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(Credit: Pink Floyd)

Looking back at Syd Barrett's last album for Pink Floyd, 'Saucerful of Secrets'

The dawning of a new age of rock and roll happened when Pink Floyd released their debut album Piper at the Gates of Dawn. The LP marked a shift in mentality as acid rock descended on London’s swinging scene and began reshaping pop music in a new kaleidoscopic way. The album saw Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason begin their journey to the top of the prog-rock pile and beyond as they ascended to a level of musical fame few could have envisaged.

The band’s second record, Saucerful of Secrets would see them once again assert themselves as the new kids on the block with a penchant for the dark and pulsing new sounds that were emanating from London. While Britain had been positively swelling with the R&B bands desperate to capture the essence of the Delta blues, Pink Floyd’s sound was brilliantly weird and wonderful. But this record wouldn’t only set out the blueprint for the band’s sound and how they would continue to work as a group.

Work on the band’s sophomore album would begin in August 1967, the month of their debut’s release, hinting that the group wouldn’t hang around. At this time, it seemed like every week, a new band threatened to change music beyond recognition, so the need to keep creating was essential. It was the main reason that the group drafter in David Gilmour to help pick up the slack of the slowly spiralling mind of Syd Barrett.

Barrett was struggling to align his penchant for mind-expanding drugs with his ability to play in Pink Floyd. With countless live dates, the band made the decision to include Gilmour full time, first as a member of the touring band so that Barrett could work on lyrics and songwriting, and then later as a full-time member of the recording group. Saucerful of Secrets would see contributions from Gilmour on all but two songs.

As well as it being Gilmour’s first album with the band, it would also be Syd Barrett’s last LP with the group. As well as the strange and yet entirely masterful Barrett composition ‘Jugband Blues’, the album’s best moment was Waters’ own song. The track ‘Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,’ one of the first songs recorded, is easily the greatest moment on the album and was a signal to their upcoming domination. It was also the only time the entire five-piece of the band would perform together on one track.

It was on this record that the band began to push through their expansive sound and lay a blueprint for rock domination. One thing became clear during recording, however, they would have to plot their ascent as a fourpiece as it slowly emerged Barrett would not be able to continue as a member of the band. The group had been struggling to reconcile their aspirations with the mental state of their chief lyricist and songwriter. By January 1968, with the record already motoring along, the band decided to not pick Barrett up for a show at Southampton University, signalling the end of his tenure.

The album has been tainted with Barrett’s demise ever since. Though robust in its conception and more than ready to equip itself with a new vision of music, the album is tinged with the sadness that Syd Barrett would never perform with the band again, instead ousted for Gilmour, who would become one of the gorup’s unspoken leaders. Through the seven songs on the record, we’re given a reminder of the past, present and future of Pink Floyd.

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