Saucerful Of Syd

Author: Bruce Jenkins  Date Posted:24 April 2019 

Saucerful Of Syd

The debut album by Pink Floyd was a teacup full to the brim with whimsy and swirling acid drenched psychedelia, courtesy of founding member Syd Barrett. The sad tale of Syd’s decline is well known yet remains poignant; how he simply stopped playing during concerts, becoming unreliable in both engagements and relationships. The pressure to produce a second album would not have helped Syd’s mental state.

Eventually, an announcement was made to the press (6th April 1968) that Barrett and Pink Floyd had parted company, the new chum being fellow Cambridge musician David Gilmore. Sometimes Syd would come to gigs to stand at the front staring fixedly at his replacement. 

By the time Pink Floyd’s second album was released in June 1968, there was only a sip of Syd left. Yet he does have a presence on the album that would eventually be named A Saucerful of Secrets. The band ceded the last word to their crazy diamond on the LP’s final track, “Jugband Blues”. Given the back story, it was (and remains) a haunting close.

It’s awfully considerate of you to think of me here
And I’m much obliged to you for making it clear
That I’m not here.

Back at the beginning of side one, A Saucerful of Secrets opens with Roger Waters “Let there be more light”. A spacey, churning instrumental beginning morphs into a psychedelic sixties sound that certainly captures the essence of the band at the time; ethereal, somewhat ominous, teetering on the edge of formlessness.

“Remember a day” is a Richard Wright song that he does not remember with kindness. “I cringe at some of my songs,” he said of this one. But that’s a little harsh. Anyone who is a fan of the rather wonderful psychedelic Stones album of the previous year (the song “Dandelion”, in particular) will enjoy “Remember a day”.

If Floyd fans single out A Saucerful of Secrets for anything, it’s the long, exploratory songs: “Set the controls for the heart of the sun” and the title track. The first of these was played regularly and lengthily in concert, while “A saucerful of secrets” was assembled in the studio—an important development for a band who would become more and more studio-orientated in the following decade. The chord progression of the final section remains quite moving.

Elsewhere, Waters obsession with war and the military finds its first expression in the music hall pastiche “Corporal Clegg” with its daft kazoo break and knees-up finale, while Wright’s other contribution, “See Saw” is a pleasant trifle. 
The songwriting scoreboard shows the following results:

Roger Water—3 
Richard Wright—2
Syd Barrett—1

Plus, of course, the title track: credited to Waters/Wright/Mason/Gilmore. Just a thimbleful of Gilmore, really.

Now we are back to “Jugband blues” again, closing out an album that is transitional yet interesting. The mono mix released for RSD 2019 is a lovely entry point to this, the first offering of the ‘classic’ quartet. As to what is a dream and what, exactly, is a joke, in the end each listener must decide.

© Bruce Jenkins 2019