Thursday, April 14, 2011

Syd Barrett - Psychedelic Freak Out

Psychedelic Freak Out (Godfather Records GR 483)

This release from Godfather draws a hard, dark line under the above quote, showcasing a mish mash of some of the best of Syd’s various demos & studio out takes. The main bulk of this release spans Syd’s solo releases with a dash of Pink Floyd on the side to exemplify his work within that group. Presumably lifted from the epic 17 Internet tree’d CD set “Have You Got It Yet” this makes a far more interesting listening experience than the bigger set. For anyone who wants to pick through the murky depths of his back catalogue with out trawling through various different takes, outfakes, Oopsed tracks or interviews then it’s a great way to start. The Godfather has created this CD chronologically too so we can hear how Syd’s sound evolved or devolved through out his short recording career.

1. Interstellar Overdrive ( Demo - October 31st 1965 ). I suppose, true to the date, this piece was recorded on Halloween at the Thompson Private Recording Studios for the short film “San Francisco” by filmmaker Anthony Stern And is certainly nightmarish compared to it’s commercial sister recording. Recorded much faster than the CV & without the plodding, meandering “Steptoe & Son” styled riff. A few elements remain throughout such as the meandering guitar riff that permeates the track. It should be noted that this track also lasts a few seconds shorter than the track that was released on the “Have You Got It Yet” internet treed CD.

2. See Emily Play ( May 21, 1967 - Acetate With Alternate Ending ). Not a great deal different from the CV to my ears. The alternate ending would seem to suggest that the sitars are abbreviated slightly on the acetate.

3. Scream Thy Last Scream ( August 7, 1967 - Malcolm Jones mix 1987 ). The unreleased follow up to ‘See Emily Play’ & one of two tracks ( Inc. Vegetable Man ) that were pulled from the 1988 rarities album “Opel”. Another rather disturbing track from the dark rooms of Barrett’s mind with Nick Mason’s vocal being aped by a high pitched gnomic voice ( Actually Barrett. ) Without the double track vocal then the track might have stood a very good chance of actually getting a release but i can only guess that the reason it was left off is because of the allusions to the voices that could have been a little too close to Syd’s madness for some tastes. Filled with mind skewering time changes, violent themes & rapidly surreal lyrics it’s on of the highlights from the unreleased cannon.

4. Vegetable Man ( October 1967 - Malcolm Jones mix 1987 ). This unreleased track is somewhat less fun to listen to. Written autobiographically from Barretts point of view it makes a point of being almost Spectoresque in filling each nook & cranny with oddball noises, sounds & various chattering, it’s a song that just doesn’t really want go anywhere or even if it did wouldn’t know what to do with itself when it got there. a pantomime in obscurity.

5. Vegetable Man ( 1967 Mix from Mason Interview ). Recorded from a reel to reel tape that Nick Mason brought with him to an interview with a nameless collage student in March 1969. The subsequent interview tape has gone missing in the interim but dubs had been made of the musical parts of the interview. Sounding very much like an off air radio recording ( this isn’t a quiet under the table recording ) the track sounds markedly different to it’s 1987 compatriot. This on has a little more move about it with a rampant, crazy guitar line wringing through it & with a powerful drum track administered throughout. We can also ( almost ) hear Mason’s views on the track as he runs through his interview

6. Silas Lang ( May 6, 1968 - Backing track ). Noted as being “Silas Lang, this is RM 1 from four track, take 1? by the recording engineer. This track starts out rather optimistic for a Barrett written track with a rather twee strummed guitar line but then turns in to an altogether darker guitar track utilizing, according to Roger Waters “a great plan…to expand the group, get in two geezers, some two freaks that he’d met someplace or other. One of them played banjo and the other played saxophone. We weren’t in to that at all and it was obvious the crunch had finally come”. Another of Syd’s ideas gone awry then but it also shows that Syd wasn’t always the doom & gloom merchant that some of his later Floyd recordings suggest but rather when he put his mind to it was capable of producing elegant & world wise tracks such as this one. It reminds me of some of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band’s tracks - particularly Topo D’ Bill’s “Witchi Tai To” or rather his cover of the Harpers Bizarre cover. It’s just a shame that the track was never actually finished but, seems to be reported as being a work out to the beginning of the track “Swan Lee” ( see track 9 )

7. Lanky - Part 2 ( May 14, 1968 ). Another tribal influenced track rather like “Silas Lang” ( above ). Sounding like an authentic, simple, track with an african hollow drum sound. It’s obviously a simple riff that Barrett was toying with but one that was never finished up. This track is also speculated to be known as Rhamadan as they were recorded in the same date. It’s pure speculation mind & without the Motorbike sounds Barrett wanted to add to it there’s really no way of knowing.

8. Golden Hair ( May 28, 1969 Instrumental - Gareth Cousins mix 1988 ). Starting ominously like one of Brian Wilson’s “SMiLE” tracks ( although it would be difficult to pinpoint who might be influencing who at this time .. ) one of Barrett’s most down beat & maudlin tracks but presented here as an instrumental. Not as effective without Syd’s lyrics but to which that might be missing the point. The instrumentation might work as just the trick for some & so will be appreciated. This was proposed for the “Crazy Diamond” release but left off for an earlier recorded version.

9. Swan Lee ( June 20, 1968 - Backing Track ). Taking the same route as “Silas Lang” a groove revolving around a mumbling, noodled bass part.

10. Clowns & Jugglers ( July 20, 1968, Take 1 - Alternate with with Studio chat ) “Octopus” in different sleeves. Not a great deal of difference from the Opal release but the “studio chat” referred to at the beginning is the studio announcement “This is ‘Clowns & Jugglers’ RS 1 from Take 1 on reel 69631?.

11. Love You ( April 11, 1969 ). The Syd from the old days. Free from the menace & doom of his later recordings & back to the seaside parade & whimsy of his earlier recordings. The track has a very Beatley type of jangle. This version is free of the out of tune bar room piano & is wildly underproduced compared to the CV.

12. Clowns & Jugglers ( May 3, 1969. Take 2 - Keyboard Mix ). Often there are very good reasons why one piece of an artists oeuvre remains unreleased or unrealised. This mix of the “Madcap Laughs” sessions track is truly the work of an over exaggerated mind. Powerfully over egged & messy the reason that this was released as a pared down & almost acoustic song in the end must be that it was thought to be too far our for public consumption. Thing of Captain Beefheart at his most fevered & wacked out & this mix comes perilously close.

13. Long Gone ( July 26, 1969. ) Sounding like an early, stripped back demo version rather than the augmented organ version found on the ‘Madcap .. ‘. A track thats very close to the Sound of Skip Spence on his “Oar” album.

14. Dark Globe ( July 27, 1969 - Choral Version. Peter Jenner 1974 Echo mix )

15. Dark Globe ( July 27, 1969 - Choral Version. Malcolm Jones 1987 Clean mix. ) Tracks 14 & 15 are two sides of the same coin. The ‘Choral’ tag refers to Syd’s delayed double tracked voice. The main two differences being that the 1987 version is somewhat tighter & wider than the 1974 version & less scummy to listen to. The second difference is that in the ‘74 Mix Barretts singing voice is heard quite clearly over the choir where as on the ‘87 mix the two voices are brought closer together in the mix the difference is not so obvious. The session log seems to omit the fact that there was a session on the 27th of July so we either have to assume that there was no session & the tapes are wrongly labled ( and the 26th of July was the actual last session ) or the 27th was when the mixes of this track were submitted.

16. Maisie ( February 26, 1970 - Alternate mix w/ extra vocals. ) Starts with a clip of studio chat ( sounds like “Put The Kettle on”? ) this version differs to the track on “Barrett” by adding additional spoken word vocals panned from center to left & right. Maybe Syd had influenced what Yoko Ono was about to be doing with her solo album as this track sounds ominously like one of the ‘Plastic Ono Band’ Sessions tracks but with a little of the Barrett magic on top.

17. Slow Boogie ( August 12, 1974. )

18. “John Lee Hooker Inspired” ( August 12, 1974 ) Tracks 17 - 18 are from the much fabled 1974 sessions when Peter Jenner managed to get Syd back in to the studio for a rough 4 days of ‘work’. Both of these tracks feature much less than the work we’d come to expect from Syd who’s mental state must have failed him so much by this time that to focus at all would have been a struggle. of the 8 pieces bootlegged from these sessions these two must have been chosen as ‘best’ although the rest of the material is fragmentary & untogether. Both titles allude as much to the sound contained therein - two blues inspired tracks that sound like Nick Drake’s legendary home tapes where he can be heard strumming away old blues classics although at least Nick had songs,. the riffs that Syd plows through must have, at the very least, been made up on the spot or half remembered from his own record collection. One can only assume that this was what Syd was listening to at home at the time for them to be at the forefront of his mind or they were just the easiest thing to play ..

19. In The Beechwoods ( 1967. Backing Track. ) Another track from the Mason interview tape that never was. “In The Beachwoods” has a very soulish if Floydian groove. Think Tamala Motown as realised by Syd Barrett. it sounds like a great track if only it had have been finished up & could have been another great commercial success for the group had Syd not taken the direction he did. The track, as mentioned, is taken from the interview tape so besides being played loud had a nasty, shrill clip to the top end & a clicky, strange flutter to the tape but this does nothing to desecrate the fact that it’s unreleased Floyd.

Bonus Track

20. Interstellar Overdrive ( Pink Floyd live supporting the Jeff Beck Group, Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA, July 27, 1968. ) To top it all off a slightly distant audience recording of the Floyd in America supporting the Jeff Beck Band. Lunacy abound in this section with the middle section taking the form of a happening of sorts. By all accounts this was the form of the track at the time & fans of this era Floyd or students of underground forms will find something to listen to here.

All in all, this is an excellent Syd Barrett disc and a great addition to any Syd collection!


marram62 said...

aldo said...

The artwork is cool with that fantastic shot of Syd.
I probably heard most if not all of this. I'd like to hear it though, so thanks a lot!
As you say it seems a good way of approaching Syd's unreleased work.
You mention sitars (!) for See Emily Play: I would say the Floyds NEVER used one...
On the bonus track: if the date is correct Syd would have left the Floyds by then, around 5 months earlier...

Prof. Grewbeard said...

thank you very much, you've got a lucky space...

marram62 said...

i'm glad ya dig it!

peskypesky said...

love Syd! looking forward to hearing this. thank you!

marram62 said...

you're welcome

Anonymous said...

Thanks & specially love the GOlden Hair version on here


A-Mfan said...

An excellent collection that no Floyd/Syd fan should be without. Thanks for sharing it.