HE’S GETTING RATHER OLD BUT HE’S A GOOD MOUSE

Syd Barrett and the Pink Floyd invented salted caramel in 1967  [Hieronymus Botch, Paisley Curtains website]

While Roger Waters, Rick Wright and Nick Mason studied architecture at Regent Street Polytechnic in London, Syd Barrett enrolled in Art and Design at the Cambridge School of Art. Contemporaries of young Syd, interviewed later on the strength of his musical fame, considered him a talented artist. Barrett loved painting, and returned to it later in his life, long after his drift from Pink Floyd (and any widely accepted reality). [VC]

I’ve got a bike you can ride it if you like

It’s got a basket a bell that rings 

And things to make it look good

I’d give it to you if I could but I borrowed it

You’re the kind of girl that fits into my world

I’ll give you anything everything if you want things

I love listening  to it, just to listen to Syd’s songs [Richard Wright in Schaffner, p.67]

Cambridge, city and countryside, “seeped into Pink Floyd’s music from the start” [Blake, p.12]

Are The Pink Floyd being quite honest when they make coy and attractive records like “See Emily Play”, then proceed to make the night hideous with a thunderous, incomprehensible, screaming sonic torture that five American doctors agree could permanently damage the senses?  [Melody Maker, August 5, 1967]

The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn—originally the title of the seventh chapter in Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic The Wind in the Willows (a Barrett favourite)—was a remarkable achievement by any standard. It is also the work on which Syd’s mythic reputation is almost entirely based. [Schaffner, p.67]

Photo from the 2011 CD remaster

No songs about cars or sex or love or being hip and groovy. Instead, we have—

Space and underground lakes

Siamese cat

Child begging his Mother to read more of a fantasy story

Tripping

Gnomes

Scarecrow

I Ching

Childlike infatuation

While Pink Floyd were recording Piper, The Beatles were next door at Abbey Road Studios recording Sgt Pepper.

Where the Beatles exerted complete control over the tools of the studio, Pink Floyd used the studio to lose control. It didn’t hurt that the band’s primary songwriter and visionary Syd Barrett was on the verge of permanently losing control himself. [Pitchfork, September 18, 2007]

Distorted, distant voices, guitar chunks, sonar pings. What an opening! [VC on “Astronomy Domine”]

Few successful sixties songsmiths… made less use than Barrett of traditional blues or pop formulae, and his song structures are often startlingly fragmented [Schaffner, p.68]

Madness infected naivety, perhaps, but twee? Whimsy? Go back and have another listen without the clichés blocking you ears. [Dr Anton Cochlear, Ohrwurm Magazine]

I’ve got a cloak it’s a bit of a joke

There’s a tear up the front it’s red and black

I’ve had it for months

If you think it could look good then I guess it should

You’re the kind of girl that fits in with my world

I’ll give you anything everything if you want things

The group has been through a very confusing stage over the past few months and I think this has been reflected in their work. You can’t take four people of this mental level—they used to be architects and artists, and even an educational cyberneticist—give them big success and not expect them to get confused.  [Peter Jenner, co-manager. Melody Maker, September 12, 1967]

A quintessential lysergic nursery rhyme  [Rt Hon Reginald ‘Ponsie’ Speedhump on “Flaming”]

I know a mouse and he hasn’t got a house

I don’t know why I call him Gerald

He’s getting rather old but he’s a good mouse

You’re the kind of girl that fits in with my world

I’ll give you anything everything if you want things

The first thing that came into his head were the lyrics, and his next priority was making the words rhyme. He’d come up with a melody later, but never paid much attention to time signatures. Syd’s songs were great, but the tempos were always changing. That made things quite difficult for the band.  [Rick Wright on Syd Barrett’s songwriting. mojo4music.com]

Inspired and inspirational English eccentricity with a crazed heart. [Dantalion Dandelion, Sixties scene-maker and part-time earring]

Coming to the album fifty years and Syd Barrett’s lifetime later, it is inevitable his story of psycho-emotional disintegration colours the way we hear the music. But only if you know Syd’s story. It’s also valid to contextualise Piper within the 1967 ‘Summer of Love’ psychedelic fantasy. Personally, I’m drawn to the darker patina of mental illness. [Assoc Professor Ecurb Sniknej, Psychology Department, Sarajevo Polytechnic]

I loved the first album, but I thought the gigs were pretty interminable. It was too anarchic. [David Gilmour, MOJO, May 1994, p.88]

It’s the combination of apparently disparate themes (space, scarecrows), of divergent musical textures—experimental disorder in “Interstellar Overdrive”, fairytale credulity in “The Gnome”—and unpredictable song structures that keeps Piper At The Gates Of Dawn fresh. It is a remarkable debut that dazzles still. [VC]

I always heard it as “Black Cat’s coming I’m cross it’s plain”. When I discovered the actual line (in “Lucifer Sam”) is “That cat’s something I can’t explain” I confess to being somewhat disappointed. [Sylvia Wright]

He’s worried because he cannot understand his cat. That’s a bit potty, isn’t it? [Matt, next door]

I’ve got a clan of gingerbread men

Here a man there a man lots of gingerbread men

Take a couple if you wish they’re on the dish

You’re the kind of girl that fits in with my world

I’ll give you anything everything if you want things

In the UK, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn has charted no less than three times.

In it’s year of release it reached #6. The 1997 re-issue got to #44, while another edition halved that to #22 in 2007. The latter version got to #10 in Norway [Wikipedia].

Discogs list 270 versions of Piper. Reissuing the debut Pink Floyd album is clearly an industry unto itself. [VC]

I know a room of musical tunes

Some rhyme some ching most of them are clockwork

Let’s go into the other room and make them work

Billy Piper at the Gates of Syd’s clockwork Dawn, reconsidering his invitation

 

Pink Floyd — Piper At The Gates Of Dawn

Label: EMI

Released: August 1967

Duration: 41:52

Syd Barrett — lead guitar and vocals

Roger Waters — bass guitar and vocals

Richard Wright — Farfisa organ, piano, celeste, vocals

Nick Mason — drums and percussion

Sources

Mark Blake (2007) Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd. Aurum Press, London UK.

Nicholas Schaffner (1991) Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Story. Sidgwick & Jackson, London UK.

1987 CD [UK]

2011 CD Remaster [EU]

2016 Vinyl Remaster [USA]

A Nice Pair 1973 Vinyl Re-issue of first two albums [Harvest, Aus]

A tenuously connected companion piece entitled Goodbye Piper can be found at Lonely Keyboards.

 

28 comments

  1. Sorry Bruce, couldn’t resist, the bike has ‘things to make IT look good’, not things to make YOU look good. I know, I know, that’s nitpicking isn’t it? To quote Nigel Tufnel…

    Like

    1. Glad you didn’t resist, Matt. The correction will be made forthwith. Too much fine detail in this post!

      Like

  2. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Well that’s quite something there. Good gosh, kind of Twitter style mash-up…really cool format Bruce. In particular I like the contrast between the Beatles next door, the idea of control. That’s good. That can be applied and chewed upon in all walks of life, notably art. You’ve succeeded in inspiring me for another listen. But the time has to be right…that’s no ‘chamomile tea,’ you dig?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers Bill. A standard ‘music review’ just didn’t seem to cut it for this one. For all the bucolic psychedelia infusing the LP, there is plenty there (both musically and lyrically) that can still surprise and challenge. There’s certainly something in the tea, and I hope when you pour your cup, it works it’s magic.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        That’s good. Cheers Bruce.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Everything would have been quite different, if Syd Barrett didn’t mixed every morning a few tablespoon lysergic acid in his rose hip tea.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is very nicely written up. I am planning to get to this album in a few weeks, and will use your creative approach to doing this as an inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tried to capture something of the inspired lunacy of the album in this piece. Glad to hear you enjoyed it, and I really hope you enjoy Piper, Z.

      Like

  5. Always a big favourite. Nice trippy deconstruction.

    Did you ever get into the stuff from Fairfield Parlour/Kaliedescope?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Flight From Ashiya” was one of the singles that first set me off chasing the psychedelic rainbow. Didn’t really go as far as Fairfield Parlour.
      There’s an intention to visit the extraordinary Nuggets II box as part of the ’67 series, sometime before the end of the year!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have a 3 CD deluxe edition of Piper, but because it’s such a massive listening undertaking I have not played it in YEARS!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember that coming out and being tempted, Mike. A very rare occurrence of resistance on my part!
      Probably spinning the remastered album is the way to go.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes and I’m going to give it another shot this weekend.

        I was bummer…it was a beautiful box set but my booklet came out detached immediately 😦

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The binding? Yeah, their often utter rubbish, aren’t they?

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Yes the binding. Considering what you pay for these box sets…the packaging is part of the deal. You wouldn’t pay the same price if it was just three CDs stuffed into a sleeve. Yeah I’m going to dig it up this weekend. I believe it has the stereo and mono mixes and a disc of singles & B-sides.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Yes, that’s my memory too. (And the reason I didn’t spring – have almost all that stuff already). Hope you enjoy it Mike!

          Liked by 1 person

        4. I’m sure I will. I think I shall choose the mono mix. I sure do like mono mixes.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. You bet. Especially for this ‘transition’ period.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I haven’t heard this one in a very long time. Aside from a wee binge a few months ago, I don’t tend to listen to Floyd that often at all.

    Enjoyed the format, Bruce.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad it was enjoyably different, J. Piper is really all you need of Syd Barrett, and although very different from the chugging behemoth that Floyd would become, is still a very worthwhile 1967 album. I know you’re not really a sixties kind of guy, so I appreciate you taking the time to time travel back with me. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. 270 versions of Piper? “Money, it’s a gas / Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash / New car, caviar, four star daydream, Think I’ll buy me a football team…”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, all of that.
      (And I counted them meself!)

      Like

  9. Also, EXCELLENT post to which I will want to refer when I get a copy of this album for myself someday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Plenty of versions to choose from!

      Like

  10. I’ve been on a Syd Barrett kick since your Currant Buns for Tea post. I’d think I had enough only to find Interstellar Overdrive and even Gigolo Aunt (!) lingering a day later. His story is tragic and sad or he dropped out and took up amateur painting and art history and made silly doorknobs for his mom’s old house. Either way, he’s captivating. Thanks for the trippy trip down this particular lane.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much for your comment and adding a bit more Syd to the series!
      Yes, it is a sad but captivating story. Of course no-one really knows, but it seems the lesson is that if you have incipient mental illness, doing a real lot of psychotropic drugs isn’t a great idea.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Guess what i’m going to listen to today?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Unpredictable song structures indeed – well said.
    I haven’t revisited any of the Floyd albums yet but this is the one I’m most likely to get reacquainted with at some point. It was an intriguing listen!

    Liked by 1 person

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