feel a necessity to separate them.»

«All Rise,» his 2020 album, is easily the most gospel-infused of his 12-year recording career. The singer said that direction was organic, reaching back to the first music he sang as a child.

The video for the single «Revival,» from «All Rise,» alludes to Freddie Gray, who died in the custody of Baltimore police in 2015, but Porter feels the song has a broader sweep.

«It does apply to the cloud and darkness that can be put upon you by racism and the many difficulties we have in our society [but] it’s more than that. It’s also the internal self-doubt. It pertains to all people.»

Jazz as protest music

Porter has more obvious protest songs in his repertoire, including «1960 What?» and «Mister Holland,» about how he was treated rudely by the father of a white girl he hoped to date in high school.

Grammy-winning jazz singer Gregory Porter had a to-do list before hitting the road: Paint the fence and chop down some trees.

«The way I stay grounded is by cleaning out my gutters and reorganizing the garage, changing diapers,» he said last week from Bakersfield, Calif., a day before his tour started. «I’m just a regular dude.»

There were other issues to deal with, including his organist missing the first two nights of the tour because of COVID symptoms. The singer takes COVID precautions seriously, especially after one of his brothers died of the coronavirus in 2020.

«If science and cities tell us we have to shutter again, I’m OK with that,» he said. «I’m all for keeping people safe.»

When Porter comes to St. Paul’s Fitzgerald Theater on Sunday, he will be cognizant of the racial reckoning in the Twin Cities with the deaths of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Winston Smith and Amir Locke at the hands of police.

«I’m conscious of current and past trauma in areas I’ve been to,» he explained. «This is entertainment but it’s much more than just entertainment; there’s a deeper thing that happens.»

Porter recalled a 2015 concert in Israel where he was confronted by a boycott over alleged Israeli human rights violations, which he wasn’t aware of when he signed the contract.

«There was so much pressure and political energy that I had to speak with my mother in the sky before I approached the stage,» said Porter, who began singing at a Bakersfield church where his late mother was a minister. «So I talked about brotherhood, and sang songs about offending the least one and looking out for your brother as a point of political differences.»

Porter, 49, is touring behind «Still Rising — The Collection,» last fall’s retrospective of 34 songs that connects the dots in a stellar career that has seen him collaborate with everyone from opera diva Renee Fleming and pop experimentalist Moby to the late crooner Nat King Cole and early rocker Buddy Holly (via technology). Many of those duets are on the double album.

«The record is a good example of respecting music by not respecting genre,» said Porter, who has won a pair of Grammys for jazz vocal albums.

«I approach things like a jazz singer. I feel like a jazz singer in my body and in my voice, but sometimes because it’s jazz, the gospel, the blues, the soul, that comes out as well. Music associated with Black American music. They are cousins; one has been built off another, one has influenced another. I don’t feel a necessity to separate them.»

«All Rise,» his 2020 album, is easily the most gospel-infused of his 12-year recording career. The singer said that direction was organic, reaching back to the first music he sang as a child.

The video for the single «Revival,» from «All Rise,» alludes to Freddie Gray, who died in the custody of Baltimore police in 2015, but Porter feels the song has a broader sweep.

«It does apply to the cloud and darkness that can be put upon you by racism and the many difficulties we have in our society [but] it’s more than that. It’s also the internal self-doubt. It pertains to all people.»

Jazz as protest music

Porter has more obvious protest songs in his repertoire, including «1960 What?» and «Mister Holland,» about how he was treated rudely by the father of a white girl he hoped to date in high school.

«Yes, protest music is an essential part of the jazz expression,» he said. «To give a full picture of singing a song about optimism, you have to talk about where you’re coming from. There’s a reason you’re crossing the River Jordan, because on this side you’re catching hell.»

Overt racism was part of Porter’s childhood in Bakersfield. There were only two Black families in his neighborhood. A 30-foot cross was burned in their yard. One of his brothers was shot while walking home from work. Bottles filled with urine were tossed through their windows.

One of seven kids whose father abandoned them when Gregory was a toddler, Porter still managed to find his way. He won a talent contest in high school by singing a gospel tune after a well-received band rocked out and then flipped off the audience. Those musicians went on to eventual fame as the metal band Korn. (Lead singer Jonathan Davis recently friended Porter on Facebook.)

Porter headed to San Diego State University on a football scholarship. Knowing that the lineman could sing, teammates Marshall Faulk and Darnay Scott (both future NFLers) asked him to perform a song at practice one day.

«All day long in the locker room, these guys were listening to hip-hop, R&B and soul music, and on the football field I sang [the jazz standard] ‘Moody’s Mood for Love.’ They had this perplexed look on their faces.»

A shoulder injury halted his football career, so Porter focused on getting a degree in urban planning. Meanwhile, his dad, whom he barely knew, died when Porter was 20, and his mother passed the next year of cancer.

«My mother was on her deathbed. I was telling her I was going to finish my degree and wear brown shoes and have two kids and everything’s going to be normal,» he recalled.

She advised him otherwise.

«With her last breath, she was encouraging me to pursue music. It gave me kind of license to pursue it even if it wasn’t bringing me immediate success.»

As for his dad, «he gave me no time, no counseling, no money, nothing. But I learned at my father’s funeral that he was a great singer. He gave me something. My voice. I’ll take that.»

Porter has a scrumptious baritone that evokes Lou Rawls, with hints of Nat King Cole, Joe Williams, Donny Hathaway and Bill Withers.

That versatility has led to invitations to sing on records with world-class cellist Yo-Yo Ma and electronic dance duo Disclosure, among others.

While his ingredients may vary from song to song, there is one constant for Porter: his Kangol Summer Spitfire hat.

He has 30 or 40 at home, but saves the black ones for the stage. «Some are for working in the yard,» he noted.

Like he said, a regular dude.


No Love Dying by Gregory Porter

There will be no love that’s dying here
The bird that flew in through my window
Simply lost his way
He broke his wing I helped him heal
And then he flew away

Well the death of love is everywhere
But I wont let it be
There will be no love dying here for me
There will be no love that’s dying here

The mirror that fell from the wall was raggedy that’s all
It rests upon a rusty nail
Before it made it’s fall
Well the bones of love are every where but I wont let it be
There will be no love dying here for me

There will be no that’s dying here
Four flowers is my aging faces, not a sign within
I payed for three a sweet old lady gave me four instead
Theres some doubt thats out about this love but I wont let it be
There will be no love thats dying here for me

There will be no love that’s dying here
The bird that flew in through my window
Simply lost his way

He broke his wings I helped him heal and then he flew away
Well the death of love is everywhere
But I wont let it be
There will be no love dying here for me
No-o-o-o oh

There will be no love that’s dying for me
There will be no love thats dying for you and me
Oh there will be no love dying here
No-o not for me

There will be no love that’s dying here
There will be no love thats dying here
No, no, no, no, no no no
There will be no lo-o-o-ve dying for me