Pink Floyd, dear sistren and brethren of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit, will never stop to amaze us, for better and for worse.
Riff-raff in the room
Two weeks ago saw the umpteenth incarnation of The Wall concept. Let's try to count how many times this important work of musical art more or less exists. We'll only take count of official and 'complete' versions as individual songs from the Wall can be found on compilations, live albums and concert movies from the band and its members going solo.
First there was The Wall album by Pink Floyd (1979), followed by the 1982 movie with the same name. In 1990 Roger Waters staged his rock opera in Berlin, with guest performances by other artists, and this was immortalised with an album and a concert movie.
The twenty year anniversary of the album was celebrated at the turn of the millennium by Is There Anybody Out There, a live album taken from the eighties tour by the classic Floyd, although Rick Wright technically was no longer a member of the band.
2011 saw the Why Pink Floyd? re-release campaign and three epic albums were issued in an Experience and Immersion series, each with added content. The Wall Immersion has 7 discs and four of these are the regular album and its live clone. A third double-CD-set has the so-called Wall demos and WIP-tapes that had already been largely around for a decade in collector's circles. A bonus DVD contains some clips and documentaries, but not the concert movie that is known to exist. For collectors The Wall Immersion was the most disappointing of the series and the presence of a scarf, some marbles and a few coasters only helped to augment that feeling.
Am I too old, is it too late?
In 2010 Roger Waters started a three years spanning tour with a live Wall that promised to be bigger and better. It was certainly more theatrical and if we may believe the Reverend, who watched the show as interested as Mr. Bean on a rollercoaster, boring as fuck. But with 4,129,863 sold tickets it set a new record for being the highest grossing tour for a solo musician, surpassing Madonna and Bruce Springsteen.
So it is no wonder that the show would be turned into a movie. It needs to be said that Roger Waters should be thanked for stepping outside the concert movie concept, adding a deep personal touch to the product. Those people who already saw the Blu-ray praise its sound quality that is conform to what we expect from a Floydian release, despite Waters' obvious lip-synching on about half of the tracks.
And that is why the CD-version of The Wall live is such a disaster. There are serious indications that some sound studio jerk took the superior Blu-ray surround mix and simply downgraded it to stereo without reworking the parts that make no sense when you only have got the audio to rely on. Apparently making 459 million $ with The Wall tour didn’t give Roger Waters enough pocket money to make a proper CD mix for this release.
Riding the gravy train, or as the Sex Pistols named it: doing a rock 'n' roll swindle, is something we are already familiar with in Pink Floyd (and former EMI) circles. The Anchor wrote in the past about scratched and faulty discs that were put in those expensive deluxe sets (Fuck all that, Pink Floyd Ltd. – 2011 12 02) and how the band and its record company pretended to sell remastered albums while the music on the CD was just goody good bullshit taken from an old tape (What the fuck is your problem, Pink Floyd? – 2014 11 08). It makes us a bit sad for all those fans who have bought the super deluxe set of The Wall at 500 dollars a piece. The show must go on, n'est-ce pas?
But anyone familiar with the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit knows lengthy introductions are our trademark and it will not come as a surprise that this article isn't about The Wall at all.
Buzz all night long
On Black Friday, the 27th of November 2015, sightings were published on the social media of an unannounced Pink Floyd 7-inch-vinyl-double-set that had hit records shops in the UK. It was named 1965: Their First Recordings and claimed to have the following tracks.
Double O Bo
Walk with me Sydney
I’m a King Bee
1, 2, 3, 5: Syd Barrett
4: Roger Waters
6: Slim Harpo
Syd Barrett: Vocals, Guitar.
Bob ‘Rado’ Klose: Guitar.
Nick Mason: Drums.
Roger Waters: Bass, Vocals.
Richard Wright: Keyboards.
Juliette Gale: vocals on Walk with me Sydney.
(Some pictures of the 'first' five man Floyd can be seen here: Pink Floyd 1965.)
It was soon confirmed that the records were official, contrary to the many bootlegs that already exist of the first and last track of the set, and that it was a so-called 'copyright extension release'. According to European law, sound recordings have a seventy years copyright, provided that they are released within five decades. If the recording fails to be published within 50 years it automatically becomes public domain, the 'use it or loose it'-clause, and that is something that The Floyd didn't want to happen, especially not as there seems to be an Early Years Immersion set on its way, predicted for the end of 2016.
That six tracks were released from the Floyd's first session(s) was something of a surprise. Up till now, every biography only spoke of four tracks put on tape. Let's see what Nick Mason had to say about it:
Around Christmas 1964, we went into a studio for the first time. We wangled this through a friend of Rick’s who worked at the studio in West Hampstead, and who let us use some down time for free. The session included one version of an old R&B classic ‘I’m A King Bee’, and three songs written by Syd: ‘Double O Bo’ (Bo Diddley meets the 007 theme), ‘Butterfly’ and ‘Lucy Leave’.
This was repeated in an August 2013 interview for Record Collector.
In Latin in a frame
However, in a letter to Jenny Spires, presumably from late January, early February 1965, Syd Barrett speaks about five tracks:
[We] recorded five numbers more or less straight off; but only the guitars and drums. We're going to add all the singing and piano etc. next Wednesday. The tracks sound terrific so far, especially King Bee.
At the bottom of this letter Barrett also drew the studio setup with Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Robert 'Rado' Klose and himself ("Me. I can't draw me.").
The early sessions also appear in an (unpublished) letter to Libby Gausden:
Tomorrow I get my new amp- Hooray! - and soon it's Christmas. (…) We're going to record 'Walk With Me Sydney' and one I've just written ' Remember Me?', but don't think I'm one of those people who say they'll be rich and famous one day, Lib.
In another letter he writes:
We just had a practice at Highgate which was OK. We're doing three of my numbers – 'Butterfly', 'Remember Me?' and 'Let's roll another one', and Roger's 'Walk with me Sydney', so it could be good but Emo says why don't I give up cos it sounds horrible and he's right and I would, but I can't get Fred [David Gilmour, note from FA] to join because he's got his group (p'raps you knew!). So I still have to sing.
Tim Willis concludes in his Madcap biography that:
Sydologists will be astounded to learn that by '64, Barrett had already written 'Let's Roll Another One', as well as two songs 'Butterfly' and 'Remember Me'.
This is slagged by Rob Chapman in A Very Irregular Head. According to Chapman the letters date from December 1965, and not 1964, for reasons that are actually pretty plausible.
Bob Klose told Random Precision author David Parker that he only remembers doing one recording session with the Floyd late Spring 1965 and that he left the band in the summer of that year.
In other words, dating these tracks is still something of a mess. At the Steve Hoffman forum the tracks were analysed by Rnranimal and he concluded that the 6 tracks do not origin from the same source either, so they could originate from different recording sessions. According to him; tracks 1, 2 and 6 sound like tape and 3, 4 & 5 like acetate.
Legally all songs need to be from 1965, and not from December 1964, as Mason claims in his biography, because... that would make these 1964 songs public domain and free to share for all of us. Perhaps the band started recording in December 1964 but added vocals and keyboards a couple of weeks later, in 1965. Surely an army of lawyers must have examined all possibilities to keep the copyrights sound and safe.
Good as gold to you
1965: Their First Recordings is exactly what the title says. Never mind the cover with its psychedelic theme as it is obviously misleading. In 1965 The Pink Floyd were still a British Rhythm & Blues outfit and not in the least interested in psychedelic light shows. Barrett tries hard to impersonate Jagger and even uses an American accent on the songs. And not all songs are that original either. We skip Lucy Leave and I'm a King Bee for the following short review as they have been around for the past few decades.
Double O Bo is a pastiche of Bo Diddley's signature song, but has a weird chord change that is inimitably Syd Barrett. Baby Driver:
It's a straight forward enough tip of the hat to Bo Diddley musically, but then he throws in those two chords: F, G# which is something Bo Diddley NEVER would have done. Syd was a genius. what would otherwise be throwaway songs from a band in its infancy, make for compelling listening due to his voice and his unique lyrics.
In Remember Me, the weakest song of the set, Syd strains his voice so hard that it nearly sounds that someone else is singing (some people claim it is Bob Klose and not Barrett). As Marigoldilemma remarks:
To me this one sounds like Syd trying to sound like Eric Burdon of the Animals.
Walk with me Sydney, from Roger Waters and with Juliette Gale on vocals, is a spoof of Roll with me, Henry aka The Wallflower, written in 1955 by Johnny Otis, Hank Ballard and Etta James. As it is not sure yet when Walk With Me Sydney was exactly recorded this could – perhaps – even be a track without Bob Klose. It is also the first time that we have a Roger Waters lyrical list, a trick that he will repeat for the fifty years to come:
baggy knees and a broken frame,
DT's and a washed out brain.
Medical Product Safety Information: Don't listen to this song if you don't want it continually on repeat in your brain.
Butterfly is the surprise song of the set. This track shows the potential Barrett had in him and could have been included, in a slightly more mature version, on The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. The lyrics are pretty dark as well and typical Syd:
I won't squeeze you dead.
Pin things through your head.
I just want your love.
Catch you soon
Not only was Parlophone pretty vague about the recording dates, the record was also released without any publicity and in very limited quantities, only 1050 copies for worldwide distribution, including 350 for the UK. Not one of the serious Pink Floyd fansites knew about the release and they were pretty late diffusing the news, further proof these websites only publish what Pink Floyd Ltd allows them to publish.
Pretty remarkable is that the Floydian fan-forums didn't really go into
overdrive about this set either and that the best comments and
information could be found on Steve Hoffman's Music
Corner. Yeeshkul had a pretty interesting thread as well, but this
was removed when people started discussing alternative ways of requiring
these tracks. It just makes one wonder how tight the grip is of the Pink
Gestapo Legal Council around Yeeshkuls' neck.
When it became clear that this edition was
a) genuine and
prices sky-rocketed. Hundreds of dollars were offered for a set and there have been cases of record shop owners raising the prices for the copies they still had in their racks. It needs to be said that a thousand copies for a new Pink Floyd product is ridiculously low, even if it only interests a small part of the Floydian fanbase.
Luckily for all those who didn't get a copy this is the age of the internet and needle-drops can be found in harbours in silent waters around us. Mind you, this is not psychedelic, nor classic dreamy Floyd, but an R'n'B band in full progress, still looking for its own sound. Vinyl collector Rick Barnes:
What I heard earlier was amazing ! Like the stones but sharper and more original. They were a lot more together than I ever gave them credit. I'm surprised they were not discovered in '65. Had they met Giorgio Gomelsky or someone similar things might have been very different...
We end this post with an opinion from Mastaflatch at Neptune Pink Floyd:
With many bands such as Pink Floyd, who had been there for very long, some people tend to forget the real crucial points when the band was struck by genius and only find comfort in the familiar songs or familiar patterns or familiar guitar solos. Between 1965 and 1967, something major happened to PF and it's plain as day here. If not for Syd, it's pretty likely that NOTHING of what we know and love from this band would have reached our ears.
But, if you listen closely, the weirdness was already there in Syd's chord changes and lyrics. (...) To get a band going though, especially in the 60s when you had The Beatles leading the pack, you couldn't only rely on blobs and gimmicks and Syd had what it took in spades: great songs, fierce originality and a tendency to NOT rest on his laurels and go forward.
I think that Pink Floyd, somewhere in the 70s ended up lacking at least one of those attributes - mostly the latter and it only got worse as time went on. I'm not saying that their later stuff wasn't good but at some point, Pink Floyd ceased to invent its sound and became content to play within its previously defined boundaries. Good music but far less exciting.
In 1965 these boys were hungry, literally sometimes, and that is what you hear. Their main preoccupation wasn't how to earn some 459 million $ turnover on a pre-recorded jukebox show from some 30 years before and it shows.
Many thanks to: A Fleeting Glimpse Forum, Baby Driver, Rick Barnes,
Goldenband, Steve Hoffman Music Corner, Late Night Forum,
Marigoldilemma, Mastaflash, Göran Nyström, Neptune Pink Floyd Forum,
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥
Links and things:
Steve Hoffman Musical Corner: http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/pink-floyd-1965-double-7.481968/
A Fleeting Glimpse: http://s7.zetaboards.com/Pink_Floyd/topic/9263411/1/
Neptune Pink Floyd: http://www.neptunepinkfloyd.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=24366
Yeeshkul (second thread): http://yeeshkul.com/forum/showthread.php?36451-What-Official-1965-recordings-released
Pink Floyd 1965 at the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit Tumblr page.
Sources (other than the above mentioned links):
Beecher, Russell & Shutes, Will: Barrett, Essential Works Ltd, London, 2011, p. 152-153.
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 56-57.
Gausden Libby: Syd Barrett Letters. Photographed by Mark Jones and published at Laughing Madcaps (Facebook).
Geesin, Joe: Acid Tates, Record Collector 417, August 2013, p 79-80.
Mason, Nick: Inside Out: A personal history of Pink Floyd, Orion Books, London, 2011 reissue, p. 29.
Parker, David: Random Precision, Cherry Red Books, London, 2001, p. 1.
Willis, Tim, Madcap, Short Books, London, 2002, p. 43-44.