Personalities | Pink Floyd | The Collaborative Era (1970) | Key Events
The Madcap Laughs
Syd Barrett’s debut solo album The Madcap Laughs was released on 3 January 1970. Assisted, in part by Dave Gilmour, Roger Waters, bass player Jerry Shirley from Humble Pie, Willie Wilson from Quiver and even members of The Soft Machine it had been recorded at considerable expense over numerous sessions mainly due to Barratt’s inability to focus. Some tracks were constructed on the loose rope bridges of Barrett’s un-metric acoustic guitar parts and singing. Like Captain Beefheart’s equally idiosyncratic Trout Mask Replica (1969) gold was struck on compelling tracks like ‘Terrapin’ and ‘Dark Globe’. The goodwill that Barrett retained meant reviews were positive and strong for this collection of off-centre but appealing songs. ‘I like to have really exciting, colourful songs,’ he told a journalist from Melody Maker and when he spoke to Record Mirror was drawn to comment on Ummagumma, ‘The singing’s very good and the drumming is good as well.’
Zabriskie Point Soundtrack
Pink Floyd’s third soundtrack project was recording some tracks for Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni’s film on American counterculture Zabriskie Point. In the studio for two weeks the band were confronted with a perfectionist. ‘We had each piece of music and we did about six takes of each, and he’d choose the best,’ Rick Wright told Beat Instrumental magazine. Many thought that Pink Floyd’s music would have suited Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 (1968) especially the psychedelic death/rebirth at the end of the film. When Kubrick wanted to cut and use a segment from ‘Atom Heart Mother’ for A Clockwork Orange (1972) Waters refused.
Ummagumma began to provide Floyd with an audience in America, and in April 1970 the band returned to undertake the first of two tours that year. In San Francisco, manager Steve O’Rourke hired Bill Graham’s Fillimore West to ensure the set-up of lights and sound by Floyd’s growing road crew was perfect. Floyd dispensed with support acts whose equipment got in the way of Mason’s impressive barrage of tympani, percussion instruments and gong which Waters would theatrically attack during performance. Shows were played in Los Angeles and Atlanta before their equipment – valued at £15,000 – was stolen in New Orleans. Luckily the boyfriend of a girl in the hotel Floyd were staying worked for the FBI and quickly located the equipment, allowing the tour to continue.
Extravaganza ’70 – Music And Fashion Festival
Although Syd Barrett’s record label gently coaxed him into a couple of interviews to promote The Madcap Laughs and the single ‘Octopus’, anything else was an uphill task. A live tour was out of the question, although Barrett did perform in the studio for John Peel’s Top Gear accompanied by Dave Gilmour on bass and Jerry Shirley on drums. He also made a fleeting appearance with the pair at the London Extravaganza ‘70 – Music And Fashion Festival playing ‘Terrapin’, ‘Gigolo Aunt’, ‘Effervescing Elephant’ and ‘Octopus’ before deciding to put down his guitar...
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