Some things to consider if you’re coming to this new:
It’s a film soundtrack, but I’d argue that it’s fairly representative of what they were doing at the time. Why did they do a soundtrack album at this point? Mainly because they were skint – there are stories about how they had to borrow all kinds of equipment off Jimi Hendrix just to keep going, and six hundred quid a head for cobbling together some music for a film felt like a very good deal.
The reason they were able to cobble it together so quickly was that it is partly made up of stuff they were already doing in their live show at the time. The show was called something like ‘The Man and The Journey’, and included, among other nonsense, the band collaborating to make a table on stage, and at some point in the evening, sitting down and having a cup of tea. (I promise I’m not making this up). The stage show contained almost none of the Syd Barrett songs, except perhaps as encores, and no doubt they couldn’t figure out why they were skint…
All vocals are by Gilmour (amusingly credited as ‘David Gilmore’ on the film credits) – I think they were trying out the idea that he would take over all of Syd’s duties.
The film is the debut of Barbet Schroeder (you’ve heard of him; he directed ‘Single White Female’, among other things), and was, by all accounts, complete before the boys were asked to add music. There was, apparently, a lot of farting about in the studio with stopwatches and so on, but the end result works quite well in that late sixties moody European arthouse way.
The film? A version with Spanish subtitles is available here:
It’s worth a watch; if you get bored with the half-hearted sub-Sartre philosophising, stick around – everyone goes to Ibiza, does drugs and gets their kit off later on, and it’s all a bit – well, European arthouse. It should never be forgotten that the female lead is played by the splendidly named Mimsy Farmer. (I’m not making that up, either)
Oh, and drugs are bad, kids!
One more thing – before this came out there was one more attempt at getting a single in the UK charts. It failed miserably, so they just decided to be an ‘albums band’ in Britain at least. The A side is ‘Point Me at the Sky’:
The B side is more famous; we’ll meet it soon…
Incidentally, if you’re humming ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ after listening to that, you wouldn’t be the first..
Is it any good?
Sort of. I think it works pretty well as a soundtrack, not so much as an album – it’s out of sequence, for one thing – there’s little or no flow to the thing, but it definitely points the way forward, once you strip out the folk music and the distorted echo on some of the tracks.
Personally, I like ‘Cymbaline’ and ‘Green is the Colour’, there’s some interesting stuff scattered elsewhere through the album, but it’s one of only two Floyd albums I’ve never owned in any form. It, to these ears, leads into ‘Ummagumma’, but it’s hardly essential. Maybe if they’d kept the carpentry…