KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

B-Sides The Point – SYD BARRETT

[KamerTunesBlog presents B-Sides The Point, where I occasionally write about smaller artist catalogs, or even compilations and box sets, in a single post instead of revisiting the entire recorded output of a particular artist over numerous posts, which is the main purpose of this blog. As I’ve stated before, think of these as the palate cleansers between the main courses.]

Syd Barrett Photo (circa 1969)Syd Barrett was a founding member of Pink Floyd; the lead vocalist, guitarist, main songwriter & overall guiding light through the early years of their career, including their incredible debut album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. When I first discovered Pink Floyd in 1977, however, I was still a few years away from learning about their history. For my 11th birthday I had received a copy of Rock And Roll Over by Kiss, my favorite band at the time, and since I already owned that album (and the rest of Kiss’ discography) I was able to visit my local record store & exchange that gift for something new. I had a couple of options in mind, two bands I had heard of but never listened to: Led Zeppelin & Pink Floyd. The Zeppelin section had too many choices and I didn’t know which one to go with, while the Pink Floyd section surprisingly had only one of their albums: the recently-released Animals. I went home with that record and my mind was subsequently blown. Within a couple of years I also bought The Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall as soon as it was released.

Syd Barrett Photo (Inner Sleeve of The Madcap Laughs)

It wasn’t until a few years later, during high school, that I delved deeper into their discography, and I was always perplexed by that debut album which was so drastically different than anything else they recorded. Over time my appreciation for it grew until I loved it as much as their other classics, but I always considered the Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd to be a completely different band than the one that most people think of when they hear that name. Barrett’s songwriting was a quirky combination of childlike whimsy, psychedelic freak-outs and more than a touch of menace. Once you hear a Syd Barrett song it sticks with you; melodic hooks mingle with sonic weirdness. It’s almost like he had the ability to write a straightforward Beatle-esque pop song but always felt compelled to turn it on its head, and there’s nothing wrong with that since it made his quirky writing style so unique & memorable. Unfortunately, a combination of mental instability, a multitude of illicit substances and general unreliability eventually forced the band to fire him in 1968. They stumbled for a couple of years before morphing into one of the biggest recording artists of all time (and probably my 2nd favorite band behind…you guessed it…Led Zeppelin). Barrett, on the other hand, had a short-lived solo career that resulted in only two studio albums before he withdrew from society to live a secluded home life until his death in 2006. Those albums, as well as a couple of subsequent releases of his solo material, are the focus of this post. Anyone who is new to the world of Syd Barrett should absolutely check out Pink Floyd’s The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn before anything else, as well as the handful of early non-LP singles they released, but once you’ve been hooked these solo releases are a real treat.

Barrett’s debut, The Madcap Laughs (1970), had a complicated recording history, going through a handful of producers in ’68 & ‘69 before bandmates Roger Waters & David Gilmour came on board to tie things Syd Barrett - The Madcap Laughstogether. Of the 13 tracks, 6 are credited to Malcolm Jones (then head of Harvest Records) and the others to Waters & Gilmour, although original producer (and Pink Floyd’s co-manager) Peter Jenner had a lot to do with getting this project off the ground. Of his two albums, this one is more consistent but neither is easy listening and I can imagine many listeners being turned off by the offbeat songs and Barrett’s often deadpan vocal delivery. Those who fall under its spell, myself included, are rewarded with an incredibly strong album that gets better with age. In fact, more than half the songs are as essential as anything on Pink Floyd’s debut. The only caveat is that you need to be in the right frame of mind to really enjoy it. There have been times I’ve had to turn it off within a few minutes, while other times I’ve played it again as soon as the record ended. Your mileage may vary, but there’s no doubt that The Madcap Laughs is a special collection of music from a one-of-a-kind talent.

The Essentials:

♪     “Terrapin” – Slow, sleepy & slightly weird, with strummed acoustic & subtle lead guitar and a quirky hook at “Well, oh baby, my hair’s on end about you.” The lyric-heavy section with “floating, bumping, noses dodge a tooth the fins a luminous” is similar to his work with Pink Floyd. It’s a strange but fitting track to open the album as it showcases the weirdness to follow. It’s also the longest song at 5+ minutes.

♪     “Love You” – A sing-songy childlike melody that’s a little too offbeat to be a children’s song, but it’s still instantly catchy (“honey love you, honey little, honey funny sunny morning…”). Features cool barroom piano from Soft Machine’s Mike Ratledge. “Ice cream ‘scuse me, I’ve seen you looking good the other evening” is another great lyrical hook

♪     “Dark Globe” – Over a pretty strummed acoustic guitar he sings in a heavily accented voice, straining his range at “My head kissed the ground, I was half the way down.” That vocal, as well as “Won’t you miss me? Wouldn’t you miss me at all,” was clearly an influence on Roger Waters’ singing style.
[Syd Barrett – “Dark Globe”] [audio http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/10mp3wsa2k/Dark_Globe_Syd_Barrett_.mp3]

♪     “Octopus” – Carried along by a loping rhythm, choppy acoustic guitar and half-spoken double-tracked vocals with lots of non-sequitur lyrics, and “So trip to heave & ho, up down, to & fro” gives it the feeling of a work song. It’s one of the most inviting songs on the album, straightforward but quirky, with a great chorus: “Please leave us here, close our eyes to the octopus ride.”

♪     “Golden Hair” – Using lyrics based on a poem by James Joyce, Barrett plucks out a haunting 5-note guitar riff . The eerie sound (vibes? keyboard?) that mirrors his low vocals creates a cool atmosphere, and the cymbal splashes with mallets add to the effect. “Lean out the window…goooolden hair” is a stark ending. It’s less than 2 minutes but leaves a strong impression.

♪     “Long Gone” – A bluesy/folky tune with a stark & captivating descending melody at “She was gone, gone, the bigger they come…” The organ-heavy section where he sings “And I stood very still by the window sill” with double-tracked vocals could easily be a Pink Floyd song from ’69 or ’70, probably the closest to what they might have sounded like with Barrett still in the band.

♪     “If It’s In You” – Begins with a false start where he goes way off key at “thi-i-i-inkin’.” Once the actual song kicks in the hooks arrive when he extends words like “thinking,” “tighter” and “wink” in a voice on the verge of cracking. It’s not pretty and probably sounds like nails on a chalkboard to some listeners, but it’s always been a highlight for me. The childlike rhymes in the rest of the song are a treat (“Henrietta…mean go-getter…write her a letter”).

Other Notable Tracks:

  • Syd Barrett Photo (from The Madcap Laughs)“No Good Trying” – A tumbling melody set to a ragged arrangement. It’s like Donovan through a funhouse mirror. Features three members of English group Soft Machine, including great keyboard work by the aforementioned Mike Ratledge. “Yes I can tell that you can’t be what you pretend” is one of Barrett’s sharpest lyrical observations.
  • “Feel” – A confessional tune with no major hooks but lots of incisive lyrics (i.e. “You feel me, away far too empty, oh so alone, I want to come home”), and I love the minor effect occasionally placed on his vocals.
  • “Late Night” – Highlighted by a memorable ascending/descending slide guitar pattern in the intro that’s repeated with tinkling cymbals. He sings in a deadpan, overly British accent that reminds me of Madness lead singer Suggs (perhaps there’s a direct line between those two artists). It’s actually a very nice love song that’s given the Syd Barrett treatment. The line “Inside me I feel alone & unreal, and the way you kiss will always be a very special thing to me” repeats at the end of all three stanzas.

Barrett’s second (and final) album is simply titled Barrett (1970). Syd Barrett - BarrettRecording started after The Madcap Laughs was completed and the record was released later that same year. Even though it was written, recorded & finished in a much shorter amount of time than its predecessor, it’s actually a slightly less focused document of where Barrett’s head was at the time…or, more likely, he was less focused, leaving producers David Gilmour & his Pink Floyd bandmate Richard Wright to oversee production and keep things as tight as possible. There are probably a number of fans who prefer this sophomore effort, but I don’t think there are as many killer songs this time. It’s still an excellent album, as 8 of the 12 songs are noteworthy.

The Essentials:

♪     “Baby Lemonade” – Begins with a 40-second instrumental of Barrett playing a Byrds-like chiming guitar before organ & acoustic guitar join in. It might be his most focused & accessible song. It’s hypnotic & offbeat yet still a great introduction to his music. I like how the steady drums enter for the chorus of “Please, please, Baby Lemonade.”
[Syd Barrett – “Baby Lemonade”] [audio http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/fuhcqaxp33/Baby_Lemonade_Syd_Barrett_.mp3]

♪     “Gigolo Aunt” – A bouncy, quirky pop shuffle, with Wright’s organ work being a particular highlight. It includes possibly his most fully formed chorus (“Yes I know what you are, you are a gigolo aunt…”) and his lead guitar work is excellent. In fact, the instrumental sections feature some really interesting & enjoyable playing from everyone involved. This song was also the inspiration for the name of an excellent ‘90s power-pop band, Gigolo Aunts.

♪     “Wined And Dined” – A melodic love song with soft, heartfelt vocals (“Wined…and dined…oh it seemed just like a dream”). It’s a subtle, under-produced gem with his slide(?) guitar & voice being the main focal points. In a more fleshed out version this could be fantastic, but as is it’s a keeper.

Other Notable Tracks:

  • “Love Song” – A bouncy tune that’s not dissimilar to some songs Pink Floyd recorded on More and Obscured By Clouds, with nice subtle accompaniment from Wright on piano & harmonium. It’s wistful & melodic with a simple structure where the same stanza is sung twice (“I knew a girl & I like her still, she said she knew she could trust me & I her will”).
  • “Dominoes” – Features a steady sparse beat on top of the Hammond organ with deadpan vocals. Has a dreamy quality similar to The Beatles’ “I’m Only Sleeping”; droning & hypnotic. Not a great song but it is haunting, and it includes solid contributions from Wright on keys, Barrett with guitar effects and Gilmour on drums.
    Syd Barrett Photo (circa 1970)
  • “Maisie” – A dark, brooding blues song with Barrett intoning the title & other lyrics in a deep, low register, making this sound like the English equivalent of Serge Gainsbourg. The subtle instrumentation is both bluesy & jazzy but also slightly ragged.
  • “Waving My Arms In The Air” – Another ragged performance that still manages to be bouncy & tight. His voice also sounds a bit like deep-voiced German female vocalist (and Velvet Underground collaborator) Nico, notably at “Oh what a girl I got too…with her slinky look.”
  • “Effervescing Elephant” – How could a song with this title not be good? Musically it’s like a children’s tune with a playful melody & tuba accents. I could almost hear Harry Nilsson performing it. The lyrics belie the lightweight nature of the music, though, considering that a tiger eats the elephant by the end of the song.

Syd Barrett - OpelNearly two decades would pass before additional recordings made by Barrett during the ’68-’70 recording sessions would see the light of day via the release of Opel (1988), a collection of alternate takes, demos & a couple of previously-unreleased songs. This one is really for the die-hards and certainly not the place for anyone to start their Syd Barrett collection. Like any similar collection of such archive material it’s not nearly as cohesive as a proper studio album, but after listening to it numerous times this past week, more than half of the 14 songs continued to grow on me and are worth discussing. There’s nothing truly essential here, however, but it gets bonus points for that dark & somewhat disturbing image of Barrett on the album cover.

Notable Tracks:

  • “Opel” – Recorded in April ’69, it’s his longest song at nearly 6-1/2 minutes, focusing on just his voice & choppy but distinctive guitar work and dark imagery (“A bare winding carcass, stark, shimmers as flies scoop up meat, an empty way”). After a long instrumental section he returns with “I’m tryyyyying…to fiiiiind you” in a voice that only he can deliver.
  • “Golden Hair” – An early take from June ’69 that’s just as strong as the album version. Stark & haunting, and I love the sound of his acoustic guitar.
  • “Wined And Dined” – A 2-track demo from June ’70 with strong vocals & guitar work. Even in this raw state the strength of his songwriting shines through.
  • “Swan Lee (Silas Lang)” – An early recording, from May ’68, originally produced by Peter Jenner with two rounds of overdubs added later on. Features rumbling bass, stabbing guitar and the recurring lyric, “The land in silence stands” after each verse. It’s a dark, moody & brooding song that sounds like a demo in spite of the multiple sessions involved in its completion.
  • “Let’s Split” – The only take of this catchy tune from July ’70. He sounds surprisingly engaged, delivering cool lyrical couplets like “Everything is down, in hound hound hound…back down down down,” as well as a “pop” chorus: “Let’s split! I’m telling you this is it.” There’s even a whistle solo. This could have been a great one had he spent more time on it.
  • “Lanky (Part One)” – An instrumental with a super-cool groove & great atmosphere. Apparently Part 2 is just two tracks of drums for 7+ minutes, and it wasn’t included on this CD.
  • “Wouldn’t You Miss Me (Dark Globe)” – The first take of a song later known simply by that parenthetical title, recorded by Waters & Gilmour in July ’69. Already fully formed at this point and, as I mentioned in my notes on the album version, you can immediately hear Barrett’s influence on Waters’ vocal style.
  • “Milky Way” – From a June ’70 session with Gilmour, this one is bouncy & fun (“Oh tell me please just give a squeeze”) but also sad (“seems a while since I could smile the way you do”).

I couldn’t imagine not owning all three albums discussed above, but for anyone interested in just the cream of the crop you can’t do much better than The Best Of Syd Barrett: Wouldn’t You Miss Me? (2001). This CD Syd Barrett - Wouldn't You Miss Me - The Best Ofincludes 22 tracks: 7 from The Madcap Laughs, 9 from Barrett, 4 from Opel, 1 from The Peel Session (a BBC radio broadcast that I don’t own) and 1 previously unreleased track to entice collectors. Overall the song selection is excellent, covering the majority of my “essential” and “notable” songs. Of the two songs I didn’t already own, “Two Of A Kind” (from that Peel session) is an inessential but pleasant folky pop tune. The other song was the big selling point and is worth noting in more detail.

Notable Track:

  • “Bob Dylan Blues” – Written in ’65 & recorded in ’70, this track remained in the vaults until Gilmour discovered the tape years later. It’s very folky with fingerpicked & strummed guitar. I can’t tell if he’s paying homage to, or criticizing, the titular songwriter: “‘Cause I’m a poet don’t you know it, and the wind you can blow it, ‘cause I’m Mr. Dylan, the king, I’m free as a bird on the wing.” It’s a solid song if slightly silly, and I like how it shows a different side to Barrett.

As I mentioned above, any Syd Barrett collection should begin with his contributions to Pink Floyd, but once you’ve enjoyed those recordings there’s a lot of excellent music to be found during his brief solo career. I’m eager to hear other fans’ opinions on these records, as well as the reaction from people who never heard him before reading this post. It’s not always easy listening but it’s immensely rewarding once you enter his world. Also, since his lyrics are often hard to follow, I highly recommend this web page which includes complete lyrics for all of his songs:
http://www.pink-floyd.org/barrett/sydlyrics.html

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82 comments on “B-Sides The Point – SYD BARRETT

  1. "Vinyl Connection"
    May 15, 2014

    A thorough and thoughtful summary. I like that you endorsed the Harvest ‘Best of’ – it really is a good entry point and as much Sid as many people would need!

    I also appreciated your point about the mood one brings to the listening.
    Some artists/album pull you out of your world into theirs (your first brush with Floyd, Animals, has this capacity. Suddenly you’re in a dark angry dystopic present). Other’s resolutely stand on their own unique foundation – even when it’s a shaky one like Sid’s.
    So I’m not rushing to the Barrett section as I’m in a Weather Report mood. But perhaps I might… later… if the weather clouds.

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    • Thanks for the feedback, Bruce. I usually don’t endorse compilations when it comes to artists with essential albums, but in certain cases a well-chosen “best of” can be the optimal introduction for the uninitiated. This particular compilation is missing a few tracks that I would have included but overall does a fantastic job of distilling the best of his work.

      Which era of Weather Report are you focusing on right now? I have 4-5 of their albums as well as the Forecast: Tomorrow box set. For some reason I didn’t respond to them in the same way I did with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever, Tony Williams Lifetime and a few other ’70s jazz-fusion bands back in high school, but over the years (as my tastes in jazz broadened) I came to love Weather Report just as much as those other groups.

      The leap from Weather Report to Syd Barrett isn’t that drastic, but make sure you have a phone nearby in case you need to call for assistance.

      Cheers!
      Rich

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      • "Vinyl Connection"
        May 15, 2014

        The WRs I was enjoying were Mysterious Traveller (1974) and Tale Spinnin’ (1975). I prefer the earlier, more experimental work but really like these albums just before they moved more mainstream.

        Just edited and posted on the debut Neu! album. Had Orbital playing in the background…

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      • I have Mysterious Traveler but not Tale Spinnin’. I’ve considered buying those “Complete Albums” box sets (I think Sony released “early years” and “later years” boxes) but haven’t been able to justify the cost.

        I’ve heard the first three Neu! albums a couple of times. I really like those guys but don’t know them well enough to comment. I’ll stop by soon to check out your post, though.

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  2. 45spin
    May 15, 2014

    Just imagine what the world of British music would of been like had Sydney Barrett and Peter Green had not left their bands. Both were the driving forces in their respective bands and both ended up leaving due mental health issues and yes a little bit of over consumption of some illegal substances.

    I’m thinking that rock history would been changed forever had they stayed and I would even venture to say that the bands might of even been better, however probably nowhere near as popular as they became.

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    • Hi Rob. That is an absolutely brilliant point about Barrett/Floyd and Green/Mac. When I finally discovered the Green era of Fleetwood Mac about 25 years ago, my whole perception of the band changed. I still love other eras of their career, and I think Lindsey Buckingham is an under-appreciated guitar god, but once you hear Peter Green play the blues (or whatever styles he eventually developed) you know you’re hearing something other-worldly. I’m really glad you made this comparison between these two troubled geniuses.

      Best….
      Rich

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    • "Vinyl Connection"
      May 15, 2014

      Would it be crass to say that their pain was our gain?

      Like

    • Phillip Helbig
      May 16, 2014

      Sure, history would have been different. What if Stu hadn’t fallen in love with Astrid? There are many such possibilities.

      What would have happened? Fleetwood Mac might be soldiering on playing the blues, much as John Mayall is today. (BTW, saw him about a month ago. He’s 80 now and still puts on a great show.) But we wouldn’t have had Rumours. And no Dark Side of the Moon, <Wish You Were Here or The Wall.

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      • Good point about Stu & Astrid. I still enjoy playing these “what if” games. There’s a reason why the “What If?” series of comic books was among my favorites when I was a kid.

        I like your comparison of Fleetwood Mac continuing with Peter Green to John Mayall. I think that’s a great observation. I’m sure there would have been lineup changes in Fleetwood Mac over the years (Jeremy Spencer’s ’50s rock ‘n’ roll obsession was already getting old when he departed the band) but the trio of Green, Fleetwood & McVie would have produced some killer blues and blues-based music over the ensuing 40+ years.

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      • Phillip Helbig
        May 16, 2014

        Rumours was, I believe, their 16th album.

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      • I don’t have their discography in front of me but you’re probably right. There’s so much great music that came before it which has been overshadowed by the huge success of Rumours & its self-titled predecessor.

        Although Green did manage to pull himself together and continue recording, he’s just a shadow of what he used to be. It’s a shame because, for my money, he was the best pure blues guitarist of his era (his contributions to John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers surpasses Eric Clapton’s, in my opinion).

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      • 45spin
        May 16, 2014

        Very good points, I guess even in rock & roll fate sometimes rolls the dice on a bands evolution.

        Like

  3. mikeladano
    May 15, 2014

    “For my 11th birthday I had received a copy of Rock And Roll Over by Kiss…”

    And over here, I smile and nod approvingly.

    Like

    • It’s not often I get to include Kiss in my blog posts, but my love of Pink Floyd started at such a young age specifically because of my obsession with Kiss at the time. Glad you enjoyed that aspect of this post.

      Like

  4. mikeladano
    May 15, 2014

    Thanks for this! I own all of Syd’s music with Floyd as far as I know — I may be missing a couple tracks. I have a 3 CD version of Piper, and the Singles Collection that came within the Shine On box. I do not own any solo Syd. By the looks of things, that collection looks like a good “first buy”, although I think if I see these used this year on Toronto Record Store Excursion 2014, I’ll pick and of them up regardless. It’s one of those things: I can’t let this just sit here…I have to make sure it goes to a good home. It’s my Rock and Roll Duty (as Kim Mitchell might say).

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    • Mike, it sounds like you have all of the officially released Syd-era Floyd material. It’s pretty much Piper and that Shine On “Singles” disc (as well as one song he wrote or co-wrote on A Saucerful Of Secrets…although I don’t know if he’s actually on that recording). I don’t have the 3-CD version of Piper but I did get the mono version that came out in the ’90s in a small sturdy box with some cool packaging elements. Believe it or not, the mono mix is (in my opinion) far superior to the stereo mix. I never thought that was possible, especially when it came to psychedelic music, but this one changed my mind. I’m guessing your version has both stereo & mono, so I’m curious to find out if you agree.

      I hope you find some solo Syd discs on your upcoming shopping excursion. Keep in mind that they’ve been reissued with bonus tracks (alternate takes & demos, I think), so if you find them cheap they’re likely the original CD pressings…the same ones I own & spent a lot of time with this past week.

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      • amtlpaul
        September 9, 2016

        “Believe it or not, the mono mix is (in my opinion) far superior to the stereo mix. I never thought that was possible, especially when it came to psychedelic music, but this one changed my mind.”

        Oddly enough this was common with psychedelic releases in 1966-67, at least in the UK. The one advantage stereo had was the use of panning, although the headache-inducing panning at the end of the stereo “Interstellar Overdrive” is a point against the stereo version of Piper. But in 1967 British bands and producers still spent more time on mono mixes, so those mixes tend to have more otherworldly effects than the stereo (see also Revolver & Sgt. Pepper’s).

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      • Hi Paul. Yep, I learned after discovering the greatness of Piper… in mono that many recordings from that era are better in that format. With mono box sets from The Beatles, Dylan and now the Stones on the market, clearly people are realizing the joys of one channel…as long as the producer & engineer knew what they were doing.

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      • Phillip Helbig
        September 12, 2016

        In the early days, mono was the main market. The Beatles were in the studio for the mono mix, not the stereo mix, which might be one reason they might be better. Phil Spector was deaf in one ear, hence mono. Perhaps Brian Wilson as well. Especially with the Beach Boys, people were listening to it on a transistor radio, perhaps in a car, so optimizing the song for mono made sense.

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      • All good points, Phillip, especially your observation about people listening to certain music on transistor radios. I think people have come to appreciate mono in recent years thanks to box sets in that format from The Beatles, Dylan and (recently) The Stones. I remember the uproar from a lot of fans when the Beatles albums were first released on CD in 1987, since the first 6 or 7 were in mono. I thought they sounded great, and I still think those mixes are superior to the often fake stereo of the US versions. Even albums that are generally considered stereo albums (like Sgt. Pepper’s and The White Album) sound wonderful (and different) in mono. It’s like getting to experience them in a whole different way.

        For bands in the psychedelic era, like Pink Floyd, conventional wisdom would suggest that stereo would capture the mind-blowing sounds on those records, but a good mono mix can have even more of an impact, and The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is a perfect example of that.

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    • theEARLofSWIRL
      June 2, 2014

      “titter” you said DOODY
      Just wanna second that “I can’t let this sit here…Have to find it a good home” Reason why I have so many multiple copies of some albums ( FOUR “All The Young Dudes”)

      Like

      • Why four copies of “All The Young Dudes”? I’ll guess it’s the original LP, a cassette, an early CD pressing and the expanded CD. Although if you’re anything like Mike, you probably have multiple Japanese pressings with bonus tracks.

        I consider myself fortunate that I’ve never been that kind of collector, but I respect that passion. Other than a handful of key bands, I’m usually happy with the best version of an album that I can get my hands on. I will usually unload any earlier versions unless there are distinct differences (like when Pete Townshend includes different bonus tracks on each reissue, or inserts an alternate version of songs like he did on Who Are You while omitting the original album version…lame).

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      • theEARLofSWIRL
        June 3, 2014

        Nope, I’m not a completist, just identical vinyl LP’s. Saw ’em cheap and, like Mike, decided they needed an appreciative home; figured I could flog them to friends or bandmates. It’s worked with lots of other albums, but not that particular LP- that’s why I still have four, no-one liked as much as I did. A friend does that with books, every time he comes across a copy of Lenny Bruce “How To Talk Dirty & Influence People”, he buys it! I’ve got 2 or 3 extra from him, just to give to anyone interested. Think of us as like Scientologists, but with a cooler cult figurehead….

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      • I’m not an expert on Mott The Hoople but I do have most of their albums, and my guess is that if you had multiple copies of the uncreatively-titled “Mott” and “The Hoople” you would turn a lot more people on to the band. “All The Young Dudes” is a good album but not in the same league as those other two. Their earlier work is also excellent although they would probably appeal to more selective tastes.

        I will try to avoid comparing anyone to Scientologists, but I completely understand your point. I’ve never specifically bought something I already owned with the sole purpose of turning others on to it, but whenever I “upgrade” to a newer version of a CD I like to re-purpose the original. I guess that makes me an offshoot of your cult.

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      • theEARLofSWIRL
        June 3, 2014

        I agree, “MOTT” is DEFINITELY their creative peak. Mick Ralphs left to join Bad Company after, I think “The Hoople” suffers for that (Grosvener never really fit in). “All The Young Dudes” was the last album to give equal time to all the original songwriting voices. Probably I’m alone in the universe, but love this first version of “Ready For Love” with Mick singing, and the last-ever song from Verden Allen’s distinctive organ “Soft Ground” (much more prominent on the earlier albums) What I’d love to see with this album, same as that other Bowie ‘protege’ project “RAW POWER”, is a remix. Henry Rollins did a complete make-over on it, the way Iggy wanted. I happen to like both versions. It would be cool to get access to the “Dudes” master tapes, and make it more “Brain Capers” Mott. “Momma’s Little Jewel” & “Jerkin’ Crocus” need to ROLLINS RAWK!

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      • I would definitely be interested in hearing a remix of “Dudes.” As you will find in my post on The Stooges, I’m not a huge fan of “Raw Power,” but I enjoy having two distinctly different versions of the same album to compare & contrast.

        Also, I love the first version of “Ready For Love” yet I can’t say I prefer it to the Bad Company version. Paul Rodgers’ voice is hard to beat.

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      • mikeladano
        June 3, 2014

        The Who also remixed all their studio albums on CD, making collecting soooo frustrating.

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      • I agree, although depending on how drastic the remixes are, many fans wouldn’t really care. In the case of The Who, though, the differences were very noticeable, and I hope one day someone (not Townshend or Jon Astley) goes back and does sympathetic re-masters of the original recordings for their complete discography.

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      • mikeladano
        June 3, 2014

        Yes agreed. I was very disappointed when I found out that the Who remastered collection was also remixed. Even if I had never heard the album before, and wouldn’t know the difference, I didn’t like that. I may be wrong, but I think the Deluxe Editions (2 CD) are the original mixes.

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      • theEARLofSWIRL
        June 3, 2014

        Townsend must hate us. So much for Meher Baba

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      • He should have followed Sri Chimnoy. The Santana and John McLaughlin reissues sound fantastic. (insert smiley face here)

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      • theEARLofSWIRL
        June 3, 2014

        L Omm L 🙂

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      • Nicely played, EarlOfSwirl. Very impressive.

        Haha-rishi

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      • mikeladano
        June 3, 2014

        He may? Or he and George Lucas may have the same mental illness — one that makes them think that revising their past work is a good idea, and also makes them think that forcing us to buy the new version by making the old version out of print is a good idea.

        Like

      • theEARLofSWIRL
        June 3, 2014

        Great point. In my time I have bought cassettes, 8 track tapes, vinyl, Quadrophonic vinyl re-issues, and CDs- if they try and shove another format down my throat I WILL GO BERSERKER

        Like

      • Wait, you haven’t signed up for compressed MP3 downloads with no packaging? Seriously, though, the only “new” format I care about is Blu-ray or DVD with well-mixed 5.1 versions of classic & contemporary albums. That’s the only “upgrade” I’ll continue to spend my money on.

        Like

      • theEARLofSWIRL
        June 3, 2014

        Aaaaargh! (takes out bloodstained machete and starts bouncing off the walls in a white-knuckled, hyper-active fit)….compressed MP3’s ?? ……COMPRESSED MP3’s??!!

        Like

      • mikeladano
        June 3, 2014

        I’ve bought all that too except the 8 track. I think if there’s going to be any more formats, they won’t be physical. They will be digital.

        Like

      • theEARLofSWIRL
        June 3, 2014

        I think the only thing holding up the next leap forward in formats -the Hologram- is that they can’t do their biggest adult moneymakers, such as The Beatles. They can do Michael Jackson, or pre-teen acts like Beiber, etc. but for format to catch on, gotta get the Yuppies with the money to fork out for “Sgt Pepper” yet AGAIN. The Betamax & mini-CD lesson that Sony learned from not enough content

        Like

      • mikeladano
        June 3, 2014

        In one of his later novels, Arthur C. Clarke predicted that the future us would be watching holographic Beatles dressed in their Sgt. Peppers uniforms. True!

        Like

      • I’m not a fan of 3D so holograms mean very little to me. It’s impressive as technology but brings nothing new to the table as far as I’m concerned. Then again, about 10-12 years ago I saw Elvis The Concert where all the musicians & singers from his ’70s touring band played live along with video & audio of Elvis from various shows. As a huge Elvis fan (especially that period) it was really enjoyable, but I was more interested in the musicians (James Burton, Jerry Scheff & Ron Tutt) than watching video of The King.

        TheEarl… mentioned 8-tracks and I’m proud to say I had a few back in the day. What a terrible format but it was often the cheapest option. Nothing worse than listening to a long song & having it fade out because it didn’t fit into a single track. At my first record store job, back in ’83, we unloaded all the old 8-tracks. They were gone by the end of that year.

        Like

      • mikeladano
        June 4, 2014

        My mom had a lot of 8 tracks…which I destroyed as a young child 🙂

        Like

      • You were right to destroy those 8-tracks. Someone should have done that before they made it to the marketplace, but perhaps in the few years before cassettes became widely available those big bulky 8-track cartridges were useful.

        Like

      • mikeladano
        June 4, 2014

        I’ll tell you how they were useful. My best friend Bob used a empty 8 track shell to hide his “girls in bikinis” playing cards from his parents!

        Like

      • Your friend Bob was a clever fella.

        Like

      • theEARLofSWIRL
        June 3, 2014

        Hologram Beatles definitely plausible, just doubt they could get right kind of footage, or all needed permissions.
        I’ve read quite a few Arthur Clarke novels (“The City & The Stars” my fave), which one was that?

        Like

      • mikeladano
        June 4, 2014

        I believe it was Richter 10 — not one of his best.

        Like

  5. Craig
    May 16, 2014

    That song Octopus is an absolute masterpiece, next to Lucifer Sam as my favorite Syd song. As much as I love the Floyd (my favorite band of all time along with Rush) I haven’t really been much into Syd’s music as much as I am his legend. I do have the comp as well as some Bootleggy things, but thats where it ends. There is much on that comp to love and often find myself singing some of the chorus’ when I am doing my day to day.

    Its such a sad thing what happened to him, they basically got fed up with him and just decided not to pick him up for gig, so the story goes. if he had stayed and got his shit together who knows, but then we probably wouldn’t be able to luxuriate in the glory of the Animals album we both know and seem to love. So who knows. The Peter Green comp is an accurate one, though PG was able to get himself together and make music again.

    Thanks for this one, I really love the Floyd and should have really been paying more attention to Syd this entire time. I mean I have a ton of Robyn Hitchcocks music…

    Like

    • Hi Craig. Nice to know we share a similar love for Pink Floyd. With that Syd comp you’re not missing much in the way of truly essential songs, and I’m glad we agree about Octopus. Like you, I often find myself singing or humming one of his “choruses” (which are sometimes just a cool line repeated a couple of times).

      I think the other guys in Floyd gave Syd as much chance as they could, so I doubt he ever would have gotten himself together enough to continue leading the band. Of course, that’s just speculation, and Syd’s misfortune ended up being our gain (as well as a huge gain for Gilmour, Waters, Wright & Mason). At least they always tried to do right by him, including his songs on compilations so he would reap the financial benefits. And of course, three of the guys did what they could to get his solo career off the ground.

      Robyn Hitchcock is one of those artists I know vaguely but I don’t own any of his music (although he’s been on my long list of artists to check out for quite some time). I know Syd was a huge influence on him, so perhaps I should move him up the list soon & start exploring his catalog.

      Like

  6. stephen1001
    May 16, 2014

    The 1001 list features The Madcap laughs (and Piper at the gates) – good to know about having to be in the right frame of mind. A good palette cleansing post!

    Like

    • Hi Geoff. Nice to know that both of those albums made the list. I have to admit that I’m very surprised (and pleased) by the inclusion of The Madcap Laughs. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on those records whenever you get to them.

      Like

  7. Phillip Helbig
    May 16, 2014

    “as well as the handful of early non-LP singles they released”

    I think most of these are better than most of the songs on the debut album.

    Like

    • Phillip, are you not that big a fan of “Piper”? I’m not sure I agree that those songs are better than anything on the album, but they are certainly as good and deserve to be included on a deluxe version of the album as opposed to that bonus disc in the Shine On box set (which I own, but I’ve always felt bad for fans who didn’t get it and don’t have access to those amazing songs).

      Like

      • Phillip Helbig
        May 16, 2014

        Piper is a good album with a great title, but I’m not a big fan of Syd. Yes, some of his stuff is interesting, but too similar for my taste. I also don’t like the “chaos”-type Floyd music. The singles were more straightforward, but still pretty off-the-wall compared to other stuff at the time.

        Like

      • The Syd era isn’t for everyone, and as I mentioned in the post, it took me some time to come around to it. Not sure I agree about his songs being “too similar” since there’s a lot of diversity on that album, but overall I suppose there’s more of a homogenous sound compared to their later records simply because he was the main songwriter.

        By the way, there’s a fantastic jazz album by Phil Woods & Chris Swansen from 1984 called “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn.” There’s no clear connection to the Floyd album but I imagine there had to be some inspiration involved.

        Like

      • Phillip Helbig
        May 16, 2014

        I think there are probably several pairs of albums with identical titles, usually without the musicians of the latter one knowing about the earlier one.

        Like

      • Agreed, but it’s hard to imagine the jazz guys not knowing about this particular Pink Floyd album since it’s such a specific phrase. It’s like someone naming their album Aqualung or The Number Of The Beast and claiming to be unaware of Jethro Tull or Iron Maiden.

        Like

      • Phillip Helbig
        May 16, 2014

        I read too quickly and was assuming that the jazz album was older. I think it’s certainly possible that these jazz guys have never heard of the Floyd album. The phrase isn’t original with the Floyd, so it’s probably common origin, not copying.

        There is some musician called Aqualung, apparently without any reference to Tull.

        By the way, Jacques-Yves Cousteau (remember him?) made his fortune by inventing the aqualung. After that, he did what he wanted, sailing the seas on the Calypso (and, as became clear after his death, had two families, one on the boat, one on the land—Charles Lindbergh played the same game with much higher stakes). Musical link: John Denver wrote a song about Calypso (and of course Calypso is a type of music as well).

        Like

      • Phillip, I like how your comments take the reader on a journey, much like Cousteau & Lindbergh. Haha.

        Like

  8. 1537
    May 16, 2014

    I have to confess to not being a big Syd fan, although I love the cover of ‘Madcap’.

    My parents were lucky/cool enough to see Floyd with Syd Barrett three or four times, at the UFO club & (I think) Middle Earth; the last time they saw him he was almost catatonic on stage and was gone soon afterwards.

    Like

    • Thanks for your honest confession. It’s completely understandable why many people never got into Barrett’s music, even those who love Pink Floyd. It’s a very specific sound that’s not for everyone. Your parents are among the lucky few who got to see Syd in (in)action.. Very cool.

      Like

  9. Ryan Shankel
    May 16, 2014

    you don’t think the song “opel” is essential? it’s possibly my favorite barrett song…

    Like

    • I think “Opel” is an excellent song that falls just short of essential. Perhaps with some judicious editing I might feel differently. Thanks for your feedback.
      Rich

      Like

  10. Wayne
    May 20, 2014

    Thanks for this one Rich- I have nothing profound to add to this feed other than to say it is always an interesting visit when I hit your blog.

    Like

    • Thanks, Wayne. Hope all is well at your Cave. If you don’t always hear from me it doesn’t mean I’m not lurking in the background…because I am.

      Cheers!
      Rich

      Like

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  13. DanicaPiche
    October 24, 2015

    Hi Rich,
    I’m among those not too familiar with Syd Barrett — or Pink Floyd for that matter.
    Your review is excellent and I felt a twinge of sadness reading that he lived in seclusion for…decades? The links between art and beauty and too much-ness…sometimes the body can only contain so much. I hope that he found some peace away from the world.
    I’ve made a note of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. From what you’ve written I have no doubt this is worth seeking out.

    Like

    • Phillip Helbig
      October 26, 2015

      Speaking of caves (see comment not far above): Not familiar with Pink Floyd?!?!?! Let’s see, have you heard of a group called The Beatles?

      The Barrett-led Floyd is quite a bit different to what came later. Both have their good (and bad) points. On the whole, I like both but prefer the post-Barrett stuff.

      If you like the general sound and whimsy of Barrett-era Floyd but want something less avant-garde, check out Jacco Gardner. I’ll be seeing him in Mainz on 27 November.

      Note that while the Floyd oeuvre might be divided into phases, even within a phase all the albums sound quite different, so even if you hear one and don’t like it you might like another one.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Phillip. I won’t judge anyone for being unfamiliar with certain artists, even those whose music has been an integral part of our lives for so long. Everyone with an open mind eventually discovers the greats and if my humble little blog can play a small part in that process then I’m very proud.

        I’m listening to Jacco Gardner as I type this. Excellent stuff. Thanks for sharing.

        Like

      • DanicaPiche
        October 26, 2015

        Yes, I must have been in a cave.
        Thanks for the overview. There seems to be a lot of layers to their work which is always interesting. Thanks also for the Jacco Gardner recommendation.

        Like

      • Phillip Helbig
        October 27, 2015

        “I won’t judge anyone for being unfamiliar with certain artists, even those whose music has been an integral part of our lives for so long.”

        As my history teacher used to say, not a judgement, just an observation. 🙂

        Glad you and Danica like Jacco.

        Like

    • Danica, I would be surprised if you didn’t find something to love in the Pink Floyd catalog. The all-too-brief Syd Barrett era is an acquired taste, especially for people brought up on their FM radio hits, but once that music gets into your brain it never leaves (in a good way, of course). I would definitely recommend checking out Piper… before exploring Syd’s solo work, but wherever you dive in I hope you like it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • DanicaPiche
        October 26, 2015

        I’m looking forward to this discovery! Hmm…I had to pause…have I been raised on FM radio hits? Maybe! This is a little bit tragic. 🙂

        Like

      • There are times I think I might have been raised by FM radio hits, but that would be underselling the great job my parents did.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Phillip Helbig
        October 27, 2015

        Better than AM. 🙂

        Like

      • I actually grew up on AM radio in the ’70s, not converting to FM until I was around 11 or 12. But I have to agree that, when it comes to music, FM is far superior to AM.

        Like

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