December 17th 1976 - Capital Radio PF Story - part 1
Part 1; Capital Radio, London, 17 December 1976.

The following is one part of the legendary Capital Radio Pink Floyd Story - the history of the band, told by the band themselves in a set of interviews undertaken in 1976, and broadcast at the end of 1976/start of 1977. This transcription done by Matt Johns, Brain Damage - please seek permission from us before using elsewhere.

The programme presenter was Nicky Horne. Abbreviations used as follows:
NM: Nick Mason, RW: Roger Waters, DG: David Gilmour, SB: Syd Barrett, NH: Nicky Horne
NS: Norman Smith, PJ: Peter Jenner, JP: John Peel, CBC: CBC Radio, Canada

NM: There was a very specific group. I mean, there was the whole business of UFO and 1967 and the London underground, which we were not...I don't think we were personally involved in it, although we were... erm... that's where we worked. I mean we weren't personally involved in all the fringe activities or all the philosophies of that period. We, I mean, it somehow, it seemed almost by chance, I mean it wasn't very, you can now see all sorts of types, but there wasn't some, er, it doesn't feel as though there was any deliberate policy going on to make us one thing or another. It just seemed to happen like that.

What am I saying? Not quite sure... just that there... all I'm trying to say is that there wasn't, er, a great premeditated exercise on our part to, er, to be something. I mean, it just seemed to come out like that. I mean, I'm not ashamed of it, or denying it, or saying we're perfectly normal people, but I just don't feel that it's right to say that we've, have been from the beginning, worked on becoming some mysterious cult band.

The occasions were terrific, UFO was a fantastic place to play. I mean the band did come out of all that in lots of ways, I mean, we've discussed before the history of the band and the fact that during that period we were working at Top Rank circuits, and they HATED it. I HATED it. We could clear halls so fast it wasn't true. I mean they were outraged by what came round on the revolving stage and they lost very little time in trying to make this clear, and the only place we played with any sort of success, or real interest, was UFO, and the various underground-in-inverted comma's clubs and occasions.

So, certainly we were a product of that in lots of ways. They tended to follow a pattern, rather along the lines of, there'd be this revolving stage ad the audience out in front who were hoping to hear "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play" and a host of other hits, which we couldn't of course play. We had a repetoire of STRANGE things like "Interstellar Overdrive" to carry us through that whole set, er, and I just remember the stages going round and this audience [laughs] just APPALLED by what they saw in front of them. And, I mean, the whole thing was fantastic anyway, because no one could - what was then considered to be our audience of course - could never get into these places, because you had to have a tie to get in, and there was the whole business of they wouldn't let us drink at the bar because we hadn't got collars and ties, and various outrages that used to drive us all mad.

RW: There was never any question of, er, attempting an image or striving towards an image. There was no conscious thought about on that level in the band at all, ever. And there hasn't been since then. That may have become conscious to keep it all unconscious, if you see what I mean. But there was never any image building or any kind of, as I said before, and I'll say it again - the thing about y'know, not speaking to people just came up because we did loads and loads and loads of interviews, loads and masses of them, and y'know, how did you, why did you choose the name Pink Floyd; you either say, "Well, I'm gonna be answering this question for the rest of my life", or you say "I'm not interested in speaking to people who know nothing about us, or music, or anything else", and so we decided not to do that, but it was nothing to do with creating an image, it was purely a personal response to people mucking us about a lot; I mean, "Arnold Layne" was the start of our professional career. I stopped going into the office the day "Arnold Layne" came out, more or less.

NM: At that time we were aiming to be a hit parade band. I mean - we wanted a hit single. The idea of making an album hadn't even... well, I'm speaking personally, 'cos I can't speak for the others, but I suspect that we hadn't really considered the sort of move onto an album. We were only interested in making a single initially, and a hit single. We were interested in the business of being in rock'n'roll, and being a pop group: SUCCESSFUL - MONEY - CARS, that sort of thing. Good living. I mean, that's... erm, that's the reason most people get involved in rock music, because they want that sort of success. If you don't, you get involved in something else.

NH: And Norman Smith, the Floyd's early producer, remembers "Arnold Layne".

NS: I wasn't too keen actually on "Arnold Layne". Joe Boyd actually did that. I wasn't too keen on that particular version. I was proven wrong, of course, because eventually that was the one that went out, but I thought we could better it. In fact, I told the boys I'd like to have another go anyway and in fact we set up this recording to do just that along with other titles of course; it was an all-night session, if I remember rightly. And that was going to be the first song but when they arrived I could see that they weren't too keen in fact to attempt a remake of "Arnold Layne" so in fact we never did start it, we never did have a go at that. So, the original one went out.

NH: And how did Norman Smith feel at the prospect of recording the Pink Floyd?

NS: [Laughs] I was terrified! Er...apprehensive I suppose you'd call it. I was sort of, erm, a bit of a mutual thing really. I didn't really know what to expect from them as personalities, and I guess the same went for them. And I was nervous, there was no doubt about that. I was very nervous about meeting these guys because they had made a bit of a name for themselves without, strangely enough, having a hit record, and they were obviously something quite a lot different even though I'd been used to the Beatles and people...I was gonna say people like that of course they were another one-off there, but then obviously had that something which to me was a kind of an untouchable thing - I couldn't describe it at all: my feelings, except that I was very nervous and apprehensive of what to expect from them as individuals. Really I was looking for a group or something for...which I could make my name as a producer so it was right at the beginning of my own career as a producer and I had this tip-off phone call from their... friend of mine who was in management/agency, telling me about Floyd and I went along to see them. That's when they had the light show and all that bit - and as I said, very impressed with the charisma of them and they had to be something, but nevertheless I was very nervous about getting them into a studio. So they were... I had to get them to EMI, to sign them in some way, because I thought that, I recognised that here was going to be something. But of course, at the same time, the difficulty of recording this group, producing this group was obviously there for me and I though, well, let's give it a whirl, let's see how we get on.

NH: One of the first interviews the Pink Floyd gave was in Canada, on CBC. There are precious few recordings of Syd Barrett talking about those early days, and this is one of the few. Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, and Nick Mason, on CBC...

CBC: In a frenetic haze of sound and sight, a new concept of music has begun to penetrate the senses of Britain's already hopped-up beat fans. Some call it free sound, others prefer to include it in the psychedelic wave of "ism's" already circulating around the Western hemisphere. But this music, here and now, is that of the Pink Floyd, a group of four young musicians, a light man, and an array of equipment sadistically designed to shatter the strongest nerves. The Pink Floyd are new on the London scene - they've stupified audiences at all-night raves, in church halls, at the Albert Hall, and at various tours in Britain. They've yet to make their debut on records but perhaps the Pink Floyd themselves are most qualified to tell you what its all about:

NM: We didn't start out trying to get anything new, y'know we just... it entirely happened. We originally started virtually as an R&B group.

SB: Yeah, sometimes, we just sorta let loose a bit and started hitting the guitar a bit harder and not worrying quite so much about the chords.

RW: It stopped being third rate academic rock, y'know; it started being a sort of intuitive groove, really.

NM: It's free form. In terms of construction it's almost like jazz, where you start off with a riff and then you improvise on this except...

RW: Where it differs from jazz is that if you're improvising around a jazz number, if it's a 16 bar number you stick to 16 bar choruses and you take 16 bar solos, whereas with us it starts and we may play 3 choruses of something that lasts for 17 and a half bars each chorus and then it'll stop happening and it'll stop happening when it stops happening AND it may be 423 bars later or 4.

SB: And it's not like jazz music 'cos...

NM: We all want to be pop stars - we don't want to be jazz musicians.

SB: Exactly. And I mean we play for people to dance to - they don't seem to dance much now but that's the initial idea. So we play loudly and we're playing with electric guitars, so we're utilising all the volume and all the effects you can get. But now in fact we're trying to develop this by using the lights.

NM: Yes of course.

RW: But the thing about the jazz thing is that we don't have this great musician thing. Y'know, we don't really look upon ourselves as musicians as such, y'know, period... reading the dots, all that stuff.

CBC: How important is the visual aspect of the production?

All: Very, very important.

SB: It's quite a revelation to have people operating something like lights while you're playing as a direct stimulus to what you're playing. It's rather like audience reaction except it's sort of on a higher level, you know, you can respond to it and then the lights will respond back...

NM: There are various sorts of lights - there's simply flashing spotlights that are worked off a sort of control board rather like a piano, so that they can be used very rhythmically. And then there are sort of effect lights that are usually coloured slides or wet slides which are slides with some sort of liquids on them so that you get some movement. Or they might be actual movies as such - in which case as they have their own set speed and sequence that can't be altered by the operators this changes the... our formation to some extent 'cos we tend immediately to play to that.

CBC: What happens at a performance? What happens with your audience, what's the feel you get?

RW: Well, if we get very excited, and we get very excited when we're playing very well, then the audience gets very excited as well.

CBC: Do they dance?

NM: They may dance. It depends on the sort of music and what's happening.

SB: Yeah and anyway you hardly ever get the sort of dancing right from the beginning that you get just as a response to the rhythm. Usually people stand there and if they... [laughs] get into some sort of hysteria while they're there...

NM: ...The dancing takes the form of a frenzy which is very good.

RW: They don't all stand in a line and do the Madison. The audience tend to be standing there and just one or two people maybe will suddenly flip out and rush forward and start leaping up and down...

SB: Freak out I think is the word, you're looking for!

NM: It's an excellent thing because this is what dancing is...

SB: This is REALLY what dancing is!!

CBC: Is the music destined to replace the Beatles? Are the melodic harmonies, poetic lyrics and soulful rhythms of today to be swept into the archives, totally undermined by a psychotic sweep of sound and vision as this, displayed by the Pink Floyd? Large pockets of enthusiasts from all over the country are determined that it shall, despite the powerful opposition of the majority of leading disc jockeys. But the most enthusiastic fans of all, quite fittingly, are the Pink Floyd's managers:

PJ: I heard them once; I was in a very bad mood. I was at a club and heard them, and the sort of sound they were making was a sound I hadn't heard before, and I was just totally knocked out. It's er... I suppose I felt there was a freshness about what they were doing, there was a sort of freedom about the way they were playing. They weren't just hacking through the old numbers, playing all the old hits of yesterday and today, and sort of... you didn't feel that there was just a regimented group just going through the motions, y'know, there was a fantastic liveness about it and these huge sheets of sound were building up and... this was a sound I hadn't heard before. And I immediately was simply knocked out by it and started getting interested in them.

The whole light scene and things like this sort of came out of from, I suppose, a different direction. I mean, the way this did come from the "psychedelic movement" as far as I was concerned but its always been a thing that I've dug. I've always thought that lights and music and things like that, and sounds and vision should all go together. And it seemed the right time for it to happen.

I think another thing which is very important, is that, y'know, one feels that the pop market as it were, is now capable of taking something far more than it used to, y'know. Previously it was all sort of Jim Reeves and those sort of simple things played over and over again. But increasingly I noticed that clubs, the thing that always used to get the really huge applause always when the instrumentals - the things where the musicians really gave themselves a chance to do something new and really different. And so out of this whole sort of rock'n'roll movement you got a sort of instantly attractive beat, a very strong beat, a very powerful beat which anyone can respond to, and then on top of this you've got the electronic thing which gives you this fantastic dynamics and excitement and ability just to pierce through peoples... sometimes deadness.

One can penetrate right through into their minds almost sheerly by volume and sound and noise and distortion that gives a tremendous increased awareness of what's going on, y'know, you hear things much more. When you've finished listening to the Pink Floyd you don't just clap and sort of hum the thing, hum the tune they've just been playing, you just go: "FWAAUUGGHH!". Y'know, it's an experience, you've been through a total sensory experience - both visual and audio. And I think this has an appeal, not only to intellectuals - there's a lot of in common between Pink Floyd and people like Alba Dater and Ornet Coleman are doing, but it's got also an immediacy of appeal to the kids which I think is great and it's a sort of common denominator which goes right across - anyone can dig the Pink Floyd I think.

CBC: Can you capture this strictly on sound? Let's say in terms of recordings...

PJ: I think our records will be very different from our stageshows. I think our records inevitably... first of all there's the three minute limitation; secondly, you can't sort of, walk around the kitchen humming to the Pink Floyd. I mean, if you had a Pink Floyd sort of sound they're making in the clubs, coming over the radio while you're doing the washing-up you'd probably scream. I suspect that our records are going to have to be much more audio, much more, y'know, they are written for a different situation. Listening to a gramophone record in your home or on the radio is very different from going into a club or going into a theatre and watching a stage show. They're two different things that requires a different approach. We think we can do both.

NH: Norman Smith on "See Emily Play":

NS: Yeah, well, "Emily" of course... I was in from the birth of that and that was kind of commercialised if you like. There was some little bit of arrangement went in that, there was a bit of... gimmickry... in the recorded thing... cos I saw that as a single straight away. And obviously one was looking for a follow-up to "Arnold Layne" - I was at any rate, on behalf of the record company. That was the one that I chose and hoped that they would agree with me. It did in the end, I can't really remember whether it was unanimous or not, but I would think it possibly was three-quarters unanimous and [laughs] one was not too keen.

Syd Barrett was with the group in those days and Syd was the main writer, and it was a pretty difficult job with Syd because I think Syd used music - I'll put it this way - used music with sort of lyrical phrasing or if you like he used lyrics with sort of musical phrasing, and it was a statement being made at a given time, that meant that if you came back five minutes later to do another take you probably wouldn't get the same performance, and I think if I remember rightly we went through quite a few of Syd's songs and then they played me a few, and it's very difficult to pick out which I liked and which I didn't like, so we'd come back and maybe try these songs again and these were different versions so [laughs] it made it even more difficult. So the early days were quite difficult really but as a sort of very slow, unwinding process.

NH: During that time, Syd's problems were beginning to affect the other individuals in the band. Dave Gilmour, who plays guitar on this track, was brought in to replace the ailing Barrett, and Nick Mason remembers some of the feelings that prevailed at that time:

NM: It's easy now to look back on "the past" and try and give it some sort of shape and form, but at the time you're just... you're in a total state of confusion muddling about because you're trying to be in this band and be successful or make it work, and things aren't working out and you don't really understand why. You can't believe that someone's deliberately trying to screw it up and yet the other half of you is saying "this man's crazy - he's trying to DESTROY ME!" It gets very personal, you get very worked up into a state of extreme rage. I mean, obviously there was some incredible moments of... clarity, where you realise that things are not right - like the wonderful American tour which will live forever. Syd detuning his guitar all the way through one number, striking the string and detuning the guitar, which is very modern but [laughs] very difficult for a band to follow or play with. And, other occasions where he more or less just ceased playing and stand there, leaving us to muddle along as best we could. And times like that, you think [laughs] "what we need is someone else!" Or at least some help.

DG: Nick actually came to me and sort of... "nudge, nudge... if such and such happened, and if this, and if that... would you be interested in it..." and went through that whole thing in a fairly roundabout way, suggested that this might come off at some point. And then just after Christmas, right after their Olympia gig, I actually got a phone call... where I was staying I didn't actually have a phone, or they didn't know it, but they sent a message through someone else that they knew that knew me, for me to get in touch for taking the job, so to speak. There was no real discussion, or any meetings, to think about it or any auditions or anything like that. They just said did I want to, and I said yes, and it was as simple as that. It was totally impossible for me to understand the way Syd's mind was working at that time.

It was also from having been to two or three of their gigs, impossible for me to see how they could carry on like that, because Syd was very obviously not up to being in that group at that time, doing what he was doing. It was painfully obvious that they were just kind of marking time at that moment. And actually joining the group was a very difficult thing, cos originally there was some kind of a plan for there to be five people and for Syd to phase out of the live thing and... but keep on writing... but we realised that there was an impossibility almost as soon as we'd thought of it, or they'd thought of it. So that idea very rapidly got dropped. We did do three or four gigs with five people playing - pretty strange... The first four, five, six months that I'm in the band I really didn't feel confident enough to actually start playing myself - I actually sat there mostly playing just rhythm guitar and I suppose, to be honest, at the time trying to sound a bit like Syd. But that didn't last very long - I mean, it was obvious the group had to change into something completely different and they hadn't asked me to join to sound exactly like Syd, but I mean - the numbers they were doing were still Syd's numbers mostly. Consequently there's that kind of a fixed thing in your head of how they have been played previously, and that kind of, makes it very much harder for you to strike out on your own and do it exactly how you would do it... and you haven't got a clue how you would do it really because there's already an imprinted thing in your brain of how the guitar is played on those things. Consequently it did take some time before I started getting into actually being a member of the band and feeling free to impose my own... guitar-playing style on it.

NS: There wasn't much point really, particularly with Syd there wasn't much point in changing chords or suggesting flashy sort of chords, y'know - jazz based chords or anything like that, just nice chords or analysing the musical content of anyone's composition. There wasn't much point in doing that. I think what I had to look for really was, first of all of course what they were about - what they wanted to say, and the statement they wanted to make. And to help them as much as I could there, of course, with suggestions, but I think mainly to look for sounds... I would think at any rate that that's what Floyd were mainly about - the creation of sounds to enhance the statement or the mood...

NH: And John Peel, veteran BBC disc jockey, remembers the Floyd, in those early days:

JP: The first time I ever heard of them was when I was still working in California and it sounds very grand, but I'd sent a band over from Riverside to London, to stay with my monther actually in Notting Hill, called The Misunderstood, who made a couple of classic singles for Fontana and then disappeared, pretty much.

And the lead singer came back to try and sort out his draft thing and he came along, he came to stay with us in San Bernadino, and he kept going on about these people that he'd seen in London, Hendrix and the Pink Floyd, and I was very taken with the name at the time - the Pink Floyd seemed like a good name to me (still does, actually). So, one of the first things I wanted to do when I got back here, which was in the spring of 1967 to go and work for Radio London, was to go and see Hendrix and the Floyd and indeed I did. The first time I ever saw them was at the old UFO club in Tottenham Court Road, where all of the hippies used to put on our Kaftans and bells and beads and go and lie on the floor in an altered condition and listen to whatever was going on.

The Floyd were going on one night, I must admit, I'm ashamed to say it, I don't remember the Floyd as vividly as I remember Arthur Brown, 'cos I mean Arthur Brown, at that time, used to just stand there and insult the members of the audience in much the same way as people like Johnny Rotten seem to do now.

And, so the first time I ever... I used to see the Floyd y'know, but they were just like a band that you saw, y'know you didn't really pay a lot of attention to them, and I think the first time I really took a great deal of notice of what they were doing, was at the time of the release of the first LP. And then it suddenly seemed, you suddenly realised, like with the first Hendrix LP really, you suddenly realise that was something very, very important and I'd like to be able to convince you that I was into the Pink Floyd years before anyone else, but I was probably into the Pink Floyd a year after everybody else! But that first LP obviously came as a bit of a revelation...