Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Pink Floyd Sound

Take notes. In the fall of 1965, fledgling musicians Roger Waters (guitar), Richard Wright (keyboards) and Nick Mason (drums), students at the Regent Street Polytechnic in Westminster (London), formed the band Sigma 6. Finding little success, the band changed its name to The Tea Sets, yet again renaming themselves The Abdabs before the end of the year. Not done. With new members Clive Metcalf (bass), Keith Nobles and Juliette Gale (backing vocals), the band tried on for size The Screaming Abdads and The Architectural Abdabs. In 1966, The Abdabs broke up. Not a year would pass since the first carnation when the band once again became Sigma 6. Waters switched to bass guitar and recruited two new guitar players; Bob Klose and Roger Syd Barrett. Klose’s involvement was minimal and before the end of the year, the band had gained a dab of notoriety as The Meggadeaths. There are some accounts of Klose, spelled with a C instead, remaining in the band even after Barrett coined the moniker The Pink Floyd Sound, a contraction of the names of two American bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council; and before or after The Meggadeaths there were Leonard's Lodgers and The Spectrum 5, and then The Abdabs once again. Got it?
The Tea Sets: Syd Barrett, Bob Klose, Chris Dennis and Roger Waters

A little more than a year later, Pink Floyd (losing the The and the Sound), found themselves at EMI (Abbey Road) Studios recording "Arnold Layne," a song about a crazy transvestite who steals women's clothes. That same year, with Barrett at the helm and after several successful 45s, including the smash, "See Emily Play," Pink Floyd recorded The Piper At The Gates of Dawn down the hall at Abbey Road from where The Beatles were recording Sgt. Pepper. Makes it sound easy, dunnit? Convoluted, but easy. (Imagine that, btw, Piper and Sgt. Pepper recorded in the same place at the same time - surreal.)

Piper at the Gates of Dawn
With the making of Piper, Pink Floyd first discovered LSD. It was said that the amount of acid Pink Floyd took in this period could obliterate (it’s a 60s LSD term) the population of a small country (like England). It was based on this that Barrett, the most prolific user, may have had his metal breakdown due the amount of drugs or his clinical depression or schizophrenia,  and he was replaced (read that as fired) by a friend from Cambridge, Dave Gilmour. Nick Mason described Syd at the time as "completely distanced from everything going on." Pink Floyd's next album, A Saucer Full of Secrets, was a mix of both Barrett's and Gilmour's work, but it was not nearly as successful as Piper. There were those who saw the rise of The Pink Floyd Sound, and the extravaganzas associated with their concerts, as fire by gasoline, a flash in a pan. For clarity's sake, Pink Floyd did indeed contain five members, including Barrett, from January 12th to the 20th (1967), and within that timeframe Pink Floyd recorded their only track as a five-piece, with both Gilmour and Barrett on guitar.

On the BBC's Look of the Week broadcast of May 14, 1967, Pink Floyd played "Astronomy Domine" before Waters and Barrett sat down for a rather tense interview with classically trained musician and critic Hans Keller. It's interesting to watch Keller's face as he expresses his extreme irritation at the band’s loud, strange music. "My verdict is that its a little bit of a regression to childhood," he says with a grimace. "But after all, why not?" It would prove Barrett's last appearance as a member of the band.

Paul McCartney, who the band met while recording Piper, was the only Londoner of The Beatles at the time, and still single. Sundays you could find him at the UFO (The "You-fo") where Pink Floyd were essentially the house band. Once again a foursome, Pink Floyd would stumble into the 70s without a clear idea of who they were and without an inkling of who they would become. Ummagumma, north country slang for getting one's groove on, and More would attempt to normalize the PF ideology, and in these LPs, if one listens intently, can indeed be heard the genesis of the biggest band of all time.