1963–1967: Early Years

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Posted on Mon, 02/16/2015 - 8:10pm
by Angie Spray

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Formation

Roger Waters met drummer Nick Mason while they were both studying architecture at the London Polytechnic at Regent Street. They first played music together in a group formed by Keith Noble and Clive Metcalfe with Noble's sister Sheilagh. Keyboardist Richard Wright, a fellow architecture student, joined later that year, and the group became a sextet named Sigma 6, the first band to include Waters, who was at this time playing lead guitar; Wright, who at first played rhythm guitar since there was rarely an available keyboard; and Mason on drums. The band started performing during private functions, while rehearsing in a tearoom in the basement of the Regent Street Polytechnic. They performed songs by The Searchers and material written by their manager and songwriter, fellow student Ken Chapman.

In September 1963, Waters and Mason moved into a flat at 39 Stanhope Gardens, near Crouch End London, owned by Mike Leonard, a part-time tutor at the nearby Hornsey College of Art and the Regent Street Polytechnic. Mason moved out after the 1964 academic year, and guitarist Bob Klose moved in during September 1964, prompting Waters' switch to bass. Sigma 6 went through a number of other transitory names, including the Meggadeaths, the Abdabs and the Screaming Abdabs, Leonard's Lodgers, and the Spectrum Five before settling on the Tea Set. In 1964, as Metcalfe and Noble left to form their own band, guitarist Syd Barrett joined Klose and Waters at Stanhope Gardens. Barrett, two years younger, had moved to London in 1962 to study at the Camberwell College of Art. Waters and Barrett were childhood friends; Waters had often visited Barrett and watched him play guitar at Barrett's mother's house. Mason said this about Barrett: "In a period when everyone was being cool in a very adolescent, self-conscious way, Syd was unfashionably outgoing; my enduring memory of our first encounter is the fact that he bothered to come up and introduce himself to me."

Noble and Metcalfe left the Tea Set in late 1963, and Klose introduced the band to singer Chris Dennis, a technician with the Royal Air Force (RAF). In December 1964, they managed to secure their first recording time, at a studio in West Hampstead, through one of Wright's friends, who let them use some down time for free. Wright, who was taking a break from his studies, did not participate in the session. When the RAF assigned Dennis a post in Bahrain in early 1965, Barrett became the band's frontman. Later that year, they became the resident band at the Countdown Club, near Kensington High Street in London, where from late night until early morning they played three sets of ninety minutes each. During this period, spurred by the group's need to extend their sets in order to minimise song repetition, came the band's "realisation that songs could be extended with lengthy solos", wrote Mason. After pressure from his parents and advice from his college tutors, Klose quit the band in mid-1965 and Barrett took over on lead guitar. The group first referred to themselves as the Pink Floyd Sound in late 1965. Barrett created the name on the spur of the moment when he discovered that another band, also called the Tea Set, were to perform at one of their gigs. The name is derived from the given names of two blues musicians whose Piedmont blues records Barrett had in his collection, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.

By 1966, the group's repertoire consisted mainly of rhythm and blues songs and they had begun to receive paid bookings, including one for a performance at the Marquee Club in March 1966, where Peter Jenner noticed them. A lecturer at the London School of Economics, Jenner was impressed by the sonic effects Barrett and Wright created, and with his business partner and friend Andrew King, he became their manager. The pair had little experience in the music industry and used King's inherited money to set up Blackhill Enterprises, purchasing about £1,000 worth of new instruments and equipment for the band. It was around this time that Jenner suggested they drop the "Sound" part of their band name, thus becoming the Pink Floyd. Under Jenner and King's guidance, the group became part of London's underground music scene, playing at venues including All Saints Hall and the Marquee. While performing at the Countdown Club, the band had experimented with long instrumental excursions, and they began to expand upon these with rudimentary but visually effective light shows, projected by coloured slides and domestic lights. Jenner and King's social connections helped gain the band prominent coverage in the Financial Times and an article in The Sunday Times which stated: "At the launching of the new magazine IT the other night a pop group called the Pink Floyd played throbbing music while a series of bizarre coloured shapes flashed on a huge screen behind them ... apparently very psychedelic."

In 1966, they strengthened their business relationship with Blackhill Enterprises, becoming equal partners with Jenner and King and the band members each holding a one-sixth share. By late 1966, their set included fewer R&B standards and more Barrett originals, many of which would be included on their first album. While they had significantly increased the frequency of their performances, the band were not widely accepted at the time. Following a performance at a Catholic youth club, the owner refused to pay them, claiming that their performance wasn't music. When their management filed suit in a small claims court against the owner of the youth organisation, a local magistrate upheld the owner's decision. However, they were much better received at the UFO Club in London, where a small fan base began to build up around the band. Barrett's performances were enthusiastic, "leaping around ... madness ... improvisation ... [inspired] to get past his limitations and into areas that were ... very interesting. Which none of the others could do", wrote biographer Nicholas Schaffner.

Signing with EMI

In 1967, Pink Floyd began to attract the attention of the mainstream music industry. While in negotiations with record companies, IT co-founder and UFO club manager Joe Boyd and Pink Floyd's booking agent Bryan Morrison arranged for and funded the recording of some songs at Sound Techniques in West Hampstead. Included were the standout track "Arnold Layne" and "Candy and a Currant Bun" as its B-side, both of which they recorded on 29 January 1967. Three days later Pink Floyd signed with EMI, receiving a £5,000 advance. EMI released the band's first single, "Arnold Layne", on 10 March 1967, on its Columbia label. The song's references to cross-dressing led to a ban by several radio stations; however, some creative manipulation by the retailers who supplied sales figures to the music business meant that the single peaked in the UK at number 20.

EMI-Columbia released Pink Floyd's second single, "See Emily Play", on 16 June 1967. It fared slightly better than "Arnold Layne", peaking at number 6 in the UK. They performed on the BBC's Look of the Week, where Waters and Barrett, erudite and engaging, faced tough questioning from Hans Keller. They appeared on the BBC's Top of the Pops, an immensely popular programme that controversially required artists to mime their singing and playing. Though Pink Floyd returned for two more performances, by the third, Barrett had begun to unravel, and it was around this time that the band first noticed significant changes in his behaviour. By early 1967, he was regularly using LSD, and Mason described him as "completely distanced from everything going on".

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Morrison and EMI producer Norman Smith negotiated Pink Floyd's first recording contract, and as part of the deal, the band agreed to record their first album at EMI Studios in London. Mason recalled that the sessions were trouble-free. Smith disagreed, stating that Barrett was unresponsive to his suggestions and constructive criticism. EMI-Columbia released The Piper at the Gates of Dawn in August 1967. The album peaked at number 6, spending 14 weeks on the UK charts. Pink Floyd continued to draw large crowds at the UFO Club; however, Barrett's mental breakdown was by then causing serious concern. The group initially hoped that his erratic behaviour would be a passing phase, but some were less optimistic, including Jenner and his assistant, June Child, who commented: "I found [Barrett] in the dressing room and he was so ... gone. Roger Waters and I got him on his feet, [and] we got him out to the stage ... The band started to play and Syd just stood there. He had his guitar around his neck and his arms just hanging down."

Forced to cancel Pink Floyd's appearance at the prestigious National Jazz and Blues Festival, as well as several other shows, King informed the music press that Barrett was suffering from nervous exhaustion. Waters arranged a meeting with psychiatrist R. D. Laing, and though Waters personally drove Barrett to the appointment, Barrett refused to come out of the car. A stay in Formentera with Sam Hutt, a doctor well established in the underground music scene, led to no visible improvement. The band followed a few concert dates in Europe during September with their first tour of the US in October. As the US tour went on, Barrett's condition grew steadily worse. During appearances on the Dick Clark and Pat Boone shows in November, Barrett confounded his hosts by not responding to questions and staring off into space. He refused to move his lips when it came time to mime "See Emily Play" on Boone's show. After these embarrassing episodes, King ended their US visit and immediately sent them home to London. Soon after their return, they supported Jimi Hendrix during a tour of England; however, Barrett's depression worsened as the tour continued, reaching a crisis point in December, when the band responded by adding a new member to their lineup.

 

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Pink Floyd - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia : taken from - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_Floyd
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