Beterams' new book walks us through the highly anticipated return of Pink Floyd to Holland, in 1988, after an 11 year absence.
Ed Lopez-Reyes: Charles, you have a presence on the website FLOYDSTUFF: it sells collectibles, as well as your books. Do you manage and publish the website? If so: when did you launch it and what motivated you to publish it?
Charles Beterams: Born in 1972, I started listening to Pink Floyd in – I would say – 1986/1987 and became a collector. During the six years I spent at the Eindhoven University of Technology (1990-1996) I started a fanzine and began buying and selling – mainly Pink Floyd records – as a student job. In most cases I was buying three copies of a record, selling two, and keeping one for free. I also started organising events and, when I graduated, I decided to head into the music industry professionally and see how that worked. If it didn't, I could always fall back on my papers.
Being most and for all a Pink Floyd fan it was clear that I would be specialising in that. I co-owned a store in the city of Delft with someone twenty-odd years older than me. We had similar ideas about how to run a shop – a bit like what you see in High Fidelity, the movie. He’d seen Pink Floyd as early as 1967, so I was a bit jealous, as you can imagine. Since I had a network of customers, we started out with a paper catalogue that was sent out quarterly - and somewhere in 1999 or 2000 it became a dedicated website: FLOYDSTUFF.
Initially we also covered news and stuff like that, but when Matt [Johns] came along with Brain Damage it was (and still is!) obvious that there was no need to do that as Matt did and does a brilliant job.
ELR: You're about to publish a book about Pink Floyd's first two concerts in The Netherlands, in 1988, after an 11 year absence. What did you learn about these two evenings?
CB: 1988 turned out to be too early for me to attend the shows. Not only was Rotterdam (through the lens of that period) too far away for me to make it, I was also right in the middle of exams and stuff like that. What I remember is that I wasn’t as focused on the new show back then as I was discovering the band’s oeuvre - and A Momentary Lapse of Reason hadn’t struck by then. You have to keep in mind that it was all pre-internet and I didn’t really have a network back then. I vividly remember the regional newspaper ran a large article on the band days before the concerts though.
ELR: What did you think about the band's setlist those two nights in Rotterdam in 1988: it was the same both nights, but do you think, based on your research, that there was a difference between the twain, in terms of performance?
CB: What I learned from the tapes from both nights, recollections of visitors, and all the other information I gathered, is that the shows were different. The second night (the one that went on sale first) was far from flawless.
ELR: What did you think, personally, about the A Momentary Lapse of Reason album and how do you feel about its presence on the setlist for that tour and those shows?
CB: I’m in a minority, in my liking of 80s Pink Floyd. The band as a whole, in various line-ups – of the four, or five members – was very prolific. While the 70s relied mainly on a few outbursts of creativity – the Dark Side of the Moon sessions, the ’74 sessions that more or less brought Wish You Were Here and Animals and Roger [Waters'] The Wall – the 80s were much more prolific than the 70s.
Apart from that, the 80s offer a much wider perspective and more stories to tell... and there’s a great soundtrack for it. The Wall is – in my opinion – one of their weakest albums and lacks exactly what fleshed The Final Cut out – which I might consider their finest moment. Focus, dedication. It’s safe guessing that Gilmour doesn’t like it but his guitar work on the album is outstanding.
The same applies to A Momentary Lapse of Reason. They had to work on it without Waters, had a lot to lose, and made the best album they possibly could at the time. It’s comprehensive, loud, boasts an ‘80s sound, and is made for stadiums. It took me a while to understand it... but it’s a great album. To me it’s also a natural follow-up to About Face, which is really when Gilmour first adopted that wider sound. The album is made for stadiums, and specially for those nights when the sunset hits the crowd and it starts getting damp: I think it was a good idea to perform most of the new album in 1987-1989. I mean, no one was complaining that the band only played The Wall in 1980-1981, and nothing else.
ELR: These first two Pink Floyd stops in The Netherlands, after Pink Floyd's 11 year absence, took place June 13 and 14 of 1988 in Rotterdam. There was also a third show - the following year - in Nijmegen... did you attend that show?
CB: The Nijmegen show was the first one I attended - as a 17 year old. It was 40 miles from where I lived at the time. I was still in my 'discovering the band' phase, and more interested in the old stuff at the time. I would love to see that show now in the context of my current perspective, that is: more appreciative of that 1980s era. I would certainly enjoy it a lot more.
ELR: How was that show different from the first two and how do the first two shows standout over the third one? How had the band’s sound and cohesiveness evolved, in your perception and based on your research?
CB: I had to synthesize other people’s recollections from 1988 with my own from 1989. You can see from all the media at the time that Pink Floyd was big, larger than life, and it seemed like Roger was only a vague character from the past. Delicate Sound of Thunder sold particularly well. Between some people in Holland taking the opportunity to visit the band’s 1989 opening show in Werchter (which was also previously announced) and a lot of Germans visiting the Nijmegen show (Nijmegen is only five miles from the border and near big cities like Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, and Cologne) the atmosphere was different I would say. I also discovered that I certainly wasn’t the only one who was absent from the Rotterdam shows but present in Nijmegen.
ELR: Did you have to find photographs of the two shows for the book and how difficult was that?
CB: I'm very lucky I had a great number of people helping me out with photos. Additionally, I was able to obtain a large bulk of paperwork from the Dutch promoter and had access to an article and photos from a musician's magazine editor who had exclusive access to the venue before the show on June 14. The editor was a good friend of Robbie Williams and that got him and the photographer access to all the guys involved with the sound. The resulting story is now the final chapter in the book - and photos are great. Other than that, visitors of both Rotterdam shows were treated to little planes flying right over the venue. I was able to find photos of that from both nights. I'm very happy with the visual side of the book. It should make it worthwhile even if you’re not Dutch – the language the book is written in.
ELR: Are there any good bootlegs of these shows that you are aware of? What have you found out there in terms of bootlegs? If you've found bootlegs, are they soundboard recordings?
CB: The shows were taped by various people but no bootlegs were released at the time. I think that over the years recordable cd’s were sold but I wasn’t particularly interested in that part of the story. However, in March 1988 a big bootleg ring was discovered and they were pressing sleeves for future bootlegs of the Rotterdam shows. On closer inspection we learned that they were Dutch pressing sleeves for the World Tour 3LP bootleg.
Remember that 1977 was the last time the band was in Holland, although a fair amount of people had seen The Wall in either Dortmund or London. The majority, however, had not seen the band before and it was a whole new generation that Pink Floyd showcased itself to.
ELR: What was the public's response to these shows?
CB: People were very enthusiastic. Remember that 1977 was the last time the band was in Holland, although a fair amount of people had seen The Wall in either Dortmund or London. The majority, however, had not seen the band before and it was a whole new generation that Pink Floyd showcased itself to.
ELR: What was the critical response - did local music journalists cover these shows?
CB: Partly impressed by what the band delivered but also partly negative. Reading back, the reviews regularly pinpointed the absence of Waters, but the overall press toward the band had already tumbled in the second half of the 70s. The Dutch entertainment and music media was very new wave and indie orientated, so no surprise there. From the dozen or so reviews I found, I was surprised by the fairly consistent soft tone.
ELR: What are some important and particularly valuable collectibles that have surfaced from these specific shows?
CB: For me, the most valuable collectibles originated from the promoter’s archive. Correspondence, itineraries, drawings... detailed information. What I also love is stuff like special running times for trains, adverts for travel companies, sales stuff, etc... and there’s plenty of that in my archive now!
ELR: What fleshes the book out – what does the book include and cover? How do you divide the book into chapters or sections (how does the narrative about these two shows unfold)?
CB: The book is a narrative of what made these gigs happen. I wrote about the earlier shows in Rotterdam in 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1977, the breakup in the early 80s and the things that lead up to A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, the 1987/1988 tour in general and the Rotterdam 1988 shows in particular. I was struck by how difficult it is to actually lay your finger on what happened in the years 1985 to 1987. There are so many stories that don’t really match – well, you only have to read Roger’s post [about the Animals remix] on May 31st... this pattern hasn’t changed. The book itself is divided into the various preparations and aspects and the two actual shows.
ELR: Your book goes over a year of preparations for these two shows in Rotterdam – was it unusual for production to take that long and how were you able to piece together the history of that process? Is there much in terms of the aftermath? Is there much to discuss regarding what took place after the shows?
CB: I've never worked so fast on a book. It was actually the main reason for doing it. In between 2017 and 2020 I worked on a book – Little White Wonder – that cracked the birth and history of the Dutch bootleg scene open. It took me ages to track down the people involved in the various parts of that business in the 1970s - and to get them to talk. That book became an obsession in the end, but it’s probably the piece of work that I'll be most proud of when I’m old and done. I wanted to write something that wasn't as multi-layered - a nice clean memory for my generation of Pink Floyd fans. In the end, of course, you end up going deeper than you intended to, but the result should be refresher volume for those who were there.
ELR: Do you feel the shows really illustrate important things about production that a lot of fans miss?
CB: Yes, and that's the enormity of the production process and the dedication of the band and the producers, committed to delivering this superb show in each city, that I wanted to illustrate and convey.
A lot has been said about this tour being just a cash cow - but the team pushed its own limits to make each night unforgettable. Which was the case, as everyone at these shows vividly remembers. The editor and the sound engineer from the magazine I mentioned said that the show was far above any other; a standard above any other band's standard at the time.
ELR: A lot of the resources you would need to stitch together, with respect to the production history for these shows, was probably very difficult to find – none of those resources were being poured into the web back then: how difficult was it to collect and track these? Did you rely on a lot of hard-copy resources?
CB: Yes, as I said, I drew a lot from hard-copy resources. I learned to be very cautious with the memories of people involved. I love talking to people but I prefer to have their stories backed up with recorded facts.
ELR: How long did it take to put this book together?
CB: I have the very unprofessional way of writing and putting books together simultaneously; once I was finished writing for this one, I only needed a month or so to edit it.
ELR: Some people might argue they'd want a more comprehensive view of the tour (more casual fans) - but those generalized accounts of the tour already exist, with some additional focus on some of the more famous shows like Venice and Versailles: what do you think is particularly important about these two Rotterdam shows and do you feel music history would benefit from more detailed accounts of each show on this tour (or any other Pink Floyd tours for that matter)? What did your focus on these two shows teach you as you researched and focused on this effort?
CB: These shows were important. They were life-changing events for most of the nearly 100,000 audience members that attended and that's what this book validates. It also showcases the process of pulling together an epic 80s rock show: from a broader perspective, it relates to music and production history in general. I love these detailed books myself. As I said, the 80s are a bit overlooked in Pink Floyd history and I would love to take that research up, to research it in-depth... but time.
ELR: Does the book discuss reviews of these shows?
CB: Yes it does, but I focused on reviews that added to the stories - such as a nice article that mentioned that the concert could be heard miles and miles away from the venue - and accounts of people getting rocked out of their beds when David started another guitar solo.
ELR: Were there local interviews with the main band members published at the time of the show that you were able to trace and use?
CB: No, not much. I read of an informal chat between a local writer and David [Gilmour] but that was too much hearsay.
ELR: Did you attend any Roger Waters shows that were taking place around the same time as the A Momentary Lapse of Reason tour?
CB: The first Roger Waters show I attended was the one in Berlin, in 1990.
I went to see over 30 shows that year in Europe, in a variety of venues and countries, including 11 in Earls Court. I was much more aware of things back then and had a greater fondness for The Division Bell than A Momentary Lapse Of Reason... it's the opposite for me nowadays.
ELR: Did you attend The Division Bell Tour shows in 1994 and how do you feel that set of shows in The Netherlands compared to the first two in 1988 (or the A Momentary Lapse of Reason tour, overall)?
CB: I did. I went to see over 30 shows that year in Europe, in a variety of venues and countries, including 11 in Earls Court. I was much more aware of things back then and had a greater fondness for The Division Bell than A Momentary Lapse Of Reason (it's the opposite for me nowadays).
1987 through1989 was a rock show; David was more in that frame of mind. Things were more pastoral in 1994. The Division Bell differs a lot from Lapse and there was less to prove. They didn’t need to endlessly tour the album and kept things fresh by adding the Dark Side Of The Moon sets and a few tweaks here and there - such as Marooned. The London shows were special the band's self confidence was palpable, even after the stand collapse disaster on the first night. I enjoyed these shows immensely, including the travelling.
The Dutch shows were special too: it was a pinnacle in the years that we were issuing the fanzine – we were even allowed to bring in leaflets and distribute them in the golden circle. Things you can’t imagine nowadays.
I think that the two tours are bookends. The A Momentary Lapse of Reason tour towards the 80s and that whole setting and The Division Bell tour, pointing towards what Gilmour was heading for in the future. I mean On An Island is a natural follow-up to The Division Bell in my view.
ELR: What did you think of the recent remixes of A Momentary Lapse of Reason and Delicate Sound of Thunder (including the video for the latter)?
CB: I like them. I must admit that I’m not someone who goes over the moon for a new 5.1 mix or stuff like that. I was a bit afraid that the typical 80s sound was taken off the mix but they kept it in place, nicely. I love the video as it is. It is a great postcard from that time.
Ever since news about the book got out, I've learned that I am not the only one who saw [Pink Floyd] for the first time in Nijmegen... so writing about that show seems like a logical thing. Hopefully I will find the time to write a book on Nijmegen, 1989 – taking off where this book ends and also including Venice (which was produced by a Dutch team) and The Wall in Berlin, which got an awful lot of press here in The Netherlands.
ELR: Do you plan to write about other specific shows, in The Netherlands or otherwise?
CB: Ever since the news about the book got out I learned that I – as I mentioned earlier – am not the only one who saw them for the first time in Nijmegen... so writing about that show seems like a logical thing.
Hopefully I will find the time to write a book on Nijmegen, 1989 – taking off where this book ends and also including Venice (which was produced by a Dutch team) and The Wall in Berlin, which got an awful lot of press here in The Netherlands.
A third book will then detail the Rotterdam 1994 shows and that era.
I would love to back to the 70s but there aren't that many who were actually there - so there’s no point in making books on those subjects – although there’s plenty of material for books on, say, Rotterdam 1971 and Amsterdam 1971.
ELR: Did The Fishermen's (or The Fishermen, depending on who you ask!) perform in The Netherlands during these Pink Floyd stops in 1988 and 1989? Is there any history on that?
CB: No, there weren’t any of those gigs in 1988. In 1994, however, Gilmour and co. did some songs afterwards, in the mixing desk. It will be one of the subjects in that book.
ELR: As someone who is helping preserve the history of this band - and all eras of the band, for that matter - you must be familiar with how difficult it can be to get a lot of input from those who were on stage and in the studio... and especially the surviving, main members of Pink Floyd. Much of this can be attributed to how contentious any discussion of Pink Floyd became after Waters' departure. It's understandable. It's improving, in some ways, thanks to some of the touring and studio musicians. At the same time, we're not getting younger: band members and fans alike - the sun is the same in a relative way but we're older... Do you feel there's an urgency or a risk that we will be missing a great deal of historical detail about the band - and especially the 'later years' - unless more of this period is discussed sooner than later? Do these detailed accounts matter?
CB: Yes and no. I would love the band to open up more on things and explain things more fully. However, given the disagreements between Waters and Gilmour, many associates will be keeping their cards close to their chest.
I would, as I said, love to explore what happened after The Wall - but it will be an impossible task to get that straight. I would assume it’s best to talk to anyone but the main band members about that. People like Andy Jackson, James Guthrie, Phil Taylor, and Jon Carin will have their stories... but it’s their side – and I don’t blame them for it; on the contrary: respect for the band members they worked with, not divulging too much on that at the moment. Taking that into account, a different route would be an in-depth study of interviews from the era. We'll get there somehow.
ELR: What other projects do you have on the horizon, Charles?
CB: At the moment I'm working on two Dutch Pink Floyd photographers books. One is by a man called Nico van der Stam who (and whose company) shot the classic pictures of the band in Amsterdam in 1967 (the pictures of the band in front of the trees and the flower stall) and in London in 1967, at Piccadilly Circus. Research of his archive for an earlier book revealed stunning, unpublished Pink Floyd material from the 1967 to1971 era. He shot these in colour and black and white with a 6x6cm Hasselblad or something similar. The images from 1967 and 1969 – officially released for the Amsterdam Concertgebouw show – are striking. The book will include about 70 to 75 pictures – about half of them from 1967 – of which well over 50 have never been published. Another book I’m working on is with photographer Rob Verhorst. Many pictures of his are well known given his presence at Getty, but we are re-inventorying his archive together now and we've selected around 250 pictures spanning 1977 to 2011 for a big book. Both books will be in an oblong format (22 cm high, 30 cm wide) and will be released as limited editions, clothbound, later this year.
For information on Pink Floyd collectibles and other Pink Floyd related items Charles Beterams has curated, as well as books he's authored, visit FloydStuff.com. To order Pink Floyd in de Kuip '88, visit this link.
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