Pink Floyd, for all the grandeur, splendour, critical acclaim, and rightful success, were never really known as a light and humourous band.
When your original lead singer goes through a tumultuous downward spiral of drug abuse and mental health degeneration and you decide to channel those experiences into informing the material on not one, not two, but three different concept albums in The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall, you’re going to get pegged as a heavy band.
But the Floyd were not without their lighter moments, especially in their soul-searching period that followed Syd Barrett’s departure and occurred before Roger Waters took creative control. ‘Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast’, the ending cut on Atom Heart Mother, is little more than the sound of the band’s roadie as he prepares some food in the morning. Roger Waters sought to name his experimental instrumental piece from Ummagumma with the longest and most ridiculous phrase he could think of and landed on ‘Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict’, an actual song title on an actual Pink Floyd album.
But the award for the most ridiculous, most silly, most explicitly joke-like song in the Floyd catalogue has to go to ‘Seamus’ from 1971’s Meddle. Around this time, Pink Floyd still had no idea what they wanted to be as a band, and evidently, there was quite a strong push to become a quasi-country outfit. That can be heard on Atom Heart Mother‘s ‘Fat Old Sun’ and Meddle‘s ‘San Tropez’, and the style is revisited on ‘Seamus’, but with a twist – dog barks.
While recording Meddle, the band members in Pink Floyd were still eager to experiment and produce any kind of off-the-wall result that they could, just to see if it sparked an idea. It’s unclear whether it was by coincidence or by intention, but Humble Pie’s Steve Marriott brought his Border Collie, Seamus, into the studio, and the band simply played a bluesy country song while Seamus howled away in the background. It was meant as a little bit of comic relief, especially when confronted with an entire side-length prog-rock epic, ‘Echoes’, that confronts you when you turn the record over.
The reviews, however, were unkind to poor ‘Seamus’. As David Gilmour explains in Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey: “I guess it wasn’t really as funny to everyone else [as] it was to us.” Still, that didn’t stop them from expanding on the idea of animal noises inspiring their music.
Most directly, a quasi-version of ‘Seamus’ was attempted during the filming of Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii. Here, Gilmour with a harmonica, Waters takes on guitar duties, and Richard Wright is demoted to microphone holder for the song’s true star: Nobs, the replacement dog that they found through a band friend. The piece was different enough that they gave it a new title, ‘Mademoiselle Nobs’, but this version is somehow worse than ‘Seamus’. At least ‘Seamus’ had lyrics: here, we’re stripped down to just the gimmick of a dog singing a blues number. It’s quite silly, but not in the fun and goofy way, but rather the pointless and annoying kind of way.
There might be a slight connection to the animal experimentation going on here and the later embrace of animal metaphors on Animals, but I highly doubt it. That album is a full-length piece of art with cinematic scope and a strong underlying message attached to it. This song was a looney lark, the kind that Pink Floyd quickly moved away from.