A Saucerful Of Tears

Five guys, one bike.

Pink Floyd’s sophomore effort could very well be the worst of all time. Syd Barrett, their guiding light, and principal songwriter, became the goose that laid the golden eggs, and infamously flamed out, leaving them at the apex and in the middle of recording. I don’t think it was just acid, or insanity. I think forming a band was fun, but it suddenly becoming a vocation, and pop stardom stopped being so. He really wanted to be a painter, and he was a pretty good one from what I’ve seen.

Anyway the rest of the band found themselves in quite the pickle with an album begun and no songs. The title track can only be described as a composition, as it’s not a song or even music,really, except for the last section by Richard Wright, which I’ve used as a long intro to “See Saw”. My band, The Smoove Sailors write more interesting “jams” every week than the title tune.

I’ve been thinking about fixing A Saucerful Of Secrets for a long time. It was the unlistenable half of A Nice Pair, and just as bad as Ummagumma (The best part of which is the picture of all the gear on the back). A Saucerful of Tears is almost long enough to be a double album. Like if the White album lost “Revolution 9″ and “Goodnight”, which I would never miss.

It’s the most democratic Floyd album as it features at least four songwriters and five singers.

I’ve compiled all the Syd Barrett songs recorded after their debut, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, including the still unreleased “Vegetable Man”, and “Scream Thy Last Scream”, plus a couple singles with David Gilmour from the same period, but not on the album.

“Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” is not my favorite, but is the only one involving all five members. “A Jolly Bunch of Pop Tunes” Syd might say.

I think it plays rather well, and because it’s all from the same period, could have been released this way. Enjoy!

Rehearsing for “The Wall”

 

A Saucerful Of Tears

Vegetable Man

 
 
 
 
 
 

Same photo session as the back of "Barrett" 1970

Same photo session as the back of "Barrett" 1970

So much has already been written about Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd that I don’t think I can really add any new insight.
Like everyone else in 1973 I was enthralled by Dark Side Of The Moon. It was some of the first music after the Beatles broke up that seemed to carry on their tradition of innovation and solid studio craftsmanship.

In many ways I liked the follow-up, Wish You Were Here, even better. It was my favorite album to play at low volume and fall asleep to in my San Diego State dorm room during the 1976-77 school year. I used to spend a ridiculous amount of time in record stores wishing I had more money. I collected a handful of Pink Floyd albums. A lot of them were pretty bad. The best part of UmmaGumma was the picture on the cover of all their gear. (I thought their movie filmed in Pompeii was a frightening bore). I liked Relics, mostly because I was charmed by “Bike”, even though it bore no resemblance to Dark Side Of The Moon. I became aware that there was an apparently brilliant former member by the name of Syd Barrett. I found out that Wish You Were Here was apparently about him. I bought the double album containing Barrett, and The Madcap Laughs both of his studio albums, re-released on Harvest in 1974, due to the enormous popularity of his former band.

The first time I played it I was put-off by the crudeness of the music. The lyric I heard as “Ice cream Baby, I seen you looking good the other evening” stuck in my craw. The music sounded like it was made by a crazy person, which was disturbing.
For some reason I taped the whole thing before I warped the records over a hot plate and returned them to The Wherehouse(record chain). I don’t remember what I exchanged it for, but I’m sure it was something worse, that at the time, seemed better.
I’d play the tape for friends as a curiosity, introducing it as “This guy founded Pink Floyd, went crazy, made this music and disappeared”. Each time I’d let it play a little longer, and pretty soon I was hooked. Some of it was, and is, pretty painful listening, hearing the struggle to get those songs on tape. Still there was something so compelling that Syd has, to this day, never left my playlist.

From the "Madcap Laughs" session 1969

From the "Madcap Laughs" session 1969

What I’ve collected here are some of the more obscure gems. “Vegetable Man”, and “Scream Thy Last Scream”, are some of the last attempts at coming up with a hit single, in the wake of “See Emily Play” that Syd wrote before being booted out of the band. For some reason they are not included in the newish 3 cd re-release of Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, the first album by Pink Floyd, and the only one featuring Syd as a leader. The story I’ve heard about “Vegetable Man” is that Syd was picked up and taken to the studio, where there was enormous pressure on him to come up with another hit. The lyrics are a catalog of what he was wearing at the time. It was rejected by the label, as was “Scream”. “Lucy Leave” and “King Bee” are acetates recorded as demos in 1965, and why they only appeared recently I chalk up to the information age we are living in. I have the files, but I’m not sure of their origin. These days the difference between unreleased and released is a pretty porous border. “Two of a Kind” was recorded for the John Peel Show, and “Bob Dylan Blues” is from a recent compilation, originally from a cassette owned by David Gilmour.

Here’s the connection I’ll make that I haven’t seen before:
While on their disastrous, and abbreviated US tour, Syd got a haircut from Vidal Sassoon in New York which he hated. This is the haircut that “looks so bad” in “Vegetable Man”.
Here can be seen said haircut in a promotional video made for “Jug Band Blues”,
Syd’s last contribution to a Pink Floyd album.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTtXVrANEhU

Syd, "Wish You Were Here Sessions" July, 1975

Syd, "Wish You Were Here Sessions" July, 1975

wiki
Barrett had one noted reunion with the members of Pink Floyd, which occurred in 1975 during the recording sessions for Wish You Were Here. He attended the Abbey Road session unannounced, and watched the band record “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” — a song that happened to be about Barrett. By that time, he had become quite overweight, had shaved off all of his hair (including his eyebrows), and his ex-bandmates did not at first recognize him. Eventually, they realized who he was and Roger Waters was so distressed that he was brought to tears. Barrett’s behavior at the session was erratic, and he spent part of the session trying to brush his teeth by keeping the brush still and jumping up and down. Roger finally managed to ask him what he thought of the song, and he simply said “sounds a bit old” and walked out of the studio. This would be the last time any member of Pink Floyd would ever see him. There is a reflection on the entire day in Nick Mason’s book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd. A reference to this reunion also appears in the film The Wall, where the character Pink, played by Bob Geldof, shaves off all of his body hair after having a mental breakdown, just as Barrett had.

Vegetable Man
Scream Thy Last Scream
Lucy Leave
King Bee
Two Of A Kind
Bob Dylan Blues

Hats Off To (Roy) Harper

 
 
 

All Killer, No Filler

All Killer, No Filler

The greatest music geek I’ve ever known turned me onto the whole underground british folk scene back in early ’70′s, and one of the albums he used to seal the deal was Roy Harper’s HQ. Within seconds I was sold on “The Game”. “This is folk music?”, I asked. Well, folk rock, anyway.

It was pretty hard to find until it’s US release as When An Old Cricketeer Leaves The Crease. This was yet another album my dorm roomate had to embrace, because I played it all the time. It wasn’t easy finding the cd. For years, this was one of a handful of albums I looked for everytime I walked into a cd shop. When I tried to order it at my home store, they couldn’t get it. I finally found it at the Virgin Megastore at Times Square, as they were going out of business.
The band on “The Game” is a supergroup worth noting. John Paul Jones on bass, David Gilmour on guitar, and Bill Bruford behind the drum kit. All were at the top of their game (!). The guitar solo was played by Chris Spedding as Gilmour couldn’t get one together for whatever reason. Word was Spedding came in like a gunslinger with a white Strat and a black Les Paul and did it in one take. At over 13 minutes long, it’s really an epic suite of five related parts, rather than just a song. It nearly made Roy a rock star.
Also included are two other favorites, “Don’t You Grieve” from Flat Baroque and Beserk, and “One For All” from Fokejokeopus.

Flat Baroque and Beserk

Flat Baroque and Beserk

An idiosyncratic British singer/songwriter acclaimed for his deeply personal, poetic lyrics and unique guitar work, Roy Harper was born June 12, 1941, in Manchester, England. As a teen he tenured with De Boys, his brothers’ skiffle band, before leaving home at the age of 15 to enter the Royal Air Force; he subsequently secured a discharge by claiming insanity, resulting in a long period marked by frequent stays in mental institutions (where he was the subject of ECT treatments) and prison. Harper later drifted throughout Europe, and by 1965 was a mainstay of London’s Les Cousins folk club, performing alongside the likes of Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Nick Drake.

Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey

Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey

In 1966 the tiny indie label Strike issued Harper’s debut LP, The Sophisticated Beggar; the record brought him to the attention of Columbia, which released his sophomore effort, Come Out Fighting Genghis Smith, the following year. In 1968, Harper mounted a series of free concerts in London’s Hyde Park, which greatly expanded his fan base in preparation for the release of 1969′s Folkjokeopus, which included “McGoohan’s Blues,” the first of his many extended compositions.

What a Bill!

What a Bill!

After meeting Pink Floyd manager Peter Jenner, Harper was signed to EMI’s Harvest subsidiary, and in 1970 he issued Flat Baroque and Berserk, recorded with contributions from members of the Nice; that same year marked the appearance of Led Zeppelin III and its track “Hats Off to Harper,” a tribute penned by longtime friend Jimmy Page. According to Jimmy Page, the band admired the way Harper stood by his principles and did not sell out to commercial pressures. In a mutual appreciation of their work, Harper would often attend live performances by Led Zeppelin over the subsequent decade as well as contribute sleeve photography to the album Physical Graffiti. He also appears, uncredited, in the 1976 film, The Song Remains the Same.
Upon relocating to the Big Sur area of California, Harper began writing 1971′s Stormcock, regarded by many as his finest record, featuring Jimmy Page on guitar (credited as ‘S. Flavius Mercurius’) and David Bedford’s orchestral arrangements. David Bedford would collaborate on future releases. In 1972, Harper made his acting debut playing Mike Preston alongside Carol White in the John Mackenzie film Made. The soundtrack for this film appeared in the following year with the title Lifemask. His next album ‘Valentine’, was released on Valentine’s Day, 14 February 1974 and featured backing by Led Zeppelin. A concert to mark its release was held at London’s Rainbow Theatre with Page, Bedford, Ronnie Lane on bass and Keith Moon on drums. The live album Flashes From The Archives Of Oblivion soon followed.

Between 1975 and 1978, Harper spent considerable time in the United States. Pink Floyd’s 1975 release Wish You Were Here saw Harper as lead vocalist on the song ‘Have a Cigar’. Floyd’s David Gilmour returned the favour by appearing on Harper’s next album, HQ, along with Harper’s occasional backing band called Trigger (Chris Spedding on guitar, Dave Cochran on bass guitar, and Bill Bruford on drums) along with Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones. The single ‘When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease’, taken from the album, is Harper’s biggest selling and best known solo record to date. Harper also co-wrote the song, ‘Short and Sweet’ with Gilmour for Gilmour’s first solo record released in 1978. He performed the song live with Gilmour at least once in the 80s singing the lead vocal.

Controversy followed the release of 1977′s Bullinamingvase, with Watford Gap service station objecting to the lyrics in the song ‘Watford Gap’, which criticised their food (“Watford Gap, Watford Gap / A plate of grease and a load of crap…”). Harper was forced under duress to drop it from future UK copies of the album, though it reappeared on a later CD reissue and remained on the U.S. LP. Bullinamingvase also featured ‘One of Those Days in England’, with backing vocals by Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney, which became a Top 40 hit. Flat Baroque And Berserk, Lifemask, Valentine, Flashes from the Archives Of Oblivion, HQ and Bullinamingvase were all top 20 albums (in England-Ed).

Roy is apparently alive, well, and still fighting the good fight.

The Game (parts1-5)
Don’t You Grieve
One For All

Religious Experience with Syd Barrett

 
 

Any good record store should have it.

Any good record store should have it.

Kevin on back of cd

Kevin on back of cd

Syd, about the time of this session

Syd, about the time of this session

When there were record stores I used Kevin Ayers as my main yardstick. I’d walk in, make a bee-line to the A’s, and see if they had a Kevin Ayers section. And if they did, what did they have? I could instantly tell a lot about the depth of their catalog. Next I’d check for Roy Harper. A lot has to do with always being on the lookout for a couple gaps in my collection. A decent stock would have “Joy Of A Toy” as an import.

This was mixed from the original 8 track tapes in 2003 for inclusion on the superb reissue of Kevin Ayer’s 1969 “Joy Of A Toy”. The unissued masters had long vanished. It’s existence known but essentially unheard. I believe this is the only session Syd Barrett played on outside of Pink Floyd and his solo recordings.
Syd was outside Pink Floyd at the time of this session.
From the cd liner:

An Avid enthusiast of Syd Barrett, the wayward ex-Pink Floyd genius. Ayer’s felt Syd’s contribution could enhance his latest composition. On the way to Abbey Road studios, Kevin called into Barrett’s flat and requested his presence on the session. And so it was on November 9th 1969 Kevin Ayers and Syd Barrett worked on the first version of “Religious Experience”. Present ealier in the day were Richard Coughlan and Richard Sinclair from Canterbury band Caravan.
After some consideration it was felt that Syd Barrett’s psychedelic guitar contribution was too uncommercial, the track overlong and the decision was made to re-record “Religious Experience”.

They didn’t exactly do that. Instead the rhythm tracks were bounced to another 8 track (pretty much everything but Syd). Kevin did a new vocal, paraphrased some of Syd’s guitar, added The Ladybirds on vocals, etc.
Kevin knew Syd as his former band, The Soft Machine shared a bill with Pink Floyd , and probably a dozen other bands, at an marathon outdoor festival on Ibiza in the summer of 1967.

Kevin Ayers has had a long and interesting career.  He is an original, and creative artist. As usual, I tend to go for the earlier stuff. I’m unfamiliar with anything recorded after 1978.
Except his latest, “The Unfairground” (2008), is easily one of his best. Affectionately backed by an amalgam of indie superstars I never heard of, it sounds like it could be a followup to “Joy Of A Toy”, all his wit and charm is intact.
Kevin Ayers is currently living in the south of France, according to his MySpace page.

I just checked out the post and need to include the finished version.  Released on a 7″ single as “Singing A Song In The Morning” with “Eleanor’s Cake”(Which Ate Her) from “Joy Of A Toy” on April 19, 1970.  They always say Syd had been excised from the final, but that guy on electric guitar sure plays like him.  If it’s Kevin, he nailed it.

Religious Experience
Singing A Song In The Morning