Session #1 – A Fish Out Of Water

Tracks for this session :

Pink Floyd 1965 Demos
 1. Lucy Leave
 2. Double O Bo
 3. Remember Me
 4. Walk With Me Sydney
 5. Butterfly
 6. I'm A King Bee
Joker's Wild 1965 Demos
 1. Why Do Fools Fall In Love?
 2. Walk Like A Man
 3. Don't Ask Me (What I Say)
 4. Big Girls Don't Cry
 5. Beautiful Delilah
1. I Get Stoned Alone (Live 1966) - Pink Floyd
Tonight Let's All Make Love In London... Plus! (soundtrack)
 1. Interstellar Overdrive - Pink Floyd
 2. Nick’s Boogie - Pink Floyd

The two things that immediately come to mind when listening back to these early Floyd demos are the fact that until recently four out of the six tracks were completely unknown to me despite having been collecting for so long, and the 1996 hunt for a semi-rare Italian import book/CD combo that included the other two tracks in, what was at the time and still kind of is, a fascinating format.

The mid-1990s was an incredible time to be getting into Pink Floyd. March 28th, 1994 brought the release of “The Division Bell”, their first album since 1987’s “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason” and the second without songwriter Roger Waters. Two days later, a 7 month world tour began, culminating in the release of the live album, PULSE, on May 29th, 1995. As someone who’s fandom was already building, the swell of interest in the band and their catalog was exciting. One of the really interesting ongoing conversations I remember on the Floyd IRC chat rooms and mail lists around this time was about the inclusion of the Syd Barrett-penned song “Astronomy Domine” in the band’s setlist. The song which had not been played live since 1970/71 was not only part of the new tour, but also served as the opening song for the first show in Florida. If that weren’t enough, the song also saw two different live releases – one on PULSE (recorded at Earl’s Court, London, on October 15th, 1994), the other as the B-side of the “Take It Back” single (recorded at Joe Robbie Stadium, Florida on March 30th, 1994).

With “Astronomy Domine” being featured so prominently, the discussions naturally turned to the  whereabouts and status of founding Pink Floyd member Syd Barrett. Having all but disappeared from the music scene in the very early 1970’s, information about him during the intervening years was scant and limited to fan group publications and occasional magazine articles. But, as it has for just about everything else, the Internet changed all that. By the time PULSE came out, websites were popping up all over with stories of people having recently seen Syd on the street, some even included (sometimes questionable) photos!

A short while later in the summer of 1996, word started to circulate about an Italian book release  that was due out featuring a 1995 interview with Syd’s sister, Rosemary Breen. That book, “Syd Barrett, A Fish Out Of Water”, was also rumored to include an audio CD containing an acetate transfer of two early Pink Floyd songs (billed at the time as the Architectural Abdabs), “Lucy Leave” and “I’m A King Bee”. At the time I’d only read about the existence of these early demo recordings, but had not been able to find any bootlegs that included them. Being an Italian import and a potentially small production run, I had a feeling “A Fish Out of Water” wouldn’t be the easiest thing to get ahold of, though I did have two good semi-local places to start looking. To complicate matters, with the limited information available, I was not able to find a definitive release date for it which meant it could be quite a hunt.

As the fall of 1996 began and the busy season at work came to a close (more on the job situation at the time in a future post), I was able to start my usual weekend record store rounds and try to track this thing down.  The first two targets on my search would be Jack’s Music Shoppe in Red Bank, and Vintage Vinyl in Fords – both in New Jersey. Jack’s would be up first as it was really close to my grandparent’s place in Eatontown, and uncle’s house in Fairhaven and I always liked stopping by for a quick visit when I was in the area.

map-brick-to-redbank
Route to Jack’s Music Shoppe

Sadly, the search didn’t start off well. Jack’s did not have a copy in stock and worse, they weren’t able to find it in their system to order one. In the past I’d had some luck special ordering discs there, but in this case it seemed fortune would not be on my side. I’d have to press on to Vintage Vinyl.

map-redbank-to-vv
Route to Vintage Vinyl

The drive up to the Fords/Woodbridge, NJ area was always a fun one. The Garden State Parkway heading north wasn’t usually too bad depending on the time of day, but Route 287 and US Route 1 were typically congested. Funny to think, at the time I had no idea that 20 years in the future I would be both living and working pretty close to Vintage Vinyl, and in late 2005 I would be involved in a bad accident, nearly totaling my car, while on my way to that very same record store (more on that in a future blog).

Despite the trials involved in driving there, Vintage Vinyl was worth the trip. It was then, and is now, one of the very best record stores in the state. Not only is it HUGE, they regularly stocked a healthy supply of imports as well as maintaining fantastic used bins. It was near effortless to drop $100+ per visit, and I’d done so quite regularly. The only downside was that they did not carry bootlegs, ah well. This time, though, it would be a rare miss. “A Fish Out of Water” wasn’t hiding amongst the Pink Floyd or the Syd Barrett sections, but I was not completely out of luck.

They were able to find it in their computer system and put in an order, though they could not give me a timeframe as to when it might arrive. Better than nothing, I’d take it.

Of course, the best part of going to Vintage was that I would never leave empty handed. I can’t quite recall exactly what I picked up that day, but I’d be willing to wager that the haul included at least one or two Roy Harper albums and various other prog discs.

Almost two months went by before my next visit to Vintage Vinyl (with no phone call). In the meantime I’d made a few stops at my other usual places, Princeton Record Exchange and The Record Store (Toms River, NJ) to no avail. Flipping through the Syd Barrett section, not expecting to find it, there it was. It’s bright neon green and yellow cover stood out immediately. An even bigger surprise was tucked between it’s pages, a miniature 3-inch CD containing the demo tracks I’d been hoping to hear for quite a while. Only problem was, due to the format, I’d have to wait until I got home and found my adapter to play it (the slot-load car stereo only accepted standard sized CDs). But I’d found it! My treasure hunt drawing to a close, I made my way to the register, paid what I think was about $15 and began the journey home.

The minute I arrived I headed straight for the stereo. Digging out my 3-inch CD adapter which looked exactly like this…

cd-adapter-ring

… and placing the disc gently into my Fisher AD-883 player…

fisher-ad-883

… I was immediately introduced to a poppy, bluesy Syd Barrett number that could have easily been the band’s first single. Wow, how had this track never seen the light of day? A catchy riff, Syd belting out lyrics about being mistreated by a love named Lucy (and asking her to leave) complete with jangly guitar solo, what’s not to like?

Lucy Leave

Next up, a cover of the Slim Harpo song, “I’m A King Bee”. At the time, I’d never heard the original so I had no frame of reference. I remember making a mental comparison between the Syd-era Floyd blues sound and the post-Syd jams I’d heard and being impressed that the demo had a similar quality despite being a different lineup.

I’m A King Bee (Pink Floyd) 

I’m A King Bee (Slim Harpo original)

Being a transfer from an acetate, I had expected some pops and ticks here and there but was pleasantly surprised to find the recordings had been cleaned up fairly well. “(I’m A) King Bee” had some slight distortions but overall the songs sounded great. Inserting the CD into my computer today, iTunes identifies it as :

itunes-screenshot

Definitely a wonderful relic (pun only partially intended) to have in my collection. Thankfully with the advent of spindle-load CD drives we no longer need adapters to play back 3-inch compact discs… but then again, just how many are there out there in the world? In all of my musical collecting adventures I’ve amassed a whopping TWO of them! Aside from this one, the only other commercially produced one I picked up was a Todd Rundgren EP complete with picture sleeve :

rundgren-3-inch-cd

And what about the book including the interview with Syd’s sister, Rosemary? While suffering from some translation issues (it appears in the book in both English and Italian versions), it turned out to be quite an interesting read. Aside from the interview, author Luca Ferrari also included a short Syd biography and discography that included bootlegs! In the days before the Internet, this stuff was quite useful!

…and thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can read it for yourself!

It would be just shy of 20 years before I would learn of, and hear, the other four songs that made up the 1965 demo recordings, “Double O Bo”, “Remember Me”, “Walk With Me Sydney” and “Butterfly”. On November 27th, 2015 a vinyl released entitled “1965 : Their Early Recordings” containing all six tracks was released in Europe in a limited pressing of 1,050 copies.

Pink Floyd 1965 Demos

Of course, I wasn’t lucky enough to be able to actually own one of those 1,000ish pressings so I would have to listen online via alternate methods until the “Early Years” boxed set materialized about a year later.

The Joker’s Wild material I discovered online a bit later, though I’m not sure the exact year. As a broad estimate, perhaps sometime in the very early 2000s. There had been a 1997 bootleg CD release of the five song demo disc though I’d never come across it in any of my travels. Supposedly it had been limited to 100 copies so that could explain its rarity.

I think one of the biggest drawbacks of having so much material readily available for download is that it kills the thrill of the hunt. Having such vivid memories of tracking down CDs across dozens of record stores spread across three states makes me feel a little bummed that I can’t recall when I downloaded this or that. Not that I don’t appreciate the convenience as I glance out the window at my snow covered driveway…

Speaking of the thrill of the hunt (or lack thereof), another CD in this session is the extended version of Pink Floyd’s contribution to Peter Lorrimer Whitehead‘s film “Tonite Lets All Make Love in London” including two live instrumental jams, one that would become one of their live staples and another that would never see an official release on a Floyd album. Sadly this one doesn’t have much of a personal story behind it other than the fact that I’d seen it in several stores and passed it up a few times before I’d finally bought it. Packaging is quite minimal, but it does include a fold-out poster featuring the band in some very 60’s outfits!

Ok, so the music itself… stand-out tracks from this session :

  • Lucy Leave – feels like it would have been an ideal A-side for a first single, though Arnold Layne would certainly make more of an impact. Still, it’s a shame this track was never released as it is, in my opinion, a bit better than a couple of the tracks that wound up on Floyd singles.
  • Double O Bo interesting poppy/bluesy feel. Syd had a knack for writing songs that tell stories about characters (Arnold Layne, The Scarecrow, The Gnome, etc). Bo Diddley being a private eye who enjoyed martinis so dry the shaker burst makes me wonder if Syd was a Bond fan?
  • Walk With Me Sydney – I clearly see a parallel between this Waters track and his “Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk” which would appear on Pink Floyd’s first album, “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” in 1967. In 1964/65 Waters was already writing about being ill or otherwise afflicted with debilitating conditions, albeit in a much more upbeat pop format. “Stethoscope” would also feature someone running down a list of ailments except this time to a doctor instead of a potential date. Also notable for being one of the only Floyd songs to feature female vocals which wouldn’t happen again until 1994’s “The Division Bell” if memory serves (not counting “The Great Gig In The Sky” here for obvious reasons). This track also has a great instrumental bit in the middle with some cool organ work by Rick Wright.
  • I’m A King Bee – This one is one of the most curious songs on the demo disc, in my opinion, because it represents something that Pink Floyd never did : cover songs. Perhaps this song was chosen to add a familiar element for record labels and promoters who would be listening to the demo?

Other thoughts :

Remember Me – the vocals on this track really stand out to me as being something I don’t hear again in future Floyd songs. A more aggressive approach to singing, almost yelling at points. Part of me wants to think that maybe Syd was deliberately writing different types of pop songs to show versatility?

Butterfly – Out of all of the Barrett tracks this one sounds the most like something that would have appeared on his 1970 solo albums. I could easily see a slightly reworked version of this track on “The Madcap Laughs” sitting between “Love You” and “No Man’s Land”. Love the bluesy feel to this one and more nice organ work along with a slick baseline by Waters.

The Jokers’ Wild demo I don’t really feel qualified to analyze it as I’ve never been a fan of doo-wop and have quite an aversion to Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. I don’t think I’d be a very good judge as to whether or not these covers are any good. From what I can hear they sound faithful to the originals for the most part.

Looking at the two demos comparatively, it’s clear the different direction the two bands were taking. The Jokers Wild were going for the standard, 5-song disc of familiar covers to circulate to record labels while Syd & company were focused on creating original work despite it potentially limiting their chances at landing a deal.

Syd & Roger interview

Another thing that stands out when thinking about the Floyd demos is the marked difference between what they committed to disc as opposed to the experimental psychedelia they were playing at their shows. The other three tracks in this session make for a perfect illustration of just how opposed the two sounds are.

I Get Stoned Alone – Very similar in feel to Interstellar Overdrive and other Syd-era Floyd psychedelic jams. Shame this isn’t available in a better quality as much of it is too muddy to fully appreciate.

Interstellar Overdrive – Perhaps instrumental that best defined Pink Floyd’s experimental sound. With quite a bit of improvisation, every live performance winds up being a bit different (as would many of their works through the earlier years). https://www.myvideo.ge/v/2623716

Nick’s Boogie – Another psychedelic improv jam with some familiar bits here and there that would wind up finding their way into other pieces.  https://www.myvideo.ge/v/2623718

One could easily make the argument that Pink Floyd was two different bands at the time, the band they wanted to be and the band they felt they had to be to get a record deal. These demo tracks, while wholly different than the live material, do fit in quite well with the Pink Floyd we’d hear on the upcoming singles, “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play”.

To me, an even more interesting comparison would be the four Barrett-written Floyd demos and Syd’s post-Pink Floyd albums “The Madcap Laughs” (1970) and “Barrett” (1970). I think I’ll save this one until I get to those records, though, since this entry is getting quite lengthy!

So what’s next? Session #2 is going to be a mix of Pink Floyd demos, their first two singles, two eyebrow-raising songs from David Gilmour and the mono and stereo versions of Pink Floyd’s 1967 album, “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn”!

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