Thursday, February 18, 2010

zippo magic for eskimos and UFO's

columbia 45: DB8214

more paisley pattern than you can shake a staff at

A perfect 45. Peerless, and nearly 45 years since its original release, still wholly inimitable.

Involving all the studio trickery that producer, Norman Smith could muster in the early summer of 1967, the real magic of "See Emily Play" is in the song and its performance; the otherwordliness that an allegedly resistant Syd Barrett brought to bear on the recording session.

Childhood friend, David Gilmour - invited by Barrett to those very sessions - later went on record as saying this marked the point of the tipping of the scales and the first outward manifestation of Syd's withdrawl into secrecy and detachment. Ill at ease with what he considered a betrayal on Norman's part, Barrett was appalled by the sheer weight of the production values and retreated into the corner to lay down some traditional slide guitar. Whipping out a Zippo lighter in protest. Just to demonstrate how it ought to be done.

He appeared not to acknowledge Gilmour's intrusion. Or recognize him at all.

Much of what transpired during those sessions is anecdotal and uncorroborated. No paperwork exists in EMI's archive, and the 4 Track master reel was either wiped for subsequent reuse or lost entirely. Hence, the fact "See Emily Play" remains unissued as a genuine stereo remix.

Engineer, Jeff Jarrett's recollection is of an extended, meandering piece cruelly edited down by Smith for radio play; its bridges recorded at Syd's intended pace and doctored to pander to the prevailing zeitgeist. However intriguing, Smith's creative overruling - his determination, maybe, not to be outdone by George Martin - was inspired. A little short of three minutes, he achieves more here for the Pink Floyd than The Beatles ever did over both sides of their supremely overrated "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".

Pink Floyd performed the song on three separate occasions in July, 1967 for the BBC, broadcast live on 'Top of the Pops". While it sealed international recognition for the band, Syd seethed at his being cast as a model pop idol in the same mould as so much industry fodder.

As I touched on in 2008, when contrasting both incarnations of the Pink Floyd:

"There is only ten years between them, like warring siblings, but a lot of water under the bridge. Pink Floyd's "Animals" was their contribution to 1977's summer of contempt, and the ostracized Syd was by that time as bloated and confused as Roger Waters' mutinous vision.

Pink Floyd may not have been flavour of the month on the Kings Road in 1977, but you would have been hard pushed to find anybody with a safety pin through their nose who had a bad word to say about Syd Barrett.

Originally released on June 16, the flip side to this single would later be found too on August's "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn", hitting the shops as the solstice celebrations faded towards autumn with the approaching equinox. Wizard. If you hadn't bought "Emily" a month or two earlier you might possibly have been in for a rude awakening since it didn't make the album. While Syd was on the throne, the Pink Floyd were still very much a singles band. Fast forward ten years and the deal couldn't have been more different."

One might speculate endlessly on Syd's mental condition till the cows come home or are ravaged by dogs. On "Atom Heart Mother" or "Animals".

Over the "Dark Side of the Moon".

Having pevaricated with the best of them
, revisiting the scene of countless accidents and incidents along the way, in the end I am more inclined to believe his paranoia was less as a result of undiagnosed Schizophrenia than the impact of too many drugs on a guileless underlying personality. Much like Brian Jones, it was not the betrayal of any regal blues legacy which did for him in the end, but the brutal machinations and sibling rivalries within the family unit he once presided over. With so much personal identity invested in it, steal it away and there is scarcely anything left of substance.

Syd Barrett was a mover; no architect he. A casualty in a feudal game of chess, his emotional ruin was orchestrated with a clinical disregard for cause and effect. Far from being some unfortunate plagued by demons or rendered unfit by mental illness, he simply floundered in the attempt to assert authority outwith the Pink Floyd. Both his solo albums, "The Macap Laughs" and "Barrett", continue in the same lyrical vein he was previously applauded for, but the tone is at odds with the painstakingly crafted stadium filler the 'new' Pink Floyd would become adept at. Neither are the product of a "broken mind", or some idiot savant, no matter how difficult it may have been to tease a performance from him or polish this newer material into broadly marketable 'units'.

In an interview with Giovanni Dadomo from 1971 - unpublished until 1974 when it appeared in issue #9 of the Barrett fanzine, 'Terrapin' - our crazy diamond is strikingly coherent if noticeably weary, to the point of spent:

GD: Are you into other people's music?
SB: I don't really buy many records, there's so much around that you don't know what to listen to. All I've got at home is Bo Diddley, some Stones and Beatles stuff and old jazz records. I like Family, they do some nice things...

GD: What about the future? Are you looking forward to singing and playing again?
SB: Yes, that would be nice. I used to enjoy it, it was a gas. But so's doing nothing. It's art school laziness, really. I've got this Wembley gig and then another thing in summer.

Syd Barrett was always a raw and mercurial talent.

If the litmus test for creative flair is the calculated cynicism which would deliver "The Final Cut" just fourteen years later, I do not believe Roger Keith Barrett would have cared to participate. Let alone turn up for the exam.

Allow me to add this. There is on hell of lot of dreary motherf@ckers out there passing for 'normal'. Not one of them would I invite home or break bread with.

Syd Barrett: guitar, lead vocals;
Roger Waters: bass, vocals;
Richard Wright: keyboards, organ, vocals;
Nick Mason: drums.

Produced by Norman Smith.
Engineered by Jeff Jarrett.

PINK FLOYD: SEE EMILY PLAY from "See Emily Play b/w The Scarecrow" 45 (Columbia/EMI) 1967 (UK)
PINK FLOYD: SCARECROW from "See Emily Play b/w The Scarecrow" 45 (Columbia/EMI) 1967 (UK)


Unknown said...

Well, thanks for that, Dr Freud. Any other deceased personalities you'd like to diagnose?

ib said...

Well. That depends, Neil. You're not a personality, are you ?

ib said...

The faint possibilty that the web might in fact be some conduit for dead celebrities alarms me a little.

ib said...

See ? You just prompted me to wade back in there and add a couple of paragraphs. Never let it be said I am dismissive.

a said...

trenchant words ib. and well stated. i would add that one of my own thoughts on the 'reason's' why people like syd/rocky/skip ended up the way they did is, drum roll, they liked acid. Its easily liked. And no prizes for guessing that some are just pre-programmed (or -ordained if thats your thing) to get into this stuff. although the acid/mogadon mix always worried me. more urban myth maybe than truth. idle and unfari speculation. but yr spot on on how different this music is from the later polished stuff.
saints preserve us.

ib said...


Yes. Emmett from Art Decade made a succinct observation regarding the very same on an earlier post on "The Madcap Laughs":

"It's common for schizophrenia to "hit" when a person in his or her early 20's, right? So my assumption is that Syd was one of those people who was genetically "programmed" to have a schizophrenic break around his early 20's, and he just hastened this event/made it worse with acid. I really don't think any treatment could have helped too much, and I also don't think acid was the cause as much as an accelerator.

But Syd was a genius for sure. Anyone who says that Syd's reputation has been exaggerated by his soap-opera life and his illness has got a perfect ear - no hole in it."

What really ticks me off is all the crap which gets trotted out regarding Syd being wholly "destroyed" by either the acid or the propensity for degenerative mental illness. This, in the main, coming from other members of the Pink Floyd.

And that asshole, R.D. Laing.

What a fuckin' quack. And self righteous with it.

Funny. I am in a minority with those who actively enjoy both incarcerations of the Floyd. Up to a point, that is. Inevitably one hits a brick 'wall' and can endure no more...

Brushback said...

"Sgt. Pepper" over-rated!! I love it!!

Nazz Nomad said...

Acid will fuck you up. To reference Pink Floyd... "it'll make the thin ice of modern life" even thinner.

ib said...


Yes. Well, "Pepper" has its moments - including the sleeve - but on the whole it is way too mawkish to live up its reputation as a 'breakthrough' album. Besides. I despise "When I'm Sixty-Four" to such a degree that I feel it colours the whole LP.

Both the "White" album and "Abbey Road", on the other hand, are outstanding.


Too much acid in too short a space of time will probably fuck you up. Johnny Thunders had a notorious aversion of it, of course. Then again. Seeking respite in heroin to the point where even the ritual of shooting up offers some kinda fun is scarcely an antidote.

Sometimes breaking through the ice is what's required. If even just to reacquaint yourself of the shit which lies beneath.

Me. I'm a certified picker of scabs.

That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Or gives you just a sore head.

Nazz Nomad said...

Back in my college and post college years (let's say from 17-24), I probably tripped w35-40 times on the various mushrooms, blotter, mesc, etc. I don't know if it was a positive choice longterm. My penchant for "picking scabs" was not beneficial for the drug. It was fun to get high, but not so much fun to get into my head. I think there is a definite personality that is benefited by trips, but I think it's a drug that's a very big powder keg for many (and this is coming from someone who has used "herbal remedies" for three decades plus.

some lids should stay on the jars.

ib said...


That last line, especially. I am probably not much of an advertisment for the benefits of hallucinogenics, myself. But. It's a societal thing, as opposed to a social 'problem'.

We are so bedded down in the State Hothouse, or the little book of manners, that it's too easy to freak when you pull back the veil.

I enjoyed my times on acid. The ill and the quiet. Then again. Hard liquor has always been my dampener of choice. The first pal I turn to in a dilemma.

It's the way it is.

I can take or leave the THC. And the amphetamines. I like them both in small doses, but it's the lysergic rush which gladdens my heart. And sends out the scouting party.

Not the cartoons which does it for me either, but deep in the guts of things.

I'm not counting.

Anto said...

well we can trubndkle on through lots of this and why not but suffice to say there were moments, few that thye were, where i and others went out there with our heads melting on acid listening to funkadelic and the laughs, feels and joy were second to none. no advertisement just a point o add.

ib. good man. your stirring knows no end. in related (?) matters i have just come across Siddharta on me itocuh classic novel app and have been diging that much. funny reading it at 40 yrs of age. still makes sense but difficult to apply.

lsiten to Coltrane Live in Japan to hear some positive effects of acid

Anto said...

but no positive effects on spelling

emmett said...

Ha ha, Anto... was Coltrane - or any of his band - on acid for Live in Japan? If so, that is the best bit of musical trivia to pass my way in quite some time.

Thanks for the compelling ruminations, ib. I stand by my above-quoted analysis. "Emily" is maybe my fave Syd song. Would like to add that the "transitional" post-Syd pre-Dark Side era of Floyd should get the credit for inventing Krautrock :)

ib said...


Spelling is a tough nut to master. Unless you're Aaron's (2nd) wife.

"...melting on acid listening to funkadelic" sounds infinitely more engaging than dusting off the Hesse.

Not that "Siddhartha" sucks, but I always preferred "Steppenwolf".

ib said...

Emmett. You will know by now how I find it imposible to let certain things lie. I keep on having to jab back in the stick.

You're previous comment was too perspicacious not to resurrect. I don't disagree with it. Just the observation - from within the band itself - that Syd was reduced to vegetable man by the time "A Saucerful Of Secrets" saw its release.

Or the prognosis from Laing:

"His brain is gone. Destroyed entirely. There is nothing that can be done for him."

Dr. Fraud.

ib said...

As for "Live in Japan". I don't know if (or when) Coltrane renounced his heroin habit, but like Miles Davis a lot of that jazz is aural Kandinsky and Miro. As hallucinogenic as it comes.

anto said...

well it sems from various readings that the band were heavily into acid more around the time of live in seattle and Om. it is speculated that in his final couple of yrs, coltrane was heavily karma'd out by dippings into lysergics. but Peace on Earth offa Japan sounds like he kept the trippy influence but wratched down the fury of the earlier music. Porters biography is the most forthright about this. one of the two bassists who played on the seattle dates retired to his bungalow in big sur 'depleted by the whole experience' he states. don't want to sound like i think this was the reason the musci sounded as it did, i would say that the master could have gobbled tonnes of the stuff and still been able to chose his notes. but hey, karma man.
way off topic here. sorry.

ib said...

Not off topic at all, I don't feel.

I haven't heard any of this speculation on Coltrane, his quartet, and hallocinogens but it is interesting.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

I was too young for early Pink Floyd to have made an impact on me. I do not think I even have See Emily Play in my collection. Love his solo records, nothing like them.

On holidays this winter the poolside disc jockey played See Emily Play. It was a bit of a peyote dream that.

ib said...

Well. I was too young to have even thought about laying down the LSD for the original 45 too. By a whisker.

I grew up hearing it drummed through my shull, though. Couldn't escape it. I first hunted down - in a faux stereo mix - on the "Relics" budget compiation. A bit of a bargain that. You could pick it up for pennies on the MFP label. The same one The Damned immortalised on their 2nd LP.

Peyote. Jesus. Now you've got me hankering after buttons.

emmett said...

free games for may

wv: nosmarud

ib said...

Thanks, Emmett. I watched this this morning - out the corner of one eye, with no sound - as the kids got ready for school. In between ferrying bowls of cereal.

Ergo, no ergot.

Anonymous said...

Coming somewhat late into the fine analyses and discussion on Syd Barret and PF. An everinteresting subject: creativity and the fried brain. Another acid casuality - who actually made a return from the psyched out abyss of an overloaded mind: once Funkadelic rhythm guitarist Tawl Ross resurfaced a quarter of a century after jumping the G Clinton run funkship. The aptly named "Tal Ross a.k.a. Detrimental Vasoline Giant Shirley" (Coconut Grove, 1995) is a good record by many standards. Spaced out funk frames and layerd mixing drowning tormented vocals. Producer Peter Wetherbee released another album the same year: Blue, with guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, who also played on the Tal Ross ressurection. And the production, songs and style is somewhat similar. And where does this observation lead: is the fried brain able to create by itself, or is it some mastermind situation like Bob Ezrin having a bloated Lou Reed wheeled into the studio to sing on Berlin. Could Syd Barret have returned with greatness or dignity - given the right producer/puppetmaster or friends? Who knows? And who else has?
Great blog by the way - and that is my main point!

ib said...

Some excellent observations, anonymous.

I am habitally late to the trough myself, so I'm especially appreciative that you took the time to comment. Your point regards Ezrin and Reed on "Berlin" is succinct and inspired; without an alliance bent on nurturing and managing him through the darkest of times, it is questionable whether Reed would have survived. Let alone be celebrated for the triumph which is "Berlin".

Jenner, Gilmour and Wright served Barrett only so far as charity allowed. One senses that while conscience dictated they not abandon him completely, he was nonetheless considered a burden.

Waters, of course, had no such compunctions.

While Iggy and Reed enjoyed a sustained support network - no small thanks, in part, to Mr. David Bowie - Syd was largely cut loose. Or left to weather the storm alone.

Thanks too, for your kind words.