2020-10-04

Singing it again at night...

Neptune Pink Floyd
Neptune Pink Floyd.

Cash Cows

On the 25th of September 2020, Neptune Pink Floyd came with a scoop that wasn't known to the two other 'biggies' of Pink Floyd fandom. That or else they were too preoccupied writing favourable articles about the redundant re-re-release of the live album Delicate Sound Of Thunder, that can also be found in The Later Years box-set. If you already have The Later Years the only reason to buy Delicate Sound Of Thunder 2020 is to have an extra set of postcards. They don’t come cheap nowadays.

Neptune Pink Floyd

We are pretty sure Neptune won't mind quoting them:

Pink Floyd collectors will be very excited to learn that a recording, thought lost forever, featuring Pink Floyd as a backing band, has been found after many years. It will be available for auction on 16th October in Wessex, England at 12 pm BST.

The song in question is Early Morning Henry, considered to be one of those Floydian holy grails. For decades fans thought that it had disappeared or that it was hidden in the archives of Norman Smith who took the tape on the 20th of October 1967. The reason why Smith took it home was that it wasn’t a Floyd original, but a cover of a Billy Butler song. If you want to know the complete story we can guide you to our article that appeared in 2019: Singing A Song In The Morning.

It is not Smith’s ‘plastic spool’ that is for sale, but a 3 minutes and 55 seconds one-sided acetate with the Early Morning Henry song. This may be of importance while our story develops.

The acetate is part of a very huge collection that was bought by Modboy1, in 2018.

Myself and my partner bought one of the UK’s biggest Music publishing company library 2 years ago, over 500,000 items, that included about 50,000+ unreleased Demo Acetates, most only had the track name, sometimes the publishing company name and if very lucky the writer’s names and if even more lucky the artist’s name.

The one-sided acetate didn’t have the artist’s name, only the title of the song ‘Earley Morning Henry’ and the name of the publishing company ‘Jamarnie Music’.

It was first thought this was an unknown David Bowie track, but when they did some extra investigations the name Pink Floyd popped up.

From David Parker’s excellent book Random Precision, that has become a collector’s item by itself, we know a bit more of those particular October weeks in 1967.

William Henry Billy Butler
William Henry 'Billy' Butler.

A saucerful of songs

The Floyd had been busy with a couple of new tunes, including Vegetable Man and Jug Band (aka Jugband) Blues. On Friday, 20 October they canned a highly avant-garde 9-part soundtrack for a John Latham project and two other tracks: Intremental (aka Reaction In G?) and the slightly fantastic In The Beechwoods. Except for Intremental these tracks have been released, 49 years later, on The Early Years.

On Monday morning, 23rd of October, the Floyd had a two hours session with 8 takes for track E66409. It is David Parker’s educated guess that E66409 stands for Rick Wright’s Paintbox.

If Glenn Povey is right in Echoes they headed for Bath, 115 miles from London, where they had an afternoon gig at The Pavilion.

In the evening, at 7 o’clock, the boys returned to Abbey Road for a session on Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun. When that was done they recorded Early Morning Henry, in one take, to end the day. On the EMI Recording Sheet, the track's Reel Number has been struck through and there is the message that Norman Smith took the plastic reel with him.

The term ‘plastic reel’ is of importance as well. Shakesomeaction, who was a studio engineer in the seventies, further explains:

The fact that it says on the Abbey Road Recording Sheet “Taken by Norman Smith on Plastic Spool” also means this was not recorded for full release but just as a demo, because if it was recorded for a proper release they would have used a 2” master tape, not a plastic spool which is only 1/4” tape and much lesser quality!

According to Modboy1 here is what happened in that late-night session:

Norman “Hurricane” Smith managed William “Billy” Butler who was also in the studio at the same time and asked Pink Floyd as a favour to record this track, William wrote so that it can be used as a Demo.

And…

William “Billy” Butler was in Abbey Road studios at the same time (he was also a sound engineer), so he sang on the track with Syd Barrett probably supplying harmony vocals and Pink Floyd playing, it was done in 1 take.

It is a plausible theory, especially if we know that Norman Smith was not only their producer but also a Pink Floyd shareholder. According to Neil Jefferies, the author of Hurricane’s ‘autobiography’, Smith had a 12,5% part in the company. Years later, in something that must have been the stupidest financial decision of the century, Smith sold his shares to finance his solo career. A couple of months later, The Dark Side Of The Moon hit the shelves.

But before we continue our article let’s have a listen to a snippet of the Billy Butler – Pink Floyd acetate, found on YouTube. As the copyrights of the song still belong to Jamarnie Music (although that is debatable) and the seller wants to give the exclusivity to the new owner only 50 seconds of the almost four minutes song has been made public. It has also been confirmed that the track will be removed once the auction has been finished.

Early Morning Henry
Early Morning Henry.

First impressions

In the mid-eighties when David Gilmour gave an early version of the A Momentary Lapse Of Reason album to Columbia executive Stephen Ralbovsky, the record boss allegedly replied dryly with ‘this music doesn’t sound a fucking thing like Pink Floyd’.

About the same can be said of Early Morning Henry. It doesn’t sound Floydian at all. Several fans thought so, including the Reverend of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit.

Borja Narganes Priego

It doesn't sound like Pink Floyd to my ears. And the guitar is not near close to Syd's guitar style… a bit of mystery with this…

Ewgeni Reingold

Does not sound to me as PF…

Ulrich Angersbach

I don't think that this track has anything to do with Pink Floyd 1967.

Second thoughts

But after the initial shock, fans and anoraks started to slowly change their minds. As Hallucalation remarked, Remember Me from the 1965 sessions doesn't sound a bit like Pink Floyd either, yet it is canon.

Edgar Ascencio

Correct me if I'm wrong here but the bass does sound like Roger Waters’ playing…
I've been listening to it for the good part of an hour and though I may still be wrong I think I've picked up on Roger's bass and Rick's backing vocals in the chorus…

Randall Yeager

To me, the drums and piano sound like Nick and Rick, especially playing it safe on a first take.

Hallucalation

It's obviously Waters playing on bass, by the way.

Jon Charles Newman

I dunno — most of it sounds like it could be anybody, although the bass could be Roger, and the harmony vocal sounds a little like Rick. It wouldn't be surprising if Syd didn't take part. I'm reserving judgment until there's more evidence or verification.

That last comment has a good point. What if this is a recording of Billy Butler with Roger Waters on bass and Rick Wright on keyboards, but without Syd Barrett? Who plays the guitar?

Early Morning Henry
Early Morning Henry.

More thoughts

Friend of Squirrels has the following theory.

After listening to it again I completely agree that it does sound like Roger and has the famous Rickenbacker tone. The guitar sounds acoustic and pretty certain it is a nylon string guitar. Have never known Syd to play a nylon string guitar that is usually used for classical and bossa nova.

I believe Butler has a background in jazz guitar, sounds like nylon strings...

And Goldenband concludes:

I tend to think it's unlikely Syd would have played on the track, and agree that it's easier to imagine a scenario in which the other three backed up BB.
Tricky chord changes, by the way!
Billy Butler, late sixties.
Billy Butler, late sixties.

Conclusion

Although there is still the theoretical possibility that the ‘plastic spool’ and the acetate are two different recordings, with different musicians, there seems to be a growing consensus that at least two members of Pink Floyd helped Billy Butler out on this demo recording.

David Parker is practically 100% sure:

The fact the recording offered is an acetate doesn't mean it's not the same recording as the tape taken by Norman Smith; acetates were a common format for distributing publishing demos at the time.

It is not sure if Syd Barrett was there. The work on Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun was mainly overdubs, by adding vibraphone and ‘voices’. Even if Syd was in the studio, the guitar on the acetate is probably played by Billy Butler.

Theoretically, Nick Mason wasn’t needed either. Norman Smith was a fine drummer who replaced Nick Mason a couple of weeks before on Remember A Day (although some anoraks claim it is See-Saw instead). It's still open for discussion.

But it seems almost certain that Roger Waters and Rick Wright can be heard on the record.

The value of this acetate is estimated between 3,000 to 5,000 GBP. Unless Billy Butler and Pink Floyd start bidding against each other. You can have a go as well, if you'd like at: William "Billy" Butler (William "Henry" Butler) - "EARLY MORNING HENRY", 1967.

Early Morning Henry
Early Morning Henry, Billy Butler & Pink Floyd.

You gotta be crazy

At Yeeshkul, Azerty asked Pink Floyd archivist Lana Topham, who passed the hot potato to Paul Loasby. The reply from the Floyd management was short and sweet.

It seems to be a fake.

But several Floyd scholars simply refuse to believe this. To quote a pretty well known überfan whose name we will not give out of respect:

Lana Topham and Paul Loasby aren't going to know shit. I'd be slightly surprised if even Nick and Roger could remember the session after all these years.

So are we back at square one? Not exactly. On the Neptune Pink Floyd forum Shakesomeaction gave some extra info. He had a look at the Jarmanie Library files and here is what he found.

The library reference number was D 375 (on the Acetate sleeve), which complied with the library files of D 375 and they stated:
COMPOSER / VOCALS - William Butler,
BACKING BAND - PINK FLOYD,
RECORDING DATE 23/10/67,
PRODUCER : NORMAN SMITH,
COPYRIGHT - JARMANIE MUSIC,
UNRELEASED and
“DO NOT REMOVE - NO TAPE AVAILABLE” (which means there was no master tape in the library).

But you can’t win a fight against Pink Floyd. Paul Loasby, whom we know as a man who insults and harasses webmasters of ‘independent’ fan-sites if they write something Paul Loasby doesn’t want them to write, morphed into his favourite leprechaun character and did what he does best: threatening people. Shakesomeaction testifies:

The Auction room had to take the name of Pink Floyd down, after a threatening phone call from the manager.
Although there was no denying this was Pink Floyd backing.
Sad that people with so much money care about some minor demo they have done as a favour back in the day…

At the auction house the name Pink Floyd has been removed and replaced with 'big name world renowned group'.

*Following a phonecall from the management of a big name world renowned group we have decided to remove their name from this listing.

Perhaps it is appropriate here to quote something from a Pink Floyd tune:

For hard cash, we will lie and deceive
Even our masters don't know
The webs we weave

Paul Loasby's attitude created something of a mini-Streisand effect. How does it come he never reacts when people sell fake acetates on the web, for thousands of dollars, but when someone puts on a genuine one, he suddenly turns into Floydzilla?

Early Morning Henry Recording Sheet
Early Morning Henry Recording Sheet. Bigger version on Tumblr.
Billy Butler
Billy Butler.

What the butler saw

After Paul Loasby so eloquently expressed his master’s voice it was time for Jumaris to chime in:

This is Juliet, I am William Billy Butler‘s daughter, and I can confirm that it is my father singing on this recording. Yes, it is a song that he wrote, and yes Norman Smith did take it to Pink Floyd to record a demo. However, with that said, I don’t believe that the backing band is Pink Floyd.

Talking about a drawback. But the next day there was some more exciting news. Juliet:

I will say that Norman Smith was shopping dad around to different bands around that time. (…) With Pink Floyd, there was speculation that they were going to replace Barrett. I think there was some hope that they would hear dad‘s voice, and Early Morning Henry and see where that landed, but it was subtle.

Could it be the band was already thinking of replacing Syd Barrett? The thought alone is heresy, shout some fans, but perhaps the seeds of what would be inevitable, a few months later, were already subliminally germinating.

Norman Smith wasn’t an idiot and perhaps he was indeed thinking of an alternative future for the band, with a new singer/guitarist and new songs. Like we stated before, Norman was not just a producer, he was a shareholder in the Pink Floyd company and trying to save his investment.

So, he might have thought, let’s send Syd home after the work on Set the Controls and bring in this new guy, to “test out” one of the songs he wrote. Won’t do any harm, will it?

Norman Smith has always been something of a hustler. Back to Juliet Butler:

We have buckets of reel to reels. And we are currently trying to gather as much information about his life, and his music for some kind of project. (...)

But of course, it’s not the only recording of it [Early Morning Henry]. We have numerous recordings of it on reel to reel. But nothing on digital yet. We’re working to convert it. We might be able to compare the different recordings and pinpoint a date to see if it corresponds to anything in our archives. If we don’t have [the] tape [from the Pink Floyd session] then Norman Smith’s daughter would have it.

We are also wondering if there’s a chance that Norman Smith overdubbed dad‘s voice onto the track, and then cut the vinyl from that.
Billy Butler
Billy Butler.

When Juliet was given the news that the Jamarnie Music Library mentions Pink Floyd as the backing band on the acetate her earlier opinion changed completely:

It is a very curious catalogue entry attached to this vinyl that seems to indicate that this, in fact, was Pink Floyd as the backing band.

You have to remember most of the musicians working in the scene were moonlighting around town. My dad might not have recognized the musicians he played with as being Pink Floyd per se.

And from our previous Billy Butler article (Singing A Song In The Morning), we know that he moonlighted a lot, singing on sound-alike records and having a single under the pseudonym Prock Harson.

Will certainly be continued…

Update October 7, 2020: we received a message from the seller of this acetate and we quote:

Can I please ask you to remove my name from any mentions on your article at the Church Of Iggy, as it is personal information and by now it has come to defamation of character and if not removed I am very sorry but I will have to contact my solicitors.

His name has been removed from the above article (and it has also disappeared from the Neptune Pink Floyd article, BTW, where several forum posts have suddenly been censored).

PS: at the time of publication of this article the two big ‘independent’ Pink Floyd fansites did not find the time yet to write about this pretty important discovery. When they are good dogs Pink Floyd sometimes throws them a bone in.

Auction Result

On the 16th of October the acetate was sold for the surprisingly low sum of £3,000, but according to the seller that is pretty much what was expected. If it had been a Billy Butler song, without some of the Pink Floyd members, it would have stayed in the three digit range.

Early Morning Henry Auction Result
Early Morning Henry Auction Result.

Meanwhile the seller has removed the YouTube sample video from the web, as he had promised to do.


Many Thanks to Antonio Jesús Reyes from Solo En Las Nubes for warning the Church about this news.
Many Thanks to Neptune Pink Floyd for mentioning the Holy Church in their article.
Many Thanks: Ulrich Angersbach, Edgar Ascencio, Azerty, Juliet Butler, Friend of Squirrels, Goldenband, Hadrian, Hallucalation, Jumaris, Modboy1, David Parker, Borja Narganes Priego, Jon Charles Newman, Punk Floyd, Ewgeni Reingold, Shakesomeaction, Mark Sturdy, Wolfpack, Randall Yeager.
Many Thanks to the beautiful people of Birdie Hop, Late Night, Neptune Pink Floyd & Yeeshkul.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥

This article is a follow-up of: Singing A Song In The Morning. More and better images at our Tumblr: Billy Butler.

Links:
Neptune Pink Floyd: Early Morning Henry featuring Pink Floyd Found – Listen Now!
YouTube: Pink Floyd & William Billy Butler Early Morning Henry Unreleased UK 1967 Demo Acetate, Psych !!!
Wessex Auction Rooms: VINYL - PINK FLOYD & William Billy Butler (William Henry Butler) - EARLY MORNING HENRY, 1967

Forum Posts:
Birdie Hop: Early Morning Henry
Steve Hoffman Music Corner: Pink Floyd - Fictional Second Album with Syd Barrett
Late Night: Early Morning Henry found!
Neptune Pink Floyd: Listen to Early Morning Henry featuring Pink Floyd
Yeeshkul: Listen to Early Morning Henry featuring Pink Floyd

Sources (other than the above mentioned links):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2013, p. 319.
Parker, David: Random Precision, Cherry Red Books, London, 2001, p. 103-105.
Povey, Glenn: Echoes, the complete history of Pink Floyd, 3C Publishing, 2008, p. 69.