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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