THE MANAGER'S TALE
The first edition of Pink Floyd was a six-way partnership, a vital piece of which was Peter Jenner. But when Syd left, he jumped ship.
Interview by Robert Sandall
I remember seeing them for the first time at the Marquee in 1966 and being fascinated because I couldn't work out where the music was coming from. It was basically blues, like Louie Louie or Bo Didley numbers, with weird breaks. They weren't blues solos. Some were on the guitar, some on the organ, some on both, but you didn't really know what they were. Sort of psychedelic waffle. At the time I wanted to do this hippy label with Joe Boyd, who was then with Elektra UK, the idea being to put out avant-garde anything. And I realised that to make the label work we needed a pop band, because they could sell records.
They were the sort of chaps I could relate to, being another middle class boy. I'd spent some time with Eric Clapton before them, and that wasn't so easy. The Floyd all came from comfortable backgrounds. I remember being amazingly impressed that Nick Mason's parents had a swimming pool. He didn't care about money, none of them did really; and it's always to deal with people who aren't bothered about money.
And like all middle-class boys, they were all run by their women. Especially Roger. Under the influence of Jude, who was 'Trot', he began giving his money away. With Carolyn [his wife], it got into a very American rock story thing, with helicoptors, nannies and the south of France.
My main contribution at the time was to tell them to do more of their own material. Also Andrew [King] and I built their first light show. It was very crude, with domestic light switches.
None of them did drugs when I met them, except Syd, and he would only smoke dope. Then with the Summer Of Love and all that bollocks, Syd got very enthusiastic about acid, and got into the religious aspect of it, which I never did. The others were very straight. They were much more into half-a-pint of bitter than they were into drugs. One of the reasons I got on with Syd was because he and I used to smoke a lot of pot together. Rick would take a puff now and again, but Roger and Nick would never go near it. Syd was very much the artist, while the other two were the architects, and I think that's an important way of looking at what happened. Syd did this wild, impossible drawing, and they turned it into the Pink Floyd.
The strongest image I always have of Syd is of him sitting in his flat in Earlham Street with his guitar and his book of songs, which he represented by paintings with different coloured circles. I was an immense Syd fan. You'd go round to Syd and you'd see him write a song. It just poured out. He wrote all those songs in a two-year period.
You could talk to Roger about all kinds of things. Roger was argumentative, the one in the group I was least friendly with, but had most respect for as a businessman. He was this giant ego striding across the landscape. He was the one who had the courage to drive Syd out, because he realised that as long as Syd was in the band they couldn't keep it together. The chaos factor was too great. Roger looked up to Syd and he always felt very guilty about the fact that he'd blown out his mate. Rick was the strongest musician, he would tell the others which harmonies to sing but he didn't have the force of character, he was quite fragile, a very shy, private person. Fame was very hard for him to deal with. They were overnight successes. We started in the Summer of 1966 and by Christmas they'd had a double-page spread in the Melody Maker and a big feature in Queen by Nik Colin without even having a record out. All the records were hits. In business terms, it was incredibly easy. I knew the band were breaking when I came up to the UFO Club and seeing all these kids flooding round the corner with their gear and their bells jingling. The gig I most remember was the 24-hour Technicolour Dream concert at Alexandra Palace. We'd got back from Holland the same night, I was driving the van, and Syd and I were both doing acid. The band played at dawn with all the light coming through the glass at the Palace, the high point of the psychedelic era for me.
When the rest of the band said, You don't think we can do it without Syd do you?, well I didn't. I couldn't see them doing it with Roger, and I didn't really know Dave. I just knew him as really good guitar player who could do Jimi Hendrix. The idea that Roger was going to write the songs and sing them would have made me collapse with laughter, though I might have put money on Rick as the leader. And I'm happy to admit I was absolutely wrong.
Andrew and I have always been very well taken care of by the Floyd ever since. We originally had a six-way partnership, which they have never queried. They're incredibly honourable. The Floyd's yearly royalty cheques have kept the wolf from the door on many occasions.