The Piper at the Gates of Dawn…   Leave a comment

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn…

Contractual obligations meant that the band’s first album was recorded at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios in London. Bryan Morrison, their agent, had been instrumental in arranging the band’s contract with EMI, through producer Norman Smith. Although in his 2005 autobiography Mason recalled the sessions as relatively trouble-free, Smith disagreed, claiming Barrett was unresponsive to his suggestions, and often ignored constructive criticism to sing new takes in exactly the same way as previous versions. They experimented with musique concrète, and were at one point invited to watch The Beatles record „Lovely Rita”. Jeff Jarrett was a tape operator at the time, and enthused about their live performances. Both Jarrett and Waters have since surmised that the band’s psychedelic take on music may not have been entirely compatible with the more conventional arrangements preferred by Smith.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was released in August 1967. Pink Floyd continued to perform at the UFO Club, drawing huge crowds, but Barrett’s erratic behaviour was causing them serious concern. The band initially hoped that his deterioration was a phase that he would soon pass through, but other people, including Jenner, and June Child,were more realistic:

… I found him in the dressing room and he was so … gone. Roger Waters and I got him on his feet, we got him out to the stage … and of course the audience went spare because they loved him. The band started to play and Syd just stood there. He had his guitar around his neck and his arms just hanging down.

To the band’s consternation, they cancelled a performance at the Windsor Jazz Festival, informing the music press that Barrett was suffering from ‘nervous exhaustion’. Jenner and Waters arranged for Barrett to see a psychiatrist, but he did not attend. He was sent to Formentera, along with Sam Hutt—a doctor well-established in the underground music scene—but later showed no signs of improvement. A few dates in September were followed by their first tour of the United States,[57] and in his capacity as tour manager Andrew King travelled to New York to begin preparations. The tour suffered serious problems. Visas had not arrived, prompting a series of „hasty” phone calls and the cancellation of the first six dates. Elektra Records had turned Pink Floyd down, and so the band were by default handled by EMI’s sister company, Capitol, which assigned them to their subsidiary, Tower Records. Tower released a truncated version of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (allowing them to release the missing tracks separately) on the same date as the band’s American première at The Fillmore in California, on 26 October 1967. Communication between company and band was almost non-existent, and Pink Floyd’s relationship with Tower and Capitol was therefore poor. Barrett’s mental condition mirrored the problems that King encountered; when the band performed at the Winterland Ballroom, he detuned his guitar during „Interstellar Overdrive” until the strings fell off. His odd behaviour grew worse during further performances, and during a recording for a television programme in the United States he confounded the director by miming the song perfectly during the rehearsal, and then standing motionless during the take. King quickly curtailed their visit to the US, sending them home on the next flight. At one point, Waters found Barrett asleep in his motel room, a cigarette burning through his fingers (a scene that would later inspire a shot in their 1982 film The Wall). Shortly after their return from the US, beginning 14 November the band supported Jimi Hendrix on a tour of England, but on one occasion when Barrett failed to turn up they were forced to replace him with David O’List. Barrett’s depression worsened the longer the tour continued. Wynne Willson left his role as lighting manager at the end of the Hendrix tour, allying himself with Barrett, whose position as frontman was now becoming insecure. He was replaced by John Marsh. Pink Floyd released „Apples and Oranges”, but for the rest of the band Barrett’s condition had reached a crisis point, and they responded by adding a new member to their lineup.


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