SickthingsUK: Charlie Carnal

Charlie "half and half" Carnal was a friend and lighting technician in the early days of the band. He was actually treated as an equal member of the band up to around 1971, receiving an equal cut of profits.

"He was primarily their lighting director and was actually with them all the way up to the 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour (although he was not given an equal cut by then). He was responsible for some of the special effects the band did. He has a credit on the 'Love It To Death' album--somthing like 'Environment Control'. He last worked on the 'Welcome To My Nightmare' tour. I spoke to him a couple of years ago. He is alive and well."
(Renfield, March 1997)

From Alice's biography 'Me, Alice':

"One night in the VIP club I was introduced to a young man I vaguely remember seeing at Cortez - vaguely only because his appearance had changed so much. His name was Charlie Carnal, and although this was only 1966 he had already evolved into a 1970's glitter freak. His hair was shoulder-length on the right side of his head and cut in a crew-cut on the left, like somebody had hit him down the middle with a cleaver. He had an enormous handlebar moustache - on both sides - a tremendous perpetual grin, and wore costumes - not clothing - that made him look like he had stumbled out of a neighborhood theater production of Alice in Wonderland.
Charlie rustled us up our first black lights. He turned up at the VIP with a ten-foot color wheel, one of those giant hypnotic discs that he turned in the back with a crank. It sounds corny now, but that was how our effects started. I was just as excited by black lights and hypno-wheels as I am with my latest $400,000 gimmick. Charlie Carnal signed on with the group and stayed with us for five years. He was eventually cut in as an equal partner as his lighting effects became more important."


Alice Cooper with Charlie Carnal, 1970. (front)

From Dennis' biography 'Snakes, Guillotines, Electric Chairs':

"Charlie Carnal, our lighting technician, joined in on the extreme conceptualizing and added to our psychedelic transformation. He constructed what he called the 'Lobster Strobe'. It was a metal munitions box he’d bought at an Army-Navy store, outfitted with a high-intensity light and reflective foil liner. An electric motor turned a metal disc with cutouts, creating a soothingly hypnotic, strobelike lighting effect.
Charlie also constructed the flasher lights, long wooden boxes of footlights that he placed at the front of the stage. Hinged flaps with vividly colored gelatins would drop in front of the lights, creating over us a panorama of impressively intense colors. Charlie operated all this with a keyboard he called the 'Light Organ'. (A few years later, when we were seen in the movie 'Diary of a Mad Housewife', there is a quick shot of Charlie flashing the keys.)
Another lighting effect, created with a seven-foot plywood disc, was called the 'Light Wheel'. But for the radio ads, Jack dubbed it the 'Electro-Lucent Mind Machine'.
Charlie never seemed to mind when we stomped his flasher lights to smithereens at the end of a show. He’d calmly collect the pieces and rebuild them for the next show. He was such an artist, and his lights were such a vital part of the show, that we voted to give him a nice share of the pay."

"To add more mystery to the show, Charlie killed all the lights between songs. Early on, Pink Floyd had dynamic experimental lighting featuring tricolored electronic strobes. In San Francisco’s psychedelic halls, rear-projected blobs of light had become legendary. But Charlie’s method of using lights to accentuate the mood within each song set a new standard. Ethereal or explosive, his interpretive lighting magnified the musical moods dramatically. We didn’t know of any other lighting designer who could match him."

Band friend Skip Ladd in November 2001:

"Half & Half has his family of rabbits all with names, and is interested in getting into Mallard Ducks. When I asked him why he left the entourage he said that after a while it got to be where it wasn't fun anymore like it was when they first started out. Sure the money was there then and he would do it to pay for his place to stay and money to go out to eat. "They lived a synthetic reality on the road that was nothing like the real world around them." It took him quite a long time to adjust to reality outside the Coopers and withdrew into the wilderness to live with his animals only to find their predators in the wild, namely a Golden Eagle, got one of his rabbits, and cats, and hawks. It got to where he could relate to his animal friends as a better preference than to people."