Syd Barrett - The Making of The Madcap Laughs


Any historian knows that if you mean to advance your understanding of a specific portion of history, it is extremely important to obtain as many actual facts as possible. Whereas it can be extremely helpful to read others' interpretations of the facts, often things can become blurred over the years and by one author summarizing what another author summarized and so on.

Unfortunately, actually obtaining source materials can be extremely difficult. Indeed, the book you are about to read has been out of print for decades and even then, only a few hundred copies were produced. The vast majority of these, I don't doubt, have become lost. So, it was with great joy that I was able to locate a copy (and for an extremely reasonable rate). The book was originally manually typed using a fairly bad typewriter. It was full of typographical glitches and spelling errors. The grammar is not the best. The text can become extremely confusing and redundant at times.

However, I have done my very best to ensure that every single period and comma has been faithfully reproduced. I've tried to make the following document EXACTLY like my original. Where words were misspelled in the original, I have made corrections. However, when Mr. Jones used "British" spellings, I have kept these the same. (Why do you Brits *have* to use "s" when you need to use "z" ?) Tragically, there is one spelling error that I would *love* to be able to fix, but I have been unable to determine *for sure* what the correct spelling is. I am afraid Storm Thorgerson (or however his last name is really spelled) will be forever doomed to having his name botched. Storm T., should you ever read this, I am really sorry.

The change in media necessitated a few slight modifications to the text, which I sincerely hope do not interfere with your enjoyment of this manuscript:

My copy of the book was not printed very well in places. When I was not able to read certain letters or words, I attempted to make a "best guess" based upon the context. Any letters or words in [ ] are my best guess. If I simply put [], that means that there is enough of an indication on my page to suggest that there is a word there, but not enough to be able to guess at it. If anyone else out there has an original copy, would you please double check these places ? There aren't very many, so it would take only a few minutes.

Many pages had footnotes. The number would appear in the text and the note would appear on the bottom of the page. Since the "pages" in cyberspace either don't exist or can vary radically among machines, I decided to place the whole note into the text at the site of the number. The note is set off from the rest of the text using *'s. The last pages of the book are lists of gigs, sessions, and the like. These also had footnotes, but they were much harder to deal with. I left them in their original positions with respect to the rest of the text. I hope that my doing so does not lead to confusion for you.

Malcolm Jones did Syd fans an incredible service by compiling and publishing this book. It is extremely important aid to any serious Barrett or early Floyd scholar. I am extremely pleased to be able to bring it to you. Please, share it with anyone you know that might be looking for a copy.

Thanks, Mr. Jones.

The Eskimo Spy


Scarcely a year goes by than the rock press, rather like the Times and the first cuckoo of spring, report a 'sighting' of Syd Barrett, usually in Cambridge or in London. Whether these reports are accurate is uncertain, but ever since the early seventies the myth surrounding the man seems to have mushroomed. There is a growing army of admirers who would see him as some sort of living legend, even though his total recorded output consists of little more than three albums. Legend or otherwise, I was able, in a modest way, to be able to assist Syd in recording some of his best remembered solo recordings (I produced the first 'Madcap Laughs' sessions amounting to half of the album). With the exception of the excellent 'Terrapin' publications there has been remarkably little written about Syd, so this is my attempt to remedy this in some small way. This publication is a straight, factual account of the making of the album, 'the Madcap Laughs'. As I kept all my studio production notes and files what follows is an accurate account of events in those few months of 1969.

I had joined E.M.I. Records from Manchester University as a management trainee, although my main passion in life was music. Raised on rock & roll (I was 23 at the time, just a little older, I think, than Syd), I played in amateur groups in my native Southport, and even played on the stage of the Cavern Club (an unpaid, failed, audition in case you want to know!). After a month on the E.M.I. training course, I was, in late 1967, offered the responsibility of acquiring finished recordings from outside, independent producers. This included talents such as Mickie Most and Denny Cordell, who had just signed Procol Harum and the Move to E.M.I., and I naturally accepted. My first signing was 'River To Another Day' by Dave Edmunds' Love Sculpture. Deep Purple, Barclay James Harvest and Tyrannosaurus Rex soon followed. This was the time when the British 'underground' movement was flourishing, and E.M.I.'s corporate image could make acquiring masters difficult in face of the competition from progressive companies such as Island Records. In view of this I campaigned within E.M.I. for the establishment of a label with a more contemporary image than Parlophone and Columbia. I eventually had my way, and was given the task of establishing and running the new label, which I called Harvest, in addition to my other duties. After a successful launch in June 1969, I was ready to plan more releases.......

One day, late in March, 1969, I received a message that Syd Barrett had 'phoned EMI's studio booking office to ask if he could go back into the studios and start recording again. It was over a year since Syd had parted company with Pink Floyd and, as head of Harvest, the request was referred to me.

I had never met Syd, although he had apparently been in the studio with Peter Jenner a year previously, just after I joined EMI. Needless to say I was familiar with his past successes with the Floyd, and I knew as much as anyone about the circumstances surrounding his leaving. It had occurred to me on several occasions to ask what had become of Syd's own solo career. Peter Jenner and Andrew King, the original Floyd management team, managed many artists on Harvest. Dark references were made to 'broken microphones in the studios and general disorder' by EMI management, and this had resulted in a period when, if not actually banned, Syd's presence at Abbey Road was not particularly encouraged. None of Peter Jenner's recordings of Syd had turned out releasable, and no-one in EMI's A&R department had gone out of his way to encourage Syd back. Now that I had A&R responsibility for Harvest, I was determined to make the most of this contact with Syd and I rang him back immediately.

Syd explained that he had lots more material for a new album, and since he had not recorded for more or less two years there was no reason to doubt him. He was also keen to try to salvage some of Peter Jenner's sessions (see session Appendices), and in all he seemed very together - in contrast to all the rumours circulating at the time. There was, he said, a song called Opel, another called Terrapin, a song about an Indian girl called Swan Lee, and one called Clowns And Jugglers. Plus he had started work at Abbey Road on a James Joyce poem, 'Golden Hair' which he was most anxious to complete. It all sounded too good for words! The next day I approached Roy Featherstone, my immediate boss at the time, with the line 'Syd's ready to record again', explaining the conversation I'd had with Syd and pushing hard for his restoration to favour. Roy was very positive, but said he'd also have to check with his boss, Ron White, who authorised all recordings. In all honesty it wasn't very hard persuading them both to let Syd record again. Both Roy and Ron were well aware of Syd's successes and potential capabilities. The Pink Floyd had already said that they did not wish to release any more singles; 'Point Me At The Sky' and 'It Would Be So Nice' before it had been flops and were no longer indicative of the style that the new line-up was developing. Work had already begun on what was to become "Ummagumma" the previous November (with 'Embryo'; more about that later!!). It is likely that they felt that, if EMI could have the 'new' Floyd and the creative genius behind the 'old' both recording, then all the better. I furthermore had a powerful argument in reserve should they deny Syd this chance to resume his career. If they would not consent, I privately argued, then they could not morally hold Syd to his contract, although legally it would have been possible. Fortunately, it never came to that, and Ron and Roy gave me their permission and support to let Syd record.

Contrary to what was later printed, E.M.I. never stipulated that Syd could only cut singles. What was decided was to see what was the strength of Syd's new material, and plan accordingly. If it worked, then, O.K. we'd do an album. If not, we'd call it a day. My next task was to find a producer who Syd would feel comfortable with and of whom EMI would approve, as they were adamant that Syd should not record unaided in view of previous events. *(1) I never did ask Syd if the rumours of studio damage were true. I suspect if there was any truth in the stories then it was probably exaggerated. None of the engineers ever made reference to them.* The obvious first choice was Norman Smith, an EMI staff producer and then still producer for the Floyd. Norman was one of the finest producers of the time, and certainly the best of those affiliated as staff producer. Norman engineered many of the early Beatles classics, and was a fine musician. Unfortunately his commitment to the Floyd ('Ummagumma' was in the early stages) and his reluctance to have a conflict of interests with the Floyd and Syd made him decline the job. Peter Jenner similarly thought it wise to stay out, especially in view of his increasing responsibility to the growing roster of acts he managed with Andrew King (including Edgar Broughton Band, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Pete Brown, and soon, Kevin Ayers). The other obvious choice, in retrospect, would have been to offer Joe Boyd the chance to work with Syd again as he produced 'Arnold Layne'; regrettably, it didn't occur to me at the time. Although I had met Joe a couple of times, I don't recall knowing that he'd done 'Arnold Layne'. I certainly didn't remember his name from my copy of the record, so I didn't think of him. I still regret that. E.M.I. had no other staff producers capable of handling Syd's style as Norman could have done, and when I talked it over with Syd his response was stark and simple... 'You do it'. Syd knew I was a musician (of sorts), and as he saw me as his ally at EMI (& I had produced 'Love Sculpture''s first album) I probably was a logical choice to him. I was also acceptable to EMI's bosses who wanted someone they knew and trusted present on the sessions. If this seems naive in 1982, in 1969 no-one produced their own records, not even the Beatles.

At Syd's suggestion, then, and almost by default, I became Syd's producer.

I called him immediately to say we were in [busi]ness, and suggested a meeting to go over his new material. As I was unfamil[iar] [wi]th Peter Jenner's productions of the previous year, I asked Syd to play [recordings] he had of rough mixes of a song called Silas Lang (re-titled 'Swan Lee') *(2) "Silas Lang" is the original title on the EMI files, and this was later changed to "Swan Lee". Syd never referred to it as Silas Lang, and this may be a mistake on the part of the engineer on the original session. Part of the lyric goes 'the land in silence stands', which sounds, in part, rather like 'Silas Lang'.* [and] 'Late Night'. (The master at EMI of this original was probably erased and re-made later), 'Ramadan' (or 'Rhamadan'), Lanky parts one and two (the last two were long instrumentals) and 'Golden Hair', which Syd had referred to many times. 'Silas Lang' or 'Swan Lee' was a long and rambling tale about an Indian maiden, reminiscent in many ways of the story of Hiawatha. It had no vocal when I heard it, but had promise. The version of 'Late Night' was not the one finally released, but it too had a certain charm so we agreed to re-make that. 'Lanky' and 'Rhamadan' were very long and rambling percussion instrumentals. Engineer Peter Bown's announcement on the tape of 'Lanky Part One' is, rather wearily, "Five minutes of drums!". It wasn't very good! "Rhamadan" lasted for almost twenty minutes, and in its unfinished state was also pretty boring. Syd too was not satisfied with it (he'd overdubbed several conga drums in random improvisation) and we agreed to abandon that. But in contrast, 'Golden Hair' was great, although it needed a little cleaning up (eventually, Syd re-made it with Dave Gilmour and Roger Waters). After Syd had played me these tapes and we had discussed which to continue with, he played me the new songs. One of the most exciting was a song in 3/4 (waltz) tempo, which was the best I had heard so far. Part of the lyric is reprinted overleaf.

OPEL (Syd Barrett) Copyright All rights reserved (excerpt)

It was an extremely haunting song; very stark and poignant. We would certainly record that one. Next came a song called 'Clowns and Jugglers'. Fans will know it under its eventual title, 'Octopus', again, another 'yes'. Next Syd played snatches of another song, 'Terrapin' which was similar in feel to 'Opel', though less desolate. And finally he played an old tymey song 'Love You' which I liked a little, but as Syd was pretty keen on it, largely because it was uptempo, I agreed on that too. Already we seemed to have enough for 3/4 of an album and certainly several sessions. I left Syd's flat totally elated, determined next day to book studio time immediately and to get started. *(1) By coincidence I lived in the same square as Syd Earls Court Square. By a further coincidence, Dave Gilmour was living at the time in the block backing onto Syd's in the adjacent Old Brompton Road.* The first session was booked for Thursday, April 10th, in studio three. E.M.I.'s studio complex is still arguably one of the best in the world. In 1969 it most certainly was. Studio One was the largest, and almost exclusively used for large orchestral recordings (when I had first seen it I was convinced a helicopter could fly in it!). Studio two was always booked, often by the Beatles, the Hollies, and other top E.M.I. artists and, of course, the Floyd often were using it for 'Ummagumma'. Studio Three was the smallest, 'though still large by studio standards, and more intimate than studio two (but less technically advanced; studio two had 8 track machines while studio three was still using four track). Both Syd and I were familiar with Number 3 (I had produced Love Sculpture's first album there) so we settled for that one. Studio Two had a control room set at a higher level than the studio itself, which meant looking down on the musicians - and frankly I disliked that. It's easier for the producer to see what's happening but I felt it was harder for the musicians to see into the control booth, and Syd needed a relaxed atmosphere. Plus, three was easier to book at short notice! Syd and I spent the first session alone (7p.m. to 12.30) investigating the old tapes made a year ago to see if anything was usable. We first overdubbed guitar and vocal tracks onto 'Silas Lang' ('Swan Lee') and experimented with ideas for 'Clowns And Jugglers'. Neither of these was eventually used (Clowns And Jugglers, re-recorded as 'Octopus', was used in another version), and we both agreed that the new songs were far better than the old tracks. But at least we had checked each other out and we returned to Earls Court ready to start afresh the next evening.

The next evening we got down to business proper. Syd was in a great mood and in fine form, a stark contrast to the rumours and stories I'd been fed with. In little over five hours we laid down vocal and guitar tracks (extra backings on most came later) for four new songs and two old.

The first we made (the engineer was Peter Mew) was 'Opel', at Syd's request. We both felt at the time that it was one of his best new songs *(1) After Dave (Gilmour) and Roger (Waters) took over production, I left the final say to them and Syd as to which songs were included in the final album. I was nevertheless very sad that 'Opel' was left out, especially in the light of what I thought to be lesser songs being included. I assume it was Syd's decision.* It took Syd nine runs at it to get a complete take, and even that was not perfect. Nevertheless it had a stark attraction to it, and most of the early takes were merely false starts. Anyone who has experience of studio techniques will appreciate that it takes several attempts to get the right feel and to feel totally relaxed. ('Hound Dog' took over 30 takes!) Many of the unsuccessful takes are merely lapses of memory, technical faults, popping the letter 'p' at the microphone, squeaky chairs, etc. Syd always had lyric sheets in front of him, and turning the pages was often caught on tape (it was left in on 'She Took A Long Cold Look'). Two complete takes were made, the rest were false starts similar to the ones Dave and Roger left in on 'If It's In You'.

Most of the tracks on this were just with Syd and his guitar. I felt that, with his guitar alone we could put down some songs and overdub backing later as necessary (contrary to usual policy of making backings and adding vocals afterwards). Next we did 'Love You' - again just guitar and voice. We did several takes of this. The first was fast, in fact VERY fast (faster than the issued one). The second was very slow! Take three was a false start, and take four was the one we later overdubbed and issued. All three good takes were perfect, and in fact we weren't sure which take to use. The studio note says 'Best to be decided later'. All takes took less than twenty minutes to do. This was Syd at full tilt! At this session Syd was in great form, and very happy. No matter what people may say to the contrary, Syd was very together, and this was his first session with the new songs. Although Opel needed 9 attempts, Love You needed only one re-take. The next track we did, 'It's No Good Trying' was much the same. The very first take, with Syd and his blue speckled Fender Telecaster, was good. Take two was a false start, and take three was the version we used (although at 5 minutes 14 seconds it needed a little shortening). I kept Syd on the move, refusing too many retakes. And it was working. In the two hours between 7.30 and 9.30 we had completed several successful takes of three songs.

During the tea break we discussed going back to some of the songs started the previous year, in particular 'Golden Hair', and perhaps 'Late Night' although the original version of that had been destroyed, it seemed. We returned to the studio and started work on another new song, 'Terrapin'. In one take Syd laid down a guitar and vocal track that was to be the master! At my suggestion Syd double [tr]acked his vocal part, and that was it! (he later overdubbed the solo) When we resumed Syd overdubbed slide guitar (using his cigarette lighter as a slide) on the backing track of 'Late Night', plus the vocal. The vocal took no time at all, and we swiftly moved on to 'Golden Hair' which we had transferred from the original 4 track to an 8 track master. I do not know who the musicians were on this track, but the instrumentation was identical to the re-made version that Dave and Roger were to produce later - vibes, bass, drums and guitar. The version I worked on with Syd was not the one used on the album, although the remake was a direct copy of mine. This first version featured Syd's guitar more prominently. In fact there were two versions made at this session, the second featuring an added harmony vocal line by Syd. When I heard much later that Dave and Roger re-made 'Golden Hair' I was, to say the least, surprised. The issued recording, while technically better, is far less atmospheric than the original, and I still feel that a re-make was unnecessary.

By midnight we felt we had done enough for one day. We had worked on seven titles in one way or another, and we both felt we had made great progress. In the cab back to Earls Court we discussed our next session, and I was looking forward to a quiet and relaxing weekend. I told Syd I would pick him up the next Thursday as usual; Syd replied by saying he'd bring along some musicians to play on some of the tracks we were planning, and with that we parted company.

The following Thursday, as planned, I called a cab and went to collect Syd. We dropped in at Dave Gilmour's flat round the corner to borrow an amplifier, and set off for Abbey Road. At the studio we met up with Jerry Shirley and 'Willie' Wilson, the musicians Syd had invited along. The session was to be done 'live' i.e. everyone recording their parts at the same time, including Syd's vocal and guitar parts. As usual, Syd played his blue Fender Telecaster, unamplified, as rhythm. *(1) Syd had maintained fairly constant contact with David Gilmour, who's amp we were using. When he delivered the tapes for the 'More' album to me, David quizzed me as to how the sessions were progressing, although he showed no interest at the time in producing Syd. By April he had completed most of his solo contributions to 'Ummagumma', and had more time to spare.* We started with 'No Man's Land', and Syd ran through the song several times with Jerry and Willie following to pick up the sequences. After a little rehearsal we tried for a take to let everyone hear how we were progressing (frequently a 'take' is attempted, not for a master, but simply to check that the equipment is working correctly and to let the performers hear how they sound in the control room). After several other run throughs we went for a master, and in all we completed three takes successfully, the last being the best. The bass was later re-recorded *(2) The original bass track showed room for improvement, which we did later on during the session, after Syd's guitar parts had been recorded.* Syd then recorded the guitar solo and the spoken part, which was as unintelligible then as it is now! The other guitar part was overdubbed later (see session lists). Syd's guitar playing could, at times, be extremely erratic. He would frequently switch from playing rhythm to lead at double the volume, setting the meters well into the red and requiring a retake. It was a matter of having too many ideas and wanting to record them all at once!

This April 17th session was the first that we did in Studio Two instead of Studio Three. Whereas the April 11th session had been mainly voice and guitar tracks, with no backings, this one was to employ Jerry Shirley and John 'Willie' Wilson (who also lived in Earls Court!). The greater scope afforded by the 8 track machine in No. 2 (Studio three was 4 track) would allow us to do more overdubs if necessary, particularly on 'No Man's Land'. No. 2 also had a much better drum sound (it is a larger studio) and it isn't hard to tell that Jerry Shirley plays extremely loudly in the studio, especially on 'Here I Go'. Compare the drum sound on this to Ringo's Beatles work of the time. They are very similar. 'Here I Go', the second song of the session, was also the second 'old-tymey' song Syd did on the album - that is using a music hall style chord structure. With its unusual introduction and overall theme, it shows Syd at his relaxed best. He wrote it, I seem to remember, in a matter of minutes. *(1) Syd nearly always had his lyrics in front of him on a stand, in case of the occasional lapse of memory. This song was the only one I remember him needing no cue sheet at all.* The whole recording was done absolutely 'live', with no overdubs at all. Syd changed from playing rhythm to lead guitar at the very end, and the change is noticeable. (Syd, however, would change like that often. Whereas it was accepted practice to record, say, the rhythm guitar for the whole duration of the song and then to go back later and overdub the solo. To Syd this was an unnecessary procedure! He'd mix them together. That accounts for the 'drop' during the solo, as Syd's rhythm guitar is no longer there!) The whole session lasted for just three hours (in the afternoon). At the end I casually asked Syd if he had any more songs for the next one in a week's time. 'Not really, but, er, I've got a weird idea I want to try out' was all he would say. 'Well,' I replied, 'does it need other musi[cians] ? - because if so I'll need to book studio two again.' 'No' was his reply. A couple of days later I was none the wiser, and getting rather anxious. On the other hand I didn't want to book the wrong studio, and on the other I didn't want to hold valuable studio time with no real plans. Syd eventually said that he had no new songs but would quite like to see if there was anything we could do with one of Pete Jenner's old tracks, 'Rhamadan'. This was a long (even boring) track, lasting about 18 minutes, which Syd (or, at least, I have always presumed it was his playing) had made the previous May. It featured several conga drum overdubs, with no apparent theme or direction. Reluctantly I agreed to check it out, but said that we really didn't need a studio for that, we could use one of the mixing rooms. Just in case, I arranged for a stereo machine to be set up so we could mix it for reference later at home or in my office. On the morning of April 23rd., Syd and I again set out for Abbey Road.

Syd was carrying a small, portable cassette player, which I assumed he was bringing so that we could make a copy of 'Rhamadan'. I was very wrong. 'I'd like to overdub some motorbike noises onto 'Rhamadan'', he said, 'so I've been out on the back of a friend's bike with the cassette player. They are all ready to put onto the 'Rhamadan' four track.' When Syd played the cassette of the sound effects, it was terrible! Not only was it poor quality for casual listening, it was certainly no good for professional recording. Syd was quite insistent, so I said nothing more until we got to Abbey Road. I planned to let engineer (Peter Mew, I believe) reinforce my feelings. For almost an hour we struggled to wire Syd's machine into the 4 track master machine. The trouble with such an operation is that professional electrical fittings are bigger, better and more complex than those purchased over the counter of the average hifi shop. Someone in the workshop at Abbey Road had to actually make a connecting lead from Syd's cassette machine to the Studer 4 track. When we eventually wired the two together (cassette players are more common place in studios today with the increase in quality achieved over the last five years), it was apparent to all of us that the quality was not good enough. Even mixed into the conga drums at low level the tape hiss and extraneous noises were unacceptable.

Fortunately, E.M.I. came to the rescue. One of the many advantages Abbey Road possessed over other studios of the time was its superior back-up facilities *(1) The workshop that made up the connecting lead for us was also responsible, as a matter of policy, for taking apart any equipment from outside sources and checking that it was up to E.M.I.'s technical standards. When the Beatles wanted to record in their newly opened Apple studios, it was E.M.I.'s equipment that was shipped out, in bulk, to Apple to do the recording. All Apple Studios started with was an empty room! And it wasn't long before they were back recording in Abbey Road.* , including a large sound effects library. The next hour was spent selecting the right combination of starting up, revving, starting off and various gear changes, etc. for a thirty second tape, this time in stereo. Exactly what Syd intended to do I shall never know, because he later changed his mind and abandoned the project. Maybe it still lies, rejected, in the archives.

The session we planned for two days later was almost abandoned due to illness on my part. I had suffered from colitis for some time, and a recurrence of the illness prevented me from attending the session. All that we planned to do was transfer all the tracks originally made on 4 track to 8 track for more overdubs, and I suggested to Syd that he might like to go ahead on his own and mix them down himself. Studio Three was now (just) able to cope with 8 track machines, although it still had the old 4 track mixing desk. Nevertheless it was an improvement which we wished to take advantage of, especially as we had decided to overdub backings onto 'It's No Good Trying', 'Clowns and Jugglers', 'Love You', and several others (see appendix). I noticed when preparing the appendix that 'Opel' was among them. Syd had obviously, at this stage, not decided to exclude it from the album. I still think, to this day, that this is one of his best and most haunting tracks, and it was tragic that, for reasons unknown to me, it was not included on the final album.

On May 3rd Mike Ratledge and Robert Wyatt of the Soft Machine overdubbed various parts onto the 8 track copies made the previous session. In contrast to their own recordings, Syd's tracks were very erratic and unpredictable. Although Syd booked them he wasn't very good at explaining to them what he wanted. 'Love You' was a simple overdub of jangle piano and drums, plus of course, Hugh Hopper on bass. Lack of adequate rehearsal gave the Soft's performances a rather ragged aspect, for which I must take responsibility. If I had been able to give them more studio time they would have delivered better backings, although I must add that over the years the erratic quality of these tracks has been what endeared them to Barrett fans. I can't help feeling, 'though, that the Soft Machine themselves were not very proud of their own contributions! We had done 'Love You' first because it was the easiest. Next came 'It's No Good Trying'. This was not a particularly easy track to overdub. Between lines, (or verses) Syd had varying passages of blank guitar chords with no regular form to them. At one moment there would be 8 bars between verses, at the next maybe 6 or seven.. very hard for a musician other than the composer to follow! A drummer likes to be able to 'lead into' the next verse with either a roll or a pause, or anything to announce the arrival of another verse. Without written parts (charts) it had to be done from memory, and given such a task they fared extremely well. If 'Love You' was a little irregular (Syd went into the next verse, occasionally, after 6 1/2 or 7 bars instead of 8) then 'It's No Good Trying' was positively impossible! Syd had, before the session, taken copy tapes of many of these tracks which I had presumed were to give to the musicians he was booking to learn ahead of the session. Unfortunately I was wrong. He kept them! Anyway, after a bit of a struggle, we overdubbed 'It's No Good Trying' and moved on to 'Clowns and Jugglers'. This was the version I had worked on with Syd, originally, on out first session together on 10/4/69, when we had overdubbed guitar and voice onto a rough guitar backing Syd had made alone the year previously. It was in a higher key (than the issued one) and Syd had to sing really forcefully to make it work, but it still rates as one of my favourite unissued Syd recordings, after 'Opel'. Unfortunately he wished to overdub bass and drums (as was done, in a further re-make, for the version Dave and Roger produced that eventually appeared on the album). I liked it as it was, with Syd's voice and several guitar tracks to back him up. It had some very effective sounds, made by Syd, by half speaking words and sounds, during the solo. Unfortunately, the contributions at this overdub session by the Soft Machine were, in all honesty, pretty dire, and it must have been THIS version that Dave Gilmour heard and which led him to persuade Syd to remake it later. Mike Ratledge was required to improvise long passages of organ chords which, frankly, didn't work, and Robert Wyatt ended up playing tambourine. It was easier than trying to follow Syd's erratic bar structures!

The following day we had a further session and Syd overdubbed his backward guitar track on 'It's No Good Trying', and the lead guitar line on 'Terrapin', and 'No Man's Land'.

During most of the later sessions Dave Gilmour had been taking a casual interest in what Syd was doing in the studios. The Soundtrack for Barbet Schroeder's 'More' film had been completed (it was, out of interest, not made at Abbey Road as it was not a regular Pink Floyd album, being made as a commission for someone other than E.M.I. The royalty rate was consequently higher than usual as the recording costs were born by the film makers and the Floyd). With 'More' out of the way, Dave was back at Abbey Road with the rest of the Pink Floyd recording material for 'Ummagumma', their first major album without Syd at all (he does play on several tracks on 'A Saucerful Of Secrets', contrary to stories stating otherwise). Syd had been seeing Dave a lot, and had even been to see him backstage at a Floyd show in Croydon. It was only a short step to Dave (with Roger Waters) suggesting to Syd that he should produce some tracks as well as myself.

At the time I never felt any sense of being ousted from my role as producer. I had fared pretty well, and I still feel that there was enough already made to complete an album. Much of what David and Roger were to produce was little more than guitar and voice tracks which any of us could have supervised. I have referred to 'Opel' and the early versions of 'Clowns and Jugglers' and 'Golden Hair', both of which later were re-made, with minor improvements. But I had no objections at the time. My original ambition had been fulfilled - to get Syd back on record. How it was done was of no objection to me as long as it was done professionally, so when Dave came to me and said that Syd wanted him and Roger to do the remaining parts of the album, I acquiesced. In a sense I was a little apprehensive. Although I had my office duties (I was still, of course, head of Harvest and had not relinquished my post acquiring recordings for other E.M.I. labels), I felt that David in particular had a lot on his plate (He still had to record major parts for 'Ummagumma'). But I felt that it was very likely that he and Roger could produce more interesting tracks than I ever could. I think here I should correct a fallacy, recorded in Rick Sanders; excellent book, 'Pink Floyd' (Futura Publications, 1976). In it he states that E.M.I. called a halt to the album, saying: 'Barrett asked David Gilmour for help. Gilmour and Waters managed to talk EMI into allowing three more days in the studio to finish the album.' In fact, EMI had agreed that the project should extend into an album after about the third session, after they had heard rough mixes of several tracks.

Unknowingly, then, my last studio session with Syd was on May 4th. From then on, I would act in executive capacity only. The rest of the album was done in three sessions, on June 12th and 13th, and a month later, on July 26th. The reason for the long gap, which Syd found very frustrating, was that both Dave and Roger were in the studio mixing 'Ummagumma' *(1) Putting all the sessions together they run thus:

17 June 1969 : Mixing Dave's part of 'Ummagumma' 23 June 1969 : Mixing Roger's part of 'Ummagumma' 26 July 1969 : Syd's last session for the album. The additional cause for the delay in the completion of the album was that the Floyd were on tour in Holland for much of July.*, so Rick Sanders contention that 'half of 'the Madcap Laughs' was recorded in a two-day sprint' is largely true. On June 12th, Dave and Roger supervised the re-making of 'Clowns and Jugglers' (now re-titled 'Octopus') and 'Golden Hair', plus two new titles 'Dark Globe' and 'Long Gone'. As I was not present on these sessions I cannot, of course, describe the atmosphere of the moment or describe how these tracks were made. But from my session sheet made my the engineer and producers at the time, this is approximately what went on.

The first track to be tackled was 'Octopus'. Although this version was completed to Syd and Dave's satisfaction, it was shorter than the issued version, running for 2.49 as opposed to the issued 3.45 version. Only 4 tracks of the 8 were used, probably two voices and two guitar tracks, all by Syd. 'Octopus' was put to one side and 'Golden Hair' was started (again!). Syd did 5 takes before a satisfactory one was completed, and both takes 6 and 7 were more or less completed, although the files indicate that only take 6 was satisfactorily completed, running for 1 minute 44 seconds. Takes 8, 9 and 10 were all false starts, and eventually, after eleven takes, the master was done! After this, Syd overdubbed his vocal (the original takes were just his acoustic guitar) plus the vibes, organ and cymbals of Dave and Roger (although Roger does not appear on the engineer's list of producers: Syd and Dave are officially listed) and, possibly, Rick Wright?? This eleventh take of Golden Hair (not to mention the many early takes of the original version!), plus overdubs, is the one that was finally released. It had been a long time in the making, although I must say it was well worth the effort. It is one of Syd's best ever recordings, and I put it on the 'B' side of 'Octopus', later.

The third recording was a second attempt (on that day, that is), to record a successful take of 'Octopus'. This time, after another 10 takes, it was the eleventh take of 'Octopus' (the remake) that constituted the basic track for the issued version. The song had had a very chequered career, starting life, in its unissued form, in July, 1968, continuing with attempts by me to have The Soft Machine overdub it (3/5/69) and eventually being abandoned in preference to this remake of June 12th. The modus operandi, as far as I can tell, was, much as I had done, to have Syd record guitar and vocal only and to overdub the rest of the instruments later. Certainly, from the studio notes, it seems that this was what happened, as the session the next day (13/6/69) was devoted solely to overdubbing drums, vocal, bass and electric guitars.

NOTE: I hope that the reader is not, at this point, lost in the welter of takes, re-takes, re-makes, etc. I suggest that you refer to the session appendix later in the book and to the run down of the album and when each track was recorded, also in the appendix.

Having completed successful takes of 'Golden Hair' and 'Octopus', the next track tackled was a new song, 'Dark Globe'. Syd obviously was best at ease with songs that he had not attempted to record too many times, as he completed this one on the second take. It is, admittedly, only guitar and voice, but so too were the basic takes for 'Golden Hair' and 'Octopus' which both took eleven takes to get the same basic track. I can draw no assumptions from this other than the general one which - I had always adopted with Syd, namely not to keep on with too many attempts at the same song with no break. 'Long Gone', the next title attempted by Syd and Dave, didn't work after two takes, and was later replaced by another attempt. The last song on the session was another take of 'Dark Globe', probably to see if they could come up with a better take than the one already accepted. Strangely, the issued version runs for only 1.57 minutes, while the later, unissued one was as long as 3.15! *(1) For the observant, the album states the time of the issued version of 'Dark Globe' as 2.10! Time it for yourself! Maybe there was a false start from take one intended for use and excluded at the last moment by Syd, Dave and Roger, which would have added extra time. As I was not responsible, of course, for this title, this is only supposition. But it certainly was the first version, not the second, used.* I have never heard it but it would be good to compare it with the short, issued version. Anyway, it was decided not to use this re-make and to use the one made earlier in the session.

As stated earlier, the session the next day was a short one, devoted solely to the overdubbing, onto the previous day's master of 'Octopus', the bass, drums, lead vocals and electric guitar that completed the issued master. Again, Syd and Dave are listed as producers, with no mention of Roger Waters. The session of June 13th was the last Syd would have for over a month, as the Floyd had work to do of their own and, in particular, a tour, during most of July, of Holland. His final session for the album took place on July 16th, and was completed pretty much in a hurry! Titles completed during that session were 'She Took A Long Cold Look', 'Long Gone' (the remade, issued version), an attempted re-make of 'Dark Globe' (Called 'Wouldn't You Miss Me' on the session sheet!) and the continuous run of 'She Took A Long Cold Look (at me)' / 'Feel' / 'If It's In You'. Again, I do not know how the first version on this session of 'She Took A Long Cold Look' went, but my original reaction, (which I still hold) was one of disappointment. False starts are O.K. if they give an insight into the musicianship / artistry of those present, or even if they present the odd mistake which everyone is capable of. But when I first heard the false starts to 'If It's In You' my reaction then, (as now) was first one of anger that they were left in, and, secondly, boredom! Now I hate to wind people up, but the false starts to the tracks that I had personally supervised were far more interesting than those left in the final album. They certainly would have been more of a candid insight to the atmosphere on the sessions and less detrimental to Syd's abilities than the ones left in. Those left in show Syd, at best, as out of tune (which he rarely was) and, at worst, as out of control (which again, he never was). They are still my least favourite tracks on the record, in direct contrast to my favourites which also were Gilmour/Waters productions ('Octopus' and 'Golden Hair'). Apart from the overdubbing of organ onto 'Long Gone', the whole of this session was just Syd alone, a rather desolate ending to the recording of an album that took over a year to make, with as much ending up on the cutting room floor as on the issued album.

It is possibly an indication (contrary to reports) as to the freedom that Dave, Roger and Syd had, that the album was completed and mixed with no-one (including myself) knowing so! So when Syd rang and told me that Dave and Roger had mixed the tracks they had produced and that they intended to mix mine too, I knew we finally had an album. The albums were finally assembled into its final running order by Syd and Dave on October 6th (it had taken over two months to mix, and Syd was a bit pissed off with the delay, as I was!), and the next task was to schedule the release last!!!


The task of designing the album sleeve went to Storm Thorgorson and Aubrey 'Po' Powell of Hipgnosis, who had previously done the design for 'A Saucerful Of Secrets'. In 1967 all album graphics were, by tradition, done by the resident designers in the record companies. The Beatles, at E.M.I. at least, were probably the first group ever to be allowed to bring in outside designers, and the Pink Floyd were the second. Allowing outsiders to do artwork was little short of a heresy, and complaints such as 'It's the wrong size for the platemakers' or 'the EMI logo is in the wrong place' (it had to be placed top left) were offered as the reason for keeping work within the company. It also allowed the company, understandably, to keep greater control over the progress of work. Almost single-handed in Britain, Hipgnosis managed, by their work for the Floyd and acts on Harvest that I gave to Hipgnosis at the design stage, to change the quality of album graphics and put an end to years of indifferent work. In 1982 it is almost expected that a group will have a very large say in the design of their sleeve, or even do (or commission) the work themselves. But in 1967 it was a very different story! One day in October or November I had cause to drop in at Syd's flat on my way home to leave him a tape of the album, and what I saw gave me quite a start. In anticipation of the photographic session for the sleeve, Syd had painted the bare floorboards of his room orange and purple. Up until then the floor was bare, with Syd's few possessions mostly on the floor; hi-fi, guitar, cushions, books and paintings. In fact the room was much as appears on the original 'Madcap' sleeve. Syd was well pleased with his days work and I must say it made a fine setting for the session due to take place.

By the time the artwork was completed it was too late to get the album pressed and into the shops in time for Christmas without doing an unprofessional job of work. Then, as now, it is usually beneficial to pre-sell the album by giving a salesman a finished sleeve to show to the buyers in the individual shops. Such a sales aid can double advanced orders, but tends to delay the release of the record. In the end a months delay means no lost sales (if someone wants an album, he will more likely than not still want it a month later!) but all too often there is pressure from management and from the artist him or herself to rush the release of the record. In my experience such actions are rarely likely to increase sales, usually it is the opposite. Fortunately, is Syd's case, there was no such pressure and the sales department scheduled the album for their January supplement, with our choice of single, 'Octopus' / 'Golden Hair' helping to pre-sell the album during December. The album is still available over ten years later, so I think our release plan didn't to it much harm!

The initial reaction was generally very good, with a particularly flattering review in the then fledgling 'Time Out'. Syd was offered a 'live' session by Top Gear, and the recording was broadcast during late February. Elsewhere there was precious little airplay either for the single or for any of the album tracks. Radio was even more charts oriented than it is today with only a couple of 'rock' programmes per week, and the initial sales of a couple of thousand were largely through word of mouth based on Syd's reputation. I recently found a sales figure sheet dated 27th February, showing that, in almost two months, 'The Madcap Laughs' had sold just over 6,000 copies. Not bad! 'Melody Maker', while not devoting many column inches to the record gave a fairly enthusiastic review, saying it was 'a fine album full of madness and lunacy representing the Barrett mind unleashed'. 'Disc' called it 'an excellent album to start 1970'. 'Beat Instrumental' gave it a rather strange, uncomprehending review, putting it in a 'late night' bracket, and stating that 'Terrapin' comprised vocals, guitar and washboard'!! Nevertheless it was a good review, calling it a 'beautiful solo album'. The January 31st edition of 'Melody Maker' carried an interview with Syd by Chris Welch, with Syd stating that 'Top Of The Pops' is all right! and that he had written lots more material. N.M.E. made the observation that, with the listing of five engineers, it would have been a nice touch to list the musicians too. Sad to say that was contractually impossible, as all the musicians involved were under contract to other companies, and in the climate of 1970 rival labels were reluctant to allow their stars to appear on other labels. This was particularly annoying as it is only fair to list musicians who have made a significant contribution to an album. It wasn't possible, though so their names were left off. In a sense it added an air of mystery to the whole affair, but there is no reason why the re-issue double album could not have rectified the situation. Unfortunately this was not done and to this day no musician credits appear on the sleeve. For my own part, among my usual efforts, I took the time to write a letter, under an assumed name, to M.M. saying how great the album was. Dishonest ? Not really, but I felt I had to do all I could personally manage to help sell the record. At the time I had no financial stake, and when the letter was published I allowed myself a private smile. All in all, the initial sales and reaction were sufficient to justify sanctioning a second solo album. The first session took place as early as 26th Feb., and the following day Syd made four songs as demos only, in stereo only, not multi track. They were 'Wolfpack', 'Waving My Arms In The Air', 'Living Alone' and a track that has since been the subject of much speculation 'Dylan Blues'. David Gilmour is credited, on the recording sheet, as having taken the tape with him at the end of the session. I am sure Syd's fans would love to hear those four demos to compare them with the versions released on 'Barrett', but above all, the 'Dylan Blues' is the most tantalising! I often wonder if Dave still has the tape. Still, that's another story!!


Below is a documentation of all Syd Barrett solo recording sessions for 'The Madcap Laughs'. It includes the 1968 sessions supervised by Peter Jenner, none of which were issued with the exception of a small part of 'Late Night' (see album breakdown on page 17, where details of take numbers are also listed).





The mixing of the album was accomplished in two days, in a total of three sessions by Dave Gilmour and Roger Waters.

Long Gone, She Took A Long Cold Look, Feel, If It's In You and Octopus were all mixed in a morning session on August 5th by Dave and Roger.

Golden Hair, Dark Globe and Terrapin were mixed in a similar three hour session in the afternoon of the same day.

The remaining tracks, all my productions, were mixed by Dave alone on September 16th. The splicing together of the album, including the sequencing of the running order, was done by Dave and Syd on October 6th.


What follows is a rundown, track by track, of the album as it finally appeared, listing the recording dates of the tracks that were finally used. Alternative recorded versions, takes, etc., appear elsewhere in the booklet.

* Produced by the author

** ditto, with assistance from Peter Jenner


      April 11th '69 take 1. Guitar and voice (both double tracked)
      May 4th '69. Lead guitar overdubbed.
      April 11th '69 take 3. Guitar and voice
      May 3rd., '69 Organ, bass, drums overdubbed (Soft Machine)
      May 4th., '69 Syd's backwards guitar par overdubbed.
  3. * LOVE YOU
      April 11th '69 take 4. Guitar and voice
      May 3rd '69 Piano, bass, drums, overdubbed (Soft Machine)
  4. * NO MANS LAND Syd, plus Jerry Shirley, drums, John 'Willie'
      Wilson, bass
      April 17th '69 take 5. (Bass, vocals re-made later on same session)
      May 4th '69 Syd overdubbed lead guitar.
      June 12th '69 take 2 Guitar and voice.
  6. * HERE I GO
      April 17th '69 take 5 Syd, voice / guitar plus Jerry Shirley, drums, John 'Willie' Wilson, bass. Recorded 'live'.


      June 12th '69 take 11. Guitar and voice
      June 12th '69 elec. gtr., bass, drums overdubbed (Shirley,
      Gilmour, Syd,)
      June 12th '69 take 11. Guitar, voice. Vocal, vibes, organ,
      cymbals overdubbed after (Rick Wright? plus unknown cymbals, maybe Shirley ?)
      July 26th '69 take 1 Guitar and voice. Organ overdubbed
      later with second vocal.
      July 26th '69 take 5 Guitar and voice.
  5. FEEL
      July 26th '69 take 1 Guitar and voice
      July 26th '69 take 5 Guitar and voice
  7. ** LATE NIGHT
      May 21st '68 take 2 Backing track; (unknown musicians)
      April 11th '69 Vocals and guitar overdubbed.


E.M.I., "the greatest recording organisation in the world", had the most comprehensive and sophisticated studios in London at the time, having been responsible for a massive proportion of British-made pop hits (and classics) of the last thirty years. I have referred elsewhere to the impressive technical back-up that Abbey Road studios offer to artists recording there and the Fort- Knox like tape library facilities are as impressive. Tapes and sessions were filed and cross indexed, originally on 'Artists cards', today on microfilm. Below is a listing of Pink Floyd masters originally held at Abbey Road or at various other locations in and around London. I stress 'originally' because many of the 4 and 8 track masters have probably been disposed of one acceptable mono and stereo mixes had been completed. As most of the recordings listed below were made before I joined E.M.I. I cannot specify with any degree of accuracy which tapes are the ones released and which are alternate, unissued takes. I have given as many guidelines as possible to allow the reader to judge for himself which are the released versions, and comparison with the gig sheets will probably be helpful.

In 1967 the EMI studios were 4 track. For the uninitiated, that means that artists were able to record four instruments or groups of instruments completely independently, either together or at separate times, and to combine them in whatever sound balance was desirable at a later date. Any track, or group of tracks, could be re-recorded while leaving the others intact. A backing track could be recorded, say on two tracks, while the remaining two could be reserved for several attempts later for lead vocal and, say, guitar solo. Today, 24 and 32 tracks are more common, although 'Sgt Pepper' was done on 4!!

If more than 4 tracks were required, then once four had been filled they could be mixed together onto a second machine, either onto one track leaving three empty ones, or in stereo, allowing two more tracks to be completed. This was known as a "four to four" or 4 - 4, and the Beatles certainly used this for 'Sgt Pepper'. It was possible to do this a couple of times without any significant loss of tape quality, and it follows that in this process several 4 track masters would accumulate. The reader should not assume, therefore, that when a title appears several times on 4 track tapes that there are several different versions of the same song. A later tape is most likely a continuation of the same recording, representing later overdubs onto the same original take.

I would like to amplify the point made earlier that the majority of the 4 track masters will, by now, have been disposed of. Multi-track masters on inch wide tape are extremely bulky to store, and very costly at that. Once a stereo mix was done, a period of time was waited and the four track tapes were erased. In some cases, such as the Beatles, they were retained, and maybe some later Floyd tapes were kept also, but it is unlikely. 4 track tapes were originally kept for future quad releases, but in view of the demise of that medium it is unlikely any still exist. Please do not write to EMI asking them to issue titles you see here. They almost certainly no longer exist, and what the Floyd rejected then would still today meet with the same rejection!

EMI did not work on a 'matrix' or 'master' number system in the studios. Matrix numbers, as the term implies, were used at the factory level to identify stampers for issued records. And in view of the huge amounts of approved-for-release 'masters', they were identified, not individually, but by the composite reel on which they appeared. Anyone wishing to locate, say, 'Shaking All Over' by Johnny Kidd would locate the tape reel under 'K' and, when the reel was in their hand, it would be easy to locate the title desired. In this manner EMI kept the numbering system to a quarter of what it otherwise could have been. If more than one take was retained on this master reel then the approved master was identified.

On every recording session the tape operator (as opposed to the balance engineer who was his 'superior') would note down, not only on the tape box but also on a 'Recording Sheet' details of each title recorded, which takes were false starts, which takes were completed, which takes were approved and which, eventually, was the agreed 'master'. It is these sheets which, as producers for Syd, I kept and have used for the section relating to 'The Madcap Laughs'.

Before each session commenced there would be an ample quantity of tape, each with a sticker identifying what was, for the moment, blank tape, with a number. This 'reel number' was eventually used to identify the tape in the library, and generally those were used in numerical sequence. Occasionally, of course, they would be used a little out of sequence, and it is therefore important that the reader does not assume that any tape with a lower number than another was necessarily recorded first, although in most cases that was true. For example: tape numbers 63934 and 63951 both relate to the session dated 11.4.67. 4 and 8 track tapes are shown generally as 4T and 8T. Without this a tape can be assumed to be stereo, or rarely, in the Pink Floyd's case, mono.

Generally speaking, the dates noted are the dates of the actual session. Finished tapes were left for collection by the library staff who generally did this each day. EMI was reluctant, with so much valuable material lying around and so many unknown visitors, to leave masters in studio racks. When the tape arrived at the library it was logged with the date with a cross check against the session details. As there was also a session sheet it can be relied on as accurate for 99.9% of the time. Sometimes a tape, completed at, say, 2 in the morning after the library was locked up for the night, would be left in the studio, especially if it was required for further work on the next day. But even then, the library would enter into their files the date on either the tape box itself or on the recording sheet. One exception, for example, is 'Corporal Clegg'. The 4 track master was filed on 7/2/68 whereas the stereo mix from that tape was dated earlier, on 31/1/68 and 1/2/68.

Finally, I must emphasise that this is only a listing of tapes filed, and not of sessions. As the two coincide it may be assumed that for the greater part it is a session listing also. HOWEVER - when work was done on an existing tape, no new tape would be resultant and therefore the tape library would not list it. I am, 'though, fairly sure that most Floyd sessions resulted in at least one new tape being recorded and therefore logged into the library. With the exception of the odd overdub onto an existing 4 track master I feel fairly sure that all that was handed into the library did, indeed, represent a Pink Floyd studio session.

Thanks, Abbey Road, you're the B E S T !!!


Several early Pink Floyd masters were made, not at EMI, but at Sound Techniques Studios in Chelsea. Arnold Layne / Candy and A Currant Bun were certainly recorded there, and Rick Wright, in 'Beat Instrumental' of September 1967 stated that 'See Emily Play' was also made there. It also seems that all recordings up to the middle of March may have been made outside Abbey Road.

Syd Barrett does not appear on many of the above titles, although his original contributions may have been replaced. He certainly appears on Jug Band Blues and Remember A Day. He has been variously credited with playing on 'Let There Be More Light', 'Corporal Clegg' (both of which seem unlikely), Set The Controls, (recorded originally shortly after the release of 'Piper' and there is no trace in the files of a later multi-track tape to replace the original). This latter track seems most likely, looking at the date of its first recording, to have featured Syd, although aurally it seems unlikely. Rick Sanders also states that Syd is on See Saw, which is, at least, in the style of Syd's early Floyd material.

Syd officially left the Floyd in early April, 1968, although relations with the rest of the group had been strained for six months or so. He did not appear on It Would Be So Nice, recorded in early March, and it is fairly safe to assume he did not record with them after that. This would rule out his playing on any tracks commenced after that date; [ ] .................the difficult tracks are those filed with dates of 5/5/68. Syd certainly sang Vegetable Man. As they were probably recorded at Sound Techniques the date of 5/5/68 may simply refer to the date when EMI received them, indicating an earlier recording date. With no more reliable information, the individual listener must use his own aural judgement!




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