geeks An even smaller one, but particularly striking tribe in the chaos of scenes from Swinging London. Students mostly, talking in low tones but mostly silent as they queued in front of the Marquee on Wardour Street or in front of the UFO on Tottenham Court Road.

    Underground freak out? Rather not. These guys in velvet pants and brocade vests were polite. Girl? Preferring to roam the boutiques of Kings Road rather than squeezing into cramped sheds where the audience became invisible amid all the colorful bubbling and bubbling from light installations and slide projectors. Seeing, but not being seen.

    Pink Floyd on stage like in a trance

    The Pink Floyd were the kings of Freakland. Competing groups like The Move and The Nice put on shows, abused the organ and jumped in the audience’s faces. Floyd performances were high masses of advanced psychedelism, the musicians immobile as if in a trance staring at their shoes, the fans lost in themselves, not a few sitting in front of the stage, even in the crowded UFO.

    The music meandered, seemed to get out of hand in a time when three-minute pop statements were the ultimate. It’s unmistakable that this student combo from Cambridge came from the blues. And then it was successful with the purest pop: In March 1967 the first single entitled “Arnold Layne” was released.

    Syd Barrett was suspicious of commercial success

    Producer Joe Boyd had fanned out the innocent and controversial work into four tracks and then condensed it into a stunningly powerful mono mix. “Arnold Layne had a strange hobbypicks up on Syd Barrett’s anecdote about a kleptomaniac transvestite who ends up behind bars: “Doors bang, chain gang, he hates it.A few radio DJs found the lyrics too risky, but it was enough for the Top Twenty. “See Emily Play” even made the top ten three months later, which didn’t sit well with Barrett.

    For him, chart positions smelled like “commercialism, to be avoided at all cost”. Little did he know then, of course, that his music, indeed his whole life, would soon slip away from him. One last concentrated effort was still ahead of him: the first album.

    The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is quintessentially Syd’s baby and as dazzling as its creator. Released in August and produced by EMI shop steward Norman Smith, this LP arguably sums up pop year ’67 better than any other, warts and all. Because it’s an erratic record, a kaleidoscope of ingenious, not always fully realized ideas. It’s thanks to Smith’s disciplining influence that the sessions remained reasonably focused, while still throwing off a handful of tracks that still rock to this day.

    Anticipating the coming decline

    The overture ‘Astronomy Domine’, a megaphone and morse, farfisa and echo laden but never overloaded instrumental inspired by Holst’s ‘Planets’, sets the bold course which is continued futuristically on the nearly ten minute opener on page two: ‘Interstellar Overdrive ” offers “plenty of mindblowing sound”, as the critic of the “Record Mirror” was pleased.

    Adventurous, yes utterly magnificent, and yet anticipating impending doom. Pink Floyd – meanwhile without an article in the moniker – were to expand the merely pretentious moment laid out in “Overdrive”, at the time misunderstood as “progressive”.

    Of course not to the advantage of their music, which gradually lost its British eccentricity after “Ummagumma” at the latest. On “Piper” she still stretches her bizarre head, in tracks like “Lucifer Sam”, which Barrett accompanied with a sinister riff, or in the warped existentialism of “The Scarecrow”.

    The audience also changed, freaks became hippies. My fifth and last Floyd gig took place in Stuttgart in the fall of 1970, the auditorium and stage were shrouded in clouds of hash, but with veritable all-round sound reinforcement! quad man “Atom Heart Mother” was still new, “Sit down!” chanted the befuddled, the end.

    More highlights

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