RELICS

Pink Floyd’s Relics, which came out in May 1971, was the perfect example of a record company stop-gap release. The band toured extensively in that era (the time of Atom Heart Mother) and when they did eventually make it into the studio, there were worries their rate of creating new music was far from brisk. 

A Bizarre Collection Of Antiques And Curios was the subtitle of the LP, and there is something in that, for sure. Core songs are the two Syd Barrett A-sides, “Arnold Layne” (March 1967) and “See Emily Play (June 1967) but the record offers a snapshot of the early days. Early B-sides “Paint Box” and the delightful “Julia Dream” make album appearances while the previously unreleased “Biding My Time” was a hook for budding Floydophiles. 

Interestingly, what today would be classed as a “rarities” album was then released as a budget priced LP, encouraging punters to buy rather than ponder too long. The cover, a suitably eccentric Heath-Robinson doodle by drummer Nick Mason was kind of intriguing, too.

When I bought a second-hand copy in around 1974 it was because I was in thrall to Dark Side and Meddle and Atom Heart Mother and hadn’t really heard the Syd-era band at all. The psychedelic whimsy was a little hard to swallow at first. However, the “bizarre” part of the subtitle was clear in the copy I bought from Bentleigh Sewing & Records. It was an Aus pressing, but with the US cover. What a striking image.

Relics was very popular in Australia, becoming a top thirty album; the highest in the english-speaking world. The album developed a life of its own, being re-pressed and re-issued with different covers through the years, some similar to the original, others rather trumpeting the budget nature of the record.

On one of the many occasions when Pink Floyd rejigged their catalogue, Hipgnosis design legend Storm Thorgerson commissioned an actual 3-D version of the contraption, giving it to Mason. That is the CD cover many know, though later versions have reverted to the original.

All I know is that I wish I had kept my four-eyed pink-tongued copy rather than discarding it for an icky CD. I’d love to be able to drop the stylus and hear those antiques and curios the way I heard them the first time, wending my way through the dreams and visions of a band straining towards a paisley sun, culminating in the clockwork mayhem that signals the end of “Bike”. 

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

38 comments

  1. I actually have owned 3 of those versions over the years, but now I have no idea where they went. At least one was stolen in the Great Vinyl Robbery of ’79.

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    1. I do hope these periodic reminders of the Great Vinyl Robbery of ’79 help with the grief/healing process, rather than re-traumatising you, PM.

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      1. Ah, you know. I let those things go ages back. No point dwelling on such matters.

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        1. Ah, I’ve dreamed of being that well adjusted.

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  2. I have the Music For Pleasure version. Never realised the cover art was done by Nick Mason!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is very tempting to seek out ‘One of Everything’, isn’t it?

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      1. P.S. I think the mfp version is my favourite. Love the splash of pink, like a lollypop lava flow down the hill. Wonder how the drawing lined up with Floyd’s Pompeii adventure.

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  3. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Remind me next time we meet Bruce, I have some old Melody Makers and music journal rags from the early 70s via my stepdad, seem to recall one about all the pressure on the band to release some new content, so this fits into your stop-gap theory well…

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    1. With gaps of years between releases being commonplace this century, it’s fascinating to recall a time when bands were expected to record/tour/record on an extraordinarily fast schedule.
      Early 70s music papers are also fascinating.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have this weird bootleg version of this, purchased lawfully from a secondhand record shop. Has the original record, then a bunch of stuff from Zabriskie Point and b-sides from the Barrett era. It’s very helpful.

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    1. That sounds intriguing, Graham. Gotta photo? 😋

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  5. I dig “Relics”, which is a great introduction to early Pink Floyd. I also listened to it for the first time after I had explored and fallen in love with “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here”. As such, with the exception of “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play”, “Relics” was an acquired taste for me as well.

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    1. As long as you adjust for it being essentially a different band, the first album (and to a large extent, the second) are the epitome of the time… 1967-8, whilst the Pink Floyd who conquered the world were a quintessentially 70s phenomenon.

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  6. Evan Jenkins · · Reply

    Thanks Bruce, I hadn’t listened to this for quite a while, so I spent a pleasant hour painting windows in the sun and enjoying some great early Floyd. Now I m inspired to go for a ride on my Bike, you could ride it if you like, it has no basket, just a bell, couple of things to make it look good. I’d loan it to you if you like, but I’m much too short!

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    1. Bravo, EJ! A sunny/windy walk for me, then. 🙂

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  7. I especially like the cover designed by Nick Mason! If I owned any of these, I’d frame them and put them up on a wall.

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    1. Hey Jadi. Thanks for popping in to the music room. 🙂
      Yes, Nick Mason’s drawing is charming, isn’t it? He was an architecture student, which fits I guess. Your comment also gives me an idea for the next time I do an album cover art post, which is to invite people to nominate which covers they’d hand on a wall. Thanks!

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  8. I’m a fan of early PF so these relics are an important part of my PF collection. I’m glad they collected those scattered pieces in one place. All is missing is “Embryo” – love this one, but had to buy a Harvest compilation “Picnic” to enjoy it. I was very curious to hear “Careful with that axe Eugene” studio version. It is not as striking as on Ummagumma or Pompei but still nice to have it 🙂

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    1. These days I’m a huge fan too, iwarti. It was a shock, though, when ‘Meddle’ was your first love!

      Nice call with ‘Embryo’. I didn’t know about that Harvest comp; I’m one of the many who sought out the ‘Works’ compilation simply to get that wonderful track. Along the way, bootlegs have provided quite a few other versions!

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      1. Do check this compilation. It’s full title is “Picnic. A breath of fresh air”. It has a nice cover photo by Hipgnosis and some great tracks by many less known bands like Bakerloo, The Greatest Show on Earth, Third Ear Band, Quatermass among others. I like all these bands but haven’t found their albums on vinyl yet so it’s the only way for me to hear them on record. I think you’ll manage to find enough rare/obscure tracks to justify the purchase 🙂

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        1. Excellent. Thanks for the tip.

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  9. Had no idea my CD was not the original cover. Cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great. Thanks for swinging by, Mike!

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  10. Hi Bruce – does this album hold the record for most variations in cover art? I know the Beatles, Stones, etc. had photos that were removed or bowdlerized for the sensitive & tasteful U.S. market, but this “Relics” seems to have gone through an unusual number of incarnations (or is that wrong)

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    1. That would be a fascinating question to research (if one could secure a grant). Which albums have the most cover variants? My hunch (based only on my long exposure to the vinyl virus) is that The Who ‘Live At Leeds’ has many many variants. But I’m not aware of a systematic study.

      The covers reproduced here are the major ‘Relics’ LP variants I could find. Although Discogs lists well over 300 versions, most use one of the covers above. This was the only other significant variant I could verify…

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      1. Hmm, a systematic study! I can hear machinery (blinding me with science)! I’m visualizing researchers fanning out across the globe, scouring used record stores, radio stations and flea markets, while their colleagues ransack the archives of Capitol Records and K-Tel, and the sketchbooks of ’70’s graphic artists. Seriously I’m sure you’d be tapped pretty quickly as an expert witness.

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  11. I have the Canadian (US) cover and I wore out the record. My grimy finger prints are all over it. I think I had just got into Meddle at the time. No Darkside yet.

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    1. Count yourself amongst many who have fond memories of this one. It was a spur of the moment decision to post on it but I’m really glad I did, as it seems to have struck a chord (so to speak). Cheers, CB.

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      1. The Floyd were a special band. Just watched a “Classis Album” program and ‘Dark Side” was the album. Very interesting hearing the lads talk about it years later. It focused more on the music which I like. One of the folks interviewed talked about the album bringing PF out of the underground. I agree.

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        1. It certainly did that, mainly on the back of a couple of massively successful singles.

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      2. Good stuff by the way.

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  12. “Straining towards a paisley sun…” What a great image. As I’ve probably commented on earlier posts you’ve done about PF, they and their oeuvre–from both the 60s and 70s–is a real gap in my knowledge. Based on the enthusiastic comments (the chord struck!) here, I should really remedy that…

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    1. Yes, JDB, I was surprised at the obvious warmth and respect this little budget compilation still commands. The ‘modern’ version is still freely available in your choice of formats and may well provide all you need from the first couple of years of Pink Floyd. (Don’t tell any Floydophiles I said that!).

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  13. Sounds like Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album mixed with the need to have something/anything on the shelves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well the record company put it out without much input from the band, so it’s amazing that it is such an enjoyable and much-loved comp!

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      1. Pink Floyd fans are rabid, so there’s that.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. True! I once met a guy — in the mid-90s, mind — who had 325 Floyd recordings. Madness. 🤪

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