Vol. 1, Issue #15 August 18th - August 31st, 2006

Tiger Beat From Hell
By: Wilhelm Murg

The Twilight of Punk’s Psychedelic Idols

Syd Barrett, the founder of Pink Floyd, died a few weeks ago and last week we saw the passing of Arthur Lee, the founder of the equally important, but lesser known band, Love. Both were fried acid causalities past their primes, but in 1967 Barrett and Lee were two of the titans of psychedelic music; they were both brave Apollos who explored the stratosphere of artistic consciousness with their LSD drenched lyrics and radical concepts of music. Once The Beatles challenged the world by releasing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band (1967,)” Barrett and Lee both responded with their masterpieces that year, Pink Floyd’s “Piper at The Gates of Dawn,” and Love’s “Forever Changes,” respectively. After these three releases the definition of pop music had to be revised and the recorded acid trip posing as a concept album was born.

Ironically, Barrett and Lee represent the two extreme sides of psychedelic music. Syd’s Pink Floyd was raw and sonically aggressive from Swinging London, while Love was the folkie, Los Angeles side that beautifully, tastefully - and popfully - integrated horns and strings into their arrangements.

Syd Barrett founded Pink Floyd but only recorded the one album with the band. He is more famous as the subject matter of many of Floyd’s later, classic albums on mental illness; he is the lunatic upon the grass on the “Dark Side of The Moon (1973,)” the crazy diamond that shines on in “Wish You Were Here (1975,)” and the comfortable numb Pink behind “The Wall (1979.)” The legend is that Barrett lived with a group of acid dealers who dosed everything he ate and drank for a year. Most consider him to have been a schizophrenic, yet according to his replacement, David Gilmour; Syd was actually an epileptic who constantly performed under strobe lights…while on a yearlong acid trip.

Syd can also be heard on Floyd’s first few classic singles, available on “Relics” (1971,) in Peter Whitehead’s “pop” film “Pink Floyd: London 1966/1967” and playing on some of the tracks on their second album, “Saucer of Secrets (1968.)” After that he released a couple of solo albums in 1970, “Barrett” and “Madcap Laughs.” Once the albums were recorded Syd pretty much stayed at his mother’s house until his death, but grew stronger in popularity in both the bootleg and reissue markets. During the post-punk eighties, he became the poster boy for why the classic-rock-accepted-version-of-Floyd sucked! On the back of the LP “Pin-Ups,” where David Bowie covered their early single “See Emily Play,” he refers to the band as “Syd’s Pink Floyd” – if it wasn’t a different band, it was certainly a different concept.

“Piper” is a perfect blend of the two sides of Barrett, the quirky singer-songwriter going on about gnomes and bicycles, and rock’s foremost experimental musician whose pioneering flights into noise would open the gates for progressive rock and industrial music. Syd founded Floyd’s space themes on the album with the two most famous tracks “Astronomy Domine” and “Interstellar Overdrive.” He also predated loungecore by two decades with the dark, Martin Dennyesque “Pow R. Toc H.” The lyrical imagery on the album goes from a mother reading fairy tales to her child to descriptions of a bad trip in metaphorical sci-fi terms.

I’m one of those people who considers “Piper at The Gates of Dawn” to be Pink Floyd’s best album, but Love’s “Forever Changes,” is an even more amazing work than Floyd’s best.

Love was a garage band that ruled the L.A. scene from 1966 through 1967 and were best known for their singles of “My Little Red Book” and the apocalyptic “Seven and Seven Is.” Then they released their third album, “Forever Changes,” and it flopped. However, starting in the seventies, when critics were polled, it kept consistently showing up as one of the greatest rock albums of all-time. “The Rolling Stone Music Guide” gave it five stars as one of the essential albums. The pre-corporate version of Rhino Records, which was the ultra-cool, cult reissue label in the 1980s, released a compilation of rare Love tracks and an Arthur Lee solo project. Eventually “Forever Changes” got enough of a buzz going, years after it’s release, to get collectors to give it a try.

On first hearing you feel like you must be missing something; the horns and strings make you think more of Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass than California’s sun-baked summer of love. But once you start listening to the lyrics, everything falls into place. Arthur Lee was convinced he was dying at the time – apparently it was really just too much acid – so “Forever Changes” is a long love letter from a burning building from one of rock’s major talents at his peak – in more ways than one.

The lyrics contain the essence of the album, but by themselves they seem to be a series or random thoughts. Words trail off and come together at odd points that end up giving many more meanings to each song than a straight reading would allow, but at the end you aren’t really sure what the song was about; love songs blur into social protest, painted images just hang in the air like under worked haiku.

Here’s a full verse from “The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This”: “Hummingbirds hum why do they hum little girls / wearing pigtail in the morning / in the morning la da da…”

By the end of the album you feel like you’ve been walking around a Roger Corman hippie movie in a daze digging everything in between the occasional dark moments of fear and self-doubt.

The Damned recorded “Alone Again Or” which brought in the punk audience. Some have suggested the nihilistic lyrics of “Forever Changes” is what attracted punks to the album, which is the generation that considered it a masterpiece. Thirty years after it’s release “Forever Changes” finally sold enough copies to receive a gold record. Lee released later albums, both as Love and as a solo artist, but nothing could match his magnum opus.

Both “Piper at The Gates of Dawn” and “Forever Changes” are defining, important, and pretty much unexplainable, moments in the history of psychedelic music. Both albums are the essence of their respective creators who literally put their hearts and souls into their poetic albums and were left as empty shells of men afterward.

“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 / And I never knew the moon could be so big…” – Barrett, “Jugband Blues”

“When I leave now don’t you weep for me / I’ll be back, just save a seat for me / But if you just can’t make the room / Look up and see me on the... / Moon’s a common scene around my town...” -Lee “Maybe The People Would Be The Times or Between Clark & Hilldale”

For more information get a strong telescope and gaze at the lunar surface; if you’re in the right state of mind you might just see them both waving back at you.

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©2006 NONCO Media, L.L.C.