Pink Floyd – 1967

I know the title of this post is really supposed to suggest one specific track, in this case its Pink Floyd’s “Scarecrow”, but in my full view, the feel of the track encapsulates a certain twisted folk being created in 1967, under the guise of psychedelia. Before the Incredible String Band’s or the Marc Bolan’s of the world, there were other artists already going beyond standard folk retelling, digging into the realms of fantasy and imagination. The imagery of Tolkien, Lewis Caroll, C.S. Lewis, Beatrix Potter, and fables like Wind in the Willows, and its ilk were somehow being integrated into the lyricism of Bob Dylan, or Ewan McColl, and some truly experimental music. It was a strange time as this era of free minds begat simply sticking stuff together to see if it bonded.

Syd Barrett, for example started out as a huge Beatles and Rolling Stones fan, and being a bit of odd duck, he’d rather be painting and reading than practicing or singing. By the time he had met David Gilmour at art school and formed the fledgling version of Pink Floyd, he didn’t have enough “classical” training to actually know much of whether what he was playing was “correct” or not. Highly influenced by Dylan, and free form jazz by the time of “Scarecrow”’s recording for Piper at the Gates of Dawn he had already experimented with anything physically and musically he was curious about. He led the boys into their first forays into true out there musics, earlier tracks like “Interstellar Overdrive” and “Arnold Layne” were early tracks attempts to go beyond sonically whatever their peers were into.

Scarecrow Single

That’s the reason “Scarecrow” sounds slots so perfectly in with the English folk music that would follow. Rather than remold an older sound or traditional feel, Syd created something that intended to capture the spirit of the past but ends it there. It feels like the authorship of some forgotten fantasia: the lyrics recall a child’s tale of sorts, the music is full of found sounds and twisted melodies. This sound presents the idea that no matter your proficiency as a musician, you could tell an interesting story regardless of class, knowledge, or semblance to logical reality.

I mean, there’s a lot of deep examination of what being English was in this song, its simply the way Syd does it, that’s strikes our imagination. This flight of fancy, which nonetheless still sounds folkloric, iconizing something for its time, is another totem that other English groups would soon build from. There’s something about this brief period in 1967 when rock artists were dipping with dense feet into fantasy that suggests something grander about the way storytelling adapts through time.  Syd’s lyrics speaking of:

The black and green scarecrow as everyone knows
Stood with a bird on his hat and straw everywhere.
He didn’t care.
He stood in a field where barley grows.

The black and green scarecrow is sadder than me
But now he’s resigned to his fate
‘Cause life’s not unkind – he doesn’t mind.
He stood in a field where barley grows.

absent of the music, could have been an Anglican bard released centuries ago, what’s brilliant is that he found a way to foment such an idea but a few decades ago, there’s always room for new standards to be born, more of that tomorrow…

bonus track time, the Anglo unicorn-folk of “Flaming”…

Listen to Flaming at Grooveshark.

and finally the Tolkien-folk pop of “The Gnome”, a song Marc Bolan must have flipped for…

Listen to The Gnome at Grooveshark.