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Credit: BBC

Music

The reason why Syd Barett called Tom Jones "too emotional"

@SamWKemp

The summer before Syd Barrett was forced to leave Pink Floyd, he took up a little side project: reviewing singles for music publication Melody Maker. The bohemian kingpin had made his name as the enigmatic frontman of one of the most intoxicating live acts in the UK. Unfortuantely, a good deal of that fame went to his head, setting him on a course of self-destruction that would lead to his eventual mental collapse. In 1967, things were just starting to go wrong. Still, he was lucid enough to sit down and discuss a selection of new singles, some of which he loved, some of which he loathed.

For many, Barrett was something of a figurehead. David Bowie revered his authenticity, which, incidentally, is something Barrett did not see in Bowie. Reviewing his single ‘Love You Till Tuesday’, Syd said: “Yeah, it’s a joke number. Jokes are good. Everybody likes jokes, the Pink Floyd likes jokes. It’s very casual. If you play it a second time it might be even more of a joke. Jokes are great, I think that was a funny joke. I think people will like the bit about it being Monday when in fact it was Tuesday. Very chirpy but I don’t think my toes were tapping at all.”

If Barrett couldn’t see the (admittedly imperceivable) potential of David Bowie at that time you can imagine what he thought about loveable Welsh heartthrob Tom Jones, whose single ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’ also featured on his list. The musician immediately turned his nose up at the syrupy offering, noting: “I detect a Welsh influence on the strings. I believe it’s one of those numbers you should play as slow speeds, or backwards, or upside down. It’s Sandy McPherson, everyone knows who it is. It won’t be a big hit because it’s too emotional. It will sell a lot but I won’t buy one.”

Barrett was right on that count. Written by Lonnie Donegan and Jimmy Currie, ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’ was a huge hit when it was released in 1967 and peaked at number two on the UK charts. While his name is largely forgotten now, Lonnie Donegan was one of the most important musicians to the development of British rock ‘n’ roll. The iconic ‘King of Skiffle’ started his career as a trad jazz musician but eventually transitioned to skiffle, earning his first hit with the American folk song ‘Rock Island Line’, which popularised the genre across the UK and convinced many young musicians (including Jimmy Page and John Lennon) to form their own skiffle groups, which would later transform into rock ‘n’ roll bands. For Barrett, though, Jones’ rendition was pretty much as far away from rock ‘n’ roll as it was possible to get.

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