Pink Floyd – A Saucerful of Secrets
Often when describing an album (or book, painting, etc.) as representative of a transitional stage for the artist, it’s a polite way of excusing the work for being a perhaps less-than-stellar offering with glimpses of good things to come. Then there are transition albums like Pink Floyd’s A Saucerful of Secrets, released this day in 1968. While the band was certainly moving toward bigger and better things both artistically and commercially in the years beyond 1968, this album is another example of how something very good and interesting can emerge during times of uncertainty. The question mark I’m referring to? The ushering out of band co-founder, chief songwriter and friend, Syd Barrett, and the shifting of artistic direction with the emergence of Roger Waters as a primary writer along with the addition of David Gilmour to the band – all during the recording of this album.
I used to overlook this release as simply part of an overall spacey and experimental but kind of boring run of post-Piper at the Gates of Dawn/pre-Dark Side of the Moon albums. Finally and thankfully I woke up to Meddle, Obscured by Clouds, and More. (You can throw in the first three songs on side two of Atom Heart Mother as well.) Fantastic albums all. But what about Saucerful?
Recording began at EMI Studios in August of the previous year, and due to Syd’s erratic behavior and general unreliability on stage and off, his friend David Gilmour was brought into the fold in December ’67 as a safety net guitarist for the times Syd would just wander aimlessly around the stage with a blank stare on his face. The group performed as a quintet for a couple of weeks during January of 1968 before they decided to simply not pick up Syd on the way to a gig one day, and that was that. They wrapped up recording in early May as a quartet with an altered lineup and vision.
Ironically, even though Syd only plays on three songs on the record and only sings on the one he wrote, the haunting Jugband Blues, it took gaining an appreciation for Barrett’s two post Floyd solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, for me to revisit Saucerful. Well, that and hearing Nick Mason say during a radio interview that this is his favorite Floyd album. And I’m glad I was able to reconsider it with fresh ears, because it’s good. I’ll just have to plead ignorance up to the point of my awakening. It’s still spacey, but hey, so am I from time to time. To time. Now, I’ve got a gold star sticker and a candy bar for the person who can convince me that I shouldn’t dismiss Ummagumma…
- Let There Be More Light
- Remember a Day
- Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
- Corporal Clegg
- A Saucerful of Secrets
- Jugband Blues
And I’m most obliged to you for making it clear
That I’m not here
And I never knew the moon could be so big
And I never knew the moon could be so blue
And I’m grateful that you threw away my old shoes
And brought me here instead dressed in red
And I’m wondering who could be writing this song
And I don’t care if nothing is mine
And I don’t care if I’m nervous with you
I’ll do my loving in the winter
And I love the queen
And what exactly is a dream?
And what exactly is a joke?