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Music

Listen to Syd Barrett’s isolated guitar from Pink Floyd song ‘Interstellar Overdrive’

When they first formed in 1964 London, Pink Floyd began playing mainly rhythm and blues compositions, but it wasn’t long before they set about sculpting a new abstract sound that bent the formalities of rock music. Under Syd Barrett’s leadership, the band were successful in rising to prominence in the UK as one of the earliest psychedelic rock bands. By 1966 they had ditched the word ‘Sound’ from their original name ‘Pink Floyd Sound’ and had begun making a name for themselves in the underground music scene in London. 

The early signs of psychedelia would be most notably expressed in long, drawn-out instrumental excursions accompanied by rudimentary light shows achieved using colour slides over domestic light bulbs. Around this time, a Sunday Times article stated: “At the launching of the new magazine IT the other night, a pop group called the Pink Floyd played throbbing music while a series of bizarre coloured shapes flashed on a huge screen behind them … apparently very psychedelic.”

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In 1967, the band managed to sign with EMI and released their first single, ‘Arnold Layne’, which reached number 20 on the UK singles chart despite having been banned from major radio stations due to its references to cross-dressing. With the band’s second single, ‘See Emily Play’, the group started to become more well known across the UK and it wasn’t long before they had their first appearance on television; first on the BBC’s Look of the Week then shortly after on Top of the Pops where they played ‘See Emily Play’. 

These television performances saw Syd Barrett at his peak and it was around this time, in August 1967, that the group released their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Upon its release, the album was moderately successful, spending 14 weeks in the UK charts boosting the group to a new level of stardom while they drew burgeoning swathes of hippies to their famous electric performances at the UFO Club. However, this spell of success over the spring and summer of 1967 soon took on a darker tone as Barrett’s drug use became a major issue for the band as it began to have an impact on performances and rehearsals.

Listen below to a rare recording of Syd Barrett’s isolated guitar from ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Five takes of the track were originally recorded at EMI Studios in London in February 1967. A sixth take was recorded a month later as Barrett had wanted to create a shortened version with overdubs. This recording was unique in that Barrett used a Fender Esquire as opposed to the Danelectro 3021 he used on the album.