1967 is generally considered the high water mark in rock n roll. (Yeah, I know I already did a post on it. Just bear with me please?.) It was an apex of experimentation and songwriting. Apparently it’s been all downhill since then, even though I had a perfectly good time afterward.
I was only ten years old in 1967, so my enjoyment came via singles, Sgt Pepper and maybe Monkee’s Headquarters. Albums, along with many of the year’s more...exotic pleasures were beyond me, so I can’t help but think I missed all the real fun. This “just missed the real fun” would become a theme in my life. Upon entering a new job, grade, decade or even room, I was always being told what a great time everyone had last time, and that it just isn’t the same now.
I’ve done a lot of catching up since then, but Pink Floyd somehow got left behind. Probably because we had the 1970s era Floyd to distract us. They hit my radar on early FM radio and weird TV music specials. Since this was before my serious record buying days, they would always seem way too daunting to take on. Plus, I was afraid that if mom or dad heard them, they would (correctly) conclude that pot was the inevitable next step. I’d’ve gotten in trouble for it without even having gotten to smoke any.
But in 1973 they broke big, with Dark Side blah blah blah, so you and I and even your mom got to know them. And for the rest of the decade they were actually pretty hard to ignore. So I cared less and less. I found The Wall to be kind of annoying, actually. Not as much as John Lydon, who would wear a Floyd t-shirt with the words “I Hate...” painted on it.
They can now be heard as mainstays on classic rock stations. Where the contents of maybe three albums are still in pretty heavy rotation.
All this kept me away for some time. It was only after having gotten - and loved - the Zombie’s Odyssey and Oracle and the Small Faces Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake - did I venture to dig deeper into flower power era English rock again. So why not check out a record that is now remembered as one of Floyd's best, one featuring the Crazy Diamond Syd Barrett himself?
As is always the case with records of that era, I was less than impressed the first time around, mostly because of all the drug induced whimsy. However, I eventually noticed that Syd was not bad when it came to writing actual tunes, even when the lyrics were a bit off off the rails. I also noticed that the ten minute “Interstellar Overdrive” isn’t content to be merely spacey like so many excursions of that era. There is some pretty aggressive guitar playing on it, too.
And when it comes to the songs, Old Syd turns out to be a bit more down to earth (believe it or not) than the other guys anyway. Otherwise, why are the songs so catchy?
Oh, it’s all kind of hazy like Tame Impala was/is. Plus it’s got a thin crust of 60s-psychedelic cliches on it. But it’s so light and fluffy!
As usual, it took awhile for it to finally hit me. (Mrs. Jaybee was humming it way before me.) And I’m not totally sure I’ll be humming it all six months from now, so I’m going to hold off an unqualified endorsement for now. B+
But between you and me, if anyone brings up Pink Floyd to me again, citing Dark Side or anything after, I’m just going to have to tell them that Piper was their peak, and after Syd left, they were just never the same again.