Hits? The Floyd couldn’t care less – By Alan Walsh
Giving pop journalists a hard time is the blood sports of groups. It’s one of the occupational hazards of the job, as anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of the Beatles rapier remarks will tell you.
Last week, it was the Pink Floyd’s turn, which was surprising, for their latest record “Apples And Oranges” isn’t exactly setting the charts alight. Still, I managed to penetrate their initial unreceptive attitude and asked how they felt about the record bombing after “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play” had been so well received.
“Couldn’t care less,” was Syd Barrett’s answer. For the Floyd don’t really regard themselves as primarily a record group. Barrett is an advocate of musical anarchy. He believes that all the group can do is make a record which pleases them. If it’s not commercial—too bad.
“All we can do is make records which we like. If the kids don’t, then they won’t buy it.” Ideally, believes Barrett, groups should record their own music, press their own records, distribute them and sell them.
He feels that the application of commercial considerations is harmful to the music. He’d like to cut out the record company and wholesalers and retailers. “All middle men are bad,” he said.
Co-manager Peter Jenner said that, anyway, the groups have far more idea of what the kids want than the record companies.
Barrett said that the reason the kids dig the Beatles and Mick Jagger is not so much because of their music, but because they always do what they want to do and to hell with everyone else. “That’s why the kids dig them—because they do what they want. The kids know this.”
I met Barrett and guitarist Roger Waters with managers Jenner and Andrew king at the Central Office of Information in Lambeth. They had been viewing a colour film insert of the group for a magazine programme on Britain networked across America and Canada.
The number they filmed was “Jug Band Blues,” written by Barrett which manager Jenner said he had wanted to release as their single instead of “Apples And Oranges.” He said he was pressing for it to be their next single in the New Year.
It is almost a poetic recitation by Barrett, with avant garde sound effects by the group. The centre passage is almost free form pop, with six members of the Salvation Army on the recording session told to “play what you like.”
After the filming, we retired to a nearby coffee bar where Jenner said: “The group has been through a very confusing stage over the past few months and I think this has been reflected in their work.
“You can’t take four people of this mental level—they used to be architects, an artist and even an educational cyberneticist—give them big success and not expect them to get confused.
“But they are coming through a sort of de-confusing period now. They are not just a record group. They really pull people in to see them and their album has been terrifically received in this country and America. I think they’ve got a tremendous things ahead of them. They are really only just starting.”
The Floyds entry into the pop arena was as a psychedelic group. They came in on the surge of lights and psychedelia which is dwindling rapidly today. Were they still using lights or had they made any decision to abandon them?
“Not at all,” said Roger Waters, “With us, lights were not, and are not a gimmick. We believe that a good light show enhances the music. Groups who adopted lights as a gimmick are now being forced to drop them, but there’s no reason why we should.
“In this country, groups were forced to provide their own light shows, whereas in the States, it was the clubs who provided the lights.”
“Really,” said Barrett, “we have only just started to scrape the surface of effects and ideas of lights and music combined; we think that the music and the lights are part of the same scene, one enhances and adds to the other.
“But we feel that in the future, groups are going to have to offer much more than just a pop show. They’ll have to offer a well-presented theatre show.”