Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd
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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Syd Barrett Concert Recollection: 1967-11-25 Blackpool Opera House (early show)

Syd Barrett Concert Recollection: 1967-11-25 Blackpool Opera House (early show) by Simon Phillips

Syd Barrett Concert
Syd Barrett Concert
I was 15 in 1967 and very much into the Beatles and the Yardbirds. Living in Lancashire, I had no access to anything that was happening in 'Swinging London'. There was no internet (of course) so we relied on pirate radio and the weekly music papers for our news. I think I heard Arnold Layne on the radio pretty much around the same time I first read of Pink Floyd. I liked it immediately - firstly it was pretty 'catchy'; and secondly it seemed like a progression from what the Yardbirds were doing.

At around the same time, they appeared on TV twice within about a week. I missed their first appearance (Scene Special?) but my friends at school were talking about it. I was annoyed to have missed it but tuned in over the next few nights and, sure enough, they were on again (I don't recall what this would have been).
Syd Barrett Concert
Syd Barrett Concert

The music press continued to run articles on them over the following months and I duly bought Emily (which I loved) and Piper. I still recall playing Piper for the first time on the day of its release - the music was far beyond anything I was expecting or had even heard at that time, and I played Interstellar Overdrive over and over, following each instrument as best I could. This is still my favourite version. I missed their Top Of The Pops 'Emily' appearances as we were on a family trip to Italy at the time.

Syd Barrett Concert
Syd Barrett Concert
When the Hendrix/Move/Floyd tour was announced, they were coming to Blackpool, 15 miles from where I lived. Tickets were (if I remember correctly) 4 shillings and 6 pence (which is 22.5 pence, or 1/5th of a £, in current money).  My parents were OK with me going with a couple of friends so long as it was to the early show (thankfully, as it turned out, from the Hendrix point of view). The bus journey was about an hour.

We got to the Opera House around 6pm. It was an old Victorian theatre, with Stalls, a Circle (which curved round to where one might usually find boxes towards side-stage) and an Upper Circle. We were in the centre stalls, about 12-18 rows back from the stage. The stage itself was a bit of a mess  with the equipment of several bands all set up - drums and amplifiers, loads of them, in two rows.
Syd Barrett Concert
Syd Barrett Concert

When the show started, the venue was still only about half full and the compere invited those in the Upper Circle to come down into the stalls, presumably a) so they could turn off the heating upstairs, and b) to make the place look fuller (imagine…this was Hendrix and the Floyd playing for peanuts!!!!!)

Syd Barrett Concert
Syd Barrett Concert
As I recall, the bottom-of-the-bill acts got about 5-10 minutes each. I think The Nice did maybe three numbers (one of which was 'America'). Just before Pink Floyd came on, a huge long white sheet was draped across the rows of amplifiers. The compere (Pete Drummond?) introduced them as being “fresh from wooing the hippie emporiums on America’s West Coast”). They came on in darkness and did about 20 minutes.

They wore exactly the same clothes as they do in the photographs of them cutting a cake and drinking champagne, except that Syd wore the hat that Nick has on in the photographs. I know this because I saw the photograph only a short time later in one of the music papers and the show was still very fresh in my mind. They definitely did Set The Controls and Interstellar Overdrive.
Syd Barrett Concert
Syd Barrett Concert

I kept a scrapbook of news cuttings at the time and remember writing down Stethoscope as being the other song but, with hindsight, it was more likely to have been Pow R Toch H (I was still a bit unsure about some of the album’s song titles and often got those two mixed up). [All set lists that I’ve seen for this date have the early and late shows the wrong way round].

We (or, at any rate, I) had no idea of Syd’s struggles at the time and I can say that, at that show, it was definitely him and he seemed in good form as he and Rick led the band through a dazzling Interstellar Overdrive. I can still close my eyes and picture him, 20-30 feet away, hat on, head down over his guitar (which I picture as being his mirrored Esquire.... I may be wrong).

Syd Barrett Concert
Syd Barrett Concert
The light show was of the liquid oil type played onto the band and onto the white sheet behind them. They also had a strobe low down at the front which projected their silhouettes high up onto the backdrop of the stage (the stage curtains in the Hendrix footage from the show weren’t closed at all other than for Hendrix).

The sound was loud but clear and each instrument could be distinguished. The combination of light and sound was exactly what I hoped it would be from the reviews I'd read of their London shows. I was mesmerised but all too soon it was over.

Afterwards, the Move did about 20 minutes at deafening volume, and then Hendrix did about 50 minutes. Just before he came on, they closed the stage curtains thus blocking out all the other amplifiers on stage. We'd seen a camera up in the right-hand side of the Circle. There was now someone filming him (no, the camera was definitely not used during the Floyd's set) and two of the songs are now up on Youtube. The following week, I read in the local paper that, playing to a half-full house in the late show, Hendrix said “this ain’t my scene, man” and walked off stage after 10 minutes.

After the show, we had about an hour to kill before our bus home. We slipped into a pub for one pint (very nervously as we were under-age) and then walked along the promenade. We saw a very dirty and dusty Ford Transit van parked up outside a club. It was covered in graffiti written in the dust, amongst which were references to Pink Floyd so we looked in the cab and, wow, Rick Wright was sitting behind the wheel in his stage gear.
Syd Barrett Concert
Syd Barrett Concert

We tapped on the window and said we’d been to the show. We all got his autograph and asked where Syd was. He pointed into the club (no way we could blag our way in there). We chatted to him for a couple of minutes and went for our bus. And that was it really. I was so shocked when, a few weeks/months later, it was announced that Syd was out of the band.

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