These recordings are museum pieces, pulled up from the sticky earth, their...
Rob Webb 2002-11-20
Radio One's John Peel was the first DJ to offer support to Syd Barrett after he departed from Pink Floyd. Barrett, in turn, offered Peel his first solo radio session, recorded at the Beeb studios in February 1970, just a month after the release of The Madcap Laughs.
This 20-minute CD includes the five songs he cut for Peel that day, four of which -''Terrapin'', ''Gigolo Aunt'', ''Baby Lemonade'' and ''Effervescing Elephant'' - were broadcast shortly afterwards (opinion seems to differ on the exact date they got airplay). ''Terrapin'' was a rerun of the much-loved song from The Madcap Laughs; the others were new compositions which would later resurface on Barrett's second, self-titled, album. The fifth song recorded for Peel, ''Two OfA Kind'', was, for some reason, broadcast separately from the others later the same year and remained unreleased until the Peel sessions were issued on vinyl in the Eighties.
Barrett, his amiable strumming as warm and lazy as a June afternoon in the middle of February, is accompanied by Dave Gilmour on guitar and Jerry Shirley on low-key drums. Often, according to Gilmour, he would decline to tell his fellow players what song he would be playing in, leading to a freer and looser style than was marshalled for the album versions of these songs.
By the following year, Barrett had left London for his hometown of Cambridge but was tempted back to the BBC by Bob Harris, who recorded three songs for his Sounds of the Seventies programme in February 1971. Lost for many years, they now appear here for the first time on an official release. Theres a second version of ''Baby Lemonade'', plus ''Dominoes'' and ''Love Song'', also from the second album. These seven minutes comprise what seem to be the last coherent recordings Barrett made before slipping off the radar altogether.
The quality is not as crystal clear as the Peel sessions, especially the last number, but these recordings are museum pieces, pulled up from the sticky earth, their crazy-diamond shine still winking through the clay after thirty years: we're lucky to be able to hear them at all. They are the sound of Barrett on the cusp of normality. On ''Dominoes'' he's glancing down the abyss, almost losing his footing. Just keeping his head above his chest, he muffles through a fade-out version of ''Love Song'', throws a dust-sheet over his steel-string guitar and he's away...