Syd Barret was, for a short time, one of the brightest lights in British music, illuminating all those who happened to catch a glimpse of his lyrical mastery. Leading the band Pink Floyd alongside bassist Roger Waters, Barett quickly became a cultural icon for the counter-culture movement. The singer’s crowning glory would be the Floyd song ‘See Emily Play’, a track that defined his tenure, and would see the group perform the song everywhere they could.
We’re digging into the Far Out vault to bring you some special, if not a little deteriorated, footage of Pink Floyd way back at the beginning of their journey in 1967 as they perform the song on the landmark BBC music and culture show Top of the Pops.
For many fans, the pursuit of finding the footage of Pink Floyd’s 1967 appearance on the BBC stalwart music show was a fruitless and disappointing one. Wherever they turned, searching for their footage, fans were met with an apology that the Beeb, in their infinite and cost-reducing wisdom, had recorded over tapes to save on cash and thus the recording was lost. That was until 2009.
The music historian and author Andy Neill alerted the British Film Institute to the existence of the once “lost” tape and the organisation went about recovering it from the collection of “an eminent rock musician”. What they got was then meticulously brought back to life over the last decade and below is the best result we have so far, though we’ll admit, that it isn’t much of an endorsement.
While the film quality is pretty lousy, what the footage is capturing is still too tantalising to ignore. It sees Roger Waters alongside Syd Barett, Richard Wright and Nick Mason, performing their newly acquired hit on the now-iconic music show with all the swinging swagger of sixties London. It’s a time capsule piece that takes us right back to the beginning of the acid rock revolution.
Part of why the film is so widely desired is that it captures Syd Barett quite possibly at his peak. Before the drug issues and later mental health problems would sideline him from the band — leaving David Gilmour to assert himself as lead vocalist for the group — this footage sees Syd dangling his feet over the edge, often staring blankly as he performed. wondering what the abyss may feel like.
Needless to say, it makes for an utterly captivating watch, considering the footage is 55 years old, it is still capable of rendering us speechless. We can’t imagine how it must’ve felt to see it live for the first time.
Watch Pink Floyd perform ‘See Emily Play’ on Top of the Pops back in 1967.