Remembering Pink Floyd’s bizarre US TV debut on ‘American Bandstand’ in 1967
Pink Floyd made their US TV debut all the way back in 1967 with an appearance on the legendary show American Bandstand. It was there where they performed the trippy track ‘Oranges and Apples’. Taking their unique stylings on to American TV was a moment which marked the beginning of the end of Syd Barrett’s tenure in the band.
American Bandstand was a cultural phenomenon in the US which ran for close to 40 years until 1989. It was seen as a massive opportunity to make a lasting impression on a mainstream audience for many bands, a chance to reach a national audience and give a needed jolt to any promotional run. For Pink Floyd, however, this was an opportunity wasted thanks to Syd Barrett.
After the band proceed to perform, iconic host Dick Clark conducts a short interview and, opting against asking the band anything of significant relevance, perhaps nervous of any contentious replies, he decides to ask Roger Waters: “You’ve only been here two days, there is one question that comes immediately to mind when we go to visit your country, the fellas I know say that English food is unusual, so what do you think of American food for two days does it please you or displease you?”
Anyone who knows the intellectual disdain the group held for such feeble attempts at journalism can imagine the response. The rather futile question received a predictably tepid answer: “Well all we’ve had really is two cheeseburgers each, I think,” Waters replied. “It sat quite well,” he added after Clark followed it up, Waters’ eyes burning with intensity.
The interview, despite being so short, manages to meander into yet even more inconsequential small talk when Clark asks Barrett “how long do you plan to stay with us” to which the enigma responds with “around 10 days” which is met without response. Barret’s bemusement is compounded when the interviewer then inexplicably decides to turn his attentions to Rick Wright halfway through his answer.
Barrett’s performance was vacant and unpolished, to put it politely. He made it as clear as possible that he was miming from the very beginning of the performance and just stared out into space, gaping at the cosmic mystery of the universe, or the wrong end of a TV studio, we can’t be sure.
Speaking in a VH1 documentary about the tour years later, Rick Wright recalled: “I remember in The Fillmore West when Syd literally went on stage and stared into space, de-tuned all of his strings on his guitar and hitting it to make this god awful noise. We were thinking ‘what can we do, what can we do’.” This thought was echoed by Nick Mason, who professed in the documentary, “shall I roar with laughter or do I try and kill him”.
The North American dates would end up being cut short due to Barrett’s erratic behaviour with Dave Gilmour being recruited shortly after to take over from Syd despite him still being in the group which famously resulted in Pink Floyd briefly performing as a five-piece.