Clare Torry’s Rare Live Performances of “Great Gig in the Sky” with Pink Floyd

When Clare Tor­ry went into the stu­dio to record her now-leg­endary vocals for Pink Floyd’s “Great Gig in the Sky,” the cen­ter­piece of 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon, nei­ther the singer nor the band were par­tic­u­lar­ly impressed with each oth­er. David Gilmour remem­bered the moment in an inter­view on the album’s 30th anniver­sary:

Clare Tor­ry did­n’t real­ly look the part. She was Alan Par­sons’ idea. We want­ed to put a girl on there, scream­ing orgas­mi­cal­ly. Alan had worked with her pre­vi­ous­ly, so we gave her try. And she was fan­tas­tic. We had to encour­age her a lit­tle bit. We gave her some dynam­ic hints: “Maybe you’d like to do this piece qui­et­ly, and this piece loud­er.” She did maybe half a dozen takes, and then after­wards we com­piled the final per­for­mance out of all the bits. It was­n’t done in one sin­gle take.

Asked the fol­low-up ques­tion “what did she look like?,” Gilmour replied, “like a nice Eng­lish house­wife.”

Tor­ry, for her part, was hard­ly starstruck. “If it had been the Kinks,” she lat­er said, “I’d have been over the moon.” She also remem­bers the ses­sion very  dif­fer­ent­ly. “They had no idea” what they want­ed,” she says. Told only “we don’t want any words,” she decid­ed to “pre­tend to be an instru­ment.” She remem­bers “hav­ing a lit­tle go” and knock­ing out the ses­sion in a cou­ple takes.

This Rashomon sce­nario involves not only faulty mem­o­ry but also the legal ques­tion as to who com­posed the song’s melody and vocal concept—a ques­tion even­tu­al­ly decid­ed, in 2004, in Torry’s favor, enti­tling her to roy­al­ties.

She clear­ly wasn’t about to become a tour­ing mem­ber of the band, even after the album’s mas­sive suc­cess and two sub­se­quent tours. Still, while Tor­ry may not have suit­ed Gilmour’s phys­i­cal pref­er­ences for female singers, and while she may not have thought much of Pink Floyd, she has appeared live with their dif­fer­ent iter­a­tions over the years, includ­ing a show at the Rain­bow The­atre in Lon­don just months after the album’s release (fur­ther up). Lat­er, in 1987, Tor­ry appeared again, this time with Roger Waters at Wem­b­ley Sta­di­um on his K.A.O.S. on the Road Tour.

Tor­ry would then join the David Gilmour-led Pink Floyd in 1990 for “Great Gig in the Sky” at Kneb­worth. I do not think she resem­bles an Eng­lish house­wife in the con­cert film at the top—or at least no more than the rest of the band look like mid­dle-aged Eng­lish hus­bands. But she still pulls off the soar­ing vocal, more or less, sev­en­teen years after she first stepped into the stu­dio, hav­ing lit­tle idea who Pink Floyd was or what would become of that fate­ful ses­sion.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear How Clare Torry’s Vocals on Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky” Made the Song Go from Pret­ty Good to Down­right Great

Pink Floyd Stream­ing Free Clas­sic Con­cert Films, Start­ing with 1994’s Pulse, the First Live Per­for­mance of Dark Side of the Moon in Full

Watch Doc­u­men­taries on the Mak­ing of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (5)
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  • MYCROFT says:

    PINK FLOYD they cre­at­ed the great­est music and lyrics ever.Nothing even comes close nothing.You dont lis­ten to there music you expe­ri­ence it.☮🎼🎧

  • Stuartb says:

    I was at one of the Radio Kaos shows in Wem­b­ley and vivid­ly remem­ber Roger Waters intro­duc­ing Clare Tor­ry to sing the Great Gig. We were excit­ed when she walked on and she did not dis­ap­point. A won­der­ful musi­cal mem­o­ry to have even this many years lat­er.

  • Peter Logan says:

    Pink Floyd,A musi­cal Icon. A Del­i­cate sound of exquis­ite Thun­der that bog­gles the mind. Saw Clare Tor­ry sing at Kneb­worth 90,Was an absolute privilege.No band comes close😃.

  • Pedro Cação says:

    Esta é,sem dúvida,uma das maiores músi­cas e tam­bém das maiores cri­ações da ban­da.
    É intem­po­ral e a Clare Tor­ry foi o bom con­trib­u­to para o álbum “Dark Side of the Moon” k con­tin­ua a ser uma das maiores obras-pri­mas da ban­da.

  • Marc says:

    Like sev­er­al great female rock vocal­ists, Tor­ry does not cap­ture the raw essence that we per­ceive (as horny teenagers) of some scant­i­ly clad, raven-haired beau­ty with … you get the drift.

    But damn, that piece nev­er, ever ceas­es to amaze me.

    Love them or hate them (and MyCroft observes) you don’t lis­ten, you expe­ri­ence it. How many of today’s bands are like this?

    I doubt we’ll see the likes of Queen, Floyd, The Bea­t­les etc. ever again thanks to all the man­u­fac­tured music that we have. I find it as iron­ic as I do amus­ing that peo­ple call rap­pers “poets” because if you want poet­ry, you only need to study some of Floy­d’s lyrics.

    Con­sid­er for exam­ple, “Look­ing beyond the embers of bridges burn­ing behind us”

    It might not rhyme as Rap often does, but the depth of that sin­gle line embod­ies an amaz­ing range of emo­tion: and it’s the first one that came to mind among many, many oth­ers.

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