Personalities | Pink Floyd | The Barrett-Led Era (1967) | Key Events
Early Recording Sessions
Working for the London arm of Elektra Records, Joe Boyd had already produced artists like The Incredible String Band. Peter Jenner and Andrew King had given him a rough Pink Floyd demo with a view to securing a deal. Although Elektra boss Jac Holzman did not go for the Floyd, Boyd, as musical director of the UFO, loved the band and arranged and produced their first recording session. Two Syd Barrett-penned tracks, ‘Arnold Layne’ and ‘Let’s Roll Another One’ (later re-titled ‘Candy And A Currant Bun’), were recorded over two nights in January 1967 at the four-track Sound Techniques studio.
Sign With EMI
The Boyd-produced sessions had been financed by the band’s new booking agents who believed that ‘Arnold Layne’ (despite being about a man who stole ladies’ knickers) was strong enough to secure a deal with a major label. There had been interest from Polydor, but EMI offered £5,000. This was accepted and Floyd – professional since February 1967 – invested in that most-important asset for the leading psychedelic band in England: a new Ford Transit van! Floyd still had to perform a 30-minute ‘audition’ for EMI, ‘a futile exercise in our case,’ wrote Nick Mason, ‘since we had already signed’.
The first Pink Floyd single ‘Arnold Layne’/’Candy And A Currant Bun’ was released to the world on 11 March 1967. Despite a partial radio ban due to lyrical content (it had a transvestism theme) ‘Arnold Layne’ reached the Top 20 in the UK charts. Concise, sharp and with delicious harmonies and a taut Richard Wright organ solo, ‘Arnold Layne’ rivalled The Kinks, The Who and The Beatles in turning pop singles into art-rock. There was later a promotional ‘Arnold’ film made of the band messing about on a Sussex beach with masks and a dummy.
Technicolour Dream Concert
‘Our music is like an abstract painting,’ Syd Barrett told teen-mag Trend, ‘it should suggest something to each person.’ Combined with increasingly sophisticated lighting effects, Floyd were generating all manner of sonic ideas from the shadows with Barrett employing feedback, a Zippo lighter on his strings and a Bintone echo unit. Rick Wright’s compelling organ drones and swells were underpinned by Waters’ melodic bass and Mason’s intuitive drumming often using softer tympani mallets instead of drumsticks. Their appearance at the end of the International Times’ 14-hour long Technicolour Dream concert at Alexander Palace was their best gig – to date.
Games For May
Floyd’s Games For May concert was held at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 12 May 1967. Not only did they deploy slides and light, but projected film onto a white-screen backdrop. Even bubble machines were employed to make the event visually memorable. Tracks from their debut album were aired, including ‘Bike’, ‘Pow R Toc H’, ‘Matilda Mother’ and a new song, ‘Games For May’, which Barrett wrote specifically for the event; it would later be re-titled ‘See Emily Play’. The band were then...
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