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Pink Floyd's See Emily Play - Top Of The Pops 1967 screening Print E-mail
Written by Matt   
Sunday, 10 January 2010

Syd Barrett and Roger Waters on Top Of The Pops, BBC 1967Flawed but beautiful - the reaction of a rapt audience at the National Film Theatre Screen 1 at the British Film Institute in London last night for a screening of lost gems, the pinnacle of which was the Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd in their first performance of See Emily Play on BBC TV's "Top Of The Pops".

Long lost, presumed gone forever, the footage was recently discovered, albeit in a very distressed state. The damage to the film was palpable but if anything seemed to add to the "holy grail" nature of this performance - which may yet see the light of day again if we're lucky...

The event - the annual "Missing Believed Wiped" - consisted of two separate sessions. The afternoon started with a set of classic British comedy items, but the main event for many was the second session which was devoted to music.

Starting with the only known edition of "Time For Blackburn", a weekly music programme hosted by Tony Blackburn and his awful jokes, the audience were treated with The Who's performance of Magic Bus, complete with incredibly rapid editing - almost enough to give you a headache! This show was followed by a fascinating example of the BBC's regional output - a show called "Look! Hear!" which focused on the West Midlands of the UK, and included a very rare clip of Black Sabbath.

The first of the two freshly discovered episodes of "Top Of The Pops" brought many laughs from the audience at some of the fashions, songs, and performers on offer. Originally broadcast in 1976, the clear highlight was the video of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody which finished the show.

Then for many, the moment they'd been waiting for - the screening of what survived from the July 6th, 1967 episode of "Top Of The Pops", which featured the first of three appearances by Pink Floyd of See Emily Play. Famously, Syd's clothing was seriously downgraded for each of these performances, and indeed what was seen last night was the whole band in their finery, Syd wearing what appeared to be a particularly fine, long jacket.

The quality of the footage was indeed pretty lousy in many places, with the picture and/or sound rolling, slowing, disappearing, fading away then coming back again. At turns frustrating, you found yourself leaning forward in your seat to try and get more from the footage, to see through the "snow" on screen to try and glimpse more than what there was visible, and yet, it was a magical moment for so many of the audience - as was clear from the thrilled, elated and shocked reactions I heard in the foyer outside the screen afterwards. To see such a significant show, that had been aired almost 43 years ago, in times where recording equipment was a real rarity, was quite incredible.

Syd Barrett on Top Of The Pops 1967With the tape in such bad condition, with the oxide literally falling off of it, the technicians at the BFI have managed to something rather miraculous to get anything at all. We were also treated to a few bits from elsewhere in the episode, including The Turtles hamming it up for their hit, She'd Rather Be With Me, and a hilarious bit with Dave Davies being introduced for his performance of Death Of A Clown as Ray Davies, to a shout of protest by Dave across the studio to presenter Alan Freeman!

The BFI had been alerted to the existance of the tape by music historian and author Andy Neill, who had viewed part of it and instantly recognised its significance. It was in the collection of "an eminent rock musician" and was being stored by Bill Harrison, an expert in the restoration and safe upkeep of audio material.

In his introduction of the 1967 "Top Of The Pops", the BFI's Dick Fiddy noted that a copy of the footage had been sent to the BBC, and also to Pink Floyd's Management, who, he told the audience, wanted to do something with it, maybe as a bonus item on a DVD. If this does happen, it would be marvelous - but don't expect anything too soon! It is entirely possible that before this could happen, further painstaking restoration work would be done on the film to improve the quality.

Our thanks to all at the BFI, and Kaleidoscope, for enabling yesterday's event. In particular, we'd like to thank Dick Fiddy for his help and assistance.

 
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