Recorded over the end of 1967 and early 1968, A Saucerful Of Secrets is transitional record that marked Syd Barrett’s final recordings with Pink Floyd and the birth of their ‘space rock’ direction. It was also the recorded debut of new boy David Gilmour, finding his feet only on the incredible yet somewhat buried solo at the end of “Let There Be More Light”.
A Saucerful Of Secrets is not without filler, catching the band regrouping after Barrett’s departure – Rick Wright’s “See Saw” had the working title of ‘The Most Boring Song I’ve Ever Heard Bar Two’, while Roger Waters’ “Corporal Clegg”, his first oblique rumination on the loss of his father in the Second World War, is fairly unremarkable. Yet when the record hits, it does so extremely well – the frantic, bass driven raga-like “Let There Be More Light” and the final recording the group made with Barrett, “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” develop the cosmic territory marked out by “Astronomy Domine” and “Interstellar Overdrive” from their first album. “Set The Controls” was as relevant to the underground of 1968 as their earlier material had been the previous year.
Although Barrett plays on three of the tracks, it is “Jugband Blues”, recorded in November 1967 that is the most chilling. A song about loss and alienation, its sequencing as the last track really underlines his departure. The Salvation Army Band of North London’s improvisation in the middle is cut abruptly short – just like Barrett’s period within the group – and then, like a postcard from an outer space colony, he returns for the thirty-second coda, culminating in the lines ‘And what exactly is a dream? And what exactly is a joke?’ Although the group was moving forward, it was an early demonstration of just how much his spirit would inform them for the rest of their career.