Over the holidays, an anonymous benefactor provided us with the amazing and comprehensive Pink Floyd box set, The Early Years 1965-1972. It soon became apparent to me that there was no way I could review this glorious archive in one review–this is a cache that is meant to be savored, and thus we set out now on a thorough examination of this amazing collection. We hope you join us over the next few Thursday afternoons for our comprehensive trip into the formative years of one of the best rock and roll bands of all time.
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Like many rock bands, the genesis of Pink Floyd began in childhood. Roger Waters had a neighborhood friend, Roger Barrett. Though Barrett was two years younger, his musical and artistic talents impressed Waters, who would often attend performances Barrett would give in his home. In 1962, while studying architecture, Waters would meet drummer Nick Mason and keyboardist Richard Wright and would form Sigma 6. The group specialized in covers of pop and R&B covers as well as a handful of originals. Over the next two years, the band would go through a handful of names, and by 1964 were known as The Tea Set. By this time, Barrett had joined the group, and was now their frontman.
In December 1964, the band secured studio time, and recorded a half dozen basic tracks, which would be completed shortly after the new year. Of the six tracks, four were Barrett originals, one was a Waters original, and one was a cover of a classic Slim Harpo track, “I’m A King Bee.” Joining them on electric guitar was Rado Klose, a friend who sporadically played with the group, and Juliette Gale, Wright’s first wife. The Tea Set’s sound was heavily influenced by American music, a distinctively British version of R&B that was very much in vogue.
While these recordings have been considered the Holy Grail of both Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett, its legendary status proves to be greater than the actual recordings. Frankly, these songs are unspectacular. Those seeking early promise may well be disappointed; there’s nothing that sets these songs apart from the hundreds of bands mining this same sort of sign. Sure, it’s interesting to hear the man who would become famous making dark, haunting, and psychologically revelatory psychedelic rock singing happier fare; “Lucy Leave” is a cool R&B rocker, while “Walk With Me Sydney” is a curious take on the Motown sound, with a rather humorous lyric that’s a litany of excuses as to why Sydney can’t go walking with his lady fair. The best song of the lot, though, is “Butterfly,” which serves as a bridge between this first year of existence and what would become The Pink Floyd.
Thankfully, they would get better…